This look at HMS Ganges takes a stroll round what is left at Shotley now, in 2000, but starts with my entering the Royal Navy there in February 1954. Also compare 1922 training with Police use in the 80's or some 1945 memories and others.
Webmaster's Note 12 JAN 2012
MEMORIAL DEDICATION TO ALL 'BOYS' LOST IN SECOND WORLD WAR
On Sunday 18 March 2012 at 1100 a memorial plaque will be unveiled at Portsmouth Cathedral. The 3ft plaque is the idea of and paid (£8,000) for by 89 year old naval veteran JIM REID who joined at HMS ST VINCENT before going to IRON DUKE. He is reported as saying "There are memorials all over the country…. but not for the boys (534) who were killed. He has set up a fund to help pay for the memorial. Contact him at RN Boys Memorial Fund, 10 Cheltenham Gardens, Hedge End, Hampshire, SO30 2UR
Click here to see fuller details.
My NE Class (Annexe-Tyrwhitt 2 Mess) soon after joining on 9th of February 1954. (Me,front right, distracted as usual!). June 2012 Ernest 'Eddie' Edwards was surprised to find himself pictured and thanks to him names to seven more of our classmates have been added. He went on to Collingwood Division, 42 Mess, 117 Class (See Guestbook).
June 2011 Ron White identified himself. (See Guestbook).
Jan 2011 Thanks to Augustin (Gus) J Borg (Drake 40Mess 53-4) for naming the two Instructor Boys.
It was on the 9th of February 1954 that I, with dozens if not hundreds of others, was gently helped onto a train at Liverpool Street Station in London for the journey of a lifetime to Ipswich and the Royal Navy. My most vivid memory is that in the time it took us to reach Ipswich those kindly Chief and Petty Officers had turned into demons who screamed and shouted us out of the train and into buses and lorries to complete our journey to HMS GANGES and the Annexe buildings for our 8-weeks basic training and kitting out. On completion of that we moved over to the Main Establishment returning only to pass through on our way to and from the Gunnery School.
The Annexe in 1954. LH Pic. Captain The Earl Cairns inspects Thywritt 2 Mess - "Carry on sewing your names into your kit unless you are spoken to". RH Pic Divisions - Little boys feeling like giants in their new blue serge suits!
NB. The 'Annexe' and adjacent 'Gunnery School' (now under houses) were sited outside and about 1mile south of the Main establishment.
HMS GANGES as it was in the 1950's. Note the lines of Boy's Messes stretching from the Mast down to the foreshore/Lwr Playing Field. Bottom right are the Communications/Seamanship Training Buildings.
Ceremonial Mast Manning in 1954 and as it looked in 2000. It does have a Preservation Order but it is anyone's guess how long it may survive!
On the 11th of April 2000 I went back to 'GANGES' for the first time since leaving there almost half a century ago.....it can't be fifty years surely it only seems a year or two! It was however bitterly cold, windy AND raining so provided true 'Shotley Winter' weather to test all the senses and remind me of my first arrival in February 1954.
Left with no option but to turn the collar up I launched into a full walk round what remains of 'GANGES'. Perhaps you would like to come round with me, if so, "Take yer ands owt yer pockits and straighten yurself up! That's betta. Ow duzz yor muvver luv yer yoooo orrible little boy" In the spirit of times past then - lets go!
We'll start at the Main Gate.
The Gate House has been demolished but you might remember the Officer of the Watch caboose on the right as you walk towards the Mast on your left and Quarterdeck on your right. A pause to look at the mast, OK? Across the Quarterdeck then and right round the Wardroom to the top of Faith, Hope and Charity and a look down those steps to the River Stour and the Pier. You may not have suffered the punishment of running up and down the steps but you will, quite likely, have endured 'Spitfire Boats'. Off to the left of the steps there are still the training buildings where we learned our seamanship and communications skills
If you are of my vintage you will recall HMS MULL OF GALLOWAY up-river and minesweepers plus Boom Defence Boats at trots waiting to trap the unwary cutter or whaler crew. Over on Parkeston Quay you might visualise a troopship about to sail so stand by to give the pongos a good chuck-up!
'Bar' Class Boom Defence Boats plus the Coastal Minesweeper ALVERTON in Reserve off 'Ganges' 1955
Back to reality and back up the steps now, along the side of the Tennis Courts and Wardroom again, to turn left and re-cross the Quarterdeck. To our right we should see Drake and Blake messes like branches off the Long Covered Way. We SHOULD but they and all the others have been pulled down and instead there is rubble, mud, weeds and, inevitably, eight feet high wild buddleia growing where we used to slave over polished parquet floors, dustbins and spitkids. Kai and buns? Forget it!
I dug this parquet block out wet, grey and dead and brought it back to life. Mind you I've varnished it as I thought polish and a buffer would have been too OTT!
With a high close-boarded fence hiding that vegetation to our right we now look up through the mast safety net. Who can forget that demanding and penetrating voice 'urging' you to go out over the first elbow as you trembled your way ever upwards. By the second elbow you had such a close and firm grip that you might have been mistakenly seen as making love to it. IT is still there and seems to cry out for a crowd of smalley boys to clamber over it again. (I resist the obvious analogy to Shotley Sue here). The net that would have turned you to 'chips' or bounced you onto the Post Office roof is now more likely to let you through to the ground where you may have sat, in pyjamas and oilskins, sewing your name into a piece of your kit!
Even the fullstops! Small items such as 'Gloves, woollen, pair' had just initials and fullstops sewn in. It was a long and painstaking chore to do all your kit within expected timescales.
Ready then? Lets continue along the fence and the road leaving the mast over our left shoulder to turn right down towards the Gym's. Aargh No! They have gone as well. There is no 'IF' now nor 0300 Reveille nor Bag-meal then coach to Ipswich and Leave. Hands up those who remember taking a 'Linen Bag' full of dirty washing home to Mum on their first Leave. One, from Blake 10, came back with his towels dyed black. Can you imagine our instructor's animated excitement? Yes of course you can. We had seen him turn some odd colours but until then had no idea he was such an accomplished dancer and the debate continues on whether or not he actually invented some new words!
Lets get on and follow the road left at the back of the 'tin shed' messes (Hawke, Collingwood and Grenville perhaps) that have also been demolished. I know there was a redundant galley between them where we used to cook the pig food. Ahead of us the ships-company block to our right and the canteen and Chiefs Mess to port remain apparently in tact. Here we do have a window or two to peer through and can that really be an original red, metal framed chair, with a canvas back and seat?
Smelling for (not like) the pigs I'm eager now to get to the end of the buildings to revisit the 'workship' pig farm. I can't begin to convey my disappointment at not finding it still there. I could bear the loss of the Gate House; understand them razing the messes but the pig-farm! Now I really am disgruntled!!!. Sorry but that's the best I can do!
We are at the boundary fence now and have to turn left to face the upper sports fields and in the distance the traffic on the Shotley/Ipswich Road.
The line of trees centre left hide the Main Gate. Above them the white-roofed Central Messing Galley (CMG) and Nelson Hall (Indoor Parade) form the V bordering the Upper Playing Fields. Top right is the Petty Officer's (Trainers) Mess. The grass areas right of the Mast are where Boy's Messes stood on the Short and Long Covered Way. Bottom Left lies the Admin. Block and Officer's Mess (Wardroom)
(Thanks to 'B' Flight, 22 Squadron, RAF Wattisham for taking these pictures for me in 2002)
LH pic.The large brick and slate C-shaped School Building (now Apartments)is in the bottom left corner. To the right of the PO's Mess is the Swimming Bath and to the right of that the Chief PO's and Ship's Company Messes.
RH pic.Top RH corner field was the site of the Pig Farm in the mid-50's. The fattened pigs were bought by Harris's Bacon Company, Ipswich.
LH Pic. The grass patch above and left of the Mast button was the No.1 of three Gyms and had Kipling's 'IF' painted on the wall.
RH Pic. Shows the modern day Marina on the site that our Lower Playing Field (Steeplechase Cse) occupied at the distant point of which stood the HMS GANGES sign. HMS GANGES MUSEUM is housed in the Marina. The Ipswich-Shotley road and housing that extends over the 'Annexe' site can be seen in the bottom right corner.
Wet and cold lets wander half left towards the Swimming Bath and recall the white drill suit, the PTI and the bearing out spar. The edge of the pool seemed far enough away without a PTI poking you with a big stick whenever you turned your white-duck-suite clad body towards the poolside. Some did, some couldn't and some wouldn't swim but those PTI's certainly gave us every encouragement to learn to. I have a theory that 'Ganges Boys' drinking abilities were learned in that swimming bath.
Both these pictures recall how cold Shotley could be. LH Pic the Swimming Baths. RH Pic Me and messmates from Blake 10 Mess clearing the road behind Blake Messes 1954/55
Leaving the Bath it's a walk round the PO's Mess. Can't see much that's familiar other than the fabric of the building, the clock and one or two vague markings on doors and walls. It's good to see it is still there looking out over the Parade Ground with Nelson Hall to the right but all I can see in the latter are roof beams through the high windows. Do you remember them letting us in there very often? What I do remember is the large number of us in the 'Confirmation Class' group photograph that was taken in there.
Christian confirmation class - taken in Nelson Hall 1954
I hope there is something round the back to climb up to get a look inside but no such luck so have to be content with a quick sit down on the seats looking out over the playing fields. Was it the Blue or the White sports shirt on the day we were beaten 4-0 in the sleet by Benbow Division? Water dripping out of the guttering above me soon extinguishes another momentary recall of a mass of people enjoying a sunny, summer sports day.
Standing up, I take one more look towards the Shotley/Ipswich road and, just for a moment, see the Annexe beyond the road. A blink and all there is now are houses.
'The Annexe', its mast visible above the hockey net - viewed from the Upper Playing Fields in 1954.
At the end of Nelson Hall what was our Canteen (NAAFI) is now offices from where the Holding Company presently administers the 'Ganges' site. It was with their kind permission that I was able to wander round. I am sure it was from around here somewhere that we had to trundle out the escape ladder on fire drills!
Finally the Central Messing (or Main) Galley (CMG), that I think opened in 1952/3, remains standing and a walk up the stairs leads to familiar sights where you could 'see' all us lads sitting or queuing. Hang on! Is he trying to smuggle bread out? Bet he's going to try and toast it on the iron in his mess! If he does and does it wearing his boots on that polished deck its going to cost him at least seven days Number 9's. Visions of rifles and doubling and Laundry Hill flood back!
A brisk walk out onto the Parade Ground and back under the mast now for a 360 degree look round to take it all in, perhaps for the last time. WAIT! Is that Divisions I see?
Blake 10 Mess to the fore at 1000 on a dry Sunday morning in the winter of 1954/5. Led by Leading Boy Buckley and overlooked by Instructor PO Chappell
Initially we 'Boys' had to be shown how to and then practice - under intensifying and relentless pressure - but what a great credit to our instructors. A remarkable achievement by them and us in so short a period of time belies the effort and determination it took. Present: Captain (CO) The Earl Cairns, Guard Commander Ldg Boy Tony Head, Instructor PO Tom Sayer and The Commander (2I/C) HMS Ganges. (Webmaster back row centre.)
That is almost the end of the tour but I must have a quick look at the old School Building. It has been turned into very nice private apartments but the fabric of it and the road is unchanged, the latter still full of pot holes and puddles. And yes, the Marina does offer a home to the Museum but I still see it like this.....
Steeplechase & sign on the Lower Playing Field/Foreshore 1954. Local girls passed goodies to boys through the railings and vice-versa - allegedly! (Webmaster in blue sports shirt)
That's it then! That's what remains, at the start of the 21st century, of ex-HMS GANGES at Shotley in Suffolk. If you have been round with me I hope you enjoyed it despite the weather!
Back in the car outside the Main Gate I gaze for a moment longer and recall a trip to the pictures in Ipswich in February 1955 and the horror of afterwards finding a lump of chewing gum stuck to my 'Charlie Bernard Sea Suit'. Bad luck or sabotage by the local lads? I have often wondered.
Within the 71 years existence of the shore establishment it was my good fortune to be trained there from the 9th of February 1954 - at the age of 15 years 1 month and 9 days - to the 22nd of March 1955. The cold showers, "aft fore", and witnessing someone being spun in one of those huge wire-mesh topped spin-dryers in the laundry (he wasn't left for long and did 'wring-out' afterwards!) was all part of 'preparation' for life as well as the Fleet and, I have to say, it has served me well though I'm not altogether sure the soft-soap mouthwash in the Annexe Guardhouse contributed too much though! I can't remember the language I used to deserve it but I am sure he said " ....ing gargle " when he handed me the glass of brown mousse like stuff.
Strange how we feel, even now, that we know every stone, brick and hut of the former HMS GANGES isn't it. Indelibly engraved on the mind to be recalled at anytime. My visit did nothing to dispel that. I can still see every bit including the bits they have pulled down! If you have not been back - go NOW. Where the Annexe was is now houses and the rest - stand fast the mast, which has a preservation order on it - might soon go the same way.
'H.M.S. GANGES MUSEUM', housed at the Marina, really is a must whether or not you were in 'Ganges'. Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated few volunteers it conveys, superbly, the feeling and atmosphere of the establishment that played such an important and fundamental role in training for the Royal Navy through most of the 20th Century from 1905 to 1976. I spent the morning there under the wing of George Athroll and I know he and/or his colleagues there, will be pleased to help bring 'GANGES' back to life for you doing all they can to make your visit enjoyable and memorable. You can contact him either using e-mail (Click here) or by telephone at Ipswich on 01473 684749. Generally the museum will be found open during weekends in the summer but is by arrangement at other times.
AND FINALLY, Blake 10 Mess Classes 86 & 89 proudly 'as smart as guardsmen' if not smarter, march ahead of our trainer PO Tom Sayer in 1954. Tom will have gone now but I wonder where the rest are?
Shotley Development Plans updates: Plans to build a 'village' on the site at Shotley have yet to achieve acceptability. You can keep up to date via these links:
Local (Babergh District Council) Planning Authority - Click here
Local (MyShotley) Community website - Click here
Note: Nov. 2012: ('My Shotley') site is migrating to http://shotley.onesuffolk.net/ where you will find up to date 'Ganges' development plans
If you would like to add anything to these pages I'd be pleased to hear from you
1st Pub 2000. RAF Pix added 7/02. Revision and amalgam Front & Pic Page 1/07. FP Ctr 9125