Well yes, of course it hurts to read such banners when you yourself were not selected to train as a naval telegraphist, but the fact of the matter is that the processes at the recruiting office, at the Annexe in the first six weeks and in the Main Ganges establishment, picked out the brightest boys of each recruitment to train, as they called it in 1949, as a "radiotelegraphic operator".

Fortunately for raconteurs like myself, all the records still exist amounting to a pile of paper getting on for eighteen inches high. I am going to use some of those official documents to tell this story.


My first offering is a report by the Senior Admiralty Psychologist written on the 28th November 1949

A DRAFT BY THE SENIOR ADMIRALTY PSYCHOLOGIST.pdf with a copy of the Admiralty : SP FORM QR1, mentioned in the second paragraph which all would-be applicants had to complete at the recruiting office SP FORM QR1.pdf

and concurrent with this draft a second draft from the Medical Director-General written 8th December 1949


Both these drafts were written in response to a Directive from the Permanent Secretary of the Admiralty Sir John Lang KCB, who had received this request from the Argentine Naval Attach stationed in London.


However, the Director of  the Naval Signal Division suggested a more simple answer to the first Draft above [Admiralty Psychologist] and recommended that HMS Ganges was best able to answer the professional training side with the draft from the Medical Director-General added to it.


This is a file copy of the letter written to HMS Ganges on the 13th December 1949 from the Admiralty



Following the instructions in DSD's loose minute [above] the Captain of HMS Ganges put together a simple and short overview of the training of communication boys in his care. Despite it being simple, it will be of interest to all boys in this category and at that time, namely 1949 although it is relevant to boy's for well into the 1950's also. However, following this section is an extremely thorough and detailed report on the training of boy telegraphists at HMS Ganges, and more will be gained from reading it to match the essence of the main title of this webpage. There are several mentions of V/S training also.


and finally, the submission is transmitted to the Argentine Naval Attach in this Admiralty file-copy letter.  Note the very strange way the writer uses the expression "Believe me,"

Admiralty letter to the Argentine Naval Attache.pdf


A paragraph taken from the end of the paper



Now for a few domestics. Below is a table showing the pay boy's received at HMS Ganges in the period 1949/1955 which covers my time there.



On Ledger

Rate/Age/Qualification Pay per day Pay per week Paid weekly pocket money Main leave pay Fortnightly pay in cash Maximum amount boys allowed on their person

a. Boy 2nd class

2s 6d - 5s 0d 15s 0d - 10s 0d

b. Boy 1st class

3s 6d - 7s 6d 20s 0d - 15s 0d

c. Boy at aged 17

7s 0d - 10s 0d 30s 0d - 20s 0d

d. Instructor Boy

3s 6d 9d 10s 0d 25s 0d - 20s 0d

e. Boy in Draft Class

3s 6d - 10s 0d 20s 0d - 15s 0d

f. Boy from date of being drafted away from training establishment below aged of 17 to part complement billet or additional to complement

7s 0d - - As appropriate for long leave granted 4-18-2d -

g. Leading Boy

As for rate 3d Paid with pocket money As for rate - As for rate

h. Petty Officer Boy

3s 6d 6d Paid with pocket money 20s 0d - 15s 0d

i. Band Boy Bugler

As for rate + 3d per day, 1 shilling of which is to be paid with pocket money - As for rate + 1s 0d As for rate - As for rate

j. Band Boy Silver Bugler

As for rate 3d over and above that daily rate paid to a bugler As for rate + 1s 3d As for rate - As for rate

k. Band Boy Drum Major

As for rate  - As for rate +  1s 3d As for rate - As for rate

l. Marksman [85% in .22 and 80% in .33 firings] Badges only, gratuitously issued.

As for rate - As for rate As for rate - As for rate

m. Coxswain [Passes a practical examination in the handling of boats under oars and sail] Badges only, gratuitously issued.

As for rate - As for rate As for rate - As for rate

n. Call Boys [Boys who qualify may be given Calls and those who excel may be given chains, both gratuitously issued]

As for rate - As for rate As for rate - As for rate
The difference between a boys basic pay and his weekly pocket money was banked for him in a POSB [Post Office Saving Bank] account. A prudent communications boy [though perhaps a thoroughly boring and unadventurous boy] could amass what was then a large sum of money in his one year [approximately] as a 1st class boy. A very simple case is calculated as follows to the nearest :- 365 days @ 3s 6d = 64.  52 weeks - 9 weeks for leave = 43 x 7s 6d = 16 of annual pocket money in Shotley. 3 leave periods each of 20s totalling 9 weeks = 6.66s {6s 8d} per week pocket money.  Total pocket money paid per annum = 19. Residue [64-19] into bank = 45.

Quite surprisingly [not to mention being mean] these pay rates were extant from 1949 until 1955 and then in 1956 the pay scales looked like this:-

Junior 2nd class 4s 6d/ Junior 1st class 6s 0d/ Junior at 17 9s 0d

I was in Ganges training to be a Boy Telegraphist, a difficult and demanding fifteen months course. In those days, only seamen and communicators trained in Ganges, the former undertaking just a twelve month course. I was an AC {Advanced Class} boy, better able to cope with academic school work than boys who were graded as GC [General Class}. A little later on the GC classes where split into GC {U} Upper and GC {L} Lower where all but for GC{L} could be trained as communicators.   So, I start with a little cameo of my Ganges time showing my rapid promotion {!} from Boy 2nd Class to Ordinary Telegraphist which includes my very first ship, HMS Tintagel Castle* {Commander CARRINGTON RN} based on Portland in Dorset - then, after 16 months, I was whisked away to join HMS Tyne {Captain BENNETT RN} for the Suez War of 1956 {Flagship} and after that, to  HMS Eagle [Captain Le Fanu RN].  Before I continue, have a look at this page, then click on your BACK button to return to this page when finished BOREDOM CAN DO FUNNY THINGS.  Note that my passing out results were signed by "DOD" who was my names sake, viz, Lieutenant Commander D.O. Dykes Royal Navy the OIC of the Signal School whose death was very sadly published in the March 2009 Navy News.  Anybody trained at Ganges in the years 53-55 as a boy telelgraphist will have the identical entry on their 'history sheet' to mine but of course with different marks possibly.  I was awarded TWO MONTHS accelerated advancement, the maximum, {in recognition of my overall results - i.e. a FIRST CLASS PASS} which meant that I was advanced to the Able Rate {to a Telegraphist} earlier than the norm, so effectively gaining extra pay on the higher pay band - the difference between 'ordinary rate' and 'able rate'.  This, incidentally, occurred when I was in the carrier HMS Eagle in 1957 {Captain Michael LE FANU RN who had been my second Captain of HMS Ganges - and was so when I left - the first being Earl CAIRNS} and, as you will have read in the "Boredom.......Things" file above, was a grand total of FIVE MONTHS accelerated advancement leading to a rather large pay day.

* Tintagel Castle along with the Vanquisher, sank U-878 in the SW Approached on the 10th April 1945

 The table above, specifically the third entry, "Boy Tel -  6 to 15 February 1955" is LEGEND for any ex Ganges Boy and worth a short explanation. At this point, our training has officially finished and we are released from attending classes and doing all the "nasty" things we had been made to do over the past 15 months or so.  In one weeks time [approximately] we would leave Ganges for the last time -hooray, hooray, hooray - and join our first ship at sea. Therefore, in this one week we are more-or-less free spirits and could [and did] lord it over every other 'poor' boy still under training. We wore our Number 3 blue serge suit but without a blue collar as dress of our day, along with brown canvas shoes, and that jumper had our branch badge sewn on the right arm which we made sure all the other 'poor' boys recognised and acknowledged - Seamen boys joined the fleet as 'general part-of-ship fodder' and qualified in gunnery, radar or torpedo/anti submarine warfare when in the navy proper: they therefore left Ganges without badges on their jumpers.  This period was called "DRAFT CLASS ROUTINE", a most enviable position to be in, and it gave us cart blanche to push into the queues for food, the NAAFI Canteen or the cinema.  Whilst we remained at all times in awe of the training staff, other boys not in the Draft Class who had formerly been our peers, were now looked down upon as mere boy's, peasants, with still a great deal to learn about the navy {!! unlike us !!}, diffident  and ill at ease in our presence. Although from different divisions, we were just one of several Draft Classes waiting for our first sea draft. Before I leave this introduction I thought that I would complete the circle of my 'achievements' whilst at Ganges.  In BR1938, my issued copy of the Naval Ratings Handbook dated 31st October 1951, I have written the following on the amendments page:-

10.09.54 352 Class Gunnery Finals PASS 10.11.54 352 Class AC School Finals PASS 07.12.54 352 Class Pre W/T Finals PASS
25.01.55 352 Class Gymnasium Finals PASS 03.02.55 352 Class W/T Badge Finals PASS 10.02.55 352 Class Kit Finals, Captain Roberts RM, Rodney DO.  PASS

Ganges added one entry only to a trainees Service Certificate [S459] which was always VG SAT [Very Good character and Satisfactory as a 'trained' trainee leaving basic training]. My Ganges assessment was signed by Captain Michael Le Fanu RN. In addition just the one entry was made upon the ratings 'comic cuts' immediately before being drafted to sea to his first ship - [S264a] and this is mine. The reference that I play "rugger a bit" is a bit mean seeing that I played regularly for the Royal Rodney's as 'stand-off' but never shone and this is what he probably meant!  As for the "minor sickness" he is referring to a badly cut leg, an injury sustained whilst climbing over a gate which had barbed wire attachments when out on a Divisional Cross Country Run, at which time, for a short period only, I wore No3's instead of No8's and was classed as "Light Duties" or was that a "sickbay skate" ?  I was excused boots and gaiters [so no parade ground training] and of course no PT, wearing as my footwear a pair of brown canvas shoes which all boys were issued with - the nearest thing the navy had to slippers !  The entry is signed by George W GLYDE RN {no, not Bush !} and he was a Commissioned Gunner and the second DO of the Royal Rodney's. I am lucky in that I have every document written about me from Ganges to my leaving to pension [30 years worth] - including medical/dentist documents, kit issues, permanent and temporary, general service and submarine services, courses and my results, pay documents, etc. The bottom line in the picture below is the first line of my first report from my first ship, HMS Tintagel Castle, and after "possibly slightly" come the words "older than his years suggest."


Whilst on the business of SCHOOLING and TECHNICAL TRAINING [the latter, W/T, V/S or Seamanship] let us spend a little time on the Passing Out Grades [1st, 2nd and 3rd - the University Degree equivalents of a 1st, a 2-1 and a 2-2] and for that matter the Passing In Grades also. In this section too, I will touch upon the PRIZES that Ganges boys could win as well as other interesting snippets.

Ganges took two types of recruits, the ones from the high street recruiting offices and the ones from the Nautical Schools but not from Home Office Nautical Schools who were largely boys from Borstals and Approved Schools. The high street recruit was given an intelligence/aptitude test before being accepted and that assumed the boy had the very basic minimum to get through the gates of the Annexe at HMS Ganges but not necessarily that he would last the first day there before being considered by the 'Ganges System' as unsuitable.  During the first few weeks in the Annexe a more detailed test would ascertain whether the boy was suitable, and how he would respond and cope with either of the two levels of academic training given at the establishment. If at the academic test his score was above a certain level he would have been considered suitable for the ADVANCED CLASS [AC] syllabus, and if below, for the GENERAL CLASS [GC] syllabus. Subsequent to this test and the sorting procedure, it was always possible to change syllabus if a boy was not coping with the school work, or, but on few occasions, a GC boy was reassessed upwards to join an AC class. However, it was found necessary to further sub-divide the GC classes into GC[U] and GC[L] as explained above, but if assessed as a GC[L] boy, the only technical training he could undertake was that of the boy seaman: all other academic groups could be either boy seamen or boy communicators, visual or wireless. Once sorted into academic groups, boys could now volunteer to become either seamen or communicators which would dictate their technical training, and indeed, with rare exceptions, the branch they would enter into when in the royal navy proper on leaving the training establishment. Boys were chosen to be trained as communicators after a very basic aptitude test which any boy who had been in the Scouts and who had the slightest understanding of the Morse Code would have passed.  Once selected as a communicator trainee, boys stated their preference for either the Signalman side or the Telegraphist side after watching a small instructional film followed by a lecture. Boys who didn't make the grade set for a Telegraphist [nearly always because of the ever increasing speed of the Morse Code] were re-classed to Signalman or to Seaman.

In 1937 an OU Book [Official Use] called "The training of boys', their welfare and fleet requirements" was superseded  by a BR [Book of Reference] called "Training Service Regulations".  This book laid down the rules which governed the running of Ganges for many years   On the 8th July 1952 that book was superseded by a re-write of the 1937 edition {plus amendments} which was called "Boys' Training Instructions 1952".  The 1952 edition tweaks the rules of the 1937 edition and adds new rules and regulations in the light of experience gained from WW2 and from the intervening training years from 1937 until 1952. This book became known as the 'bible' and was used in both St Vincent and Ganges, where all in the BR applied to Ganges and all except for the Communications Syllabuses applied to St Vincent. In addition to the 'bible' each Establishment had its own 'mini bible' and Ganges recorded her boys academic and technical achievements in a series of T.S. "rough books" and documents printed and issued by the Admiralty.  All of the following data comes from the 1952 edition of "Boys' Training Instructions".  However, as stated, we are going to look at the academic and technical sides of training only but don't worry for I have published the BR as part of my research work as a webpage. In 1966 the BR was again rewritten and republished this time as "Juniors' Training Instructions". I have copies of all four books.

In the paragraph above, viz "Ganges took two types of recruits....." we have seen the route taken by a boy who had left school at the age of 15 and who on average, had joined the navy at the age of 15.  The navy took what they were given, but ideally the navy wanted as many 'bright' or 'clever' boys as it could get.  The system in the public sector denied boys [if they were able] of any leaving qualifications other than a written final school report from the formmaster/headmaster. The normal school leaving qualification was called a School Certificate {known as a School 'Cert} which was only available to Grammar School boys or boys from Technical Colleges and those usually at the age of 16 issued by national authority: the equivalent to today's GCSE certificates. To achieve this requirement for 'clever' boys, the navy looked to the many Nautical Schools who had recruited much younger boys {typically when aged 13} ostensibly to be trained for a sea-going career.  These schools also followed a national curriculum with added modules biased towards naval matters, so the navy put it to the owners of the Nautical Schools that a further 'bias' on academic teaching would benefit both sides [owners and the navy] and that 'bias' manifested itself by fine tuning the national curriculum to the standards required for an AC boy at either Ganges or St Vincent.  Boys from the Nautical Schools joined the navy in exactly the same way as did boys from ordinary schools except that boys from Nautical Schools could be 4 foot 10 inches tall whereas all others had to be 4 foot 11 inches. However, as soon as they joined they undertook an examination which included school work, squad drill, seamanship and swimming, and if they passed with 60% or more they became first class boys on entry. For each boy so passing with the exception of the Royal Hospital School Holbrook, the navy would give his Nautical School the sum of 20,  and if more than 40% of the boys from that school  passed the navy exam, the School would receive 30 for each boy.  In addition, further gratuities were paid to the Nautical Schools as follows:- for each boy who entered but didn't pass the AC exam who had been in the Nautical School for at least eight months prior to joining would be paid 5, and for those who had been in the School for eighteen months 10, but this was only for the twentieth boy and upwards recruited from any one of the Schools  in the financial year. Again the RHS Holbrook did not receive this gratuity but the 20/30 and the 5/10 gratuities were paid to T.S. Arethusa, T.S. Mercury, T.S. Indefatigable, T.S. Parkstone and the National Sea Training School.  The more boys the better both for the navy and the Nautical Schools. The boys themselves did not go unrewarded for passing the AC entrance examination. Prizes were awarded annually to the best boys who passed the AC exam as follows :- Royal Hospital School Holbrook three prizes of 3, 2 and 1 - all other Nautical Schools two prizes of 3 and 1, where the 3 prize could be a book or an object of lasting value chosen by the winner, and the 2 and 1 prizes were to be in the form of naval books of interest. Before leaving the subject of prizes which to date have been solely for boys recruited from Nautical Schools, there were several other prizes awarded during boys training to all comers. For classes who collectively achieved high marks in either school or technical studies a prize of 1 shilling [5p] was given to each boy in a GC class and 1 shilling and 6 pence [7p] to each boy in an AC class, a V/S class, a W/T class and a Seamanship/Gunnery class.  For Religious Studies/Knowledge, a prize of up to 7 shillings and 6 pence [37p] could be awarded to one boy in each class who attains the highest mark in this subject: religious education was given each fortnight and self study gratuitous issue books were made available.  In the case of an Anglican it was the Common Prayer Book and the Holy Bible; for the Non Conformist faiths the Methodist Book of Service or the Holy Bible/Hymnary, and for the Catholics, the New Testament [Vulgate Edition] and BR413, a Guide to Heaven. Finally, there was The Royal Society of St George's Prize awarded each term in Ganges and St Vincent to the boy considered by the Commanding Officers to have made the most progress in that term.  The prizes were books of naval interest.  Other prizes for sport are not included here.

The system of "classing-up" was that Seamen GC classes were from 1 to 99; Seamen AC classes 101 to 199 and Communicators 201 to 399 where signalmen took ODD numbers [361 for example] and telegraphists took even numbers [352 for example]. All Divisions had a mixture of AC and GC/seamen and communicators, but class designations for communicators were not always as straight forward as were seamen designations.  In 1953, some communication classes had an alphabetic suffix and examples were known as 260A, 260B, 260C/ 270A, 270B, 270C/ 280A, 280B, 280C.  To further confuse the situation AC classes were 260A, 260B, 270A and 280A, whilst GC classes were 260C, 270B, 270C, 280B and 280C.  Later on, the general rule {though not always followed} was that a communication class beginning with the figure 2 were GC and those beginning with a figure 3 were AC.  Class numbers were reused of course, so many of you might have been in the same class designation though separated by many years.  Seamen would train for 5a + 36b + 0c + 3d + 9e = 53 weeks [1 year] and Communicators for 5a + 36b + 15c + 1d + 12e = 69 weeks [1 year 4 months] where in both cases a = new entry training/b = main course a mixture of school and technical training/c =  extensive technical continuation training/d = work ship/e = leave.  Incidentally, all that much loved parade and rifle drill the vast majority of those ex boys still living today {2010} endured, was conducted using BR 1834 [1949] then called "RN Handbook of Parade and Rifle Drill".  In 1972 the title of BR 1834 {1972} was changed to "RN Handbook of Ceremonial and Drill" and the 1949 version was superseded.

The passing-out grade from either Ganges or St Vincent was graded under Article 0315 of the "Boys' Training Instructions 1952" as amended by Admiralty Fleet Orders [AFO's].  The number of subjects [on a boy telegraphist Wireless History Sheet - Boys' Examinations] is 10 and each carries 100 marks, a total of 1000 marks. Radio Theory and School 'required' marks are not shown on my record but I am reliably told that they were 60.  If you add together the ten subject marks you need to achieve to get a basic pass mark,  they total 765 marks: below that total mark is either a failure or a partial failure. Marks of 765 to 840 was a THIRD CLASS pass and gained no accelerated advancement. Marks of 841 to 915 was a SECOND CLASS pass and gained ONE MONTH accelerated advancement. Marks of 916 to 1000 marks was a FIRST CLASS pass and gained TWO MONTHS accelerated advancement.

The History Sheet was accompanied by Navy Form S.536d [also known as Ganges Form T.S.34.] as shown below, which was a multi-paged document. Page 1 [and I am showing the Document/Page 1 heading only] was used for all ratings from Ganges until being rated Ordinary Seaman/Tel/Sig.  Thereafter, the document had no meaning for the communicator. Subsequent pages covered from Ordinary to Able rate for seamen and then those pages too became file documents only. They showed marks achieved in introductory subjects and gave seaman the opportunity to select what branch they wanted to serve in.  Endorsement of AA3, TD3, RP3 were shown meaning gunnery, torpedo and radar respectively.