We thought it only proper that we should begin 1981 with a bit of humour for our readers. The following item originated with the May 30, 1980, issue of The Sydney Herald (yes, that's Sydney, Australia), and we thank member Capt. Charles Colenutt for sharing it with us.
"The crew of the Australian destroyer DERWENT has shed about $43,600 (Australian), but no tears, over a fracas in a Manila bar called The Crocodile. Involved, progressively, were two DERWENT sailors, two chickens, a live crocodile, a Filipino barman, three Jeepneys and their passengers, a posse of Philippines police, diplomats, and finally a compensation bill for $U.S. 50,000.
"It all began with what was officially called a goodwill visit to Subic Bay in the Philippines by H.M.A.S. DERWENT, while on a three-month tour in South-East Asian waters between January and March. Subic Bay services a large part of the U.S. Seventh Fleet and, accordingly, is not short of bars. Two DERWENT sailors had hardly settled themselves in the Crocodile Bar, when they noticed the barman tossing two live chickens into a pond beside the bar. There was a sudden swirl of water and the chickens disappeared as if they had been swallowed by something big and hungry, and indeed they had been.
"Their curiosity aroused, the sailors questioned the barman, who explained that in the pond was a live crocodile which liked live chickens. The sailors remonstrated, the barman was unrepentant, whereupon his jaw was broken with one blow. The barman reeled backwards, smashing a large bar mirror. Turning their attention to the crocodile, the sailors jumped into the pond (!!!) , one grabbing the crocodile's head, the other the tail.
"The writhing crocodile, 1 1/2 metres long, was carried into the street, where the sailors lost either their grip or their courage, or both, and tossed the creature away. The crocodile landed in the back of a Jeepney (a decorated Jeep bus), whose passengers smartly jumped out. One passenger was run over by another vehicle. The driver of the Jeepney, hearing the commotion, looked 'round. Coming face-to-face with an enraged crocodile, he lost control of his vehicle and drove through the plate-glass front of another bar, injuring some of its occupants.
"The crocodile, unharmed up till now, scurried into the street and was run over and killed by a lorry. The two sailors ran off but were caught by a posse of police, bar owners, and their pursuers.
"Negotiations between DERWENT officers and numerous claimants followed and produced a settlement; DERWENT would pay damage claims reaching the impressive figure of $U.S. 96,000. Further negotiations by Australian diplomats on behalf of DERWENT reduced the claim to $U.S. 50,000. The crew of DERWENT was so impressed with the great crocodile show put on by their two crewmates that they held a tarpaulin muster to pay for the damage.
"When told of the story, a Navy spokesman would only say that DERWENT was on deployment in S.E. Asia between January and March of this year."
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.