Tales of a young recruit
John 'Fred' Fisher wrote "I saw a pic of an old salt and it brought back a couple of memories"
One thing that really stands out in my mind when I first joined at HMS Raleigh in June 61 was when we were getting issued with kit. When we got to the foot wear section, out came a pair of black leather type slippers with a silver buckle size 8. I asked the bloke what they were and he said "Dancing pumps". I, as a little 16 year old cockney know it all, thought he was taking the rinse. Sure enough, a few days later after lunch, we were told to don said footwear and muster at the gym.
A few minutes later, a rather rotund strawberry nosed CPO enters the area wearing the same buckled shoes and commenced to inform us that he was going to introduce us to a great Naval tradition of dancing The Hornpipe!!! Obviously he had has his tot and more besides. Without further ado, he switched on the music and threw himself into this sod's opera. His gut was going one way, legs another, sweat pissing out of him, and he would have won first prize in a comedy act. You can imagine what happened next; 30 kids, started with a snigger which eventuated to blokes pi##ing themselves with laughter. The old fat CPO still carried on and looked to me as though he was having a ball! and about to have a seizure! I thought years after that I would have loved to have had a run ashore with that old bloke. We paid for it afterwards. The Chief GI was standing behind us. I will leave the rest to you.
When we left HMS Raleigh we all obviously split up, it was a pity actually, because in just those short weeks, we had become a very tight knit bunch of blokes helping each other out. We obviously went to different training establishments, I found myself in HMS Collingwood, the naval training base for all electrical categories. About two weeks after we arrived there, about 90 blokes were detailed off for an honour guard for the visit of 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein; I was one of those blokes and I hated it; especially after my Father, 8th Army and Uncle, 51st Seaforth Highlanders told me a few stories of that person.
The training took 3 weeks with 4 CPO GIs and the Gunnery officer. It was bloody hell, and it was the first time that I wore the long gaiters to the knee like the Naval Brigade at Gallipoli and the Western Front, the second time was at Winston Churchill’s funeral, I didn’t mind that. Anyway, cut a long story short; Collingwood’s parade ground was huge and on bad days with wind and rain, it was a misery to train on, no slipping into the four huge buildings for this one. There we were one wet and very windy day going through the procedures for the umpteenth time when a very gusty wind hit us. It wasn’t surprising that quite a few sailors little white caps blew off and went scurrying across the hallowed Gunnery Instructors’ tarmac!!
The scene which followed was memorable; there they were in black gaiters screaming at us about slack chin stays and really getting into our faces like maniacs!! The gunnery officer said words to the following, “ I told you F**c#ng idiots to make sure your chin stays were sewn in tight twice for this guard!! With that, he went to our right hand marker, a Jock and our class leader whose cap was still firmly affixed and said, “Look, I can hit his cap and it will stay there”. With that, he proceeded to flick Jock’s cap and the bloody thing came off!! There was Jock with no cap but a chin stay tied around his head with a bow on top like a bloody Easter egg!! You can imagine what happened next, we roared. Seconds later, there we were doing circuits around that massive ground with our 303s above our heads. They weighed about 9 pounds if I remember correctly and it was normal in those days for MUP to be ordered to do this. Thank goodness it was banned not long after.
When Monty arrived and we marched passed, I reckon every man Jack of us was scowling, even the reserve 18 blokes in the drill hall.