All books for review to Rob Jerrard Please
You'll be a Ganges Boy
Author: Brian Cox
ISBN: 9 781 906 746032
Publishers: The East Street Press
Publication Date: 2008
Publisher's Title Information
This Is The Story of a fifteen-year-old boy who entered service in the Royal Navy as a Boy Seaman on H.M.S. Ganges.
Discipline in 1947 was unbelievably harsh; boys were expected to strive towards perfection in the face of constant criticism and punishment for failing to achieve the required standard. Some did not survive, but those that did became men, fully prepared for a life at sea in the Royal Navy and proud of their achievements.
This book is a tribute to those who imposed the severe disciplines and standards of H.M.S. Ganges. All who ever had experience of this look back with gratitude.
The book is reviewed in the BRIDPORT & LYME REGIS NEWS, Thursday, February 5, 2009
How strict naval discipline shaped yesterday's navy.
Imagine training so strict that four boys died during the year you did it.
It's not in the realms of experience for most of us but it was for 77-yearold Brian Cox of Norfolk Court in Bridport.
What's more he argues it was a good thing and he can only feel gratitude to the people who put him through experiences that even led a boy to hang himself.
Mr Cox has just written a book outlining his experiences on the HMS Ganges called You'll be a Ganges Boy, a sequel to his first childhood reminiscences Do `ee Mind the Gaites'.
He says: "I must pay tribute to those who imposed the severe disciplines and standards of HMS Ganges.
"All who ever had experience of this can only look back to that experience with gratitude.
"Those who left Ganges to take up their chosen career at sea were the fortunate ones, but it is important to remember those less fortunate who left for so many other reasons. These include:
Boys who died enduring punishments such a the trials of Laundry Hill.
Boys who committed suicide when the imposed despair became too much for them.
Boys who drowned during the harsh swimming lessons trying to achieve the standard of their fellows. 0 Boys who reported sick with self-inflicted injuries, who achieved relief by dismissal and who suffered those injuries for the rest of their lives.
Boys who fell from the mast on to the hard surfaces far below, being killed or injured and subsequently dismissed.
Boys whose health failed them through no fault of theirs.
Despite this he says all those instructors and disciplinarians have a right to be proud because they carried out an extremely difficult task with honour and dignity. It was his own strict upbringing before joining the Ganges at the age of 15 that enabled him to survive. Although he acknowledges it would be unthinkable in today's times he thinks it is a pity for the small minority of youngsters who blacken the name of every young person that they cannot go through the same rigorous discipline.
"Four boys did die and it certainly would not be tolerated today but it was accepted as a valuable part of the training. It doesn't sound reasonable to talk about it now but it was then."
Mr Cox first wrote the book, published by The East Street Press £3.50, purely for family but now a wider audience can share his memories by buying the book at The Book Shop in South Street.
He plans to write at least three more books one of his time in the navy, then as a railway man and finally all the bits he has forgotten.
I must pay tribute to those who imposed the severe disciplines and standards of H.M.S. Ganges. All who ever had experience of this can only look back to that experience with gratitude.
It can be the proud boast of every boy that, although he could never achieve all the ideals contained within the verses of Kipling's If..., at least he had experienced the unique 'Ganges Encouragement' to do so. There is no shame to realize that he failed to achieve that impossible goal.
Those who left Ganges to take up their chosen career at sea were the fortunate ones, but it is important to remember those less fortunate who left for so many other reasons: boys who died enduring punishments such as the trials of Laundry Hill; boys who committed suicide when the imposed despair became too much for them; boys who drowned during the harsh swimming lessons trying to achieve the standards of their fellows; boys who reported sick with self-inflicted injuries, who achieved relief by dismissal and who suffered those injuries for the rest of their lives; boys who fell from the mast onto the hard surfaces far below, being killed or injured and subsequently dismissed; boys whose health failed them through no fault of theirs, and others who were also dismissed.
The instructors, the officers, the administrative staffall those involved in that excellent discipline and that superb trainingalso have a right to be proud. They carried out an extremely difficult task with honour and with dignity, although aware that the high standards they wished to impose were not always possible. Theirs was the most difficult task: still to drive another reluctant boy toward the heights even if his predecessor had fallen and still to maintain the belief that they were right to do so.
I have never met anyone who has ever expressed regrets. It is a fact that all those who gather at their meetings throughout the country and at their annual reunions express nothing but gratitude for the privilege of being trained at Ganges. Many of the stories and events that follow in the later chapters of this book were experienced first-hand, but some have been told to me by others. I offer my thanks to all those who made a contribution and helped me.
I also say, "Thank you," to Rudyard Kipling.