Southampton University Royal Naval Unit (1977-80)

*Regrettably, one experience within the unit turned out to be devastating, directly impacting upon Chris' final year at University not to mention his chances of securing the necessary grade degree to study for a doctorate in the new field of botanical informatics (likely to have led to a secure career - without which, given limited job opportunities for field botanists - a career as a naval officer may have followed; though what happened ruled that option out).  Had this not occurred, he may well also have had the sense not to accept the invitation to join the University of Southampton's Ladakh Expedition 1980 - without which 24 expeditions along the Himalaya are unlikely to have followed. For more details see end of this page. Chris has been reluctant to write about the humiliating event, especially in such a public forum, having buried the shame for decades, in fact the traumatic aspects only re-surfaced in 2019, forty years later!  The behaviour of two fellow 'officers' along with the daughter of a Rear Admiral was inexcusable; the lack of action by the unit stank, whilst Chris did not have the courage to resign from the unit nor abandon his degree in protest at such uncivilised behaviour.  Perhaps it would have been better if he had committed suicide (as was the case with another student studying biology that year) as such mistreatment followed a pattern for much of his life?


Chris Chadwell acting junior officer (Midshipman) Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) whilst studying Biology at the University of Southampton - don't expect there have been too many other botanists within the unit since then.  He took courses in Oceanography and was sorely tempted by the first year field course in Guernsey covering marine biology but needed to go to Spain instead, given his plant specialism. Chris always felt that if his country needed him to serve in the armed forces, then despite distinguished service during both world wars by close relatives in the Royal Air Force and Army, the Royal Navy would be his first choice.  Thus when the opportunity arose to join Southampton's Royal Naval Unit, he was pleased to be accepted.  At that time there were only four units, the others being Liverpool, Glasgow Strathclyde and Aberdeen. The experience he gained proved useful in many ways during his life in general and in particular his 'career' leading botanical tours and scientific expeditions to the Himalaya.  Overall, he can therefore express his gratitude to the Royal Navy and his University.  See pages below from the pamphlet available during Freshers' Week to get an indication of the training received from first-aid instruction, weekend cruises to Poole, Alderney & other similar destinations, a week at Dartmouth Royal Naval College to a fortnight cruise from Dartmouth to the Western Isles, up the Caledonian Canal (HMS Isis was just narrow enough to squeeze through) then on to the Royal Naval Dockyard, Rosyth. The most notable of the Unit's former members is Ben Fogle well-known on TV (who studied at the University of Portsmouth, as it was known by then), 15 years younger than Chris.


HMS ISIS on the river seine, Paris

HMS Isis travelling along a canal en route to Paris

Members of the Southampton University Royal Naval Unit in France

Member of the Southampton University Royal Naval Unit in France

H.M.S. Isis in Alderney Harbour, May 1978 - towards the end of Chris' first year studying at the University of Southampton


Postcard sent by Chris from Alderney to his grandmother

Isle of Staffa visited during cruise to Western Islands of Scotland

Isle of Staffa visited during cruise to Western Islands of Scotland

Postcard of Silver Jubilee Fleet Review in the Solent, just 3 months before Chris joined the Southampton University Royal Naval Unit; HMS Isis undertook varies duties including delivering mail to the other ships - it never entered his mind, given that he had lived well away from the coast and it was his father's idea to drive to admire the fleet, that he would be enrolled as a junior officer in the RNR so soon afterwards

The commanding officer of the Southampton University Royal Naval Unit when Chris joined in 1977, Lt-Cdr Pearson, had previously captained the Ice Patrol ship HMS Endurance.  Despite the unpleasant experience explained below, during the Falkland's Conflict, Chris wondered if the situation had escalated, it would have been appropriate to volunteer to re-train and then serve in some minor capacity, freeing a more experienced naval officer up to immediately serve in a more demanding position.  The seriousness of the situation was brought home when HMS Coventry was hit by an Exocet missile - the ship one of the crew who had been aboard Isis was transferred to.  As to the newspaper cutting above, unquestionably, the Thatcher governments decision to economise by scrapping HMS Endurance, precipitated the invasion of The Falklands by Agentina's Military Junta, on the calculation that if Britain could not afford a single ship with 12 marines aboard, they would not be able to afford to retake 'Las Malvinas'. Militarily, Britain should not have been able to - a view held by the RAF and Army but not The Royal Navy (reasonably enough, as unless they were required for a crucial role in such a conflict, their future was in doubt) along with Thatcher (her political future was doomed if she did not send a task force - it is forgotten that she was not popular at the time; no invasion, no 'Iron Lady').

A few years later Chris staged an exhibit at a Bristol Alpine Garden Society (AGS) Show, where a Royal Naval Captain spoke to him - this officer was to visit The Falklands and subsequently write in the AGS Journal about the flowers found there. Upon his retirement this officer was to lead AGS tours of the Andes and lecture on the flora - just as Chris speaks about Himalayan flora.

FURTHER HUMILIATION

*SOME 6 YEARS AFTER THE FIRST UTTER HUMILIATION AT THE HANDS OF BULLIES AT BARCLAY SCHOOL, STEVENAGE, WHICH DESTROYED HIS SELF-CONFIDENCE, CHRIS WAS AGAIN SET-UP!  AT THE TIME HE WAS TREASURER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON ROYAL NAVAL UNIT, IN HIS FINAL YEAR STUDYING BOTANY.  HE AGREED TO ORGANISE A SOCIAL EVENT AT A HOTEL IN PORTSMOUTH, TO BE ATTENDED BY MEMBERS OF THE UNIT (ACTING JUNIOR OFFICERS IN THE ROYAL NAVAL RESERVE FOR THE DURATION OF THEIR ACADEMIC STUDIES) PLUS GIRLFRIENDS ALONG WITH MEMBERS OF THE ROYAL NAVAL CREW OF THEIR TRAINING VESSEL (H.M.S. ISIS - AN INSHORE MINESWEEPER). CHRIS HAD A SERIOUS GIRLFRIEND FOR MUCH OF HIS SECOND YEAR AT SOUTHAMPTON BUT THAT RELATIONSHIP HAD ENDED.  HE BECAME FRIENDLY WITH ANOTHER MEMBER OF THE UNIT, WHICH LED TO A SATURDAY OR TWO WORKING ON THE BOAT OF HIS PARENTS, WITH A VIEW TO SAILING ABOARD HER THE FOLLOWING YEAR.  THIS UNIT MEMBER, VERY MUCH A LADIES' MAN, SUPREMELY CONFIDENT, HAD A LIVELY, CHATTY SISTER, WHO SUGGESTED SHE WOULD SEE IF ANY OF THE GIRLS IN HER 6TH FORM MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN BEING CHRIS' 'DATE' FOR THAT EVENING; SHE DID, CHRIS MET THIS GIRL BRIEFLY IN PORTSMOUTH BEFOREHAND WITH THE INFORMAL 'DATE' AGREED, AS THEY BOTH PASSED MUSTER.  UNFORTUNATELY, 'DADDY' WAS A REAR ADMIRAL AND SHE WAS NOT ON GOOD TERMS WITH HIM.  QUITE WHAT CHRIS HAD DONE TO DESERVE SUCH TREATMENT? OF COURSE THE ANSWER WAS NOTHING BUT CLEARLY WAS 'GULLIBLE' AND IT WOULD BE A HUGE LAUGH AT HIS EXPENSE.

CHRIS HAD VARIOUS FUNCTIONS TO PERFORM DURING THE EVENING, WHICH TOOK HIM AWAY FROM THE TABLE HE SAT AT WITH HIS SUPPOSED DATE.  WHEN UNDERTAKING HIS DUTIES, ONE MEMBER OF THE UNIT, STUDYING AT PORTSMOUTH POLYTECHNIC, WHO HAD ATTENDED UNACCOMPANIED (HAVING RECENTLY BEEN DUMPED BY A GIRLFRIEND), STARTED PAYING UNDUE ATTENTION TO THE REAR ADMIRAL'S DAUGHTER (WHOM HE OBVIOUSLY FELT WAS THERE FOR THE 'PLUCKING', WHEN CHRIS' BACK WAS TURNED!  CHRIS HAS NEVER BEEN ONE FOR 'FIGHTING' OVER A GIRL AND VIEWED BRAWLING OR PUNCHING SOMEONE ON THE NOSE, AS NOT THE BEHAVIOUR OF "AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN" . HE REALLY WAS NOT INTIMIDATED PHYSICALLY. CHRIS ALREADY HAD A LOW OPINION OF THE CULPRIT-TO-BE, WONDERING HOW HE HAD MADE IT INTO THE UNIT IN THE FIRST PLACE (COMPOUNDED BY HIS BEHAVIOUR THAT EVENING - AS ONE SAYS, YOU SHOULD NOT 'SHIT ON YOUR OWN DOORSTEP)?  HE WAS STUDYING AT PORTSMOUTH POLYTECHNIC (IN CASE READERS ARE THINKING THAT CHRIS FELT IN SOMEWAY SUPERIOR TO A 'POLY' STUDENT, THERE WAS A SECOND STUDENT STUDYING THERE, WHOM HE RATED AS ONE, IF NOT, THE BEST OFFICER IN THE UNIT - DEFINITELY RN OFFICER MATERIAL.

CLEARLY, THE SPOILT 'LITTLE MADAM' WAS ALSO BEHAVING IN AN UNCIVILISED WAY; UPON REFLECTION, CHRIS SHOULD HAVE RUNG HER PARENTS AND GOT ONE OF THEM TO COLLECT HER, DISMISSING HER FROM THE EVENT AND ASKED THE UNIT'S SENIOR OFFICER TO DISMISS THE CULPRIT, AS HE DID NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO DO THIS. INSTEAD, HIS IMMEDIATE REACTION WAS THAT SHE WAS NOT WORTH BOTHERING ABOUT IF SHE BEHAVED AS SHE DID.  ALL HE DID WAS GIVE HER DIRTY LOOKS AND KEEP A SAFE DISTANCE - AFTER ALL, HE HAD PLENTY TO OCCUPY HIM. HE DID NOT APPRECIATE HOW HUMILIATING AND DEGRADING THIS WAS AT THE TIME. 

 AFTER WHAT HAPPENED, A RULE WAS INTRODUCED WITHIN THE UNIT, THAT ALL MEMBERS HAD TO BRING A DATE OR NOT ATTEND SUCH SOCIAL GATHERINGS.  TOO LITTLE AND TOO LATE.  THE OFFENDER SHOULD HAVE IMMEDIATELY BEEN DISMISSED FROM THE UNIT.  THE ADMIRAL'S DAUGHTER SHOULD HAVE WRITTEN A LETTER OF APOLOGY.  THE ADMIRAL SHOULD HAVE INVITED CHRIS TO HIS HOME AND APOLOGISED IN PERSON. CHRIS CANNOT IMAGINE THE ADMIRAL WAS HAPPY ABOUT HIS RANDY TEENAGE DAUGHTER'S CHOICE OF BOYFRIEND OR MAYBE NOT?  PERHAPS HE PREFERRED HER BEING DE-FLOWERED BY ANY ACTING NAVAL OFFICER, NO MATTER HOW LOWLY, THAN SOME SPOTTY YOUTH IN THE 6TH FORM OF HER SCHOOL.  IF ANYONE READING THROUGH THIS ACTUALLY KNOWS WHAT HAPPENED TO EITHER, HE WOULD BE DELIGHTED TO HEAR FROM THEM. UNFORTUNATELY, CHRIS CANNOT RECOLLECT THE NAME OF EITHER BUT THE YEARS INVOLVED AND NOTORIETY OF THE EVENT (WHICH EVERYONE IN THE UNIT AT THE TIME GOT TO KNOW ABOUT) SHOULD EASILY PLACE THEM - AFTER ALL, THE UNIT SURELY OWES CHRIS AN APOLOGY.

THE NEXT DAY CHRIS WENT INTO SOUTHAMPTON TO RECEIVE A SAVAGE HAIRCUT, MUCH TO THE BARBER'S AMUSEMENT SPENT DAYS NOT ATTENDING LECTURES, HIDING IN HIS ROOM AT HIS HALL OF RESIDENCE.  UPON REFLECTION, CHRIS FEELS HE SHOULD HAVE RESIGNED FROM THE UNIT, MAKING A FORMAL COMPLAINT TO HER FATHER. THE UNIT MEMBER SHOULD HAVE BEEN SHUNNED BY OTHER MEMBERS SUBSEQUENTLY BUT THIS DID NOT HAPPEN. IN FACT THE TWO CULPRITS APPEARED TOGETHER AT A SUBSEQUENT EVENT (SOME NERVE) AND WAS OBSERVED WITH THE LADIES' MAN AS IF THE BEST OF FRIENDS.  NOT ONE MEMBER OF THE UNIT EXPRESSED THEIR COMMISERATIONS TO ME NOR KEPT A DISTANCE FROM THE TWO.

WHAT ABOUT 'ESPRIT DE CORPS'?

CHRIS THINKS HE ALSO SHOULD HAVE LEFT UNIVERSITY ALTOGETHER, ABANDONING HIS COURSE.  CLEARLY, HE WAS NOT CUT OUT FOR UNIVERSITY LIFE.  HAD HE DONE SO, HE WOULD HAVE AVOIDED THE INVITATION TO JOIN THE SOUTHAMPTON UNIVERSITY EXPEDITION TO LADAKH IN 1980 - WHERE HE WAS SO BADLY LET DOWN, THOUGH NOT HUMILIATED. HIS CAREER IS LIKELY TO HAVE FOLLOWED A SUBSTANTIALLY DIFFERENT PATH, HAD HE DONE SO.  GIVEN HOW DISGRACEFULLY HE WAS TREATED BY THE BBC & SCOTTISH ROCK GARDEN CLUB (SRGC) SOME YEARS BACK, HE DEARLY WISH THINGS HAD TURNED OUT DIFFERENTLY.  HE CANNOT CONCLUDE THE TIME STUDYING HIMALAYAN FLORA HAS BEEN A TOTAL WASTE OF TIME.  HE MISSED OUT ON EARNING POWER WHICH WOULD HAVE MEANT HIM BEING PAID, OVER A CAREER, HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF POUNDS MORE - INSTEAD HE HAS EXISTED ON A SHOE-STRING BUDGET, NEVER OWNING A CAR OR MANY OTHER MATERIAL POSSESSIONS EVEN THOSE IN THE LOWEST-PAID JOBS TAKE FOR GRANTED.  HE RISKED HIS HEALTH AND LIFE, GOING WHERE FEW BOTANISTS WENT AND LIVED TO TELL THE TALE.  YET THE ESTABLISHMENT PORTRAY HIM AS SOME SORT OF VILLAIN.  LIFE DOES SUCK.

UPON CONSIDERABLE REFLECTION, HE WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER OFF COMMITING SUICIDE WHEN A TEENAGER AT BARCLAY SCHOOL, SAVING SO MUCH GRIEF AND ANGUISH, DEPRIVING THOSE IN THE NAVAL UNIT FROM SO MUCH AMUSEMENT AT HIS EXPENSE.  AT LEAST IT TAUGHT HIM A LESSON THAT THE LIFE OF A NAVAL OFFICER WAS NOT FOR HIM.  IF THE CONDUCT WHICH WAS INFLICTED UPON HIM DESCRIBED ABOVE WAS TYPICAL OF THE CONDUCT OF NAVAL OFFICERS INCL. THE FAILURE TO STAND UP FOR THE DECENT GUY, HE IS ENTITLED TO WONDER IF THE RN SHOULD BE CONSIDERED THE SENIOR SERVICE.

AS TO THE SUPPOSED YOUNG LADY? I OBVIOUSLY TREATED HER WITH TOO MUCH RESPECT AND CONCERN.  WHILST FINE FOR A FORMAL DATE, I DID WONDER WHTHER, AGED 21, IT WOULD BE APPROPRIATE TO GO OUT AND POTENTIALLY HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH A 6TH FORM GIRL?  TAKING OUT SILLY LITTLE GIRLS, READILY IMPRESSED BY JERKS, IS FOOLISH.  TAKING THINGS SLOWLY CF. SLOBBERING ALL OVER A TEENAGER, IS IT SEEMS NOT WHAT GIRLS WANT.  GIVEN THEIR PREFERENCE FOR 'BAD BOYS' IT SHOULD COME AS NO SURPRISE WHEN THEY ARE TREATED BADLY.

IN CASE YOU ARE THINKING THIS WAS A SIGN THAT CHRIS WAS WEAK, A SISSY, NO USE IN A FIGHT OR BATTLE, SO NO LOSS TO THE RN.  THAT IS FAR FROM THE TRUTH - HE IS A BETTER MAN THAN MOST WHO HAVE SERVED FULL-TIME IN THE ROYAL NAVY AND IS IN NO DOUBT HE, IF CIRCUMSTANCES REQUIRED WOULD HAVE AQUITTED HIMSELF HONOURABLY, WITH COURAGE, LIKE HIS GRANDFATHER DID DURING WWI AND HIS FATHER'S ELDER BROTHER DID AS A LANCASTER BOMBER PILOT IN WWII. 

HE REMEMBERS DURING A WEEK AT DARTMOUTH, COMPLETING VARIOUS OUTDOOR OBSTACLES, THEN BEING THE ONLY REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE SOUTHAMPTON UNIVERSITY ROYAL NAVAL UNIT BEING ABLE TO HOLD A LADEN STRETCHER WITH HIS LEFT HAND.


LESSON?

DO NOT 'DATE' SILLY GIRLS PRETENDING TO BE AN ADULT.  DO NOT TRUST ANYONE. DO EXPECT OTHERS TO ACT IN A CIVILSED WAY.  THE MEEK SHALL NOT INHERIT THE EARTH. I HAVE ACTED AS A GOOD SAMARITAN ALL THROUGH MY LIFE. IT HAS NOT SERVED ME WELL. IT SEEMS AN AWFUL LOT OF GIRLS LIKE BEING TREATED LIKE DIRT. IF THAT IS THE CASE, THEN ARE THEY NOT PARTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM, AFTER ALL, MOTHERS PLAY A MAJOR PART IN THE UP-BRINGING OF THEIR SONS.  THE MISTREATMENT OF WOMEN LIES IN THE POOR PARENTING SKILLS OF MILLIONS OF MOTHERS.

IF YOUR SON IS BEING TREATED BADLY AT SCHOOL, LIKE I WAS, DEMAND ACTION FROM TEACHERS, OTHERWISE REMOVE THEM FROM SCHOOL AND HAVE THE CONFIDENCE TO HOME-EDUCATE THEM. DECENT GUYS GET NOWHERE WITH MOST GIRLS/WOMEN AT SCHOOL OR UNIVERSITY, SO ITS IS SAFEST TO STEER CLEAR; BEHAVING IN A RESPECTFUL, CONSIDERATE WAY TOWARDS FEMALES MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER - YOU WILL BE USED OR BETRAYED.....

Chris Chadwell is not soft, declining the suggestion of an ambulance after getting his hand caught on a handle-bar holding a folding seat as he attempted to mount his bicycle on a sloping concrete drive-way - he went head first flying over the handle-bars, could not protect himself; the drive-way certainly won! I ended with his face forced against the concrete. Fortunately, his youngest son heard what happened, coming out to extricate him. His nose was broken; Chris did not want the trouble of going to hospital - he can barely smell now. The accident did not stop Chris delivering a lecture the next day.

Chris and his Kashmiri friend Ghulam Rasool Beigh, exploring the Drung Druk, Ladakh's longest glacier in 1987.

















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