Strangely I cannot remember the exact details of my journey to Ipswich. I know Mum and Dad took me to the recruitment office in Reading where they signed consent forms to allow me to enlist in the Navy from that date and to agree to serve a further nine years from the age of eighteen. That done they returned home, with Mum crying for most of the journey. I along with a number of other recruits were taken to the station and then by train to Ipswich and from there by bus to the annexe of HMS Ganges at Shotley. My going to Ganges was another thing ‘fixed‘ by Major Withers, really I should have gone to HMS St.Vincent in Portsmouth but because I had an Aunt living in Ipswich the Major arranged, somehow, that I should go there. The new entry recruits, known as Nozzers, spent the first four weeks of training in the annexe before moving to the main establishment. During that time they were not normally allowed leave but on the second Sunday I was there Aunt Jean and Uncle Graham turned up at the main gate and asked if they could take me home for tea at their place. They agreed to be responsible for my return and so I was allowed out then and subsequent Sundays. I was most grateful for that as I was desperately homesick. This was the first time I had been away from home or family so tea on Sunday gave me something to look forward to.
The film ‘Carry on Sergeant’ always reminds me of those first weeks of basic training, in many respects there were similarities. The kit issue was done almost exactly as depicted in the film. Going to the clothing store and getting a huge pile of garments, bedding and footwear. This all had to be marked with our names. For this we were issued a wooden stamp of our name and initials. This we used to apply our names either in black or white paint to our clothes and once it had dried embroidered over it with red thread. All this had to be folded correctly and stowed in our lockers in a certain way with the name showing. We were also taught how to wash ourselves and also our kit. For the latter we were given blocks of soap (Pusser’s Hard) and instruction on how to launder by hand. How to use an iron was another subject as we had to iron a lot of kit and put the correct creases in, like the seven horizontal ones in our bell bottom trousers. One amusing tale that went around at the time was of a conversation during a kit inspection. It was between the inspecting officer and a Nozzer of below average stature: - Officer “Well, and what do you think of the RN so far?” Nozzer, “It’s alright sir!” “Do you like your new uniform?” “It’s alright sir! “ “And what about your new underwear?” After a pause “It’s a bit tight under the arms sir!” We all had the same hair style too, it was known as the Shotley Look. Short back and sides and little on top. We also began to learn a new language, all the terms used in the navy that were different to civilian words, such as bulkhead for wall.
To be continued...
RA Fisk was the official photographer at Ganges, and those pixs marked courtesy of Ra Fisk were purchased from him direct by me in 1958/9.