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John Nichols

John was born on the 18 September 1959 in the village of Earsdon near Whitley Bay.

John’s father worked for the Merchant Navy as a second Electrical Officer on board the Swan Hunter built ship the Dominican Monarch

He left school in 1976 at age of sixteen and entered the Merchant Navy. After leaving the Merchant Navy, John joined NAFFI (Navy Army & Air Force Institute) and ran shops onboard Swan Hunter vessels including HMS ARK ROYAL and HMS COVENTRY.

John was interviewed by Alex Magin on 24 October 2006. The interview took place at Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum and lasted for 38 minutes.

John Nichols's Memories

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Once the ship sailed I was in charge of the canteen, the NAAFI canteen which sounds like a currant bun and cup of tea, but there was more to it than that!  We had to deal with the customs we were in charge of all the alcohol on board which was restricted.  We had to deal with all the duty free goods, your electrics, your batteries, everything.  We had to run a shop with clothes involved so logistically it was quite a big job.  Paperwork to go with everything obviously! And obviously if you left the twelve mile limit there would be no tax involved so you would have to write out the forms and work it out accordingly, what was spent what tax came off so it was quite a complex management job.  If you ever had to re-fuel at sea you’d have to make up the order.  You could be at sea for four, five months you’d have to get that order right because if you ran out of Coca Cola, the boys wouldn’t be pleased!  So logistically it was quite demanding.

So quite a responsibility then?

Oh yes, yes, certainly.  As you were a civilian, officially a civilian on board you could deal with anybody from the Commander to the Captain right down to the chefs, the lads down below.  Everybody was the same.  You didn’t have to call them “Sir” but you did to sort of fit in, but everybody knew you were back from that military discipline if you like, that naval discipline.  It was quite good, it was quite a relaxed atmosphere for us.