One of the problems that had to be dealt with during the refit was damage to the stern that had occurred during Exercise Mainbrace. One of the many other problems of 1300 crewmembers living on a ship in dry-dock was that the 'heads' (toilets) were out of action. Special rows of toilets consisting of a sloping trough with continuous running water were constructed of timber and rolls of a black material on the dockside. It didn't take long for some smart 'alec' to discover that if he placed a burning piece of paper in the water at the beginning there would be shouts and a commotion all along the row.
At one time during the refit the dockyard workers, who at that time were mostly Spaniards and came across the border on a daily basis, decided to go on strike. The Admiral Superintendent of the Dockyard made it very clear to them that if they did strike it would mean that they would not be allowed to return to the dockyard and as the wages in Gibraltar were very much better than wages in Spain they soon dropped their idea of a strike.
During our stay in Gibraltar many of the crew took the opportunity to visit Spain. Some made day or evening trips to either La Linea or Algerciras whilst others went further afield on coach trips to Cadiz and Malaga. Some even ventured across the straits to Tangier. A trip to Malaga then was along a dusty coastal road with only the occasional small town or fishing village. It was nothing like the Costa del Sol of today with its high rise hotels and golf courses stretching from Gibraltar without a break. I remember on one trip of stopping at a village for a 'coffee' stop when we came face to face with a coachload of English ladies on a holiday. Although we were in civilian clothes - we were not allowed across the border in uniform - they never expected to meet a coachload of British matelots during their holiday.
The only gambling game officially recognised on board was Tombola, now known as Bingo. The amount of a house was in the order of £4 - £5 on board but in the Gibraltar Naafi Club a house would be as much as £100. That was a lot of money in 1953 and on most nights it was impossible to get inside the club. As a result the patrons would be all around the outside or hanging out of windows etc.. Pay day in the navy was fortnightly on a Thursday and payday in Gibraltar would see Main Street a sea of white caps and all the bars would be full to the gunnels. It was also a favourite night to visit La Linea.
A now well known tourist spot could also be visited in 1953 but was not so accessible as it is now. The entrance to St Michael's Cavern's was in the restricted area at the top of the rock and could only be entered with special permission. Entry was gained through a trapdoor in the floor and when inside it was a matter of torches for illumination. The Rev. Clifford Davies took a party of us for a visit and the return journey was made by running all the way back to the ship.