View Full Version : Square Bashing 1950s Style

23-08-2009, 13:48
A letter arrived one winters morning marked "Urgent"with the Admirality stamp informing me to attend a "New Entry" medical examination at Newcastle upon Tyne and if I passed A1 then to be preparred to continue onto the Royal Naval Establishment at Torpoint in Cornwall, the Stoker Mechanics training centre, a travel warrent would be issued for the journey.
The day came to travel to Newcastle,after farewells to my parents and mates, off I went on a journey of a life time, I just could`nt wait to get there.
On entry to the RN medical centre I met up with 4 other "Greenies" already standing in their birthday suits, all of them looking embarrased waiting to be examined by this 3 badged LSBA who greeted me with "Alright lad get your clobber off and stand in line and be quick about it"--no please or thank you, just get your gear off.

Eye and colour chart tests,then the chest examination, everything going great until we had to stand naked between two ropes hanging from the beams and told to hold them and wait,well the month of February is`nt warm enough to stand around anywhere especially with no clothes on, after 15 minutes in walked the "shocker of the day",a 2 and a 1/2 ring striped doctor and to top it all it was a female the size of poor Hattie Jakes, she had this young sort of a grin on her face as she looked us all up and down each of us covering our "tackle" and her first words are still etched on my mind to this day"Don`t worry my young sweeties I`ve seen bigger and better things in my time here", I can still see her leering face, she was still grinning when she took hold of my b--ls and told me to cough, maybe in later life I might have enjoyed the experience but only being a young 17 year old and who had never ventured further than Carlisle this was a new experience for me and came as a shock to the system.All went well and I pased out grade A1 and my warrent was issued for Devonport along with 3 other lads, we had time to spare before our train so we had a meal and a trip to the cinema to see "The Million Pound Note".
We reached Devonport at 0900 and were met by this PO GI who herded us into a waiting truck, our journey took us on our first sea trip, the Torpoint Ferry controlled by a chain driven pully, no seasickness was reported on that trip, at least I don`t think so!
First impressions on reaching HMS RALEIGH was seeing the nissan huts which were our living quarters and lecture rooms for the duration of our stay--no modern brick buildings that are there today--reminded me of the P.O.W. camps we had back home in 1944/5 to house the German and Italian prisoners of war.

Now you can call RALEIGH a "Stone frigate" but all I could see was these wooden huts and being winter days ,did`nt we know about it, a stove fire set in the centre of the hut hardly giving any warmth out.

The PO GI reported his squad to the OOD then we were marched ,some in step others out of step to the bedding store for our bedding and then onto the living quarters to be given instrutions on how to make up a bed, this was followed by going to the slops store for utensils and clothing.
To this day I cannot understand why we had to call a civilian stores man and a no badge AB`s "SIR" but being new to the game I did`t question why!!!!

Then the painful part happened , we were all trooped to the barbers who must have been a sheep shearer in his time because when he was finished we all came out of there with only bristles left on our heads,but what upset me most was that I had paid 1/6p to have a haircut before leaving home and 1/6p was a lot to me as I onlly earned £2-10-0 aweek outside. Can`t remember if we had to pay for the scalping or not!!!!!!

The next 6 weeks consisted of getting up early. washing in cold water, breakfast and then doing square bashing, quick marching,left,right,and L & R inclines,order arms,slope arms,present arms,and rest on your arms reversed,---yes I can hear you all say that we`ve all done it..

How many of you remember that funny march where your right arm went inthe same direction as your foot and muttering to yourself "how the hell do
I get out of this before the GI sees you" --Iguess we`ve all done it at one time or another.

Then there was the seamanship part, tying knots,slinging hammocks,naming deck fittings,and then down to the whalers for a spot of rowing, a job that I hated ,always out of time with the other rowers, catching "crabs" with the oar---still hate rowing.

NOT BORING ANYONE AM I ???????????????

Six weeks was over and we were let loose on Plymouth to the NAAFI there,all we could afford was the old scrumpy-6p a pint-great stuff until the fresh air hits you when you left the club, it was that brew that got me my first commanders report and stoppage of leave with the racing around the parade ground wtith a fire extinguisher above my head for an hour four 4 days, scrumpy was out after that .

Went in the navy as a non swimmer,could`nt swim a stroke but after those PTIs took you on board they had me swimming like a fish, although I was`nt happy with their methods. ie: swimmers to the shallows, nonswimmers to the deep end and they were`nt perticular where they prodded you with those long poles if you reached for the sides, b----rds!!!!!

The second part of the training was the engineering side,the old Admirality 3 drum boilers, steam turbines, pumps and generators etc. The firefighting and gas course took part in the Devonport dockyard--remember the gas course,going into a chamber,removing your gas mask and exiting with tears streaming down your eyes--all part of the training they said!!

Final exams and the passing out parade and the notice board displaying your first draft and the long awaited home leave, square bashing finally over.

Hope that brings some of the old memories back to some of you--hope that I did`nt bore you all.:D

Dave (ceylon220)

Here endeth the 1st lesson--part 2 coming up shortly.

23-08-2009, 15:22
Well written, Dave.

Sounds like you had it just as bad as us Ganges boys, except we had it for 11 months. Also, we never got a chance to go ashore for any alcohol.
We, at least, or most, had brick messes and I can't really remember it being too cold in the winter, mind you we did have heating via steam pipes and radiators.

23-08-2009, 16:35

1940s style was much the same except that it was split between Gosport, HMS St George, and Devonport, HMS Imperieuse. In my case I had to cough twice, once at the volunteer medical and once at the conscript medical which I had to attend despite being a volunteer. The consolation was that there about 40 or 50 leaping about naked and the medics were Army doctors.

When you actually joined did they still administer the oath to serve the King and issue you with a shilling? This was done at the recruiting office somewhere near Charing Cross before we were put on the train for Portsmouth.

Then there was the seamanship part, tying knots,slinging hammocks,naming deck fittings,and then down to the whalers for a spot of rowing, a job that I hated ,always out of time with the other rowers, catching "crabs" with the oar---still hate rowing.

On the passing out week at St George one of the main events was the cutter race in Portsmouth Harbour. I regret that I can no longer remember the name of our class Petty Officer but he was really sharp and had us doing things we didnít know that we could achieve. The final cutter race was a good example. I was picked to be one of the crew of twelve and we rowed out to the start line. With the other three crews from the other classes, we lined up at the start and we were positioned furthest from the judgesí boat. Waiting for the rifle shot to start the race, he told us to row on his command and not wait for the sound of the shot. He would see the puff from the rifle barrel immediately it was fired but the sound would reach us a second or so later, which would mean a stroke or two lost. I am not sure how long the course was but we rowed like blazes and won by roughly 3/4s of a boats length. I believe that he took a few pounds off the other class POs as a result. He was the one who threatened that if we didn't pass out properly we would be remustered as cooks.


23-08-2009, 17:14
2nd part to bore you all.

My first leave for home, travelled up from London with a carriage full of naval cadets which were rather rowdy but friendly sharing their sandwiches with me ,must have thought that I needed feeding up after just coming out of a training establishment.
My father who had been a navy gunnery PO in the 1stWW and 1stDeck Officer in the MN during the 2nd WW took one look at my hat tally bow and said"Give me that ribbon and I`ll put a proper sailors bow in it for you" well you don`t argue with a seasoned Matelow ,at least I did`nt. a neat and tiddly bow was made complete with a button centre--"Now my lad that is what a proper sailors bow should be"--leave over and back to RALEIGH, this time as ships company for a couple of months, most of my mates were drafted to Belfast to join the newly built carrier BULWARK.
On main gate guard duty one after noon the CO walked through the gates and as he often did would say "Good afternoon sentry", this time he stopped, came over to me , me at the position of presenting arms to him, took one look at my hat tally and said "Sentry, whoever made your bow would you mind telling him that this is todays navy not the early 20s", later the PO of the Quarter deck came over with a new tally with the bow included and changed it over, never heard another thing about it.
Finally the day came when I left RALEIGH behind and was sent to RNB Portsmouth, then named VICTORY to await my draft to the frigate WHITESAND BAY on its way home from Korea.
On arrival at VICTORY, I reported in and was directed to my mess at the other side of the parade ground,off I strolled onto the "Sacred Ground"(Parade ground) when I heard this rather loud voice "That man there ,double over here and be quick about it" its was a Chief GI who after telling me the why`s and wherefores of not walking across the PG,the crunch came when he produced a piece of paper and handed it to me written on it
was------GET A HAIR CUT---talk about sods law, I had a hair cut the day before leaving Devonport for Portsmouth, so the moral of my story is ............
if you can`t take it ,you should`nt have joined!!!!!!!!

Best 20 years of my life,the navy.


23-08-2009, 20:24
Dave..............did you get nobbled for that Guard we did in Hong Kong for Duke of Edinburgh? Spent weeks practising in Singers, if memory serves at Royal Malayan Navy Barracks.........skipper was very fond of tune "Get me to the Church on Time" and whenever I hear it, am reminded of numerous times we marched around that parade square to that tune being played by our bootneck band.

23-08-2009, 22:13
Ken, I went to the Carlisle recruiting office twice , first time I signed on for 12 years after I told the CPO recruiter that I had my old mans permission which I had`nt, when he found out he went to Carlisle on the next train and managed to get my papers torn up, the following week I went back, told the Chief that my father had given his consent(HE had`nt) and signed again for 12 years, told the old man again but this time I said that I would get to know the ropes etc and join his old shipping line after the 12 years were up, this satified him enough to let me go thro` with it as I had only turned 17 at the time--he was a strong believer in the MN, talked nothing else, in fact they christened him the "Admiral" in our small village, and ,no Ken I did`nt take the oath either at the recruiting office or at Torpoint,only the Army and RAF did that then.

Scurs I believe you are on about the time we served aboard the CEYLON in 58/60----no we kept a low profile as 3 of my mates were going along to TERROR to see some old mates there and Phil the Greeks motor cade came along the road ,we saluted and believe it or not he stopped and asked if we required a ride to the barracks but we lied and said we were just going around the corner--wonder what the ships company would have said if we had taken him up on it and rolled up to the barracks with him!

Can`t remember any guard of honour at Hong Kong though but a lot of us passed the remarks that he had a girlfriend there, That commission was one of my best, made a lot of mates aboard that ship sadly a lot has crossed the bar, not many of us left now--where has all those years gone----starting to get morbid now,they say life is for living,we certainly did in them days.

24-08-2009, 08:59
Dave...........definately Hong Kong...........may have been 1959 though. Was formed up near the Star Ferry terminal, tri-service, Pongoes, Rif-Raf and us.

Went to a reunion, early 90's......met up with Harry Dyson (he was Killick RP), the LREM who was crane driver when the skippers FMB slipped and "sat" over a mushroom vent on the boat deck, and POGI "Jake" Jacobs.
What I found peculiar was that the vast majority at the reunion were from Korean War period and very few from our commission. In theory, we ought to be the youngest in age, thus more of us this side of the bar..........in theory.

24-08-2009, 22:20
Scurs, John Cook(Cookie) was the L/H on the crane the day he hit the wrong lever and smashed the skippers barge, Frank Twiss was`nt too pleased about it as we had to transport him on the crews liberty boat until repairs were carried out on his barge---was in touch with John for a while 2 years ago.Although I`m a member of the Assoc, I have yet to attend one,my other 2 Assoc, Loch Class Frigates and the Z class destroyers keep me going, and as you say there are hardly any from our commission there, mostly the Korean crowd.

Can`t ague with you on the G of H ,the old memory is`nt so good these days.


24-08-2009, 22:28
Scurs, just an after thought can you remember anyone one these photos?

25-08-2009, 14:30
Dave.............specific names, no............be hard pressed to name anyone from 6 mess, let alone stokers mess! Btw, which stokers mess...........was it the one next to hangar in main superstructure?
Pics............numbering left to right.

1.........At a guess taken at Yong Peng camp?

2.........no idea

3.........Skipper talking to King Hussain.........Aqaba?

4.........Guessing here...........in transit to Aden or Mombassa whilst employed as "HM Troop Ship".........the Padre managed to get in a quick service on the foc'sle to commemorate Robbie Burns when we had the Jocks onboard.

5.........Above mentioned mess.

When speaking to Cookie, he claimed that the crane was defective and had reported it as such but nobody believed him! My memory of incident is yours truly leaning over guardrail of starboard catwalk having a bout of hysterical laughter!
Likewise to you...not in association now due to lack of anyone from our commission.

Guz rating
25-08-2009, 16:05
Great postings, I really enjoyed them. The story about Cookie and the crane was magic.

Thanks again


25-08-2009, 19:46

No1 was taken at Yong Peng camp,these were from the first batch to go there, as for the names I`ll have check up on that later--A/Bs mess lads I think.
No2 Hanger mess Stokers.
No3 As you say, it was our Frank welcoming King Hussain aboard.
N04 Church service for the Scot troops and ships company en route to Mombasa.
No5 Hanger mess lads relaxing before going on watch.

You were not the only one laughing that day,even Commander Stobie had a grin on his face when he turned around and as you know ,it took a lot to put a grin on that face, Cookie got away with a warning, don`t know if he was allowed to operate the crane again though, he is well in to playing or should I say acting in "Pirates of Penzance" and other maritime plays he is also a keep fit addict at the age of 74--he has 2 young PT instructors (girls) keeping him on his toes --lucky blighter!!!!!!

26-08-2009, 08:36
Dave..............we may be "hogging" the thread...........however...........reference that church service for the Jocks..............

Everyone was lined up, the Padre said, "We will have a minutes silence in memory of Robbie Burns".......AB Bill Sturgeon, nudged his oppo Pete Back (or "Black"), and being a Londoner, said something like, "'Ere Pete, who's this Robbie Burns geezer"? Rumbles were heard down the ranks of the Jocks!! I was standing near those two and remember it well, and should be amongst that lot in your photo somewhere.

Yes, "Stalag 220", aka Yong Peng!

Commander Stobie didn't smile much when I saw him....mind you I usually had my cap off at the time.!!

26-10-2010, 17:30
I was an EM on the last commission and when LEM Cook dropped the captains boat I was the EM working for Cookie.My job was to file down all the copper contacts and then sand them followed by a thin coat of Vaseline. I remember the incident well.The picture of the happy campers was quite good fun and we went up for a week with the Gurkha's, Green Jackets, Marines and various others.There was a picture of the Ceylon (220) heading into Singapore with the Royal Yacht with Prince Philip on board. I was on the switchboard at the time and someone in the engine/boiler room shut a valve off and we lost a generator.
Within about 20 seconds I had it all back under control and before I was joined by two electrical officers and about six CPO's, EA'S and the likes. I got a VG superior for that.When in Karachi my best mate and I Bungy Williams and I went off in a submarine for a couple of days. As a result we both went into Dolphin and became submariners. The Ceylon Association seems to be The Korean war and the rest and I have been to only one do and that was in Lemington Spa.I did attend a function in the wardroom of the Belfast for the last commission and that was really good, I have the original end of commission book and have downloaded all the officers and ships company. If any of you would like a copy please email me and I will send you one. My email address is sales@machineryinternational.co.uk

26-10-2010, 22:03
Hi MIke ,pleased to hear from another shipmate from the last commission of the C30, Iwas in touch with Cookie a year ago but lost his address when getting rid of some gear, then there is Buster Brown and Scurs all from those days.I`ve still got the commissioning book somewhere in the house thanks.
Gave up going to the reunion due to there being members from previous comms and they seemed to get in their own groups, not very hospitable, made you feel out of it, although I am still a member paying my subs annually, also a member of 3 other reunions, can be a bit expensive keeping up with them, I`ll have to be like this Government and introduce one or two cuts!!!!!!!

Square bashing was`nt too bad at RALEIGH in the 50s, Instructors were only doing their job knocking the civilian style life out of us youngsters and turning out naval men of sorts out of us, served with my DO from RALEIGH aboard the C30 and found him to be human and friendly, that was Lt Cdr Lees(E), we got on great together , in fact he pushed me to go for my POs rate at TERROR, S`pore, and got it thro on the day we came in to Spithead.
Don`t know how todays training compares at RALEIGH or even if they do the square bashing there anymore.

27-10-2010, 06:36
Hi Mike..............concur with the welcome Dave gave. My only "call to fame" on C30 (other than being a good "customer" of MAA Bentley) was in being the youngest crew member, and had the "honour" of being dragged out of my hammock to ring "16 Bells" to see in the New Year, when we were in Hong Kong 1958/1959 Christmas (I was not impressed!! :D).

Also agree with Dave re- association and re-unions, only been to one (met John Cook at it), but found it very "clickish" and only four from our commission anyhow. Havn't bothered renewing subs for it.

Choppy Sea
27-10-2010, 19:51
Well written, Dave.

Sounds like you had it just as bad as us Ganges boys, except we had it for 11 months. Also, we never got a chance to go ashore for any alcohol.
We, at least, or most, had brick messes and I can't really remember it being too cold in the winter, mind you we did have heating via steam pipes and radiators.

Very different to Fraser Gunnery Range Dave, we lived in wooden huts in the old moat and the bathroom was up steps on the top. It was unheated as usually was the water and I can remember on a cold winters morning going up those steps like a streak of lightening. The mess's were not much better with just one small cast iron stove down the one end, luke warm at one end and frezing at the other. The stove could not be lit until 16.00 and no more coal on after 21.30. Ray H

27-10-2010, 20:48
Ray H.............had a spell as Fraser Gun Range Ship's Company after my FC2 course in spring of 1965........vividly remember those wooden huts.......I was lucky didn't experience a winter there as was drafted to FES in June 65.
If memory serves, other than primitive conditions, was actually a quiet number as an off-shoot of EXCELLENT.