As a young 15 year old at Ganges many a boy tried to find ways to dodge and skive. One notorious way was at sick call. This was when boys attempted a variety of methods to win a few days in hospital. There were usually three things that got you into the hospital. The first was of course being really ill, but failing that, a high temperature was a ticket to a comfortable bed. The third thing was a broken limb such as an arm or leg or some other type of injury. However, as most boys weren’t really sick and not brave enough to break a limb only one method remained. The faithful old high temperature, this was always the common method and indeed it was sometimes successful. Boys put toothpaste under their tongues because that apparently raised the mercury in the test tube. Others more brazenly stuck the thermometer on a hot radiator in the waiting area while being careful not to be spotted. The latter didn’t work well or often, sometimes the thermometer showed a ridiculously high temperature and the sick bay rating was on to the boy immediately. I never tried any of these methods but did end up in hospital once with a nasty bout of flu. When I was released I wondered why any sane boy would ever want to fake being sick. My hospital stay which lasted about a week was an absolute nightmare. While one was strictly a bed patient it was fine, our meals were served in bed and the nurses were kind. However once one became up patients things radically took a turn for the worse. Whilst I lay in my bed I watched the up patients and dreaded the day when my turn would come, and I knew it would.
Morning routine began at 0600 hrs , up patients moved all the beds from one side of the ward, I think there was about 10 or 12 per side. The beds were pushed in between the beds on the opposite side, this included night tables chairs and any other pieces of furniture. Next a couple of boys walked the empty floor side flicking damp tea leafs on the deck. Next came the boys with brooms to sweep up the tea leafs. Th tea leafs were spread to keep the dust down. After the sweeping more boys flicked floor polish onto the deck using tongue depressors. Finally, all the boys got down on their hands and knees to polished the deck. When this process was complete it was repeated on the other side of the ward. Keep in mind those of us still the beds were well aware we would soon be the workers. When the floor was completed breakfast was served and cleared away by? you guessed it the up patients. At approximately 0900 hrs the Matron (tyrant) came to inspect the ward, she looked at each bed patient as if she thought we were just skiving but she never spoke never asked how we were. We had to lay or sit up in our beds very still and at attention, the sheet and bedding all had to be uniformly neat. For the rest of the day up patients were given a variety of tasks, cleaning windows, cleaning the galley pots and pans and whatever else came to mind. I did eventually become an up patient, I quickly became familiar with tea leafs, tongue depressors etc. I was never so happy as when the medical officer declared me fit to return to full duties. If the hospital was the Royal Navy’s idea of a place of rest and recuperation, I resolved not to ever be sick again, and certainly not whilst at Ganges
Today is the 6th June a very important day in history. This day the biggest invasion in the history of the human race took place on the beaches of Normand. Hitler’s impregnable Atlantic defense wall was breached by overwhelming numbers of Allied troops signalling the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany .
Perhaps not so worthy as D Day, but deserves mention as a footnote to history On the 6th June 1976 my old “Alma Mater”closed the gates for the last time. HMS Ganges passed into history on that day, never to open again. The end of an era of Royal Navy Tradition. The place where boys were turned into men, now gone forever.
In the village of Shotley where Ganges was located, will today host a final tribute to the famous boys training base. HMS Ganges or what is left of it! is open to those visitors who once trained within the walls. A last farewell or a final moment of reflection and memory. Wish I could have been there, but I will be there in spirit and thinking of the famous Rudyard Kipling poem ‘IF”
God Bless and keep reading