Many years ago, well over 50 in fact, I served in a large ship and the Chief Petty Officer Telegraphist, one Wiggy Bennett, was a Chatham man, a "Chatty Chatty Chatham Communicator".  He often made it known that the NORE Command [based on Chatham] was the best in the navy, and whether true or not, anybody with the letter 'C' in his official number got the plumb jobs. The remainder, me included, got the 'other' jobs.  He used to say that Chatham was the Cream of the Navy.  Being a Guzz man myself and having onboard my own Guzz sea-dad [one Stanley Snape from Nelson Lancashire] we survived, and I would dearly like to meet old Wiggy again to impart the following criticism of his biased claims.

CREAM, I would remind him, is indeed RICH [he used to tell us that Chatties were rich in culture], but it is also THICK and full of CLOTS ......oh, and soon GOES OFF !

Chatham has long been gone from the naval portfolio which is regrettable, for there will be many in the navy today, and younger people per se, who know nothing [or very little] about where and what is was vis vis Portsmouth and Devonport and the facilities it offered.  So, here is a little cameo in memory of this fine port and city which served the crown for hundreds of years and of course built the famous HMS Victory.

From the North Sea [Thames Estuary] to the Naval Dockyard at Chatham, Kent - actually most of the Dockyard was in Gillingham - ships had to pass through various named REACHES [from the Oxford English Dictionary = That portion of a river, channel, or lake which lies between two bends; as much as can be seen in one view. Also the portion of a canal between two locks, having a uniform level].  Each of these names were followed by the word Reach. 

Saltpan , Kethole , Long , Pinup , Gillingham , Short , Upnor  and Chatham.

The following animated picture shows the typical route {though simplified because a few of the islands are missing} taken by a warship entering the River Medway bound for the Royal Dockyard.

The picture below shows the River Medway, sweeping around the top of St Mary's Island on its way inland to places like Rochester etc. In the picture, if you do click on the Click sign, you will be taken to the Historic Dockyard website.  Please remember to come back here and finish off this page after reading their website. Thank you.

To go to the beginning of this animation, simply click on your browser REFRESH button and then wait a little while.

Being a Communicator, I naturally have a vested interest in Signal Schools or Signal Training Centres [STC's].  On my website, I have mentioned the STC's at Malta, Singapore, Devonport and of course the Signal Schools in Portsmouth [pre, during and post WW2] but not yet Chatham Schools/Centres.  Those of you who do remember HMS Pembroke, the Chatham Depot, until its last days in commission, will remember that therein was the Nore Command STC and that gets a mention in the 'Communicator' a three times per year magazine which used to be issued from HMS Mercury.  However, all Schools prior to WW2 were very differently organised, and it was the war which brought about a piecemeal approach to geographical locations and who would be trained in each. Portsmouth had the principal School and this was called H.M. Signal School. Until 1941 it was located in the Depot Barracks HMS Victory, but because of bombing [or the fear of bombing] it was moved to the quiet countryside of Hampshire, to Leydene [East Meon] where, still as H.M. Signal School it became HMS Mercury.  Chatham also had a Signal School {as did Devonport}  which was called the R.N. Signal School [subservient to the H.M. Signal School] and it too was situated in the Depot Barracks HMS Pembroke.  For exactly that reason of the fear of bombing, like Portsmouth's School, it was taken out to the countryside for safety. In this case though, they had to build the School from scratch in a large expanse of primeval forest next door to another Establishment, this time a Borstal for young offenders. The area was called Cookham Woods and the Chatham R.N. Signal School {R.N.S.S.} became known as Cookham Camp. It trained all comers including Wrens, CS Men [Continuous Service], SS Men [Short Service], NS Men [National Service] and HO Men [Hostilities Only]. On the 7th June 1950 R.N.S.S. Chatham [Cookham Camp] was transferred lock stock and barrel to Prince Arthur, {nearer to the naval base} and a sad near tearful goodbye was said to "a beautiful little camp" which not long afterwards was once again returned to the primeval forest and overrun with rabbits. This picture shows you exactly where the camp was situated.

The following picture shows you where Prince Arthur was, which following on from Cookham Camp, was dubbed Prince Arthur Camp.  It was but a march away from the main Chatham Barracks where all the Schools pupils were accommodated. It retained its name of Chatham R.N.S.S. but in 1955 the Camp closed, reverted to being an STC [Signal Training Centre], and moved into a dedicated block within the Barracks, much reduced in size.  An STC had limited training courses to offer and senior leading hands could qualify only provisionally for the petty officer rate but not professionally.  To do the latter, they had to attend a course at The Signal School [HMS Mercury].

If you have learnt something by reading this page, then I am very pleased that I bothered.  If my page has brought back memories [happy ones I hope] to those of you who remember well the times when Chatham punched its weight with the other two thirds of the navy [Portsmouth and Devonport], then I am delighted that I bothered.  Goodbye and good wishes.

Oh, by the way, if you want to see pages about the other two thirds of the navy look at these:-
where has it all gone?

1958 naval cuts
A stunning picture of Portsmouth Dockyard - pity about the ships !