Join the Free World

In 1968 when I was on board HMS Exmouth, a frigate with experimental engines, the makers of the engines, Rolls Royce announced:

“HMS Exmouth, the free world s first all gas turbine warship at sea, powered by Rolls-Royce Olympus and Proteus gas turbines.”

At the time I mused on this wording and considered what the phrase “free world” meant. Did it mean free to keep people like me in the Armed Forces when I wanted to leave? The 141 individuals who along with me made up the ships’ company of HMS Exmouth, whether they loved or hated it, were all tied to contracts of up to twelve years, many of these contracts had been entered into when they were boys of fifteen or sixteen years old and none of them had the right to change jobs, to take their labour elsewhere or to join a trade union, in fact they didn’t have any of the rights you might expect in a “free world” so why was the ship I was on described as being part of this free world? In the circumstances, working in a ship which was the first major warship in the free world to be powered by gas turbine engines, against my will I would add, appeared to be a trite statement.  If you say things often enough people will believe you I suppose but there was a real irony I thought in the Rolls Royce statement. Was I part of the free world? No I bloody well wasn’t! I wrote to the Managing Director of Rolls Royce and told him that I would love to live in the free world and could he please help me achieve this but he never did reply to my letter.

Check out the year 1968 on this web site:

HMS Exmouth


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