Sunday 8 July 2012

Memory Lane?

OK, I know this is supposed to be my Art Blog, and I promise it won't become my autobiography - but the last posting and Celeste's reference to the aviation hero, Sir Ivor Broom, sent me down memory lane. Here Ivor is by the way:

He's on the left pictured with his navigator in front of the Mosquito.

Celeste also mentioned, "like a big icebreaker ship in the sea" in the comments to my loom posting ... so here's an icebreaker story.....
In the 1970s we had a lull in our VVIP  flying schedule, which our masters filled for us by giving us a load of Marines and Crew for HMS Endurance, a Naval Antarctic Patrol Vessel, which was moored off Chile for maintenance, and was making ready to head south. They were to become famous in the forthcoming Falklands war, but of course we knew nothing of that at the time.  

A Comet 4C of 216 Squadron RAF

We flew the passengers down to Punta Arenas, the most Southerly point of Chile, night stopping on the way out at Cape Verdi Islands. 
Punta Arenas 

We dropped off the passengers in Punta Arenas, and took off again with an empty aircraft, but instead of flying North we thought we would go South for a while and fly down the Straights of Magellan: from Punta Arenas at Latitude 53.9º S. Longitude 70º.55' W to Cape Horn Latitude 57º.48' S. Longitude 67°19´ W are the straights of Magellan and the Drake Passage.

As a scruffy little boy living in the slums, I had dreamt of 'escape': travel and adventure through the books that I read,. Books about boys' running off to sea with famous explorers, particularly, “He Sailed with Vasgo-de-Gama,” and, “He Sailed with Magellan”. 

Here then was the chance to lay the ghost and do a real Magellan trip – it was magical.  The little boy 'me' would have punched the air.

In the distance through the gin clear air we saw the red dot that was the Endurance anchored in the lonely waters disturbed only by seabird calls and the hum of generators. 

We thought it would be a really good 'wheeze' to drop down to thirty feet and  say hello to the Navy. So, we screamed up the Straights of Magellan at 380 mph, skimming the waves as we went, with wind screen wipers wiping away the sea spray. As we came up to Endurance, we stood the aircraft on her tail and with throttles wide open, rattled every rivet in her hull – heart attack territory for the crew -----GOTCHA!

Many years later I saw a picture of Endurance, and she looked completely different. So I e-mailed the ship, down there in the Antarctic, to ask what had changed. Here is the email they sent back!

Sent : 07 December 2005 22:26:22
To : "'HMS Endurance tracking project'" , HMS ENDURANCE-MO <>, "'johnsimlett'" <johnsimlett@>



The previous HMS ENDURANCE, of 1982 Falklands Conflict fame, would have been
the vessel to which John Simlett delivered said Ship's Company. Originally
an ice strengthened Danish Vessel named 'Anita Dan', she was commissioned in
1968 and survived through until paying off in November 1991.

The present HMS ENDURANCE was initially chartered as 'Polar Circle' in 1991,
immediately voted an ideal candidate as the replacement Antarctic Patrol
Ship and shortly thereafter purchased outright and renamed HMS ENDURANCE.
Originally built and operated by Rieber Shipping as an Arctic
tourist/research vessel, she is a class 1 Ice Breaker.

Her hull is built to exacting standards with great rigidity and welded
rather than riveted. 

Regrettably the previous HMS ENDURANCE met her end in
the breakers yard (rivets and all!) shortly after her sale in the early

I hope that provides an appropriate answer to John's question - does he
still fly?



  1. Beautiful photographs John. A very well written post as well. I'm sorry about the Endurance. It's always hard to lose a bit of our own history. I am glad that the little boy that was you did get to live his dreams.

    1. Glad you liked it, Linda. I'm hoping to get back to drawing this week and then this blog will get back on with art!

  2. Dear John,in true reality would not be possible to exhibit their work, tell something of his life in people so far away.
    But it would be a shame to lose this because sometimes we are miles apart, and maybe for other reasons we are very close.
    The blog is a place of everyday life, there is a person behind every post. Nice to have met you and heard you tell about your life as other times you have heard something of my own.
    The story of a life is part of so many other stories ... and now I read your history with admiration!

    1. Thank you Rita. You are right, it is nice to get to know people behind the blogs ... and that closes the distances between us all.

  3. What a great story to start my Monday! Great pictures! And I am so happy that you lived your little boy's dreams! I loved to read about great adventurers and explorers when I was a child, but I have not travelled that much, but my son has. I enjoy his stories, and I enjoy yours!

    1. Thanks Judy. I never thought I would move out and see the world. I grew up outside the Naval Dockyard walls. When I was 15, I moved into the Dockyard and spent 5 years learning to be a Shipwright and one year as a draughtsman of Naval Architecture... but then the my world went wild!

      From that point until life became a series of cross roads, which I never recognised until I was well down the next track. As a consequence, Pat and I moved home 24 times!!

  4. Yes, he still flies, as each and every post and piece of art shows. That colored photo of the glacier is amazing, John. I love the one of the plane and the b & w of the boat in the water too. You sure have a plethora of excellent sources for your work!

    1. I might be replying twice here, Sherry - the previous reply has vanished.

  5. What a fantastic story and magnificent photo's to go with it - those mountains are amazing! It's almost like you've lived about twenty lives in one! You have done more in your life time just in the snippets that are on your blog, than most people ever do :0)

    1. (Chuckle) The problem is a lot of people assume I'm exaggerating or making things up!! But I have to tell you that things just happen to Pat and I ... I didn't find career paths ...they found me (chuckle)

  6. Hi John,

    It's always an adventure visiting your blog. Through your words, your art and photos. Wonderful story and great photos. Thank you for sharing your wishes as a boy and your adventure as and adult.

    All the best to you,

    1. Thanks Joan. The only problem with old men and their stories is that they can become boring.

  7. What an amazing post! Yes, I got to meet Sir Ivor Broom and his beautiful wife Jess. What a fantastic man he was...a hero through and through and yet he did not seem to have an ounce of guile or "ego". Here he was... knighted by the Queen... and yet he talked with me as if we were old pals! He and his wife were both among the loveliest people I've ever met...ever! It was a true privilege to spend time with him. I believe you share many of the same qualities with Sir Ivor. He, like you, cared deeply about his country and family and he was a shining example of fortitude. I know that he had broken practically all his bones during several plane crashes, but he "hobbled" around on the golf course without complaint and a perpetual smile on his face. Thanks for sharing your story of flying the crew to the Endurance. I must say, that type of stuff absolutely thrills me.. It never ceases to amaze me how beautiful this world is..and how smart men are to build and command breathtakingly beautiful vessels that move us everywhere (and to protect us too). P.S. And thanks for the nice mention in the post! :)

  8. Well thank you for that, Celeste. Really interesting. I know he crashed when he was instructing a student, who got it wrong. He broke his back and lived in plaster for months.

    The Mosquito 'boys' were real heroes. After the war they were allowed to wear a little brass eagle on the their left, breast pocket, to identify them.

    Nice to know that he started as a sergeant and ended up the second highest rank in the RAF.

    Unfortunately, I do have hobbling around in common with him! ...a mis-spent youth alas ...we all pay the price - for thinking we are superman - in the end :0)

  9. Hi, John, I love sharing your adventures with you through your well written words! And those photographs!

  10. Thanks Susan, glad you enjoyed iy.

  11. All very interesting John. Thanks for posting them and photos. All the best.

  12. What a great story John. Your adventurous life makes my boring and mundane desk bound one seem so insignificant. Don't apologise for not posting art when stories like this are the alternative. All the best.

  13. Oh I can always tell you stories about the high spots, John.

    There were many low spots ... sleeping on concrete floors in the basement of a hotel, without air conditioning - the alternative was comfort and the risk of Yemen Rebels rolling grenades under the door.