Knotted in the Winds of Deception

Knotted in the Winds of Deception

Unraveling a fouled up Coxswain’s tale

To be successful, every fledgling journalist knows they should thoroughly research and verify information, develop an interesting angle, write clearly and concisely, structure their story effectively, and diligently edit and revise their work for improvement. But that isn’t what happened to the story about Chief Petty Officer Coxswain “Piggy” Piget.

The young journalist hardly knew the navy man but was responsible for a story about him. He should have, at the very least, checked the sources, checked the quotes and most of all he should have written it himself. But aspiring journalists don’t build careers on personality stories in suburban newspapers – these are often considered as page fillers. Deadlines, on hard-hitting news, always come first.

“Who reads ‘Reader of the Week’ anyway”?” The aspiring journalist asked.

‘Boring’ was his keyword. But on this occasion, a boring article turned into a captivating disaster.

The Chief, in uniform, attended the Ingleburn Fair. The annual event was a gala day he’d attended since childhood. The sounds of children screaming on the rides, the smell of fried food, loudspeakers, bells and sirens, all brought back a flood of memories. He hadn’t been to the fair for close to twenty years, but this year his ship was in port. He felt smart in his uniform as he proudly walked around the many attractions. He rode the rides, ate copious amounts of fairy floss, devoured toffee apples, and even took part in the wood chopping event. Plus he won the hot dog eating competition. In his mind, he was a hero and hoped someone would recognise him in his uniform. Someone did – his now elderly teacher, Miss Fairnsworthy.

“You look so handsome in your uniform, Francis.”

At the sound of his first name he cringed. Her update on his classmates didn’t surprise him – most were dead or in jail.

“You were one of the lucky ones, Francis.”

He hated his first name. And would bash anyone who said it.

She should call me ‘Chief,’ he thought.

“If that judge hadn’t given you the ultimatum to either join the forces or face a sentence, you might be there too Francis. I am so happy to see you have made good. Your parents would have be so proud.”

Don’t mention things like that, you old battleaxe.

Miss Fairnsworthy, sensing his unease, grabbed a passerby, a young journalist from the Ingleburn Times, and introduced him to the Chief.

“This handsome navy man would make a good story in your Reader of the Week section. He is a local boy who has made a success of his life.”

Nobody could have envisaged the outcomes of that cordial introduction.

Chief Piget returned to his ship, which was berthed at the Garden Island naval base. He disposed of the balloons, sample bags, and his teddy bear prize at the last train stop before reaching his destination. He didn’t want anyone on the ship taking the piss out of him.

Back on the ship, Chief Piget found himself in a dilemma. The journalist had asked him to write an outline of his career, and to include all the key points, after which they would re-write the story in journalistic style. But the Chief lacked those skills and passed the job to the Petty Officer Writer in the ship’s office.

The category ‘writer’ handled the ship’s pay, accounts and secretarial work – they didn’t write stories for newspapers. The Petty Officer Writer despised the Coxswain, but was coerced into doing the job.

After interviewing the Coxswain about his career, the Petty Officer Writer started on his typewriter. He knew very well that doing a good job meant he’d be doing it all the time. So he added a bit of creativity to the article – a guarantee he would never be asked to write again.

The finished article was hand delivered to the newspaper by the ship’s driver.

Ingleburn Times Article for ‘Reader of the Week’.

Chief Petty Officer Coxswain Francis Piget, lovingly nicknamed by his shipmates as ‘Piggy’, has served in the Australian Navy for twenty years. Originally from Ingleburn, the son of the local socialite Mrs Piget, he took on a career in the Navy after suggestions from a fellow inmate.

Even on his first trip, by train, to HMAS Cerberus, where he was to undergo extensive and thorough training in all aspects of warfare, he was a leader. Still in civilian clothes, seniors asked him to oversee the conduct of a train carriage full of new recruits on the journey to Melbourne. That decision by the Navy earned him many awards. When the train derailed, he single-handedly saved the fifty unconscious recruits by dragging them from the carriage before it exploded. This was before they had even issued him his uniform.

Whilst training at HMAS Cerberus, he excelled in all aspects of seamanship, gunnery, radar, communications, officer training, and advanced weaponry. Once he passed all his subjects before the deadline, the navy immediately promoted him to Leading Coxswain and posted him to various classes of warship. Sometimes he sailed into conflict. According to Chief Piget, he couldn’t reveal those parts of his career, as they are still highly classified. He said Russian spies often approached him for information but would never share any secrets. He was a responsible Chief. Unlike some.

Man of Steel

The Chief’s job entails being at the helm of the ship in difficult situations. For example, when travelling through dangerous reefs or in a Category Five hurricane.

When the Chief isn’t saving lives on the bridge of the ship, he is protecting the sailors, as they are his responsibility. He compares his office to a church’s confessional booth and encourages sailors and officers to share their worries with no fear of being exposed. Recently a sailor, Francis Jones, was knifed by another sailor, Fred Sizer’s, over a disagreement about a girlfriend, Glenda Henky. The Chief explained that he settled both sailors down with no-one else finding out about the horrid situation they were in. Both are now friends and he banned Glenda from visiting the ship for two months.

“Morale on fighting machines is very important, and many times it starts with a sailor’s stomach,” the Chief said.

They often ask him to step in and coach the chefs on the correct preparation of meals. The Chief said he saw his sailors as family and they needed to be fed well. They love fat and lots of it – greasy chips and lots of them, but vegetables are important and he insists peas are served with every meal.

Asked about Navy as a career choice, Chief Piget explained it was not for everyone. There are people who are weak-minded, those without the strength to kill – such people are best left ashore as they could potentially destroy the morale of others.

Pride of the Fleet

Regarding aspirations to a higher rank, Chief Piget said he had reached the pinnacle of his career. His rank reflected a life well-lived, and though he is often requested to take promotion to Commander, he steadfastly refuses. They even offered him the command of his own ship, but he loves life just the way it is.

“I love the Navy,” he said repeatedly. “And nothing will ever change that. To me, I am one step away from God,” he chuckled.

When he is not busy with Navy, he enjoys a social life of stamp collecting, photography, short films and creating deadly moves as a master chess player. He has also won many international tournaments, especially in stamp collecting, but he doesn’t wear those medals on his uniform.

The Super 8 film for the story, which Chief Coxswain Piget and the Petty Officer Writer made, was never released due to technical difficulties….

Navy Not Amused

The story outraged the Navy when it was published. A furious Minister of the Navy berated the highest-ranking Admiral, setting off a chain reaction that cascaded down the hierarchy. They needed a scapegoat. Much like a game of Snakes and Ladders, the snake of responsibility slithered down, down, down until it found its prey.

The Chief confessed he didn’t write it. The Petty Officer Writer, who penned the story, lied and said the article was a joke for the Coxswain – he didn’t know it was for a newspaper, anyway the Coxswain should have, at least, read it first.

The journalist and the editor – who both read only the first paragraph, found it suitably boring, and gave it the OK. The owners of the newspaper dragged them into the paper’s head office.

Navy, not knowing how to handle PR, went dark after an Admiral, who hadn’t fully read the article either, said the story was not that bad – and he told the television reporter to lighten up. With the media capitalising on the growing interest, individuals and groups mentioned in the story became subjects of widespread interviews. This list included the Minister for Rail Transport, the Russian Ambassador, Glenda Henky, Navy Recruiting, members from the Stamp Collector’s League, the Chess Player’s Guild, and anyone who had even the faintest connection to or knowledge of the Chief.

Many invited Chief Coxswain Piget to be a guest speaker at their events. Schools in Ingleburn, who only read the first paragraph, also asked him to speak to their students. He was their hero. Miss Fairnsworthy was the only one who read the full story – and shook her head – Oh dear what have I done?

His ship banned that edition of the Ingleburn Times, but someone kept posting copies of the story on the noticeboard.

The young journalist, who once regretted saying, “Who reads ‘Reader of the Week’ anyway?” found himself joining the navy a short time later. The Petty Officer Writer, with two broken fingers, still struggles to write anything.

Chief Piget carried on with his duties in the Coxswain’s Office, now humorously referred to as the ‘Confessional Booth’. Much like his despised first name, this term was rarely used except when an occasional phantom phone call would come through, a nagging, whiny voice on the other end daring to disrupt his tranquility.

‘Hey Francis, are you in your confessional booth?'”


Chief Coxswain Piget is set to appear as one of the main protagonists in my forthcoming novel, ‘Deadly Captain.’ If I manage to get through the rewrites, it will be released by the end of the year.

To my old mates Barry Donovan and John “Jack” King, both deceased, and Barry Spencer – all former Chief Coxswains, who would probably love this yarn.