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Wednesday, 2nd Dec 2020

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A SEAMAN ON THE RUN

An abridged three part version of PO9 resident George Morralee’s new autobiography

Part 3: The story concludes

Catch up with Part One and Part Two here

I mentioned earlier that I, a humble seaman, had managed to run into two of the most exalted sailors of the 20th century. As well as running, I captained the ship's hockey team.

At different times I represented the Navy in athletics events and on one memorable occasion represented Malta against Cyprus when I won the mile and came second in the three-mile event.

Well, it was the year of the football World Cup and in one of the early rounds Malta was playing Denmark at home. I'd worked out that a 4 x 800 metres race (about 2 miles) would suit the time available.

Needless to say I was included in the Navy team for the race. In the interim the Grenadians had been spurred on to break the record time for the race and were up for another encounter with a Navy team.

In the account of this episode in his official biography, the author, Richard Hill, writes: 'It is clear that he (Lord Lewin) pulled a string or two with the drafting officers, for in January 1963 Petty Officer George Morralee joined Urchin'.

The account goes on: Morralee was an underwater weapons rating and was made captain of the quarterdeck, and a good one too, but Terry Lewin's exceptional interest in him was quickly apparent when he sent for Morralee, who was the Navy's champion steeplechaser and a marathon runner of note, and said, "I need you to break a record for me." Morralee looked at the problem and concluded that he could probably manage a time of under ten hours: the latest record stood at twelve hours thirty-seven minutes.

'On arrival at Grenada, having had the morning watch from 4 to 8am, Morralee was a little put out when told the race was to be that night. Instructor Lieutenant Onyett was second, an hour and three quarters behind, and the Royal Marines Young Officers all finished in good times.

For a Captain (Lewin) who had himself been a noted athlete, it was the high point of a second, and for all he knew, last West Indies excursion.'

Although it was my running ability that got me transferred to HMS Urchin, it was not as though I didn't have a real job to do. My posting put me in charge of training officers - all midshipmen - including four Royal Marine officers.

There was a third occasion on which my running skills were responsible for a posting at the behest of a senior officer.

HMS Cleopatra was a brand new destroyer.

In 1972 I had completed my 20 years (plus two years as a boy seaman) and that October I left the Navy for the last time. Rather I was looking forward to spending the rest of my life as a civilian and imagined plenty of opportunities for filling my time to good purpose.

So I got a job with Hampshire County Council teaching adults with learning difficulties, which I found very fulfilling.

I still kept up my running, of course, and belonged to a cross-country league in which I ran for the Fire Brigade's team. One Wednesday afternoon, when I'd been out of the Navy for six years, there was a relay event being held on my old stamping ground, HMS Vernon. Just as I went out of the gate, the Commander called to me: "Morralee, report to me when you get back".

I'd no idea what he wanted and by the time I'd finished the race I'd forgotten all about it. Anyway, I was posted to HMS Vernon where I ran the diving and underwater weapons section, and I stayed there until October 1987.

Another job I'd done while in the Navy was working for the Royal Naval Benevolent Trust. My citation reads:

'Throughout his long and excellent service, he has always given his time and talent to good causes both within and outside of the Royal Navy. In 1972 I had completed my 20 years (plus two years as a boy seaman) and that October I left the Navy for the last time. Rather I was looking forward to spending the rest of my life as a civilian and imagined plenty of opportunities for filling my time to good purpose.

So I got a job with Hampshire County Council teaching adults with learning difficulties, which I found very fulfilling.

I still kept up my running, of course, and belonged to a cross-country league in which I ran for the Fire Brigade's team. One Wednesday afternoon, when I'd been out of the Navy for six years, there was a relay event being held on my old stamping ground, HMS Vernon. Just as I went out of the gate, the Commander called to me: "Morralee, report to me when you get back".

I'd no idea what he wanted and by the time I'd finished the race I'd forgotten all about it.

I, of course, was well beyond the age of front-line service but as the country prepared a battle fleet people like me were being recalled to keep the home-based facilities running. Anyway, I was posted to HMS Vernon where I ran the diving and underwater weapons section, and I stayed there until October 1987.

Another job I'd done while in the Navy was working for the Royal Naval Benevolent Trust. Then it emerged that her husband had been dead for 10 years!

Anyway, after 1987 I really had left the Navy! I think I'd done my bit!

For all the time I'd been in the Navy I had managed to avoid almost anything in the way of action. My citation reads:

'Throughout his long and excellent service, he has always given his time and talent to good causes both within and outside of the Royal Navy. is a founder member of the National Association of Young Peoples' Advisory Service and has served energetically as a Royal Navy Benevolent Trust representative for fifteen years.

'He gives a great deal of his own time to the training and further education of the mentally handicapped. He is the secretary of the Royal Navy Cross Country running and has been responsible for raising large sums of money for charity by organising sponsored running events.

'Chief Petty Officer Morralee’s complete dedication and involvement in an extremely wide range of activities over many years have made him a first-class ambassador for the Service.'

I was presented with the BEM by the Flag Officer Portsmouth in Nelson's cabin on board HMS Victory in the New Year's Honours list 1966,

The field gun in question is a museum piece, mounted on cartwheels and manoeuvred by a team of 18 men. At the time the Royal Navy's HMS Terrible and HMS Powerful were lying offshore. I competed four times in the Portsmouth team and in 1955 was in the winning team. Most of it has involved people with learning difficulties and I'm pleased to say that I've even gained a diploma in teaching adults in that category from Bournemouth University College.

My list includes running Hambledon Youth Club (the Hambledon where cricket was invented near Cowplain); At one time I was president of Hampshire Athletics and for seven years ran the county championships. As a result, the first chap was running against his own heart in another runner's body!

Posted on Wed, August 23 2017