The Irex Record III: The Bermuda Fling

By Jim Reynolds, 1947

The eighty members of the crew of the U.S.S. Irex SS482 were the first people on earth to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Bermuda to Portugal and return to New York while continuously submerged under water. Being a member of the Irex crew on that voyage was the high point of my Navy career. The trip was planned to be 30 submerged days. It actually was 7 days submerged to Bermuda, one day on the surface there repairing a grounded snorkel valve cable, then 22 days submerged from Bermuda to Portugal and then directly back to New York. The low point in my Navy career was that one night in Bermuda.

We were disappointed at having to surface for repairs in Bermuda. We were also still on quite a high because we had just completed seven continuous days submerged and through a very rough storm. By evening everything was shipshape and all who could afford to go ashore, went ashore. Since I had been cleaned out in a poker game, I borrowed $5 and went along with several shipmates to the base exchange to have a few beers. After several beers my mind generated the expansive idea that we should go in to town to really see Bermuda and also check out the local “ladies”. Danny Dantonio had won most of the money in the poker games so he loaned me $25 and after borrowing a dress uniform jumper, several shipmates agreed to join me on a last minute trip into beautiful Hamilton, Bermuda.

The little English cab dropped the four of us at the same bar where the rest of our shipmates had gathered. Unfortunately there wasn't a woman in the place. After many toasts to our record seven days submerged cruise to Bermuda and many, many more rum and cokes, the drink of the day, we were feeling no pain. Again my nimble mind returned to the search for female companionship. After two solid hours of hard drinking and talking, I was able to convince everyone that we should go where there were some women. Locals in the bar told us of “The Eagle's Nest” where there was a big party and plenty of women. We all agreed to go and immediately piled out into the street and filled up every available English Ford cab for the ride to our destiny.

As usual, in my southern fashion, I was the last to get in a cab. Someone said, “Where's Cheney?” Another said “He's in the back booth of the bar”. So I said “wait for me, guys, and I'll go get Cheney”. Quickly I dashed back into the bar and sure enough there was George R. Cheney MOMM1C crapped out in the back booth. He had started on the early liberty and he and others in the crew were severely polluted. It took at least fifteen minutes to get Cheney on his feet, to the head for a pit stop, wash his face in cold water and then out to join the guys waiting in the cab.

Naturally, there was no cab and no guys. They had gone on ahead without us. After another fifteen minutes of venting my anger with every cuss word learned in the past couple of years and trying to keep Cheney on his feet, we finally got a cab and headed for the Eagle's Nest. I was mad about the other guys getting a head start with the ladies, but the two beers that Cheney insisted we have for the ride helped somewhat.

As we pulled up the the Eagle's Nest the doorman (I was impressed with this black man's uniform and his magnificent English accent) ran down a long flight of terraced stone steps to tell us we were not welcome. “Not welcome! Hell, we came to dance and meet the women at the party and we're coming in”, said I. As I paid the tab driver off, the doorman disappeared up the steps. Getting Cheney out of the cab took some time but when on his feet he was ready to see the ladies so long as I steered him straight.

We ascended the long flight of steps slowly. At the door to the hotel we were met by the Hotel Manager, two native doormen and two muscular large black men. The Manager held up his hand for us to stop and said in his broad English accent “You are not welcome—you cannot come to this party”. I was beginning to think that maybe we did have a problem, but Cheney took over. Cheney lunged away from my support, took a wild swing at the Manager, missed by a yard and fell flat on his face.

The nearest doorman, seeing that attack, tackled me. As I was getting up within his grasp. the big bouncer joined the foray. I can still see that big black fist on its way to my face as if in slow motion. Slow motion, it wasn't. The fist hit me squarely between the eyes; blood flew everywhere and I went down. I wrestled with the doorman and we rolled over and over down the grassy slope. Then we fell off an eight foot wall. I was on bottom, all my wind was knocked out and so was I.

When I regained my senses, I was being kicked in the ribs and I rolled away from the kicker. Fortunately the Navy Shore Patrol arrived, stopping the kicking. Cheney and I were gathered up and put in the back jump seat of a jeep. Cheney took over as sea lawyer since he had suffered no worse than falling flat on his face. The Chief Shore Patrolman asked if we had been gambling. Immediately Cheney picked on on this and told the Chief we had been gambling, had won, were beaten and robbed. Cheney whispered to me to groan, so groan I did. He told the Chief to slow down, his buddy was hurt. We rode a little more; Cheney jammed his elbow in my ribs and groaned again, much louder. Cheney took off his white hat, started hitting the Chief on the back saying “slow down, slow down, my buddy's hurting”. The Chief turned to the other Shore Patrolman and said “tell that S.0.B. to shut up, I've got it in low gear now”.

We were dropped at Shore Patrol Headquarters. A Navy doctor looked at my broken nose and bruised ribs and pronounced me not mortally wounded.

Two hours later we were placed on a bus making several stops on the way back to the boat. At each stop more Irex crew members were put on the bus, Finally at the boat, we and the Officer of the Deck were told that Irex sailors were no longer welcome in Bermuda and were told not to come back.

Before sleeping, I totaled up my extra costs for the five hour liberty. My uniform was ruined (the jumper wasn't mine); I lost my $250 Tissot watch (the most expensive gift my Dad ever gave me); my nose bone structure was crushed and permanently displaced and I had two of the prettiest black eyes you could ever see. I swore I would never, ever have rum and coke again. All that and I had never even seen a woman.

The next morning we put to sea, submerged and found our new snorkel cable to be A-OK. Cheney and I also learned why we got such an unpleasant reception at the Eagle's Nest. When the four or five English cabs dropped off our crew they were told that it was very prestigious private party and sailors were not welcome. Most of the crew were prepared to do what Cheney and I had done, but there were a few sober and senior hands that took charge and stopped the advance. They did not go easily however; as the drunkest of the gang delighted in kicking out the glass windows in the lighted risers of the steps of the stone stairway as they left. No wonder Cheney and I set with such force,

A couple of days later the Exec and the Captain held a Captain's Mast for the offenders. After hearing the story they sentenced us all to 14 days restriction to the boat. As I left the wardroom I could discern a sly smile the Exec's face. We settled down to our primary mission and completed our record trip across the Atlantic and then back home. We were submerged for 22 days on this leg. Good old Navy Justice I say.

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