Dick Parsons – Navigating the Sinai by the Stars

AuthorHouse is thrilled to welcome Dick Parsons to our Author’s Digest contributor community! A former lieutenant commander in the Royal Navy, Dick is the self-published author of four books: Turbans, A Family Divided, A Fisher of Slaves, and New Zealand – A Personal Discovery. New Zealand has been getting rave reviews, including a starred review from Pacific Book Review (awarded to “books of excellent merit”).


Over the next few weeks, he’ll tell us about his fascinating background, and how it inspires his writing.




Dick Parsons (cropped)In 1942 I joined the Royal Navy as a cadet, aged 13, and first went to sea in 1946—too late to see active war service. However, I have had 37 enjoyable and stimulating years and two sea commands during my service career. As a midshipman, I served on the cruiser H.M.S. Birmingham in the East Indies Fleet, based in Trincomalee, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).


During that commission I was lucky enough to spend Christmas 1947 on a tea estate, and for a few days I lived the life of a tea planter in the hills of Nuwara Eliya. This happy experience (and later meeting with British expats when the Birmingham visited Colombo, Madras, Calcutta and Rangoon) stimulated a lasting interest in the East Indies—in particular India, and life under the “Raj” [rule by the British crown], when India was the jewel in the crown of the British Empire.


My interest in the “Raj” was further stimulated by marring the daughter of a former chief justice who served in the Indian city of Allahabad. My fascination with all things Indian, as well as the war against Japan, inspired me many years later to write Turbans, set in India during World War II.


Later, as a lieutenant serving as the anti-submarine officer on the H.M.S. Loch Fyne (a frigate in the home fleet), my ship was involved in the hunt for the H.M. Submarine Affray, which had failed to surface after a dive in the English Channel. Four Loch-class frigates, including the Loch Fyne, spent six weeks searching the Channel and eventually found the submarine on the bottom, off the island of Alderney. Sadly, there were no survivors.


TurbansWhile serving on the H.M.S. Barfleur, a destroyer in the Mediterranean Fleet deployed to the Suez Canal, the army wanted to borrow our ship’s navigating officer. Their intention was to emulate the Second World War Army Special Air Squadron (SAS), which operated behind enemy lines in the Libyan Desert and navigated by the stars. When the navigating officer managed to convince the captain he couldn’t go, I—the ship’s gunnery officer—volunteered.


Armed with an unfamiliar bubble sextant (the navy uses a marine sextant) and my rather rusty knowledge of astro-navigation, I was taken to the Sinai Desert to practice my skills. Thankfully, they proved up to the job, and there can be little doubt that I am the only Royal Navy officer who has navigated in the Sinai Desert by the stars!


Nowadays, of course, on land and sea everyone navigates by GPS or Satnav (satellite navigation), and sextants are a thing of the past.


We’ll present the second part of Dick’s guest blog post next week. His books are available at Amazon and the AuthorHouse Bookstore, and come highly recommended!


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