London Tour – USNA Summer Training 1954

Ted Parker

During our summer training cruise in 1954, one of the ports visited was Le Havre, France, on the English Channel. For that port visit, USNA had arranged for a chance for Mids to fly to London for a tour of about three days duration. Among the Mids who signed up were the four in the accompanying photograph, seen waiting for the flight to London: Ted Parker, Geoff Gardner, Dick Peterson and Buzz Ringer.

London Tour Parker

We got to London uneventfully and had a great time together touring and entertaining ourselves as Midshipmen do.

On the morning we were to fly back to France, we mustered in the lobby of the hotel at dawn, and when we looked outside, found that the fog was so dense one could only barely see across the street. As time crept on past the time for the bus to arrive, the young officer assigned to the tour became more and more nervous while we enjoyed a nice breakfast. Finally the bus company called to say that it was too dangerous to dispatch the bus just then, but the fog should clear shortly. It did not, and as the time approached for our flight to depart, the officer was in near panic. Eventually, he made contact with the U.S. Defense Attaché’s office. After some checking, they said there would be no flights out of London until later in the day, and if we were to get back to Le Havre in time for sailing that afternoon at high tide, we should go down to the channel coast by train and take a ferry. We eventually were able to get to the Victoria Station for the train but the only ferry available was to go to Dieppe, miles from Le Havre. The ferry had a steam-powered piston engine driving side paddlewheels, and it wonderful condition so it was an enjoyable and interesting ride.

In Dieppe, we were loaded on to a bus for the trip to our ships, but time was flying by; so when we approached the piers in Le Havre, all we could see were the sterns of our ships sailing out of the harbor on the tide. The escort officer was in great distress at being in charge of us while we all missed movement!

One of the oilers stayed just outside the harbor and sent a fifty foot open boat to retrieve us. There was a brisk west wind blowing and it was a wet ride – and one of our classmates (name unknown) was trying desperately to protect his principal purchase in London, a cello! We were all pretty wet when we climbed a Jacobs ladder to board the oiler, but we all got bunks and food, and over the next two or three days eventually were highlined back to our respective ships.

There was an announcement later to the effect that the USNA would no longer be scheduling cross-channel tours during summer training cruises.