In response to the Obituary for Captain Gwilym Williams, published in the April 2015 edition of Sea Breezes. I was Junior Officer of the Watch to Gwilym for a time whilst he, I recall, was Senior First and shortly thereafter Chief Officer of RMS Queen Elizabeth, then the largest ship in the world.
Whilst the 12 - 4 ‘Graveyard Watch’ was rarely the most envied to undertake, doing so with Gwilym was usually rather more enjoyable. As the greatest and most amusing storyteller with whom I had the pleasure of sailing all these decades ago, he caused such night watches to pass quickly.
Cunard’s convention at the time was that the Senior OOW remained in the wheelhouse and / or bridge effectively in command and control of the ship in the absence of the Master, or in our case Commodore Geoffrey Marr, whilst the duties of the Junior OOW focused on the navigational elements of our rapid progress, using as applicable, Loran ‘A’, Loran ‘C’, our Decca ‘Multipulse’ Navigator in the chartroom during the night watches, or the RDF or one of our three radar sets in their respective wheelhouse zones whilst in coastal waters or of course in fog or otherwise inclement weather conditions.
My great fear in undertaking such duties in good visibility conditions was that I might miss even part of Gwilym’s latest ‘tale’. As you might also be aware, he openly confessed to being somewhat fey - in touch with ‘the spirits’, rendering particularly those night watches even more intriguing. At times he had the knack of keeping the attendant crew members of the watch in the wheelhouse - the standby quartermaster, spare hand and the duty bridge messenger (as discreetly as possible) in stitches of laughter. In due course, I became an avid reader of his various published works and continued to quietly chuckle over his further reminiscences of a lifetime at sea. A great character, much respected by his peers (and Junior OOW’s) and a great loss to ‘our’ maritime community.