"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 Fleetwood, Lancashire.

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, drill etc.

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 caught.

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 Upper Camp.

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.


0630√Ę‚‚¨‚€ĚReveille.
0700---Clean ship
0800---Breakfast
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 officers.
1200--- Dinner
1300---Parade and carry on to what every your schedule was could be Morse training, gunnery drill, P.T.
1600---Tea.
1700---Sports
1900---Supper
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.

 

Boy/Tel Tony Elliott.
 

 


 

Also by Tony Elliott

Shipwrecked in the South China Sea -The loss of HMS AIRE K262, in December 1946

 

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Copyright √‚¬© Tony Elliott 2014


Comments (1)

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Maurice Weight (Rushden, UK) says...
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.
19th September 2014 10:36pm
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