"My experiences as a boy-entrant at HMS ST. George in 1943"
Recollections of a a Boy Telegraphist
by Tony Elliott
I arrived at Douglas on the Isle of Man on 8th September 1943 having
travelled from London where I believe we took an Oath of Allegiance
in the RN Recruiting office in the Strand. I was 16 years and 5
months old. We took passage across to the Isle of Man form from
On arrival at HMS St. George we were almost immediately issued with
mounds of kit including a hammock and bedding. Our accommodations
were in huts (holiday camp chalets), 4 to a hut, these huts were
arranged in lines on a sloping path. I think there were
approximately 160 boys in each new entry but cannot be sure of these
numbers. We were informed that we were the New Entry Division
(Nozzers), and would spend the next six weeks learning how to dress,
Our of our first tasks seemed to be sewing our names on every item
of kit with, the exception of hammocks. I remember how I envied a
boy whose name was D. Cox, whilst I had 8 letters in my name. We
also wrote tests which would decide the branch of the service you
would be selected for. I had spent 4 years in the Sea Cadets learnt
Morse code and semaphore so was placed in communications.
This 6 weeks seemed to fly past as every spare moment was spent
sewing names on kit. We had no shore leave during this time ,but one
Saturday night I and two other boys put pyjamas over our uniforms
and climbed over the wall which was topped with barbed wire to spend
a couple of hours in Douglas . Luckily we returned without being
At the end of the 6 weeks we were assigned to various courses and
Division. St. George consisted of 6 Divisions. Exmouth, Hawke,
Grenville, Anson, Benbow, and Drake. It was also divided into two
camps, Upper and Lower Camp. The two camps were connected by a
tunnel which ran
under the road that bisected the site. Lower Camp consisted of
Exmouth, Hawke and Grenville, whilst Anson, Benbow and Drake were in
I was assigned to Exmouth 258 V & W, which consisted of I think 20
Boy/Tels and 20 Boy/Sigs. We were four to a hut, two Tels and two
Sigs and you had no choice as to your room-mates. I still remember
my cabin mates, George Ridley and Shorty Harrison were Sigs and both
Geordies, my other Tel was, I believe, Pettican. The cabin was about
10 ft by 10 ft with a bed along each wall and a heating pipe which
ran along the back wall. Our instructors were CPO Tel Cox, and CYS
(Chief Yeoman of Signals) Pescod ,I always remember a remark by CYS
Pescod that throughout our lives we would always at some time be a
Nozzer, a remark which proved to be true. Our instructors were old
retired CPOs who I believe had probably been called back to serve
and relieve younger instructors for active duty. They both had 1st
World War medals and could have been boys in that war.
Our routine started at 6-30 when you were woken by a bugle call
which was known as 'Charlie' and everyone used to refer to 'so many
Charlies' to our next leave. You washed and dressed in overalls as
every one had a clean ship duty to perform (The washrooms were about
100 yards down the lines). On completion of your task you changed
into No. 3s with gaiters and went to breakfast. You would have been
assigned to a mess in the dining hall which I think consisted of
tables of 12 boys. Two boys would have been assigned as cooks for
each day and they would go to the galley and draw the rations for
their mess and dish up the food. One thing I remember at St. George
I was always hungry, we led a very active life and could never seem
to get enough to eat.
Pay: I believe our pay was 1s and 6d a day. As a 2nd class boy you
received 2s a week the remainder was banked in a Post Office Savings
account which you received when you left St. George
Our daily routine was roughly as follows.
0900---Parade One week you would marched to school in the morning,
the next week in the afternoon, during the winter you had sports in
the afternoon, you then either had trade instruction, or school in
the evening, during the summer months you had sports in the
afternoon. During the march you were supervised by schoolmaster
Lieutenants and accompanied by 2 drummers . You marched no matter
what the weather, rain or snow. On rainy days you wore oilskins with
a towel around your neck. We always seemed to march much faster
returning to the base. I remember one Scot drummer who every once in
a while used to put a bit of a Rumba beat in and we would stick our
legs out to the side, of course this did not go down well with our
1300---Parade and carry on to what every your schedule was could be
Morse training, gunnery drill, P.T.
1930 to 2100 Your free time
2100--- Lights out. Doors to cabins were never closed except in
extremely cold weather. .
In the Winter the routine changed. It would be sports in the
afternoon and school or instructions in the evening Wednesday,
Saturday and Sunday afternoons were know as Make & Mends. Alternate
Make & Mends you were allowed Ashore from 1300 to 1900.
Saturday. - Clean Ship & Captains Inspection. After dinner M & M.
Sunday--- Prepare kit for divisions. Dress No. 2s
10.0 Parade and be inspected by you Divisional Officer and then by
either the Captain or Commander. . This could be followed by a March
Past. Lead by the Royal Marine band. Church Service and dismissal
the rest of the day to yourself.
This has been a very rough explanation of my time at HMS St. George,
I was there for 15 months and when I look back it is difficult to
understand how the time flew by. We were encouraged to believe that
we were the best and when you think that most of the Chiefs and Pos
came from Boys training I think the grounding we received there was
excellent. In later years I have seen many reports of bullying by
instructors, but I nor any of my friends experienced it.
I left HMS St. George in January 1945 having received a draft to HMS
Anson in Devonport, from there we sailed to join the British Pacific
Fleet in Sydney.
I am currently researching my Uncle, Bernard Babbage who was at HMS St George in 1943 until he became ill and was moved to RN Aux Hospital in Sherborne, Dorset where he later died. Why would he have been move so far away from his base and also his family who lived in Essex? Does anyone have any information or photos which might include him?
My father was a Boy Tel at HMS At George from 1945 Bert Smith. Ended up as a PO Tel left in 58 and joined the Police Loved his boxing while serving in the RN also spent 4 years in RN radio station Columba or Ceylon as it was then.Kevin Smith ex Sparker and Field Gunner RN 72 to firstname.lastname@example.org
I am researching my late father's naval career. His name is Terence Clinton who was at HMS St. George from Feb 1944 to July 1945 and then joined HMS Anson in the Far East. Does anyone have any info or pics ?
Tony, I have just bought a copy of your class photo at auction. If you want a copy of the photo and the reverse which has a copy of both yours and your mates signatures, just drop me an email and I'll send you a scan.