Memories of Warsash - David Southworth 1958/59 (Pre-Warsash days and entry interview)

School of Navigation postcard (click to load photo full size)
Parade Ground

As a grammar school boy from a Northern industrial town, I had only seen the beach on post war annual holidays a sea going career might seem to some a strange and distant calling. My father had enjoyed war service in the Royal Navy as an engineering artificer and I guess some of his enthusiasm about life beyond the industrial horizon told me that there were more interesting careers than being a Phys-Ed teacher at one of the local schools. As a teenager I struggled with making career choices and I remember it was a difficult time. We had four pending school teachers in our family and I did not want to become the fifth one. However my mind was suddenly made up at about 5 - 30 one afternoon.

On this particular evening the BBC played a film about entering the MN as a career via The SCHOOL OF NAVIGATION at Warsash. I was so impressed and I wanted to be a part of it. Over the next few weeks I read every book in the local library on careers in the Merchant Navy. It is interesting that at this time fleets were big and there was a need for more sea going personnel. In my home town of Darwen young men who were trade engineers at the local factories could opt out of National service and join the MN as an alternative. My father new a couple of blokes who had done this and therefore he was able to get first hand knowledge of life at sea from a different perspective.

After much soliciting on my part to overcome my mothers disappointment I was finally told that if you go to sea you go the proper way by passing the entrance examination to Warsash and sticking it out until you are a qualified Master Mariner. I was elated and so excited. Without delay I made application and fortunately I was accepted for interview.

The interview was held in February I think and my fellow interviewees were Nigel Gaffney, Dobber Dawson and Alan Crossland who was from Christchurch in N.Z. I travelled down by train leaving my home town of Darwen at 0855 switched stations between London Euston and London St Pancras finally arriving in the SON bus in front of the guard house at about 4 pm.

Here I was.. it was all happening. The next two or three days are a bit of a blur. I remember being housed in an upstairs cabin in the Port Watch. I was impressed by the discipline, the food, the fresh air the apparent camaraderie and the proximity to the Solent. I so wanted to be here.

The exams went O.K. and I remember feeling great relief and elation when Capt Wakeford completed his interview and congratulated me as a successful applicant. Subsequent to this and prior to departure for home, I and the other interviewees who were also successful were measured for uniforms etc. The next day I arrived home with a victory smile on my face and spread the news. Mum was not too impressed.

To me the next 12 months at Warsash was what I consider to be one of the best years of my life. Fortunately for me there was very little intervening time to commencement of the spring term. My uniform was received through the mail and on a fine sunny morning I bid farewell to my friends and family for a new life beyond those dark satanic mills.