Alfred Booker is described by his loved ones as “larger than life.”
Alfred, better known as Alf, was just 18 years old when he first joined the Royal Navy. He served on the HMS Ramillies, which was the U.K.’s largest battleship at the time. The ship is now famous for commencing the bombardment of German positions on D-Day.
Alf’s grandson, Lloyd, grew up listening to his grandfather’s songs and stories from his time serving in the Navy.
“One thing that never goes unnoticed is that Pusser’s Rum gets a mention in most of these stories,” said Lloyd. “All those serving were treated to a tot of Pusser’s every day whilst on board, and given the horrors that they endured, I’m sure it was the perfect tonic to see them through.”
The following is one of Alf’s stories, as told by his grandson Lloyd:
The Story of the Piu Piu Skirt
“I joined the HMS Ramillies ship in 1943.
At the start of the war, the HMS Ramillies was in New Zealand. The crew became friendly with some Maoris. Before the ship left port, the Captain was presented with a Maoris Piu Piu skirt. The Maoris explained that the skirt would protect the ship and the wearer from any danger.
Our captain, Captain Middleton, wore the skirt during times of danger. He wore it over his uniform along with his
tin hat and his walking stick! At one time, a Japanese torpedo went through the side of the ship and became lodged in the gun magazine. Neither the torpedo nor the shells in the magazine exploded. The ship was protected by its Piu Piu skirt!
The ship went through the whole war without losing a single man, and the Piu Piu skirt is now in the Royal Marine Museum in Southsea.”
Alf received numerous medals and acknowledgments for his efforts during WWII. In 2014, in honor of the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landings, he was invited by the mayor and people of Normandy to be honoured on behalf of HMS Ramillies, and was asked to unveil a stone memorial plaque. The 15-inch guns from the ship are now mounted at the entrance of The Imperial War Museum in London.
Today, Alfred lives with his wife, Betty, who he has been with for over 60 years. Alfred and Betty met in a London Underground tube station, where they were sheltering from a bombing raid, and the rest is history! (After serving on board the HMS Ramillies, Alf found out that Betty’s father had also served on the Ramillies when he was younger. This helped him gain his father-in-law’s approval!)
It is stories such as Alfred’s that make us proud to be the Official Rum of The Royal Navy. We raise a Sunday Toast (“To absent friends and those at sea…”) in celebration of Alfred’s 90th birthday on Sunday, 24th of October!