HMS Ganges

DRAKE 320/321 Classes

Royal Navy


About us

Joining HMS Ganges

Life at HMS Ganges





GANGES daily routine (Gerry)

06.30 reveille

07.00 breakfast

08.00 Morning divisions

09.00 Classwork (or workshops etc)

10.00 stand easy

12.30 lunch

13.30 Classwork

16.00 sport/freetime

17.00 tea

20.00 lights out

Days at Ganges were filled to the brim with activity, there was never a dull moment as I recall. Some sadistic bonecrusher would come around at 06.00 to 06.30 banging dustbin lids to ensure everyone was awake. There was usually a second visit to make sure you were up, or at the very least, had one foot on the deck. Mornings, I seem to remember, was a busy time with last minute ironing and boot polishing in readiness for the morning inspection. The daily rush to the bathroom for a wash and brush-up and some late comers washing nicks and socks in the sink, that they had forgotten to do the night before. Breakfast was served in the CMG (Central Main Galley) and queues were always the order of the day. The food available was cereals, toast, jam or marmarlade and always a full English breakfast. As young men the calories were quickly burnt off with all the marching, running and sporting exercise that everyone participated in every day.

At 08.00 the entire camp would parade on the parade ground for morning divisions. The dress of the day during weekdays was always No 8's boots and gaiters. Each individual mess would form up outside the mess to be marched to the parade ground. Once at the parade ground each mess would stand easy in their ranks at the perimeter until the PO GI bellowed RIGHT MARKERS FALL IN. Every class had a right marker, usually the tallest in the class, and they would double onto the parade ground and take up their given spot, standing at ease. A further command from the PO GI would generate a mass stampede as every mess ran onto the parade ground and fell in ranks and dressed off by their respective right marker. The PO GI would call the parade to attention and give the command to dress by the right. After much shuffling the parade ground would fall silent and be stood at ease by the PO GI, awaiting the arrival of the inspecting officer. Usually Captain Napper or his deputy.

Each class, in turn, had the honour of being parade guard. The parade guard stood at the front of the muster in No 8's, carrying SLR rifles with bayonets fixed. The guard was always performed by the more senior intakes of junior ratings.

Upon arrival of the inspecting officer the parade was called to attention and the junior ratings were addressed by the inspecting officer, passing on any information, results, congratulations or news to the remainder of the camp. This was followed by the formal inspection. Sometimes, due to the sheer volume of junior ratings on the parade ground, each class was inspected by their own Divisional Officer, the Captain only inspecting the guard or a few chosen classes.

Uniforms were closely scrutinised for cleanliness, smartness and presentation. Boots had to be bulled to a radiant shine, creases were expected in every appropriate part of kit and personal hygiene was most important. As young men, some were just entering the faze where shaving was required on an occasional basis, and wobetide any junior rating who was found to have more than his fair share of "bum fluff" or a hair too long on his head. A short Prayer was always said at morning divisions.

Following inspection, the parade would be called to attention once again for the march past and on to morning activities.

Morning activities could be classroom study, practical workshop training, marching and drill, gym or lectures or films concentrating on aspects of seamanship or trade matter depending what branch of the navy your class was training for. Drake 320/321 were all electricians of one type or another. Practical or trade orientated lessons were usually taken by one of our mess instructors. At 10.00 there was a 10 minutes stand easy where a drink of tea and some nutty bars were provided. Smoking was allowed at Ganges and junior ratings could smoke in their stand easy but only outside buildings and most certainly not on the parade ground.

Lessons would continue until 12.30 when a pipe was made over the loudspeaker system indicating that it was lunchtime. Lunch was served in the CMG and consisted of many of the staple navy recipes such as "shit on a raft" (kidneys in gravy on a piece of fried bread), oggies (Cornish pasties) as well as the more traditional English lunches as roast beef and Yorkshire pud, sausages and mash with lashings of vegetables. There was always a pudding available, drinks of tea and sometimes coffee or fruit juice and plenty of bread and marg to fill up on if anyone was still hungry. From my own personal point of view I always felt that I was well fed, notwithstanding that some of the food was not always to my liking!

Afternoons were pretty much the same as mornings, with lessons, practical work, drill and a host of other activities. With the exception of Wednesdays. Wednesdays was make and mend day. Wednesday mornings was lessons as usual but the afternoons were devoted to sporting activities. Every conceivable type of sport was available and everyone had to take part unless they had a very good reason not to. Sport was a large part of Ganges life and was available to everyone every day after lessons and until tea time.

17.00 saw tea time commence in the CMG. The dress of the day was No 2's with silks but no collars. These ichy serge sailor suits were detested by most. In the summer a white front was worn beneath them and in winter and even ichier blue sea jersey. As I remember you had to have special permission to attend tea in No 8's or sports rig. Tea was another hot meal, or sometimes sandwiches, fruit and cake.

After tea, evenings were "free" to do as you pleased but this was not always the case. There was always washing and ironing to be done for kit musters and daily divisions. Boots to be bulled, gaiters to be blancoed and the mess to be cleaned for evening rounds. Those who were unfortunate to "earn" punishment were put to work around the camp. Those who did have free time could go to watch a film, make use of the bowling alley or the NAAFI or join in with one of the many evening activities that were available like the bugle band, piping lessons, play chess or draughts, field sports (mainly in the summer months), sailing etc etc.

I seem to remember that we had a "fanny" of Ki and some sticky buns as supper before lights out.

Lights out were at 20.00 every day and class instructors did rounds to ensure all junior ratings were in their pyjamas and in bed. Head counts were carried out and only special permission allowed anyone to be absent from the head count.

In view of the busy days, nights were mainly kept for sleeping as everyone was tired out from the day activities but on occasions there were the odd pillow fights and other extra-curricular activities known to happen. If caught, it was most certainly a prolonged drill session on the parade ground in pyjamas, raincoats and boots and gaitors, or a session of doubling up and down the Long-covered way, irrespective of the weather! Sometimes you were accompanied by your entire bedding on your back!

Upon joining Ganges you were allocated to a mess. These had previously been occupied by the outgoing classes, who went to great lengths to trash them prior to your arrival. Each mess was supplied with a galvanised dustbin and two spit kits. The floors were of wooden blocks and the beds were iron framed sprung bunk beds.

Every Friday night, without fail, was mess cleaning night. All the beds were moved to one end of the mess and all the mess members, armed with a shoe brush, were required to wire wool the floors and then polish them. This was done in one evening and on completion the floors would shine like glass. Needless to say no one was allowed in the mess with boots on for fear of damaging the floor shine. Windows were cleaned with newspaper and vinegar and toilets were cleaned with toothbrushes to ensure they were spotless ready for Captains rounds. The dustbin and spit kits, when they arrived, were the usual dull galvanised colour but in a very short time they were polished, using metal polish, to a mirror finish.

Weekends were generally free time, except for Sunday Divisions. Sunday Divisions was attended in No. 1's and the turn out had to be immaculate, without exception. Divisions on a Sunday were usually followed by church. After this junior ratings were free to do as they wished for the remainder of the day. As ever, there were numerous activities to take part in or a trip into Felixstowe via the liberty boat to see the local sights.


Not wanting to sound or be disruptive, but I can't recall sticky buns for evenings. From my recollection this was a morning thing (morning tea 10.00hrs) and winter time it was Ki with various types of bun - rock cakes I think was Wednesdays (there were specific days for the different buns). In the summer months we had 1/3rd pint of milk with the buns.

I think I'm correct in saying there was no afternoon tea at GANGES, although we got cakes (or 'nutty' at COLLLINGWOOD at 1600 hrs after class. We were marched back to Atlantic/Trafalgar blocks and dismissed then ran over to the dinning room to get the best cake or nutty on offer. I recall the fight I had with a classmate in the toilets in the dinning room, straight after being dismissed from class. Does that ring any bells with timing? Cakes in the afternoon was quite novel not having had them before.

Saturday at GANGES was a free day if there were no divisional activities. I think we

got every other weekend free to go to Harwich and Felixtowe or as in one case, some of us (Gerry, Terry, Tip O'keeffe and I) went back to the Midlands with one of the Chiefs. Gerry, do you remember the train trip back to Leicester to meet up again? You all thought I'd missed the train, so did I...but my brother and his girlfriend ran me to Leicester - the Chief's name escapes me though!

Sunday routine (John)

A rare colour photograph taken outside Mr. Fisk's photo shop after divisions on a Sunday morning.

Roy Brooks, John Nixon, Pete Kerley

From left to right is Roy Brook, John Nixon and Pete Kerley.

Preparing for Divisions

Sunday morning routine involved getting into No. 1s after breakfast and mustering, initially on the small parade ground that belonged to Drake Division. Having fallen in, our divisional instructors (CPO Jones and PO Allard) would inspect us and dust off every spec of fluff from our uniforms, trim tapes, make sure our caps were on straight and generally ensure we wouldn't be picked up on divisions itself. Before we fell out, our Divisional Officers, Lt Cdr Kaminsky or S/Lt Dodds, would also inspect us to make sure our uniforms and boots were up to standard.

Falling in

Once this procedure was over we mustered at the edge of the parade ground and our markers fell in on the parade ground just prior to divisions (the markers were the tallest people in the class/es - usually Stuart (Ossie) Ostler, Vernon Beattie and one or two other 'lofty' lads).

Once divisions were ready to fall in, the GIs would blow their whistle and everyone fell silent and came to attention. At the appropriate moment the GI would shout 'parade, fall in!' which resulted in a stampede as we all ran towards our markers and fell in for divisions. Some people used this 'stampede' as an opportunity to trip up their class mates or generally cause a dust up in which case the GIs blew their whistles, gave the customary warning, and sent us back to the perimiter of the parade ground to start the whole process over again.

Returning to the mess

Once divisions were over we attended church (or was it before?) and charged over to the Central Messing Galley (CMG) for scran. This ususallly involved queuing up in a massive line of boys in Nos 1s and hoping that the chefs (who didn't appear to like us much) would dish out reasonable portions and not give us a hard time. Eventually though we were back in the messdeck with nutty bars etc. planning a trip to the bowling alley, dhobying and ironing our kit, spit and polishing our boots/shoes, getting into sports gear and climbing the mast or something similar.


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