Navy Net - Royal Navy Community

Register a free account today to join our community
Once signed in, you'll be able to participate on this site, connect with other members through your own private inbox and will receive smaller adverts!

Dunkers' dits from Raleigh!


War Hero
As some of you know, I was at HMS Raleigh for the past 2 weeks on an RNR basic training course. This is essentially the regular RN's 8-week course condensed into 2 weeks; an RNR recruit will generally have done 6 months' training (one night per week) at his unit before attending the course. Even so, the course is still very intense and tiring with everything that's packed in - parade training, PT, kit musters, lectures, doubling everywhere, the assault course, a hike on Dartmoor, the Damage Repair Instructional Unit, more parade training, lack of sleep... so pull up a chair and hear the yarn! :lol:

Sunday 25th June, Edinburgh station. A bunch of 4 RNR recruits, ages ranging from 17 to 40, jump on the train to Plymouth on their way to HMS Raleigh. Feeling tentative about what lies ahead (and sore at carrying a hell of a lot of luggage, half of which we were told to bring but didn't need) we sat down in the first class compartment - a standard rail warrant lets you do that at weekends on Virgin Trains by the way, it's worth noting that - and settled down on Britain's longest train journey. The time passed slowly. What would it be like? What would our oppos be like? We were heading off on 2 weeks of what would turn out to be a very challenging (at times very difficult mentally) course. We chatted away about nothing in particular, discovering now and again by accident other matelots on the train (some noticed the ID card strap on my neck), the reason I say "by accident" is because the current security climate does not allow servicemen to travel in uniform, so we were all in civvies (b0llocks, yes, but security is the supposed reason). On the way we were amused by the train guard with a Hilarious West Country Accent (well I thought it was funny) kindly telling someone off on the tannoy for smoking in the heads and by us trying to get a free cup of coffee by using our "technically" first class tickets. But anyway, we eventually discovered that the train was being diverted via Newport due to engineering works. So what you might think, only it began to dawn on us that this meant we were going to arrive late at Raleigh. About an hour late in fact. Oh sh1t I thought, we hadn't even got there yet and already were going to get a bollocking for being late. This worried me as I always try to never be late, but now we were going to be late on arrival to naval training. Fcuk! After my first sea time - on the Torpoint Ferry! - we arrived. Ominously, the man in the guardhouse told us we would be staying in Ganges Block! - but as it turned out, when we got there everything was fine, as the CPO instructor turned out to be quite a nice and reasonable man. "You must be the guys from Scotland" said Chief, and no sooner had we got in the door - absolutely knackered - than we had to dump our bags and gather together for the introduction brief.

This brief was really far, far too much to be listening to after you've just spent 10 hours sitting on a train and just want to go to bed. Our PO instructor sat us down (there were just 10 of us) and aside from telling us a little bit about what lied ahead, she laid down the law: standard things like standards of dress and behaviour expected, fire escape proceedure, no fraternisation, adherence to the Naval Discipline Act etc. However, she also had her own rule: swearing was absolutely forbidden. (I will come back to this later.) Anyway, after this overbearing brief we were given a multiple choice exam with about 50 questions - bear in mind that it was about 2330 by this time and we were just about dropping off to sleep - after which we were finally allowed to go to bed. I was out like a light. Truth be told I felt a bit scared; I wanted to do my best and do well on the course, but would I manage that? Already we were being told in no uncertain terms the standards expected of us, and that a lot of hard work was ahead, which is a difficult pill to swallow when exhausted. I went to sleep.

Call the hands was piped at 0530. Here was the first day; we all got up with a strange mixture of lethargy and urgency (ie getting up fast because you know you have to, but still half asleep) and wandered into the draughty, lukewarm showers. I had my first and last cooked breakfast afterwards (in the galley which is decorated with old photos of HMS Ganges) - I'm absolutely convinced they lace the food with bromine - and for the rest of the day our PO instructor marched us all over the place; to slops, to the medics (where they sucked blood out of us to dermine our blood type), to PT where we had to run a mile and a half... and no doubt we did other things which I have forgotten. Unfortunately I failed to run fast enough on the 1.5 mile test and it took me a couple more attempts (and DO's rollockings) to pass it within the required time. I hate to sound like I am making excuses for myself but honestly - a constant state of tiredness, coupled with a continually present pressure to have a more "urgent" demeanour makes things very difficult. In hindsight it sounds reasonable enough but at the time it's tough.

Interestingly, our female PO instructor insisted on being referred to as PO Wren. This, she explained, was because she had joined as a Wren and liked having that female identity. This was the same PO who had the no-swearing rule which brings me nicely on to the subject of naval standards... "have naval standards slipped?" some people ask. In my very limited experience I can say that they definitely have not. PO Wren asked us all not to swear during our time at Raleigh and guess what? We didn't. She asked us for that standard, and she got it. So you see, I don't think it's a case of standards slipping, but rather some senior rates not enforcing standards tightly enough. Our PO Wren enforced them strictly and got them with no trouble at all. Perhaps society no longer holds the same standards it used to (for example with regard to swearing), but those standards can easily be upheld in the Service if the senior rates in charge merely command that they are.

Over the next couple of days we had a CPO's kit muster (we nicknamed him the BFG, the Big Friendly Giant, which apparantely is some character from a Rhold Dahl novel, and he looked like him, said my messmates) upon which several aspects of our kit were picked up. The items of kit presented have to be clean, dry, marked with your name (thankfully we could just write our name on in pen, not sew it in with red chain stitch) and folded to A4 size. The ridiculous part of it is that you need to present shoe brushes and a yellow duster that you never use for a kit muster, just so that they are spotless and therefore presentable. Same goes for the towel which has to be clean, in good condition and dry (so you can't use the one you used that morning after showering). Anyway, the chief, who had a friendly Sheffield accent, told us what items of kit needed improvement for our officer's kit muster on the second week. That would be the kit muster by Ma'am, and she wasn't half strict. Very, very strict. Seemingly humourless and with very demanding standards (fair enough), but I got the impression she made us do half the stuff we did because she had to do it as a recruit "when she was in the Wrens". To be really quite honest with you she reminded me, slightly, of the 1st Lieutenant from "The Cruel Sea" - the character that the crew can't fault, but who still can be a little tiresome at times. (You will notice throughout I am using ambiguous terms like "our PO", "our officer" etc - this is to help reduce the possibility of personally identifying anyone. If you think you know who anyone mentioned here is, please don't name names.)

Our evenings consisted with cleaning stations, rounds and kit preparation for the next day. We were supposedly meant to finish no later than 2300 and most definitely not be up any later than midnight. Getting to bed at 2300? I wish! We rarely got to bed any earlier than 0130 (for that is how long it took to only nearly finish everything) and then we were up at 0530 - then more cleaning stations and hurrying around like headless chickens... I feel that the sleep depravation was the worst part of the whole fortnight. I'm 18 so I found the lack of sleep particularly difficult. It was interesting at some times to speak to some regular recruits who had joined Raleigh at the same time as us - Walker 10 Entry - to compare how we were doing to them. They complained that piping down at 2230 and getting up at 0530 was hard. Oh, how I wished I could have gone to bed at 2230! We only had a very brief chance to speak to them however - i.e. when in the queue for scran. Queuing up for our meals (which were rushed, we're talking 15 minutes maximum here) was really the only time we got to stand still for a minute - there were no stand easies in our 2 weeks. Like I said, the course was very intense indeed.

We had another fitness test, which involved pressups, situps and a sprint, plus a swimming test (in overalls) which they have recently made ridiculously easy - they now do the Army swimming test rather than the Navy one. This involves jumping into the water while wearing a boiler suit, treading water for 2 minutes, swimming 40 metres then getting out of the pool. If you can do breaststroke even at a very basic level you can pass this. Thank God for that, I worried about it beforehand but was very pleased to discover that I did not have difficulty in doing it. After the swimming test we jumped off a high diving board in preparation for a one-day sea survival course. This involved going to Horsea Island, today the RN diving school but formerly a torpedo testing range, donning a once-only survival suit, jumping into a lake then swimming to a life raft. Quite good fun, even if the transport contractors cocked up and left us stranded for half an hour - yeah, they contract out the Service transport now, because they think it saves money (which it might do) but it causes a lot of hassle when the civvie firms screw up. The extent to which training and other amenities are contracted out now is quite surprising - sea survival/fire training, catering, slops staff, transport (you name it) is all done by civillian firms now. The Armed Forces have been Thatcherised and now rely on private firms to keep them going; there's something not quite right there.

The assault course was next. Dragging yourself along on top of a rope, running through water, crawling through tunnels.. great fun! Oh, and now that the navy is now "pink and fluffy" (as PO Wren put it), it has to be safe too. In the last 4 weeks, some civvie health and safety types have looked at the assault course and told them that they need crash mats below the rope crawl, so if you fall off you don't break your neck on gravel, you break it on the crash mat instead :roll: I must stress that the staff DID adhere to the health and safety rules, but they made sure we knew that they were somewhat disgruntled about them - it was new legislation, not naval policy, that was making the changes.

We were shown a video about bullying and harassment. This video had the message that in the modern, professional RN, any harassment (physical, mental or sexual) was absolutely not to be tolerated. Opinions on the rights and wrongs of this vary widely. On one hand you have those who say it should not be tolerated; others say that it degrades the ability of staff to prepare recruits to fight a war. One real life example was shown on the video of a PTI taking a recruit aside and assaulting him, physically and verbally. His excuse was that the recruit might have to fight some day and needs to have a strong character. I am of the opinion that this kind of treatment will do absolutely NOTHING for a recruit's character or confidence; rather, it will undermine that and only hamper him. Constructive bollockings are one thing, but outright bullying is of course not acceptable.

During our course we came across our divisional PO Writer. It may interest you to know that he is an ex Ganges boy; he joined the navy in 1970 and is still serving today after 36 years. He retires next year. A very kind man, he must be one of the very few Ganges boys still in. We all liked him; I should have asked if he knew anyone called NozzyNozzer or Nutty! :lol: (He even still referred to the regular RN recruits as "Juniors"!)

Another aspect of Raleigh training is a weekend hike on Dartmoor. Yomping, military style, in single file, trying to find our way from A to B. For this exercise I was designated as class leader, which meant I was ultimately responsible for getting the team from our campsite at Gutter Tor Refuge to the "Plume of Feathers" pub in Princetown, following a designated 11-mile route set by the instructors. It was a test of leadership ability and personal qualities. After arriving on Friday we set up camp, got up at 2am for a half-hour watch patrol around the camp (every tent group did this - we were told to be on the lookout for booties on exercise) before again getting up at 0530, shaving in a muddy pool of a "stream", cooking a disgusting Lancashire hotpot ration pack for breakfast (even now the thought of it almost makes me feel sick), before eventually setting off. Oh, I forgot to mention - the morning we set off, there was a thunderstorm and a low mist! Fortunately the night before, I had briefed the team on the route and had planned who would be doing what jobs (navigator, timer, pacer) on each leg of the journey, so at each "checkpoint" it was just a case of giving the team members their tasks and setting off again. The team did very well indeed, conquering several tors in adverse weather and putting up with distant comments shouted by some staff watching us at a distance (they appeared from time to time but mostly left us to ourselves). Later in the morning the weather picked up; we passed by Cheify sitting by a Landrover smoking his pipe (it was a stop to let us get some water) before plodding on up the final, hardest leg of the journey to the top of a hill - by now in blazing hot sunshine - from whence we decended into Princetown and the pub. At last! Nice, hot food and a pint of ale! This was heavenly. On the morning after returning to Raleigh I had some horrible blisters, which I went to sickbay with, and was quite amused when a baby MA tried to stick the label of a blister plaster on my foot rather than the plaster itself. Fortunately a leading MA corrected the baby MA (bless him).

By now we were over half way through the course, but interesting times still lay ahead. One of these was going into the Damage Repair Instructional Unit, DRIU (pronounced "drew"). Imagine the midships of a ship mounted on pivots which allow it to roll as if it were at sea. They put you inside this then simulate a missile hitting it. The lights go out, smoke appears and water starts flooding in (at the temperature and force of sea water) through ready-made shrapnel holes. Your task then is to plug up the holes using wooden wedges and then to make secondary, more permanent repairs. (If anyone has a picture or a better description of the DRIU then please post it.) It's great fun, and there's a huge adrenalin rush, but it's also a very realistic simulation of a sinking ship. In the exercise, the freezing water reaches your chin at which time you abandon ship. It is an excellent training tool; I can only hope I never have to do it for real.

So what else did we do? We went to Jupiter Point, jumped on a RIB and zipped up and down the dockyard for half an hour. This was brilliant fun, the idea was to give us some "sea sense"; in other words to experience being on a sea boat. Before setting off for this we fell in to wait for the coach to arrive. Just then some very lovely young Wrens passed by :p .... and my eyes inadvertently followed them and...

"DUNKERS!" admonished PO Wren. "Pay attention to the class leader, not to those girls!" A smile began to creep across my face, but I wiped it off a milisecond later when I saw that she still did not look overly pleased. Later on, we also took a trip to the local HM Dockyard and had a look round a type 23 frigate which was interesting enough, but once you've seen one you've seen them all.

The course was drawing to an end and we were doing lots of drill practice for our passing out parade. We were told that the 2nd Sea Lord was going to come to this and inspect us. To cut a long story short, on Friday we were led out of the drill shed by the Royal Marine Band and had a divisions parade with great ceremony commesurate with 2SL visiting. 2SL inspected and spoke to us - he asked me what I thought of the course; but come on, on pain of death I had to reply "excellent, sir!" :lol:

And so, after an age of standing on the parade ground, we marched up the steps... "Passing Out Classes - Diiiiiiis - miss!" bawled the Parade Sgt Major; dwelling a pause of 2 marching paces we then cheered and threw our caps in the air. That was it over! We were free! :lol:

And here I am, half a stone lighter than when I started the course, very tired, but very elated... at least I look fairly happy!

It has been mentioned on RR before that "you forget the bad times". I now realise just how true this is. There were times on those 2 weeks that I found the mental pressure very difficult; maintaining a constant sense of urgency while exhausted is enough to bring you to tears. I think the regular RN recruits have a (slightly) easier pace than we do: still hard of course, but at least they get some downtime and some sleep, whereas we had precious, precious little of either. All the same, looking back on it, I feel it was a worthwhile experience and an achievement to pass out. Hard, but good. You appreciate more what small comforts you have; I even found it genuinely heartening when someone referred to me by my first name rather than my surname.

Oh, and you know how we get duvets now rather than itchy blankets? Well we have to put a crease down the centre of the duvet cover. Don't you worry, all that bullshit is still alive and well! :lol:
welcome aboard shippers, you're now offically allowed to say "when I was at raliegh........followed by dit" or "gah, new entry training these days, hah, they don't know they're born!", well done anyway dunkers....
Good one dunkers, now you can use pirate talk. It's easy, you just say Yaaaarr every now and then and "says I" after a statement.

Yaaar It be easy says I
Hi Dunkers,

Glad you had a great time, and I'm even happier you were billeted in GANGES BLOCK. What an honour! I'm also glad you got to meet an old Ganges boy: I must be honest I tend to regard all New Entry ratings at Raleigh as Juniors also, though it's probably a reflection of growing-up in a Navy where one was one and most ratings who joined-up were kids.

Your super-condensed course certainly does sound exhausting: are you sure you weren't all on Torpoint Routine (like the Shotley Routine...) for being an hour adrift? 2230 to 0530 are what I recall from the G place, though for some reason I keep thinking lights-out was at 2100. Old age again... The no swearing rule seems reasonable - not new either. At G you were not allowed to swear on pain of terrible revenge (chomping on a square inch of soap and throwing up all over your oppo's no.8s later :lol:) but the staff could swear at you as much as they liked, and DID! I hated being called a little cnut!

No red chain stitch? That is sad. Were you issued with a wooden type when you joined the RNR or have they fallen by the wayside?

Your comments about health & safety are interesting. I take it that modern naval bayonets and cutlasses have soft plastic blades for safety and soft mats will be provided by any future enemy? Well well, who'd have thought!

Dartmoor is a great place to do a route march - one of many places in the UK. It brings back happy memories. I did my Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award there: a short 50 mile march (was supposed to be at least 30) with canvas rucksack, mouldy smelling tent (!!!) and a Primus stove (still have one in my shed) the sort you had to preheat before you demonstrated your gourmet cooking skills: bacon and beans I recall, fried in same pan at the same time :lol: Oh the smell in the tent that evening...(about 3 hours later) :wink: You had the benefit of a pub meal and BEER afterwards. Great. I'm sorry you didn't get any actual camping in and cooking - there really is nothing like home cooked nosh when you're tired and wet and your feet are encrusted with scraped skin and blisters! :lol:

Dunkers wrote
"We chatted away about nothing in particular, discovering now and again by accident other matelots on the train (some noticed the ID card strap on my neck), the reason I say "by accident" is because the current security climate does not allow servicemen to travel in uniform, so we were all in civvies (b0llocks, yes, but security is the supposed reason)."

Sad to see Dunkers was told to travel in civvies because of security - Dunkers who told you this ?
I thought the current situation was to ENCOURAGE sailors to travel in uniform (as part of raising the RN profile). What security situation is now stopping us seeing sailors in rig in public ?

Editied to add: BZ Dunkers - glad you enjoyed the course. Keep up the good work !!!
It's quite a sad situation, I was told at my RNR unit that travelling in uniform is generally frowned upon because of some "security threat" from "terrorists". I am not quite sure what "terrorists" are being referred to. When I go to my RNR unit I wear working rig when travelling but I'm told I have to wear a civvie jacket to conceal the naval epaulletes/my name.

Having said that, whenever I ask someone what the current rules are about travelling in uniform - I get a different answer each time. This doubt is further reinforced by the fact that I saw an RAF Policeman in C95's on a train a few weeks back. (Are the rules different across the Services?)

Personally I think travelling in uniform should be encouraged/required, if only to help keep the Forces in the public eye (in a positive light). It seems at the moment however, that nobody really knows if travelling in uniform is allowed or not. The joining instructions we were given for Raleigh told us we were to arrive and depart the establishment wearing plain clothes... so who knows.
Dunkers, great to hear about the basic! As for the rig when ashore, its down to the C.O. basically. But MOD Plod shouldn't let you out the gate (walking) in full rig as it is but we all know how dappy they can be :wink:
That reminds me of the dit about our run ashore :) on the Wednesday night before passing out we got a course run ashore... but not before Chiefy had checked we had all shaved that day and the liberty boat PO had checked we were all suitably dressed in smart enough civvies :wink:. Sadly we were only allowed out to the pub down the road (I forget its name) and the rest of the part 1 trainees were allowed further afield. So Jenny I have yet to experience the delights of Jesters, shocking isn't it.
Well done Dunkers, to cram 8 weeks into 2 is no mean feat, even if some PO Wren has well marked your card.

As for travelling, I was informed yesterday by a relation returning from Kabul that the Army and RAF have agreed with a demand/request from BAA (Airport Authority) that servicemen fly into UK Airports in civvies for security reason's. The Navy, of which he is part, have refused on the grounds of showing the flag/profile of the RN.

dunkers said:
Sadly we were only allowed out to the pub down the road (I forget its name)

Carbeille(?) or some other frog sounding name (at least it was in 1986!)

dunkers said:
... and the rest of the part 1 trainees were allowed further afield. So Jenny I have yet to experience the delights of Jesters, shocking isn't it.

Hmmm, when I did my RNR Part 1 at Raleigh (back when Nelson were a lad :) ) we were allowed to go further afield than the local - IIRC we went to the Harbour Lights in Torpoint and also ventured across to Guzz on the infamous Torpoint Ferrywhere we made very welcome in a pub called the Complex.

My Raleigh course, having taken place so long ago, all my dits have dimmed along with my ageing memory (I'm only 43, so God help the G****s boys like Nozzy!). However, like you, found there were certain pressures brought to bear to try and crack us - the Chief Stoker gavbe me amajor bollocking in the forenoon about the lack of shine on my steaming boots (I'd already been to sea several times on an MSF and they were showing the signs of havin seen a sweep-deck); that afternoon, back on the parade square, said Chief Clanky in company with a Royal Marine Colour Sergeant, marches straight to me, looks to Royal and says: "This is the miserable man I was talking about Colours, look at the state of thos boots!". Royal replies, "There's nothing wrong with them, what's your problem?" - Chief Stoke looks down to find I'd missed lunch and spent the whole time bulling my boots!

In those days, fire-fighting was much more realistic - they didn't have the "benefit" of computer controlled gas burners which are not hot enough to even make toast; back then we used real fire (started by rubbing two boy scouts together I think). During one of the very first tests on the fire ground, we had to start at the top of the unit, enter it individually and then proceed through the smoke-filled compartments to the location of the fire at the bottom - at certain key points we were required to inform the staff of our arrival by crying out our number. One member of the course managed to get lost somewhere within the unit, so the order of our arrival at the fire was "1-2-4-5-6-3". Same member was also team lead for our assualt course run at Pier Cellars; guess what; we got half way round the course when he "forgot" the order of the obstacles and once again got lost!

Happy days! :)

Dunkers, good luck with the rest of your RNR Career - I hope taht your's is as rewarding as mine has been and that you acheive all that you want to achieve.

You can wear uniform in public - but it is at the CO's discretion. Hence I saw the old 1SL plus entourage in full 1's walking up Whitehall recently.
Sir Alan West (previous 1SL) permitted the wearing of uniform ashore (including working rig, providing that it is of a high standard) to promote the image of the RN to the general public.

BR81 refers!
have yet to experience the delights of Jesters

It is an addiction, you know its cr@p and every one else does but you can't help but go! You will be doomed I tell ya, DOOMEDDDDDDDDD!!!!
dunkers said:
The assault course was next. Dragging yourself along on top of a rope, running through water, crawling through tunnels.. great fun! Oh, and now that the navy is now "pink and fluffy" (as PO Wren put it), it has to be safe too. In the last 4 weeks, some civvie health and safety types have looked at the assault course and told them that they need crash mats below the rope crawl, so if you fall off you don't break your neck on gravel, you break it on the crash mat instead :roll: I must stress that the staff DID adhere to the health and safety rules, but they made sure we knew that they were somewhat disgruntled about them - it was new legislation, not naval policy, that was making the changes.

Hmm, the crash mats I happen to agree with, and I'm surprised it's taken so long to introduce. I witnessed a (rather nice looking incidentally) Wren fall from the rope straight onto her face several years ago. We head the crack from where we were 100ft away. She went to Sick Bay but got told to come back the following morning as all the staff were on Make 'n' Mend!

Latest Threads