At age 15 joining the Royal Navy as a Boy Seaman at HMS Ganges was to say the least, a very steep learning curve. Apart from learning all the necessary marching skills, wearing the uniform properly, shooting ancient 303 rifles, cold water 5 am swimming tests, tying nautical knots, reading signal flags, seamanship and other general training. There was many more areas of training that a boy of 15 rarely thinks about let alone knows how to do. Growing up your mother was usually the person who made your bed, washed your dirty clothes, darned your socks sewed on buttons, fed you andmade you take a bath when needed. Suddenly at Ganges we realized our mothers were not there to do these things for us anymore. Believe me, when I tell you this part of training was every bit as hard as any other training we would endure in the year at HMS Ganges. You might ask if I have any regrets or if I was sorry to have made the decision to join the navy. The answer is an absolute no, no regrets whatever, the training I received has stood me in good stead my whole life. At Ganges we learned to wash, mend, darn sew,polish, make our beds and use the electric iron. Sharp creases in our uniforms and ironing clothing was an ever essential part of Ganges. In the 1950’s we didn’t have fancy steamer irons with different heat settings. Our iron plugged into a socket, often a light socket and if left on became red hot. Many an article of clothing was burned or scorched. Bell bottom trousers had to be ironed in a special way, turned inside out and a series of folds created across each leg rather than up and down. The folds could be either seven or five folds, this was often decided by the height on the young sailor. ( the creases represented the seven seas). Well maybe it wasn’t his height, he just didn’t like ironing. I spent hours pressing my bell bottoms using a wet hankie on each crease. I surely had the best and sharpest crease around until one day the creases gave way from my excessive ironing and came apart at the sharp edges. We had another handy use for the iron, in the mess hall at supper we often stole two slices of bread with margarine between them. They were easy to hid inside our shirts and sneak back to our mess. After lights out boys would slip out of bed and toast the bread using the iron. A thick two slice sandwich quickly became a wafer thin and crispy delicious bedtime treat, cleaning away crumbs was important, to leave evidence for our instructor would have been disaster . After all these years I still iron my shirts and pants. I have a system for folding my clothing that I still follow some sixty one years later. There was a time when I ironed everything, underwear, T shirts, socks etc. However, some years ago I ironed Linda`s bra, it was made of some synthetic material and melted as soon as the hot iron touched it. The issue was not so much the ruined bra as the fact that Linda told everybody what I had done. I don`t touch her underwear any more(with an iron that is!), in fact I don’t iron any of her things. I have come to the realization when a man does better at what is usually considered women’s work, trouble lies ahead. I haven’t ironed or ruined a bra in years, but still like to think I can unhook one singled handed !!!!!!. Come to think of it, I haven’t done that in years either!! The photos in this blog show a mess deck inspection with each boys kit on display, a group photo was taken about fourth week after joining. The third photo, just some handsome young sailor who was very handy with an iron!!!
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