Swing the Lamp Jack Dusty, So I joined the Navy
As we are about to enter a new millennium and the twentieth century comes to an end, I feel that the time is apposite to record what it was like to serve in the Royal Navy in peacetime, in the middle of those historic and fast-changing years.
My story is that of a lad from a working-class home who one day took it into his head to volunteer for entry into the Royal Navy and to give up the prospect of a sound career in banking. There had never been a burning desire to enlist but it was something done on the spur of the moment. That lad was me and, since I have no claim whatever to fame, I tend to regard this book as a sea-going Diary of a Nobody with apologies to the Brothers Grossmith since it cannot possibly hope to match either the wit or the style of their masterpiece.
The book contains no exciting action in the heat of battle but is an honest account of what life was like below decks in various ships, with their different roles in the peace-time navy. I have threaded my personal story, during those seven wonderful years, throughout the book in order to introduce the real stars, the ships in which I served - in sequence.
My reasons for undertaking the task of writing and publishing this book privately are twofold. First, now that I am retired from the career in banking which I deserted in 1947 but returned to in 1954, I want to recall and pass on those naval experiences which are so dear to me.
My second reason is that I would like to generate some cash for charities in aid of servicemen and their dependants; for institutions such as the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, and for other good causes such as the ward in Southend-on-Sea Hospital where I have such fun working as a volunteer with some marvellous and dedicated people. I therefore guarantee to readers that when they buy this book from a charity the entire proceeds will go to that charity. Books sold elsewhere will help me recover some of my costs but at least £2 per copy will be passed to charity. Where necessary, and wherever possible, I have researched facts by reference to libraries and at the Public Records Office at Kew. Inevitably, some ships' logs which would have been helpful, were not available, and I have had to rely upon memory, especially for the sequence of events. If any readers should detect a fault in my memory, I trust that they will be forgiving.
The Royal Navy had just endured the arduous labours of five years of World War 11. It had gained some splendid victories but it had also some wounds to lick. Its pride had been badly hurt in incidents such as the joint loss of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse in a single Japanese air raid at sea.
The future of the pride of the British nation was in doubt was sea-power to be made redundant in the face of the development of air supremacy? On top of air-power there was the advent of nuclear weapons. The dangers from nuclear fall-out, which would make most of our fleet obsolete, were just being recognised.
The terrible cost of the war confronting the newly elected Atlee administration meant that strict economies would be forced upon the nation. Could the British public accept a vast reduction in its main symbol of world power and see the Royal Navy reduced to the size of a navy run by a third-rate power? The answer was, perhaps, a typical fudge. Our ships would not be scrapped but would be preserved in "mothballs". Few, however, would ever see service again.
At the same time servicemen's pay was very low, hardly encouraging the kind of recruitment that would be needed to replace the thousands of Hostilities Only and National Servicemen leaving the Royal Navy in droves in the summer of 1947.
This tale of life below decks begins at that time and spans the period 1947-1954. It is a fascinating account of life in the navy and provides eyewitness accounts of some of the final occasions that the Royal Navy took to sea in full might It describes life in port when the big ships were in "mothballs", and explains everything naval from "sippers" and "gulpers" to "prick" tobacco and "Jack Dusty".
About the author
Denis Sherringham was born in Southend-onSea, Essex, in 1929, an only child and the son of a tram driver. He received his primary education in five local infant/junior schools as his parents frequently moved house to better their rented accommodation. His secondary education was completed at Westcliff High School for Boys which he attended from the autumn of 1940. At the time the school was forced to share facilities with the Herbert Strutt School in Belper, Derbyshire. Evacuation to Derbyshire had taken place in June 1940, and, the author had been fostered to a family in the beautiful village of Ambergate. The school returned to Westcliff-on-Sea in October 1942.
After obtaining matriculation in 1945, he joined Barclays Bank as a junior clerk on the day after the national holiday declared on VJDay, August 1945. He left the bank in June 1947 to enter the Royal Navy as a Probationary Stores Assistant Returning to Barclays Bank in July 1954, he pressed on with obtaining his banking qualifications. He retired in February 1989, having reached the position of Business Centre Manager of the Basildon complex of Barclays' branches.
He currently amuses himself with voluntary work for the Gordon Hopkins Ward of Southend Hospital and gives occasional assistance to the local branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute.