Why is Ganges so emotive?

Discussion in 'History' started by Nutty, Oct 20, 2007.

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  1. Contributors Mode

    I have just lifted this little dit from the HMS Ganges site. In 2005 I returned to Ganges with Nick (SIDON)(SWAMPY) Carter a Ganges boy cica 1949, myself one of the classes of 61. We wandered about the place and felt just as Jossman so expertly describes.

    WHY? Read his dit.

    HMS Ganges a visit. by "The Jossman"

    I was on business in Clacton and had finished earlier than I expected. As I plugged in my satnav for the journey home to York I noticed that I was only 30 miles or so from Ipswich. I had been there a few times before but for some unknown reason in my mind I travelled back to 1972 and I thought of the day I joined HMS Ganges.

    I checked my diary to make sure that I had no other forgotten appointments and typed SHOTLEY GATE into the route finder, 38 miles, shouldn’t take that long. As I pulled away it began to drizzle that fine drizzle that even permeates oilskins!

    As I drove the final miles down the winding lanes with the river Ouse to my left I became apprehensive and the feeling in the pit of my stomach was the same as on that October afternoon in 1972. As I rounded a corner on a gentle rise my car slowed as if by itself and the tip of the mast came into view. Now I’m 50 and have seen a lot of things in my time but at that moment I experienced every conceivable emotion.
    My mind played tricks on me as I drove slowly past the overgrown playing fields with the back of Nelson Hall in view; I swear I could hear the volunteer band practising somewhere away in the wind.

    I parked my car outside the post office, I didn’t go in it’s out of bounds! I stared up the lane to the main gate, again was it just my memory or did someone shout “Double that class� The sound of a class marching past, stamping their right foot, echoed through the rustling trees in the afternoon breeze. I walked up the lane and found myself unconsciously straightening up and marching smartly towards the twin gate pillars. I saw the mast, it looked smaller than it did in 1972 but the sight of it still made me take a deep breath. This time though, as I marched through the gates, no Regulating Staff or GIs screamed at me and for just one last time I wish they had.

    I looked around the desolate and forlorn buildings and the once fearsome parade ground, now so overgrown with weeds that the Chief GI would be spinning in his grave. I could see in my mind’s eye the missing buildings which I imagine had been unceremoniously demolished. Scant regard would have been given to the boys, and hundreds of thousands of man hours which, over the years, would have been spent scrubbing mess squares with wire wool and scouring paste, and buffing by hand the brown linoleum floors with orange wax polish and old bits of pussers blankets. All in an effort to try and win a cake!

    I stood as close to the mast as the temporary fencing would let me and recalled the first time I had ‘scrambled aloft’. It was a terrifying ordeal negotiating the outside of the first elbow hanging almost upside down, no-one was allowed to take the easy route through onto the platform. I remembered the feeling of personal achievement and total exhilaration I had felt on reaching the upper yard; I had held onto the safety line for dear life with both hands, even the devil himself couldn’t have moved me, and all the while my legs trembled uncontrollably. That was one of the proudest achievements of my whole life and I was still only fifteen.

    I turned and walked towards the quarterdeck and wiped some tears from my eyes, the wind must have blown something into them. I stopped at the row of square metal studs which marked the edge of the quarter deck; they looked very dull, I had polished everyone many time when I was on DO’s routine. I tutted, smiled and took a big step forward, there was no one left to shout “Double across the quarterdeckâ€. I followed the temporary road to the infamous Laundry Hill. I stood at the top and believe me I shuddered at the memory of my whole mess being doubled up and down that hill until we could not stand, the screams of our divisional instructor berating us continually with swear words even a scroat like me, from the slums of Liverpool, had never heard!

    I walked down the hill. As I reached the foreshore I saw that the lower playing fields were now a marina and Enright block was, amongst other things, a pub! As I looked up the steps through the arch which had been underneath the NBCD store I remembered how me and my fellow partner in crime had lost control of a rather large hand-pulled grass roller which had careered down the grass bank into the block, causing a not insubstantial crack to appear at the point of impact. I looked carefully but could not see it.

    I wandered along the foreshore road towards the sailing centre and was stopped by a gruff workman who told me the ‘effing’ road was closed to pedestrians. I could see the gate in the fence and asked him if I could just have a peek, his response was unexpected and he mellowed and said to me quite gently and politely “It must have been hard here†and let me pass. Those few steps to the small gate filled me so much dread I couldn’t believe it, I looked up and saw pristine in the afternoon sun as it broke through the clouds, even though they were overgrown, ’Faith, Hope and Charity’. How many times had we doubled up and down those terrifying granite steps as a punishment for some minor insignificant misdemeanour? Our divisional instructor enjoyed making sure we took turns with a dummy 4.5 inch shell. I remembered every single step and the indescribable pain you endured in the calf muscles as tired limbs and exhausted bodies struggled up them once again, only to be sent to the bottom again.

    I took a photo and turned away and retraced my steps up the hill back to the quarter deck. It’s funny how your mind plays tricks on you and I actually began to double and then stopped myself, stupid pillock I thought. I stood in the centre of the quarter deck alone and saluted, don’t ask me why I don’t know, I just did and then I stepped off whistling ‘Hearts of Oak’, the unheard voices of long ago shouted commands to long past sailors in my mind. And I marched with the pride I had when I passed out after ten hard gruelling months, I didn’t care who saw me or what they thought. You see I am a matelot and always will be.

    The Jossman
    HMS Ganges Site
    18. Oct 2007 at 19:43


    • Like Like x 1
  2. Quality Post Nutty, and it brought a tear to my eye.
    Ganges '54/'56.

  3. Hey i was born and raised just down the road from hms ganges im only 25 so i didnt experience what happened down there but most of my family had something to do with it!

    I have heard plans were to turn the old buildings into accomadation for assylum seekers...
  4. TJ. I did not seek Asylum when I walked through those gates but I found what I was looking for.

    A one off!! Experience.
  5. cool nice to hear! what was the area like around then? im interested? You probably had meetings withs family members at that time as that was a local gathering point near ganges right?
  6. Ganges 1975.

    Once experienced, never forgotten. 6 weeks seemed like a lifetime to this 16yr old at the time.

    Months spent for the older members must have been something else.

  7. Ganges 63/64

    An experience that will with you for for the rest of your days, never forgotten.
    • Like Like x 2
  8. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator

    I didn't join until 1981, so narrowly missed the delights of Chatham dockyard, HMS Pembroke, HMS Malabar(Bermuda), HMS Tiger & Blake, and of course Ganges.

    All of those names seemed to be forever in the memories of those senior to me when I joined. One of my work colleagues was one of the last classes in Ganges & he, like those that went there, say it left an indelible mark. Raleigh to me, left a noticable smudge by comparison.

    I'm curious with regard the ten months training. Was that basic training, followed by trade training (if so, which trades?), I wonder? Surely we didn't reduce 10 months training to 6 weeks basic? Or maybe we did.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. We did 12 months in Ganges, which included the basic trade training, then in my instance, being a TAS rating when onto Vernon to do the course
    • Informative Informative x 1
  10. Contributor MOde


    We spent one month in the New Entries Annex learning drill, dhobying, and the basics getting uniform etc. The Annex was a completely, physically, separate unit from Ganges and we had no contact except to march in and march out to Sick Bay or similar.

    Then 11 months in the Main Establishment, no leave, unless summer,Xmas or easter fell in that period for 16 weeks when you should make Boy 1st Class. Then 2pm to it was either 9 or 10 pm, Saturday and Sundays. Leave in Harwich, Ipswich or Felixstowe. Local leave in Shotley was also

    The course was split into three, professional training which included gym, drill, trade, boat work (pulling a fecking great cutter about). School, I did two GCE's while at Ganges, and sport. In between was cleaning kit, mess and Divisional Area etc.

    No radio, No TV, Cinema twice a week, no phones, only private property allowed was football boots. All other items were returned home to mum.

    That was 1961 we were allowed to smoke at certain times and places.

    Little had changed since 1931 except the pay, feeding arrangements and smoking. Was never bullied or physically assaulted by a any Instructor, Ships Company or Badge Boy. Never saw it happen to anyone else. Many years later found out one lad in our mess, not my end, was gay and had been dishing out wanks to his mates.

    I think just about anybody who passed out of Ganges could of physically competed the All Arms Course or similar, we, if nothing else were boys of iron. 3 months at Dryad soon got rid of all that muscle.

    I have come to realize that the World contains two types of people TROG'S (Trainee Ratings Of Ganges) and the rest.

    No doubt Booties and Submariners say the same.

    • Like Like x 2
  11. People remember Ganges but what about its one time brother Boy training establishment St Vincent at Gosport? This is where the juniors who could both "read & write "were trained untill 1967.The majority went to Collingwood as Electrical branch ratings with the minority going to the seaman training establishments of Cambridge,Vernon and Dryad.
    Although smaller (elite ?) than Ganges it was run with the same Borstal mentality which surprisingly left only fond memories on the majority of the 15 year old recruits.
  12. Ye also at at this imortal site `58/59.
    Although joined as a JM(E) Alright to use the real rate STOKER and proud of it.
    We bitched at all that seamanship crap etc, and were in our eliment striping "donks" and working in the mock up boiler room.
    When we finaly passed out and went to Raleigh for engineering training - what a holiday camp by comparison. there we were in our washed out No.8`s, rubber soled boots and a "tiddly" cap.The place was crawling with Wrens, of course we showed where we had come from and remembering our Basic comms calls ( yes we also had to learn various aspect of this as well), whilst marching,cammand called right arm raised, right foot stamped command executed and guarenteed to turn heads. Our instructor, once we were on the parade ground uttered these imortal word, I`ve never forgotten them" I cannot teach you guys any more as you are all ex- Ganges, Play the game and we will all have an easy time, and so we did .
    There are many ,many more stories
    The experience was second to none and proved invaluable in later life when I was traveling the world in sales
    O happy days well remembered never forgotten.
  13. Concur with everything that Nutty has described, and it was the same when I joined in 1954, except that we were Nozzers rather than Trogs.

    The four weeks in the Annexe was probably my biggest culture shock, but it did prepare you for what lay ahead the main establishment.

    The courses for Bunting Tossers and Sparkers lasted 18 months so, if you were unlucky, you had two Queen's Birthday parades to slog through.

    And I do not think that I shall ever forget those sweet, dulcet tones of the end of term Tiddly Charlie - play it again Sam.

  14. It put you and me on the right road to life Frank , as we are still alive and kicking 33 years after joining up the same day together !!
  15. [align=center]O Knights of the G Spot[/align]

    [align=center] :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship: :worship:[/align]

    I'd have perished after 30 minutes in the Annexe!... if not sooner!

  16. Same here my friends,thanks for the post Nutty, I thought Ganges was banned on this web. I was 1960/61 JM(E) Drake 40 mess, PO(GA) Brumpton and PO (TASI) Hall, excellent men and real role models.
    I always thought the annexe was 6 weeks? I was really, really, homesick, cried in my bed at night, but I was afraid of telling my Mam/Dad in my letters that I was, because they would only have written back to my "new parents" to have me kicked me ***********. This might sound daft, but what really cheered me up was when we were allowed out of the Annexe, for a cross country run, the next week moved over to the "Main". The rest is history, but after my first leave and back I enjoyed Ganges like a duck to water and after 47 years I still live by some of the concepts taught.
    NO more Ganges from me, thats a promise.
  17. Ganges 1971 24 recruitment,sad to see it go.Have got the DVD and play it every so often.
    Place set me up for life and remember it with affection even now.
  18. I thought Annex was 6 weeks as well [ May 1957].
  19. Nutty thank for the cross post.

    The joss's review did bring a tear to my eye.

    Ganges 65.. :thumright:
  20. 1962 was 6 weeks also. I still recall the march from the Annex to the Main Gate.


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