"Royal Navy and Maritime Book Reviews" by Rob Jerrard
HMS St. Vincent Boy/Junior Training Establishment 1927 - 1968 and Pilot/Observer Training WW2

D972 New Entry photo November 1956 & Duncan Division all together

Duncan 97 Entry Dec 1957. There were 3 classes as far as I know, 2 Electrical and 1 Seaman. 970, 971 & 972. D972 were the seamen. I was awarded the book prize for top in School for Duncan (D)97, for the whole entry. I was also awarded the RE prize. I believe I was 3rd in Seamanship but cannot be certain.

The original HMS St Vincent was a first rate ship designed to carry 120 guns. But by then the Napoleonic Wars were effectively over, and with plans in hand to reduce the fleet she was laid up until her first commission in Feb I831 for Service with the Mediterranean fleet.
She was almost wrecked during a storm off Malta in February 1834. The warship was recommissioned for the channel Squadron in 1841 and was frequently in Portsmouth Queen Victoria visited her twice in 1842 and 1847.

During the first visit the vessel acted as flagship to the experimental squadron at the last Royal Review of a fleet in which the major ships were under sail.

After the second royal visit she took part in the war in the Baltic in 1854.

It was her last active engagement before she became a training ship for boys and was given a permanent mooring off the entrance to Haslar Creek.

She was broken up at Falmouth in 1906. HMS Ganges was also once at Falmouth.

St.Vincent 1927 - 1968

Basic Training Nov 13th 1956 Nov 1957 H.M.S. St. Vincent, Gosport Hampshire.

Junior Seaman 2nd Class Rob Jerrard, 1st & 2nd Photograph, Plus one with Lofty Easton - where are you Lofty?

Duncan Division in August and November 1957 - Do you know the names of all these lads? I can remember a few, only myself and one other have so far joined the Association. Where are all those we have lost touch with, and who are not Association members?

Capt Hayes was the Senior Officer
when I joined, then it was Capt Hawkins

Some memories of H.M.S. St. Vincent November 1956 - December 1957. Rob Jerrard RN 1956 to 1968.

Prior to actually joining I can remember being at the recruitment office in Edinburgh Road, Portsmouth and taking the exams and signing on. I still have the small card they gave me which stipulated some of the rules you should abide by. I had been persuaded to join as a seaman because of my ambition to become a diver (or frogman as I said). I did qualify shallow water diver as an Ordinary Seaman and went on to take one of the first Free Diver courses before remaining some time at Vernon as a Diving Instructors "second dicky".

I arrive at HMS St Vincent 13th November 1956, my sister's birthday, the kit issue and the haircut seem to be mostly what I remember, some of those beautiful locks that the "barber" removed in such a brutal fashion, there were those who thought, they would get away with it.

We were issued with zip front uniforms, something, which puzzled us at first because the P0 Junior I/C of us had one of those "pull over the head types." We had caps that had to be blancoed, I remember that clearly because when it rained on parade it caused problems - we got the plastic ones later. We did get Burberrys and an oilskin, oilskins came in handy for putting on over pyjamas to be doubled around (circumnavigate) the parade ground at night when caught pillow fighting. But they were very good with the warm collar.

Boots of course and I am sure I remember black buckle shoes, strange looking objects. Blue jean collars that required immediate constant washing, and in the case of some bleach, how many Nozzers changed 100 yards from the gate, I could name a few. Ironing lessons and how to prepare the silk and tie a bow.

The football jerseys were provided in white and blue, everybody got one of each. The sport was wonderful,having been at what would now be called an "Inner City" School where we travelled miles to find grass or a swimming pool - sport every day was great, although the non-swimmers were not impressed with the method employed by the PTI to teach them, they were made to stand on the top diving board and were forced to jump in when a large pole advanced towards their backside, the same pole they grasped when given to them as a lifeline before they sunk -thank god; having been brought up in Portsmouth, I was a good swimmer.

I think we were paid £1.12 a week when we started as Junior Seaman 2nd Class, 7/6 a week pocket money, this rose to 12/6 by the time we were 1st class. The rest The Admiralty saved for us, excluding the 10s shillings a week we allotted our mothers, a P0 lined us up and insisted we do this,reminding us that our parents had kept us for 15 years' and it was time to put a bit back - I don't think he gave us much choice.

I think my class was a GC Class but there seems to be some confusion on this issue, it was said to be the case that AC boys wore a star and the class number was 3 digits and that GC classes were 2 digits. However this does not accord with the memory of some of us. I thought my class was Duncan 972

What did we do with that large sum? 1 shilling a packet of daz,then there were toothbrushes, boot polish, and nutty, some may have been spent on those 3 or 4 hour trips into the big wideworld of Gosport, was it Wednesdays and Sundays? I think so,but the memory fads at times; in fact the wife says its very bad most of the time!

Church Parade on Sundays of course, and, as with morning parade; "fall out the RC's" and whose turn to feint? Marching to the Royals Bank and singing, "isn't it a pity we haven't a titty to feed the baby on", or "Hearts of Oak are our Men, Jolly Jacks are our Tars", "We always are ready," were we?

I have a lot to thank the Schooling for, it awakened me and taught me that I could learn if I tried hard, (failed 11 plus) I never lost sight of that and went on to eventually take a Masters Degree in Law. I remember CPO Howells who had been on H.M.S. Exeter at the Battle of the River Plate advising us to take "0" levels, he said "even if you take one a year you will have something to offer when you leave the Navy; sound advice.

At some stage somebody decided we should learn to dance, they brought in a female (old, well at least 35) to teach us, it all seemed a bit embarrassing dancing with our mates - we never got beyond a waltz, well I didn't.

What else can I remember, some bad, some good. Hanging upside down from wall-bars, holding a "spit" something or other at arms length as a punishment, being made to enter the boxing ring for a few minutes and being knocked over, I was 5' 8", he must have come from a tougher neighbourhood then me. Swimming in a boiler suit, seeing others running around the parade ground with a rifle above the head, number something or other,and at some stage forever sowing with pretty red cotton.

We had two boys called B.J. Long in our class, forever known as B.J. and B.. J.. which is how their kit was sown in. The boot brushes issued, with your name stamped upon must be strong, mine are still in service, having seen me through a police career of daily polishing after 12 years RN service.

As has been said, good times and bad, not all wonderful, but it did us no harm, would you have missed the sensation of running naked along the colonnade to do your dobying at 0530 with a large bar of pusser's hard, and to have been given a "Japanese sunset" across your backside if you didn't appear clean, generations have gone by before "streakers" thought they had invented running naked for fun. We did it first.

Climbing the mast, YES we did it.

Talking of punishment, some time during the first 24 hours at St. Vincent a particular person who shall remain nameless, for no other reason than I cannot remember his name, got us all playing cards for money, he thought he might make money from those who had never played, (me).

The plot failed when we were caught - I cannot remember what the punishment was but I have never played a game of cards since, maybe he did me a service.

Years later as a police constable I was before a three-man promotion board of senior policemen and one said, "the situation is as follows, you are now a Sergeant, you come into the canteen and the PC's are playing cards for money, they say come and join us officer, what would you do?" I said, "I cannot play cards so I should decline" The senior officer said, "How the hell did you get into the City of London Police in the first place?" I didn't get through that Board. The next I did, but that's another story from another life, what is certain is that the naval training set me on course and prepared me for many of the uncertainties I faced as a police officer.

Duncan 97, 13th November 1956, where are you?

WANTED BY ME - HMS St Vincent Magazines published between November 1956 and Feb 1957. Copies will do. I will pay copy costs.

St Vincent Association. St Vincent Old boys 1927 - 1968

Some books written by St.Vincent Shipmates

"Face the Music" By Vice Admiral Sir John Hayes, Captain at St Vincent 1956. Pentland Press ISBN 1872795056

From Face The Music 1956 HMS St Vincent

Naval Kindergarten

The row of symmetrically stark yet warm red-brick blocks, which once housed prisoners of the Napoleonic wars, overlooked the huge asphalt parade ground and the blue-domed belfry above the archway, which was the entrance to one of the two naval creches for boys of sixteen who had chosen, or been persuaded, to join the Navy from Secondary Modern School. St. Vincent in Gosport held a mere 800; our larger sister, H.M.S. Ganges near Ipswich, held 2,000, and in those days (for alas neither ofthem live today) they together prepared the future Able Seamen, Chief Petty Officers and Warrant Officers for the Fleet. The teenagers in their first bell-bottoms were not the cleverest from grammar schools who would become Electrical or Engineer or Air Artificers and receive more advanced school­ing: they were just enthusiastic, honest, generally lovable and at other times intractable, humorous, run-of-the-mill sons from every kind of decent working man's home in Britain, who were entrusted to our initial training methods for eighteen months before joining any kind of White Ensign ship in every corner of the world. I have since regarded command of them as among my more cherished experiences, for they were indeed honest and without guile; their devastating directness of reaction without emotion was often flattering and made one realise that if you are consistent and fair, while playing to the rules, such young charges will respond with respect. They asked so little and gave so much, invariably encouraged by proud parents who had that photo of the smiling face beneath the first cap-ribbon on the mantelpiece.

I think it was the vexed subject of corporal punishment which first alerted me to the importance such sensible parents attach to the discipline of their young.

Punishment No.20 under the Naval Discipline Act of Parliament applied only to these two Boys' Establishments and consisted of not more than twelve and not less than six cuts of the cane for serious offences-"serious" in that context being, for instance, stealing half-a-crown from your neighbour in Drake dormitory. It could be awarded only by the Captain after hearing both evidence and defence (or otherwise) from the boy's Divisional Officer and, if so awarded, was executed only by the Master-At-Arms

within half an hour, in the presence only of that officer, and after a medical check: I never awarded more than the minimum for a first offence and during my two years in command never had cause to repeat it to any boy. I had no more than two complaints from parents who accused me of being a sadistic bastard to be reported to their M.P. and the popular press. I had boys before me with tears in their eyes, begging me to award them the cane instead of stopping that precious one afternoon's leave a week. Precious indeed ...

The daily parade on weekdays was taken by me. On Sundays a visiting admiral from the Portsmouth Command or from sea added lustre to the ceremonial inspection in the Boy's best uniform prior to the march-past led by the bugle band playing "Marching through Georgia". This was followed by church in the gymnasium, in those days compulsory. In vain did I often suggest to my distinguished guest, who may not always have been familiar with the repartee of the young sailor, that the smaller the frame the brighter he was likely to be. There is a temptation always to single out the smallest in the middle of the front rank for such questioning and which invariably received the ripose it deserved.

On this occasion the impressive tall, rather pompous admiral in full sword and medals regalia, stopped before five-foot-nothing, rigidly at attention.

"And what, my lad, did you have for breakfast this morning?" "Bacon and eggs, sir."

"And how often does your mother give you that at home?" "Never, sir."

"Well, that's one good reason for joining the Navy, isn't it?" "I hate bacon and eggs, sir."

"Smart boy that," said the admiral as I led him to the saluting dais for the march-past.

"1 must tell England" by George Treadwell. There is a large chapter on his impressions of the early days at St.Vincent, George was at St. Vincent - Class 25 in 1927. (Avon Books ISBN 1 86033 111 4).

"Action Stations" - Memoirs of a Small Ship Sailor - by Frank S Gardner. This book was recently advertised in Navy News. Frank started his Boy Seaman training at St.Vincent in March 1939, and after moving to the Isle of Man completed his training the following March. Newton ISBN 1 901405 00 1)

Twenty-Two Hundred Days to Pulo We - My Education in the Navy by Jack Edwards

Author's Introduction

Take a look at the photograph taken in 1939.It is of the thirty-three boys (out of the original forty - not including the two instructors and a dog!) who completed the five-week course at HMS St Vincent, the stone frigate at Gosport, and who reached the end of the assessment stage. At the same time as we were completing our course at St Vincent, two other groups, each of forty boys of a similar age, were being assessed at Shotley and Rosyth. They later completed training with us on the Isle of Man.

These 120-odd sixteen-year-olds from St Vincent, Shotley and Rosyth were trained for seven months (at that time the war had started). They were divided into six school classes of twenty boys, plus the teacher. Each group was sent to a different RN ship.  My group, already reduced by illness to seventeen, was sent to HMS Nigeria.  These young boy seamen were quickly snapped up by officers who knew that these well-trained technicians were familiar with radar and had been trained to use it.  Radar was going to be vitally important.  Radar was new then and not all ships were equipped with it at that time. But because Nigeria was brand new she was fitted with it and qualified 'specialists' - however young - were needed to operate it.  Although very young, the only person who regarded himself as a 'boy' was the boy himself - who was amazed to find he was treated with such respect by his elders - but in spite of this he still only received one shilling (5p) per week and was only allowed ashore on Saturday and Sunday afternoons!

The boy seamen were treated like adults and were regarded as being capable of doing the same tasks as anyone else on the ship. They became specialists; they were courageous, well-educated seamen who were respected by the rest of the ship's crew - they also became energetic and disciplined Nigerians.  The situation they found themselves in forced them to grow up quickly and in the early days of their naval service they soon encountered the harsh realities of war, seeing starving Russians bombed almost to destruction, and the hardships of enemies who were suffering even more than they were.

I can still vividly recall the feelings I had when I was eighteen and stood by our Navy schoolteacher watching the pupils leaving the ship - one way or another.  Sadly, a considerable number were committed to the deep.  We seventeen boy seamen are still waiting for the Admiralty medal for the Russian campaign.

The boy seamen showed great courage. They looked after one another, retained their spirit of fun and adventure and were always willing to volunteer for difficult jobs to play their part in winning the war.  I never heard any of them complain or say that it was unfair or that they should have been sent to serve in the war at that age; they just did their jobs to the best of their ability.

Jack Edwards

Below is a photograph of Maintop Division 1934

Please let us know of any other books written by former St Vincents'.

Books by Boy Seamen



HMS Ganges 1905 - 1976 HMS Ganges Association
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