Permission to step aboard in style

Last updated 05:00 25/07/2014
Sharon Cleverley

Sharon Cleverley

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Sharon Cleverley remembers clearly the day she felt like royalty.

It was a hot day and she was 9 years old. Her father often took her and her little brother over to Lyttelton to visit, but this day was special.

They drove over from their home in Cashmere Rd. The navy frigate HMNZS Canterbury was in port and the whole town was out to get a sneak peek inside.

"I remember going through the tunnel and it was so busy the red lights were flashing," Sharon recalls. "There was a queue of people snaking down the wharf from the road. In those days, you could walk right down there."

People were waiting hours for their glimpse inside the ship.

Fortunately for Sharon, her dad knew Lieutenant Commander Bill Costello. Somehow, he spotted them from the top of the gangway.

"My father heard his name getting called out and Bill Costello stopped to talk to us. Then he said, ‘Come with me'."

The whole gangway was cleared and the waiting crowd pushed back. The boatswain's pipe started up and Sharon couldn't believe her eyes.

"Everyone got herded back down the gangway and they yelled out for everyone to make way because an officer was coming on board. Bill went in front and I was right behind him. I remember hearing everyone whispering, ‘Who are they?'.

"I felt like royalty. My Dad said the look on my face was absolutely priceless, the cat that got the cream."

The whole ship's crew was decked out in dress uniform.

"I really don't even know how my dad knew Bill, but he was the nicest guy. I will never forget that moment, and it's stuck with me ever since. "Knowing me, I would've been wearing shorts and a T-shirt!"

Bill Costello passed away in 2003.

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