When H.M.S Alamein met The Argyls in Cyprus

by | Apr 27, 2009 | Stories | 0 comments

It was during ‘the troubles’ that HMS Alamein was sent to patrol the waters around Cyprus. British Servicemen were considered legitimate targets for the Eoka gunmen so ordinary shore leave was not an option. Any shore leave was limited to sports events within British Army bases, so the naval Senior Rates challenged the army Warrant Officers of the Argyle and Southerland Light Infantry to a football match.
ARMY v NAVY; ENGLAND v SCOTLAND. IT promised to be a memorable match – and it was. The teams lined up, the Regimental Sergeant Major appointed himself as the referee and he appointed two sergeants as linesmen. Soon after the start Alamein swept down the field and scored great goal. The RSM pointed to a spot well away from goal and declared “off-side”. The Chief who had scored the goal protested that there had been three defenders on the goal line. The RSM gave three blasts on his whistle. At this signal there appeared beside the protesting Chief, two enormous ‘Redcaps’ and the Chief was hauled off to the Guardroom.
Shortly after this, the Argyles went on the attack and took a shot at goal, the PO playing at full back cleared off the line. The RSM pointed to the spot “ Penalty kick, dangerous kicking” The PO objected, that the ball was only a foot off the ground and there wasn’t another player near him. T he RSM blew his whistle three times and the luckless PO went to the Guardroom between the two enormous Redcaps.
The Argyles missed the penalty.
By half time the Navy team was reduced to a goalkeeper plus six, and the score was 0 – 0, By three quarter time the Navy was down to a goalkeeper and one player and the score was 1 – 0 to the Navy and this was the final score.
The Argyles demanded revenge for this defeat and so another sports leave was arranged. The RSM refereed the match again and the result was a goalless draw. This was not really surprising, we only played one minute each way. I’m not to sure what happened later, but I think the Argyles won the ‘mess games’, most games involving lots of whisky with the RSM acting as referee.
We had quite a few more sports leaves to play football but we never saw another goal. It is difficult to score in one minute, especially one minute on the RSM’s watch.
Before we left Cyprus we had an onboard day for the Argyles. Now HMS Alamein had an excellent Water Polo team. We had taken on all comers in the Med and had defeated them all. So we challenged the Argyles to a Water Polo Match and they duly accepted.
Water Polo at sea is played with the goals suspended from two booms projecting from the ship side; this means there is no bottom. The Alamein team entered the water – they looked formidable, every one in the team floating with top half of his torso well above the water line. Then the Argyle team appeared on the upper deck, they looked too small, too thin and really they did not look like a Water Polo team Our First Lieutenant appeared just in time to hear the sergeant ordering a young soldier into the water.
“But I can’t swim sergeant.” The sergeant was unmoved. “I said get in the water”
“But sergeant….. The First Lieutenants intervened “Sergeant if the man cannot swim then he cannot go in the water”. The sergeant was adamant. “He will go in the water Sir, There are three of our soldiers who cannot swim. I myself cannot swim but we are all going in. We have been challenged and we The Argyles have never ever refused a challenge and we have to accept the challenge.”
The First Lieutenant. was in a quandary and asked the Sergeant what could be done to stop the match.. The solution was simple. Alamein must concede the match
We conceded, and that was the only water polo match that HMS Alamein ever lost, and we lost it to a team with four soldiers who could not swim.
Of course human nature ensures that we only remember these good times, although at least once a year, we do try to remember the friends that we lost when things did go wrong.
HMS Alamein lost three sailors during our spell in Cyprus; we never knew how many soldiers the Argyles lost


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