Best-laid plans of Mice and Men


No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it. The saying is adapted from a line in “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns: “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley.”

Today, in 2003,  I 'grasped the nettle' and looked the future 'in the eye'.

I actually decided where I want to be buried, and having done so, went to view an area with a plot in it; a single grave!

Macabre? Not a bit of it. My darling wife wants her body to go to science and does not want a grave, or indeed any ceremony to dispose of her body after the scientific period has been completed.  She does however, want a memorial service.

By this time we had bought the former home [the former owner in front of the people we bought it from] being a signals officer who left the navy as a vice admiral in 1980 and died in February 2007,  his name Sir Stephen Ferrier Berthon.

These were his last few appointments in the navy.

1980: Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Operational Requirements) 3|1978
1979: Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Operational Requirements)
1978: As above
1977: Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff OR
1976: HMS PEMBROKE, Naval Base, Chatham, Kent
1975: As above
1974: As above
1973: HMS DRAKE, Devonport, Plymouth, PL2 2BG
1972: As above
1971: Assistant Controller (Polaris)
1970: As above
1969: Directorate of Naval Signals
1968: As above
1967: HMS PRESIDENT London (Administration of several minor establishments & appointments)
1966: HMS TERROR HM Naval Base, Singapore

My wife and I were also in Singapore in that period 65-67 in an elderly diesel electric submarine called "Auriga"in the 7th S/M Flotilla, not that that counts for much in this my story

The house was in Hill Brow [near Liss Hampshire] and called "LEECROFT" just a few miles from Leydene! Purchased September 1985 and sold in 2005 one month shy of 20 years.

It was lovely and had a splendid garden with copious lawns, shrubbery's, trees galore and flower beds which besotted me. How can I ever forget our day in London on Thursday the 15th October less that a year on from viewing my final resting place?  We spent a wonderful day with our three sons in town and arrived back home in Leecroft at 2200 ready for a quick G&T and then straight to bed. Believe me when I tell you we both slept soundly, and on rising I opened the curtain to see my beautiful garden completely and utterly wrecked with just one sapling remaining upright, with four of my 40 footer chestnuts in the road [B3006] blocking the route from Petersfield to Liss. Before I could gather my thoughts I was conscious that both sides of the major blockage were umpteen police cars and the SEB [Southern Electricity Board] vehicles a plenty coming from all directions, and soon afterwards heavy lifting plant. Worst of all I had a large calor-gas tank sited in a shielded part of the garden which was topped up to its full capacity twice per year and at the beginning of October 1987 it had been filled for the sum of £650 plus VAT: a 60' English Oak split that clean in half length-wise fracturing its major weld on its fall from grace.  Miraculously there was no explosion just a sudden all poisoning dump of a noxious gas into the ether. The insurance claim on the tank replacement,  new concrete footings , plinths  and a filling  came to nearly £2000, suffice to tell you that we waited 8 days for the water main to be restored and an unbelievable 11 days for the electrics to be reconnect and that evolution done by the YEB [Yorkshire Electricity Board] who along with many other midland and northern boards were bringing the south and southeast of of England slowly back together again. Incidentally one of our area neighbours was Lieutenant Commander Alec Pomphrey, a signals officer, and that David Askew, working for the Hampshire Education Authority,  used to visit us when attending upon the Liss village school. 

This is what the house and garden looked like years after the post storm rebuild.

AFTER THAT DREADFUL STORM I reassessed where I wanted to be buried.  Trees were out, persona non grata, period, and remembering my uprooted trees with everything deep down totally disturbed and regurgitated onto the surface, I kept seeing my remains catapulted out of my woodland grave. Being buried under one of them was not what I wanted, so cut to the mice/man theory and I never did return to my old alma mater to view that tree infested plot! See drawing below.

     Thereafter, and for some time I had wanted to be cremated and my ashes spread in the Naval cemetery at Portland, Dorset, a beautiful and idyllic spot, next to the graves of the victims of the submarine Sidon disaster in 1955, my very first mature experience [when I was 16 years old] in the Royal Navy whilst serving in the frigate HMS Tintagel Castle.  The Naval cemetery is high on a hill side overlooking the harbour and it is a tranquil location and well tended by Naval authorities.   However, I have changed my mind now that the Navy has abandoned Portland and  the former HMS Osprey {where I was once stationed whilst as a sea rider on FOST Staff early-mid 1970's} is to be used as a holding area for immigrants.  Add to this that the tiny island has a hill top prison and a floating harbour prison, which as far as I am concerned rather limits poor old Portland's future!  Whoever rests there might be disturbed in the foreseeable future.

I wonder how many former Naval or Military establishments became  graveyards {wholly or in part} after they closed down?  Not many I bet, but my former alma mater did, in part that is, and it is there, in  the erstwhile HMS Mercury, where I had [past tense] chosen to be buried.  Many people have wondered about the fate of HMS Mercury and many would be a little surprised to read that part of the lovely broadwalk has been a graveyard for approximately two years already.  I have just past my 65th birthday, so I reckon that all being well, I should go there when the graveyard is 22 years old {2025}, and not a day before - hopefully!

My wife and I have since decided that we will have conventional funerals when the time comes [and as I write in August 2020 I am 82 and she is 80 with both funeral plans fully paid up so no hassle for our children.

Anyway, all that personal detail apart, I thought that I would publish a little picture of the burial site which will help in your orientation memories of the former signal school, and which will give you  a little more to talk about when you meet colleagues at your various get together's.  Orientation begins at the old sickbay building which still stands on the south side of Droxford Road, along with the main vehicular entrance [post 1983] guard hut, the old senior rate's garages, part of Soberton block and the old senior rate's accommodation  mess.


Of course today in August 2020 things will have changed dramatically so don't take this page literally.

Best regards

Jeff Dykes.