Old versus New

With the event on TV about the Royal Naval Initial Training programme there has been an awful lot of comments from older ex services personnel.

A lot has been said about HMS Ganges and St Vincent being the better training establishments and in my opinion they were, and that in most cases but not all that would be the reaction from the majority who trained there.

We from the moment we arrived were under close scrutiny and in the first four weeks were ran from pillar to post learning the basics of marching, discipline and the embroidering of our names into every item of kit (Woe betide if you had a name such as Sidebottom) and culminating in the inevitable compulsory boxing match. (Won my first bout then came up against a chap who knocked seven bells out of me. He ended up as a naval boxer) Never wanted to box again.

Over to the main establishment and the first climbing of the formidable mast a feat which looked easy as we only had to go onto the devil’s elbow. This being a part of the mast which protrudes out approx. six feet from the mainmast. We could see at this point a way through the decking, so easy we thought.

Wrong, it was pointed out that we had to go round it not through it which entailed as I remember meant leaning backwards at an angle of about seventy degrees reaching up to grasp the rattline overhead then letting go with the legs and pulling oneself onto the platform. Pretty terrifying for a 15-year-old but later we swarmed all over the mast and all without safety equipment.

As a matter of fact, apart from sailing and having a lifejacket I cannot remember health and safety ever being mentioned, but that was the sixties for you. Discipline was strict and punishments could be severe. Many who trained at Ganges will never forget doubling up and down Laundry Hill or the memory of Faith, Hope and Charity those three flights each of about 25 steps.

Up you go and back down said our instructor, off we charged, completed the task and were then told, too slow do it again. Sometimes this was repeated several times until we had no breath left and no strength in our legs to carry on. But we did. Yes, we had it hard at times but we also had a lifetime of memories when we left after a year of life changing routines.

They say once a Ganges boy always a Ganges boy, a saying that most who went there will subscribe to.

I was aware that older recruits were sent to HMS Raleigh but at that time was unaware what they went through or the time their training took but believe it was considerably less than the year we did.

I am sure that some of our younger members went to Raleigh and they probably in their time found the transition from civvy street to naval life a daunting time but was it the same as now.

This brings me on to the current series on TV which has caused much comment from the older generation and yes some of which is again in my opinion somewhat justified. However, this is television and I do not think they have done the Royal Navy any credit with this programme, it makes me wonder if this programme was vetted before allowing it to go out.

The producers have spent far too much time on trivial things i.e. ‘I have run out of shoe polish Chief’ (Well go and buy some or better still borrow some from your oppo)

I am by no means a prude and can live with the best on cursing but is it necessary for the instructors to constantly berate the recruits with the worst kind of swearing. Must admit that all the people I have remarked on this think the same as me on the staff, pretty poor show.

Made a remark at the recent sea cadets awards to other shipmates and it was the general opinion that we couldn’t remember instructors in our time actually swearing at us. Called us every name under the sun but without the swear words.

Maybe it is time for the ancient mariners to take a back seat on remarking upon training methods, it was certainly a different navy that we joined and I suppose that we have to realise a much less technical one and with the constant barrage of health and safety and human rights issues totally alien to most of us.

Fifty plus years ago it was a different generation, I think we will have to live with that thought.

RNA Norwich

The Norwich Branch is one of 300+ branches of the Royal Naval Association world wide. It was commissioned in 1979 and today has a membership of just over 90. It is a registered charity in its own right - the Registered Charity Number is: 1068699

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