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Read some recollections sent in by Clive- It may well bring back those lazy, hazy days of your youth !

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By Clive Godley

When I left school in Doncaster at 14, I started working with my dad (never work for your dad). He was into property repairing and I couldn’t wait to try something more exciting.


In the late 40s, just post war, there were many servicemen around town and somehow the navy uniform fascinated me. Every day I used to get up, get dressed and walk around the centre waving and saluting them and they used to smile, probably laughed after I passed. I did think their kit looked a bit different!


So that, even more, nourished the seeds of discontent with my job and when I went into the Navy Recruiting Office in an effort to join, the man there told me to first get a letter of authority giving me permission to join from my dad.


Dad’s reaction was “Pass me a pen, quick,”


“Funny “I thought and returned with the signed papers to the recruiting office.


“OK” the Recruiting Officer said, “What branch would like to join?” “Guns”, I said, “So I can shoot at anything and everything”. “Sorry, nothing in that line, only places we have left are in the engine room.  How about being a Stoker?” he said.


Well at least it will be warm, I thought (he didn't, know it but it was the one of the best things he did) and looking back the thought that I might have been a Dabtoe* fills me with horror.


The Engine Room branch kept to itself, gave you light, gave you warmth and, Hey! If you want to take the ship somewhere just let us know - a bit of warning so we can get "flashed up"


Anyway, in July 1950 off I went to H.M.S. Raleigh, did the joining bit, watched the V.D. Films, got ill with the smallpox jab, was issued with my serge uniform, that nearly fitted, and after about 3 weeks they sent me on 14 days Summer leave.


When I finished my training I had 2 weeks on the battleship HMS Howe and then off I went to Chatham, a terrible place. I was put in the party that took coal round to all the boiler houses.  


It was winter and I was always cold, dirty and wet. The living conditions were awful. The accommodation had originally been stables and on either side of the corridor, each stable had approx 8 beds, each bed with its own locker.


There was also a stove in each stable for which we got 1 bag of coal every other day. We used to collect it from the coal stable and lug it back to our own stable when we needed it. The ablutions were a delight! The showers were mostly cold and there was a solitary sink with some well used Pusser’s Hard.


I couldn't stick it and the Block PO told me to go to the drafting office, I went and told them I wanted to go somewhere warm - anywhere warm! They said I was earmarked for HMS Swiftsure to go to Helsinki for the Olympic Games, God I said not Finland, so he said HMS Cygnet, for a 2½ year Mediterranean Cruise and you can join now at Pompey because she’s getting ready.


Just as a matter of interest at Pompey, being ready for sea we went out, in June, 1951, with other ships to search for the lost submarine HMS Affray and found it just off the Alderney coast. The ship still lies on the seabed in over 80 metres.


We had a bit of time in Pompey and an old hand, Stoker Charlie Avis, looked me up and down and decided “We’ll have to get you looking tiddley, like a matelot not like a sack of shit”. He explained that I would have to set up an allotment with Greenburg’s (we've all been there, haven’t we) and their rep will come on board to sort you out.


Well, the Rep came on board and the conversation went something like this, “We’ll start from the bottom,” he said.

“Oh, by the way this is only to wear going ashore - shoes, buckles I think, very nice, now, your bell bottoms, 22 or24? 

22 I think till you get a bit bigger, 2 nice thief proof pockets, thief proof? Yes, if you feel someone's hand in your pocket it's either a thief or you’re in luck!


A small pocket for your Safety Equipment!  If you fancy the lead shot ask your mates. Now the jumper, nicely fit not too tight then you won't get involved in the "scrum down" with your mates when you come back pissed. Gold badges and a pocket for your pay, book. Collar, Pusser’s nearly black with the 3 lines printed on a tape?


No, yours will be Mediterranean blue with the white lines sown on individually, and the silk we just fold differently. Ah, the hat, not an oval plasticky thing but a round one that makes a bow wave when you wear, it has gold lettering with your ships name. The bow, no tying, beautifully made just sew on. Sometime later, when your allotment has built up we will have a look at a Burberry and a must have is a nice white silk scarf”.


Still Tiddley as a Leading Stoker

Right it’s off to sea now heading for Gib. Was sick as a pig in the beautiful Bay of Biscay, but at least I wasn’t wearing my tiddley suit – it was lovingly stowed in my locker waiting to be introduced to the fascinating southern ladies.

And to think I could have been a property restorer!

That’s life!

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