Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wednesday 15th July 1936

Foulkes and I were cooks. Up early and mashed tea for the mess before “Out pipes!”
After falling in (I am now an Iron Deck man), “Cooks carry on”.

Prepared dinner and breakfast. Breakfast was an easy job as we only have tea, bread and margarine. (Sometimes a little jam.)

Forenoon, cleaning iron deck, taking in stores, scrubbing locker lids.
At regular intervals during meal times or stand easy’s is the call “Fags and matches”. Then we buy duty free cigarettes and matches at amazing prices. Players 25 for 7d. Abdullas 25 for 8d. The RNVR lay in a stock and do some smuggling.

This afternoon was a make and mend. Starboard first part on. Quartermaster’s pipe, “Ship is under sailing orders”.

Quiet on mess deck with half the men ashore and the other half asleep in hammocks.
On this mess deck we eat, sleep, wash, have haircuts… These thing often happen simultaneously.

Comfy hammock tonight. That last cigarette. One sleeps whilst others in the focsle talk.

Tuesday 14th July 1936

Turn out at 5.30. Lash up and stow. Fall in 6 o’clock. No time for a cup of tea in the meantime. Spent morning polishing bright-work on the quarterdeck. “Stand easy!” is piped at 10.30 and 2.30, when all hands rush forward for a quick smoke.

Afternoon: a party of us were over the side, scrubbing the whaler.

Went ashore with the 7 o’clock libertymen. After being photographed with two of the Clydes, McIntee (Wee M’Ginty) and I went to the Pictures. Saw “Follow the Fleet” from the sixpenny seats.

Tonight I tied my socks over that confounded police light – and slept well.

Monday 13th July 1936

Ex Paddington 10.30 by Cornish Express, with AB Burcombe and OD Foulkes. Plymouth 3.30. RN lorry took the three of us from Keyham station through the dock yard and alongside HMS Broke.

Reported to the office then went to the mess deck. Hands were just starting tea. “How do, Lofty!” said a huge hairy man as I followed the others in. This was my nickname all the time. Our mess was no.9 All RNVR men. The rest of the mess were Sands (Sussex Division), who came soon after we did, and five men from Clyde Division – McBride, Welsh, McIntee, McDougal and McLaugham. The broad dialects around our table!

My hammock billet was at the forward end of the focsle with Burcombe’s on the left and Sand’s on the right. About 18 inches from my face was an electric bulb (police light) which was not extinguished with the others.

Saturday 11th July 1936

Wet afternoon. A swim at Ealing then, on impulse, I went to Hounslow, (with my costume in a case still) wearing old shoes, the old mac. and the black hat (it is now ancient).

The Dominion. Back to the old secret rendezvous. A balcony seat. (House full in the cheaper parts.) I had a pipe and several cigarettes and an ice. The Dominion is a cosy place, with several intervals and it’s nice to look around at the faces and realise that there’s nobody there that knows you. Afterwards I had some bread and cheese at a snack bar.

If I let myself get out of control I should be a bundle of nerves. I think the best way to conquer “nerves” is to do things. Once done, a thing loses it’s terrors.
And the best way to do things is to be stolid and unimaginative about it all.

Wednesday 8th July 1936

Medical inspection for “men going to sea” (“Have you had a cold?” asked the Doctor. “Yes sir” “Better now?” “Yes sir” “Lets have a look at your mouth. Alright, you’re fit”). Across the room were a party of new entries waiting to be kitted as Ordinary Seamen. Among them I saw Easman, whom I met once, months ago, on the Embankment. So he had joined!

Drew “ducks” from the slop room. Hefty canvas garments. Outside the Captains Office we fell in to receive our instructions for joining. To my delight I was listed for HMS Broke, a flotilla leader! At Devonport. Usually, the first year’s sea training is spent on a battle ship. Destroyers much more exciting. Two others for “Broke”, an AB and a torpedo rating. Both strangers.

Shimmering Haze 1936

"A rolling stone and it’s bred in the bone;
A man who won’t fit in.”

Monday 6th July 1936

RNVR: According to the watch bill attendance record, I have now put in 100 drills. Ld/S Gardner – a very decent sort – gave me “bag and hammock” instructions.

Sunday 5th July 1936

Dick and I spent the afternoon and evening at the Empire Pool, Wembley. Glorious place, depth of water varied from 18 inches to 16 foot. Mostly we swam amidships, where it was 10-11 foot.

Had tea at a cafeteria, sitting in the sunlight below a glass roof. There was music. We went in the garden; took a couple of canoes on the miniature boating lake; played deck tennis; lay in the sun until our costumes dried, then had another swim and made them wet again! (Both, very proudly, wore badges on our costumes. The old county Scout emblem, bearing the word “Lincolnshire”).

Friday 3rd July 1936

5.15 - Mad Willy and I, in the lab., fingered our pay packets with subdued excitement. They felt more bulky! It was a rise in both cases – 5/-
I now get £2-15s (£143 per annum).

Called at Hall’s digs and took a skiff on the river. A vigorous dash upstream and then we drifted very lazily along the island backwaters below Bell Weir. I lounged in the sternsheets while Richard sat amidships and talked of abstract things, psychological things, such as desire and the secret of happiness. It was very pleasant and made my scalp tingle – when a child, I used to call this sensation “Crumbs”.

Before catching the 10.3 we had a pint of the best beer obtainable (Mann and Crossman) at the Cock Inn.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wednesday 1st July 1936

Extract from the “Mail” this morning – “A month of mixed weather…departed yesterday with few regrets. June brought all kinds of conditions from snow to tropical humidity – and nothing for long.”

Sunday 28th June 1936

Gwyn, Margaret Dering, John and myself met at Marylebone, 10 o’clock. Rambled in the Denham and Jordans district. Warm day but not much sunshine.

We went into a pub for refreshments and the amazing John had a jar of pickles prepared for poor Margaret! (2d). We had our lunch sandwiches leaning against a tree. Of course, Margaret did not eat the sinister contents of the jar, so John made a fire of fir cones and poured the pickles thereon. The redolent smell was very peculiar.

During the afternoon we passed a cherry orchard and saw two men with the interesting job of scaring away birds. One walked through the orchard and banged tin lids under various trees. The other man lounged on a fallen tree and rattled a tinful of pebbles at intervals, sometimes, by way of variety, slapping the tree trunk with a stick.

Had tea in a charming garden at Beaconsfield and later caught the train from there. Actually our tickets were available from Denham Golf Club, a station several miles nearer home. This wangle was instigated by John, needless to say.

Thursday 25th June 1936

10 o’clock: 75 degrees in the stores. I put the thermometer in a sunny part of the yard. The mercury moved up to 106 degrees. At 12 o’clock the stores temperature was 82. In the sun, 120.

Wednesday 24th June 1936

Lunchtime: A swim from the bathing pavilion at Runnymede. Did not feel sticky for a couple of hours afterwards. The water felt so fresh I wanted to drink it!

Have done a lot of swimming this year already, at Ealing, but indoor baths seem lousy in comparison with the river.

Tuesday 23rd June 1936

Had lunch on the river in a delightfully light skiff. (But blimey, wasn’t it ‘ot?)
Blackman, the little bowler-hatted cockney, has received a months notice. Work is rather slack in his department. He started here nearly three years ago, at the same time as myself.

Another change – old Nicholls, our can sprayer, is in hospital and on the danger list.

Evening: skulled down to Penton Hook with Gwyn. As we passed under Staines Bridge, a river steamer with a cargo of elderly, dowdy women, went alongside Town Hall Steps. The ladies all stood up and sang the National Anthem. Partly funny and partly rather touching. The boat was a heavy tub, as we discovered, returning against the stream.

I dashed to Staines and arrived at the station, drenched in sweat, to see the 8.35 just pulling out. Could not face another 90 minutes wait so came home a different way – bus to Hounslow and tube to South Ealing. I was at Hawthorn Court by 9.45. Cost 11d. Worth it!

Monday 22nd June 1936

Lunchtime; a pint of lemonade with a lump of ice in it.

Slack afternoon. Could hardly remain awake. Dozing as I stood, longing to close my eyes. Delicious and deadly. Went across to the making house and splashed (tepid) water on my face and arms. (Of course I’m wearing a sports shirt, no vest.)

Home 6.30 Dinner and a wash. Felt better!

By tube to the ship, with my kit. District never so packed as the other lines. Seems impossible that one can seat so much! Arrived RNVR 8 o’clock. My kit was inspected and passed as correct. Handed in my sea-training application. All OK.

Sunday 21st June 1936

The forth day of an oppressive heat wave. The forth night of flickering lightening flashes.

Went with Anne, to Cookham. Over the hills and along the tripper-infested riverside to Marlow. Took a skiff out for a couple of hours; fairly cool on the river. Back at Cookham in the evening with an hour to spare, so called at a pub. Lord, I was thirsty! Anne had three glasses of grapefruit, too!

Later, rain and lightening. (Sitting on a hill top, whilst I spread the map out. Sunset and a bit cooler. We discussed our favourite jazz tunes. We heard people singing – a hymn. There was a chapel further along the path.)

A Week or so Later

Slow on your dials the shadows creep;
So many hours for food and sleep;
So many hours till work doth tire; So many hours…”

Saturday 6th June 1936

RNVR - Annual Inspection by Admiral Commanding Reserves. Hell of an afternoon!

We’re to have another sub-division. Guess we’ll be needing a larger ship! As the Quarterdeck men responded to the order, “Off Caps!” I saw a “dogged” cigarette fall from the cap of a front rank man. It was hastily removed by the Commander and a Surgeon-Ltn. Commander.

Friday 5th June 1936

Too cold and windy to sit on the riverbank munching sandwiches at lunchtime, so I had bacon and eggs at a shack-like café just outside the works.

Thursday 4th June 1936

RNVR - Everyone busy cleaning up in readiness for the Admirals inspection. I spent the evening in the Seamanship Room no. 2 with another fellow, polishing the compass.

Wednesday 3rd June 1936

Gwyn and I tried double skulling this time and made a good crew; Gwyn stroke, myself low.

A still evening, after heavy rain; the river running high. Somehow, the water felt deep – a pleasant sensation. Began to rain as we were returning by Runnymede, so sheltered in the old boathouse. When the weather temporarily cleared, we dashed back to Nicholl’s. Hurried a long the Causeway. Although a Green Line gave me a lift from Half Way House I just missed the 8.35. Sat down on the deserted platform for 10 minutes, until I had cooled down and could breathe freely. Raining. Then Hall appeared!. I went in the office and listened to an account of his latest adventures, which, as usual, was most entertaining.

Cup of tea and a sandwich at Pat’s, then back to the station for the 10.3
The countryside seemed drenched – saturated. It smells fresh. Such weather in June!

Monday 1st June 1936

Whit Monday. Did not rise until 10 o’clock; making up arrears of sleep.