Pedophiles at HMS Ganges is probably not what Ganges boys want to remember. Nevertheless, the camp had its share in the days when such things were never mentioned. Like all Ganges boys I’m proud to say I passed through those hard and often frightening times. I too, emerged as a well trained seaman and was well on my way to becoming a man. Ganges was in my opinion the best Naval training system in the land, maybe the world. Fifteen year old boys entered through the gates unable to talk care of themselves many unable to tie their shoes without Mothers help. They left as capable young men who could washed and iron their clothes,repaired clothing sewed on buttoms and badges. We could do dishes and cook our own food when necessary. In other words, not merely well trained seamen, we were trained for life in general. Sadly there was a blot on the Ganges system between some instructors and their innocent charges. This certainly didn’t apply to all instructors but there were a few that took advantage of our fear and compulsion to please. We were often naked while doing our laundry, a smack on the bare bum common place. We showered in a communal shower room and were inspected by instructors by standing in front of them legs apart and arms raised. We were required to turn and bend over as part of the inspection. One night I was crossing the Quarter Deck when I noticed something strange goings on in the mess at the top of the long covered way. Looking in the window I saw all the boys standing on the end of their beds their pajama bottoms around their ankles. Their instructor a Chief Petty Officer was walking up one side of the mess and down the other fondling the boys as he went. I was fairly sure he had been drinking but didn’t stay around for fear I’d get caught. We had a commissioned officer at the school of seamanship, one of his jobs was to test our piping abilities with a Bo’sun call. If we passed his test we could wear a Bu’sun chain with our uniform instead of a lanyard. Most boys saw the chain as a symbol of success and pride, and it was something I really wanted. I remember other boys who already had their chains telling me to go down to his office in the evening and be sure to wear gym shorts. At the time I wasn’t aware why wearing shorts was needed to play the bo’sun pipe. But I took the advice and off I went in gym shorts. I passed my test while the instructor had his hand in my shorts. I don’t think any of us completely understood what was happening, we knew it was wrong, but instructors were Gods and we never challenged them. If I had reported my experience at the seamanship school, I doubt I’d have been believed and I would certainly have become marked as a boy to be watched by instructors.
Ganges was without doubt the hardest year of my young life. The training was harsh and unrelenting. we rose at the crack of dawn and turned in nine each night. Cuts were the ultimate punishment, something I’m glad to say I never experienced. Cuts were administered for such crimes as AWOL or perhaps stealing. The punishment was carried out by the Master at Arms, the offending boy bent over a chair (in older times it was over a cannon) and the cane would raise welts on the boys bottom, one welt for each stroke of the cane. Cuts were usually in numbers of six and twelve. A medical officer was required to be in attendance for the punishment. Ganges is long gone today, and modern society would never tolerate such cruelty or punishment . However I survived and have built my life and character on the training I received at Ganges, whose motto was “Wisdom is Strength” At the entrance to the gym was the famous poem by Kipling “If” which ended with the line “you will be a man my son” Today, I can’t help thinking our politicians would do better if they were first trained at Ganges.
God Bless and keep reading.(AWOL- Absent with out Leave)
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- My First Christmas Memory
- Recommended by a Very Important Person (VIP)This is a story told through the eyes of a young sailor who joined the Royal Navy in 1955 as a Boy Seaman 2nd class, the absolute lowest rank in the Navy. Follow his induction at HMS Ganges, the toughest boy’s training establishment in England, if not the world, and his first assignment to HMS Cockade in time to visit Australia for the opening of the 1956 Olympic games. This is a thoroughly amusing tale, tempered with dark moments of despair, as he visits islands in the South Pacific, tours Hong Kong, Korea and Japan, passes through the Suez Canal enroute to Malta and Gibraltar, helps to capture an Icelandic boarding party during the Cod Wars. He dives in a submarine to play cat and mouse with our Cold War adversaries, surfaces through the polar ice at the top of the world, feel the tension in the submarine as it sinks toward crush depth. Laugh at the antics of his fellow sailors and the strange situations they found themselves in. Learn the meaning of the acronym PASAHB, and sympathize with this naive young sailor as he falls for one of the oldest tricks in the book.Whether a sailor or a dreamer of the sea, this is one voyage not to be missed.
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