Memories of Ganges
Arriving at Ipswich - what colour was the bus?
It might sound trivial but these things are important to us! When we arrived at Ipswich railway station if you remember we were picked up by a Leading Regulator (don't call them 'boneheads', please, or we'll end up doubling up and down the long covered way in oilskins, boots and jim jams again!) and taken to Shotley Gate by a bus, right? But what kind of a bus was it?
Terry Rice claims his was 'definitely a big green double decker. It was of the same type we boarded on the parade ground prior to going on leave when we had to be at the gymnasium for 3 o' clock in the morning, (0300 hrs for you old salts).' Dennis says 'I can recall missing the bus as many boys clambered on it in front of me and having to wait for a period of time. I recall it being a single decker (yes, Dennis, but what colour was it, mate?) as the mast was fairly close when we first saw it.' John Nixon says 'the bus that picked us up (Kevin Calvert, Pete Kerley and other Yorkies were on it too) was definitely a proper pussers blue single-decker. I remember the deafening sound of the engine (which was in the bus with us next to the driver), the smell of diesel fumes, and something else unpleasant to do with people being sick on it after runs ashore.' Mick hasn't described his bus yet but it must have been full the Scottish contingent so it was bound to have been a noisy ride whatever colour it was!
Colin Smith - My first memory of the mess deck in the Annexe involved me asking in my Lancastrian drawl the lad in the next bunk "Were' you from, mate?" This resulted in a reply in what I subsequently found out was Aberdonian, which was unintelligible to my Mother tongue. After a few "You what mates" from me the said lad's mate, also from north of the border, joined in with the suggestion that I was "extracting the urine." Although I didn't understand the phrase or accent he used, I certainly got the general gist!
I also remember walking in line in the mess hall with a SBA on either side sticking various needles in both arms, having a basin hair cut and being issued with more kit that I could ever imagine. Then came the exercise of chain stitching our name badges, dhobying every bit of kit and learning the precise skill of ironing it all and ensuring it met the exact dimensions of our ship's book. Has anyone still got one?
I remember a trip to the dentist who said to me "You're a lucky lad!" "Why's that, sir?" I asked. "You've never had any fillings, but guess what, your luck's come to an end!" I still have nightmares about Annexe dentistry!
It was a good feeling to pass out, especially after remembering the initial drill we were taught and that near enough everybody had two left feet - was it Pete Kerley who the instructor gave special attention to? Anyway, we marched over to the main camp as a well drilled unit if a bit naive on what to expect next.
Dennis Barnard - 'Can anyone remember the time spent in the laundry, besides the washing? I recall quite vividly the skylarking and jumping into the large bath full of water. We used to run and jump into one end and slide down the edge and went right to the other end. The bow wave created splashed water all over the floor. If I recall it correctly, wasn't it all in who could displace the most water? The taps were full on so it kept the bath topped up. What a waste of water, but what fun it was in those days.'
We also remember the stories about Green Gilbert - the ghost of Laundry Hill. This was probably a scam dreamed up by the boneheads to keep us quiet in our beds at night, but not many of us wandered out late at night to do our laundry!
Colin Smith - I remember marching under the long covered way and singing "sound off 1, 2" - oh what fun we had! Didn't we stay in two messes, 10 and 17? What a way to spend a Friday evening polishing the floor with a boot brush, although there was a lot of pride felt when it was done and woe behold anyone who scuffed the floor! I remember in later years just after I got married and my wife and I were having visitors. Like many women everything has to be perfect and my wife, Maureen, allocated me to cleaning the bathroom. When I asked her where we kept the "brasso", she gave me a look of complete confusion. However, my cleaning efforts would have passed any Pusser's inspection with flying colours!
I remember being in the sick bay twice - once when I broke my wrist playing rugby for the First 15 against Felixstowe Grammar. Light duties were given to me for six weeks, which as it turned out meant me wearing No 3's and being excused marching! I never quite understood this as it was my wrist and not my leg that was broken! The other time in sick bay I had a chest infection and was admitted to the ward and underwent a daily penicillin jab. One SBA took great delight in throwing the needle into the buttocks of juniors as if he was Phil Taylor!
I remember watching Bonnie & Clyde in the gym sat on the balcony at the back - this is still my favourite movie!
Skiing Trip to Scotland
John Nixon recalls the skiing trip to Glen Shee in Scotland and the nightmarish trips in the back of a pusser's lorry from base camp to the ski slopes each day. We had to collect our lunch packs and a massive urn of soup which we loaded into the back of the lorry, and then spent what seemed like several hours being rolled around in the back feeling sick and cold.' Dennis replies: 'I also recall the truck trip to the snow fields. It was a long trip and not so comfortable as I recall, wooden seats. Does anyone remember Smithy waking up at the base on our return with a black face from the road spray? Mick Ross says he was injured that week and missed all the 'fun'. Lucky Mick!
Colin Smith recalls that you need boots to ski and they never had any size 10's, so it was tobogganing all week for me. It was hilarious and I remember 'Tip' being out of control heading down the hill towards a group of skiers and at the last minute one skier noticed him, opened his legs and Tip flew through resulting in uncontrollable laughter. However, the journey there and back each day was a nightmare!.
Terry Rice explains that when we got to the ski slopes on the first day he picked out a great pair of skis that were just the right size for him. However, an accompanying officer said he 'wasn't coming on a skiing expedition with us and not skiing himself,' so he ordered Terry to hand over his which left Terry ski-less! This meant that for the rest of the week he had to go tobogganing with some of the other lads who didn't get a pair of skis either! However, although he didn't get a skiing medal because of this he had a lot more fun!
Colin Smith - Sea training onboard HMS Rapid at Faslane comes to mind - what an experience sleeping in a hammock was and who was it that woke me up asking to hold onto the hammock tie? I also remember a shore trip to Dunfermline with Terry Rice and we went to the pictures. When the film started an usherette came round and turned down the gas mantles! We then went to a local bar and asked for a pint of bitter. "Heavy or light?" came the reply. "Which is the cheapest?" I asked. We then went sea training on the Rapid and then spent some time in Aberdeen, where Mick Ross went missing for some R&R no doubt with his family.
What a Pantomime!
Colin Smith remembers playing the part of Captain Napier and dishing out some discipline to an upstart young junior (played by Pete Ruddock). Obviously it all went wrong and the Captain ended up with egg on his face to great applause from the lads and a frown from the skipper. My career did seem to nose dive thereafter! I would also like to apologise to everyone that I made up a false pit for, tied their boot laces together and any other misdemeanours I took part in - some of which I cannot repeat here!
An Instructor's Perspective
Malcolm Allard: The role and responsibilities of an instructor as I understood them, and being an ex boy-entrant myself, were as follows:
To turn young boys into men who worked as a team, were professional, were responsible and suitably trained to take their place in the Senior Service.
Character and personal hygiene, which involved bringing out the individual's personal traits and using them to the best of their abilities whilst ensuring they understood the role they would take in their career, the need for personal hygiene.
Encouraging an ability to fit in and work within a group, even if not everyone saw eye to eye.
To implement professional training by providing the necessary technical instruction needed to give trainees the required knowledge and confidence to carry out their duties when they eventually went to sea. Academic training, to provide the necessary training to enable the correct educational skills to be reached for their chosen career path. (this was in conducted by class instructors in conjunction with the 'Schoolies').
The first two points above were the ones that class instructors would be more involved in, and took up more of my time as everyone in the class was an individual and each had different ideas of how they should be treated. In this regard it was clear that some people worked better with some and not with others, some were happy just to get on with things whilst others would question everything. Similarly, some trainees were keen on sport but some were not, but I always tried to get the best out of each person whatever their wills and wants.
Divisional rivalry was very fierce in all aspects, especially so in sport where each division wanted to be the best at everything, but this was encouraged by instructors as it helped to build a person's character, even if they lost.
What a shower!
One Sunday after main Divisions and march past, on returning to the mess deck juniors would be dismissed and were then required to fall in by Church parties. On this particular Sunday an unnamed junior seemed to have gone missing and on enquiring of others I was given a number of places as to where he had gone.
After marching the assembled groups off to their respective churches my colleague (another instructor) and I decided to just check that all was well in the messdeck, when we spied a kitbag that seemed to be full, propped up in the showers which appeared a little suspect to me. With the aid of a mop or broom handle we decided to operate the shower above the offending kitbag, whereupon as the kitbag got wet there was a sudden and frantic movement, and out of the kitbag appeared the afore-mentioned missing junior!
Needless to say this trick was never used again. My recollection of whether this junior was a member of 320/321 classes or a member of the next class (302 and sister 301 I think ) of which I instructed, is none too clear after all these years, but if whoever it was reads this story please let me know.
The junior who got a toasting!
One day on entering 17 mess (which was the same for both the classes I taught) there appeared to be a strong smell of toast, and not having a toaster in the mess I deduced that bread had been removed from the dining hall after a meal and the mess iron had been used (as in the days when as a junior myself I had done the same).
On enquiring as to who was responsible no-one came forward, but a certain junior had a guilty look on his face (no names, no pack drills) so as a punishment he was told to stand on a chair in the covered way outside the mess and told to recite the words "I Will Not Use The Iron Again To Make Toast" a number of times in a loud voice, which of course he did.
The person I am recalling swears to this day that it was not him, so if the person responsible reads this, as in the case above, let me know and I can then apologise to the 'guilty' person.
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