Memories of Warsash - Simon Orme 1959

One effect of advancing years is a failing memory so I thought I would write down as many memories as I could whilst I still can.

My first memory is being an 'interviewee', lodged in a cabin in Port watch and given great hospitality. Was asked a number of challenging questions by various staff members (Farmer Pursey asked me to identify where a bilge was in a merchant ship, then up to be interviewed by Wally 'did I like looking a pictures of naked women ?', why did I want to go to sea, did I have any maritime connections (mentioned an aged uncle who had been a Director of the New Zealand Shipping Company - seemed to do the trick (did not then know about Wally's past association with that company]).

Then off the Grieves in Southampton to be measured up. Sometime later a huge trunk arrived at my home with my name painted on top and a quite remarkable range of clothing inside all wrapped up in tissue paper - parents very impressed.

The junior term came as something of a shock, where was the gentle hospitality I had experienced as an interviewee? I was berthed in P1 with Commander Clubb (Cosh) as my watch officer - seemed to have a very active married life which we all shared through the thin walls. Commander Clissold ran the starboard watch and I made extra pocket money through babysitting for him.

Among the staff I remember Billy Blythe (I had been in the CCF was told that the navy did not go in for all the foot stamping that the army seemed to relish). He lived in a little cabin near to the Count's castle (a pile of coke behind the shower block). Down in the boathouse we met the Bose - a mad Dutchman supposed to teach us splicing and various impenetrable nautical tricks. He regarded all cadets as useless and told us so frequently in his mangled English.

Next to the boathouse lived the gardener who had a bevy of beautiful daughters much lusted after by the cadets but they were firmly off limits.

Evenings were livened by ballroom dancing lessons (which is why I can only dance going backwards), film shows and 'self defence' lessons taught by an absolute sadist who seemed to enjoy throwing small boys around a gym mat.

I discovered some competence at rowing (after what seemed days in the Stubbington trainer), I was in the winning 'heavy weather boat crew' and still have the book awarded for that feat. Also took part in the Southampton regatta and won a sailing race in one of our gigs.

One interesting tradition was the 'buff test', the need to remember all the slang, nicknames (remember 'crapbricks' as a man called Maccillop) and weird traditions - eating a square meal, not being allowed to 'buff' as a junior, bacon slicing and the role played by Peggy Ford.

Sunday leave [after the march to church and trying to get away with a halfpenny in the collection] was generally spent in Southampton [remember the school bus] often spent in a coffee house below bar where one coffee and a hot dog could be made to last for an afternoon. The other excursions took us to the Silver Fern or if very brave to the Bugle at Hamble. A spell on guard duty required special attention, puttees to be blancoe, bayonets to be polished, drill to be perfected and a lookout to be kept (*especially for Captain Stewart) or any other visitors which were called a 'shovel' for some obscure reason.

The day started with the morning run - oh the joys of standing around on a winter morning waiting to be counted before we sprinted (or trotted) off. Breakfast with an allowance of all the sugar you could get on the back of a teaspoon (as a junior).

On one parade I fainted (the effects of flu) and was sent to the San. I had been warned that matron Pearl's sister ?) was a great believer in hot baths for any illness, the trick was to get out of the bath and dry off before removing the bath plug - the rumour was that matron liked to rush in and catch young men naked!

In my second term I was promoted to JLC Stores - a menial role which involved distributing tins of floor polish and brasso but at least it was a step up. In my senior term I became a SLC but was outshone by Jim Randall and Dave Mortimore who both became Cadet Captains. We had all been juniors in P1.

In my senior term I had the dreaded dinner with Wally (Boatcloaks and mess kit) and we also had a summer ball with girls bussed in from some girls school (told not to remove our white cotton gloves - apparently this was to keep our raging libidos in check).

A Russian sail training ship - the Tovarich turned up and we played football against them (I still have the photo), we gave them a dinner and then visited their ship in Southampton where they gave us potato dumplings and vodka [much of which was discharged in the school bus on the return to Warsash - real bollocking from Wally - disgrace to the nation, un-gentlemanly behaviour, all leave stopped, slave working on the sluice etc).

In the senior term a choice of shipping line had to be made. I remember there being a little book that listed all the UK shipping lines, their fleets, areas of operation and, most importantly their cap badges. Some cadets seemed destined for the P&O almost from the day they arrived at Warsash so their choice was simple. I chose the Royal Mail Line and was duly sent up to Leadenhall Street for my interview.

All good things come to an end so at the end of the summer term life at Warsash finished , but not before the 'senior's tit night' which involved a dinner at the Dolphin with various staff members and then high jinks back at the school - we removed the wheels from Cosh's mini traveller and hoisted them up the flagpole.

I went back to Warsash in 1963 to take my second mate's ticket. Longest and coldest winter on record. On my 21st we rowed up to the Mercury at midnight and set the fire alarms off and captured a lifebelt which again was hoisted up the flagpole. Culprits quickly identified the following morning and given a warning by the local copper.

Having passed the exams I rejoined the Andes as a Junior 4th and spent the rest of the year cruising in the West Indies - tough but someone had to do it. Then joined the Essequibo as Third Mate for 2 years before coming ashore in 1965.

I happened to be in Southampton some years ago so took a trip back to Warsash - many changes, (girls as cadets, new buildings, sexy simulator and radar block) - not the same but then that's progress.