A GANGES SNIPPET - ONE OF MANY!

In fact so many, that they alone would fill an average sized website. I have approximately 326 of these types of stories, and because of my age now in 2013 [75] few will ever be told, the majority being ditched at my death.

In the early 1950's, 1953 to be precise, and before the end of rationing and several other loathsome restrictions caused by WW2 [or by social expectations, rules and regulations of society at the very beginning of the H.M. Queen Elizabeth II's reign] Sunday was truly a holy day, observed as a "day of rest" by both camps, the clerical and the secular throughout the length and breath of the United Kingdom. Back then, and for the secular, the group to which all boy's under training at HMS Ganges belonged, it was a boring, morbid and sometimes a lonely day, even though the first half of the day, from rising from ones bed until after lunch [dinner in lower deck naval speech] was as hectic as any training day involving musters, class/divisional inspections, "clear-up decks", full ceremonial parades/captain's inspection/march pasts with the captain or visiting VIP's taking the salute all with Royal Marine Bands at their best, followed by compulsory church parades* inter alia.

*Church parades addressed just one faith only and that was Christianity. in that faith, there were only three denominations recognised [accepted by the Admiralty] and they were Anglican [CofE - Church of England and/or CofW - Church of Wales], Non-Conformists [CofS - Church of Scotland  {Methodists <me>, Congregationalists, Baptists} and Roman Catholics.  Although there were exceptions, the vast majority of the navy, being either CofE/W or CofS were provided for in established churches [or naval buildings consecrated for the purpose of....] but not for the Catholics who were ordered off the parade ground by the Parade Commander, to double to [to run to] a geographical point, usually at the back or side of a recognised near-by building, where they held their prayers led by the senior catholic present.  When the officiating padre [either a CofE or a CofS] had completed "official" prayers, the Catholics were ordered back onto the parade ground, ready to complete the military/naval side of the muster.

Shortly after the culmination of Sunday morning activities which never varied except for adverse weather [when ceremonies shifted from the one huge outdoor parade ground to various indoor  smaller areas which were also used for church services, boys had two options for the way they would spend Sunday afternoon.  Firstly, they could 'clean into' {change into] recreational/sports kit and do what was on offer for every other afternoon of the week, namely, to take part in a sporting activity or to climb the mast. Or, providing the uniform was suitable and promulgated, they could stay in their messes to read, talk, write letters etc, an option which wasn't available on any afternoon except for Sundays, the so-called 'day of rest' - Note: The medium of Television had not yet reached HMS Ganges nor had commercial radio. Secondly, IF it was their turn for shore leave which was rationed AND they had enough pocket money left from last pay day [or they borrowed money], they could stay in their best uniforms [the uniform worn on Captains Ceremonial Divisions that morning] to be buses or boated to one of three local civilian areas, where, for a few hours they could wander around as though they were civilians , enjoying such things as 'chatting up the local girls', all the time of course sticking out like sore thumbs in their new and mass-produced sailor uniforms:  made to measure suits were procured on behalf of the boys from contract civilian tailors [Bernards, Flemings and the like] just a few weeks before leaving HMS Ganges to join their first ship at sea. These local visit ports were Ipswich [by bus], Dovercourt, a small seaside town in Essex just behind Harwich, and Felixstowe in Suffolk, both by boat [a steam pinnace] doing a round trip of the massive Harwich Harbour from the Shotley Admiralty Pier. The boy's were always back in their messes before night fall which meant that the leave was generally restricted to the period covered by British Summer Time [BST] when our clocks were one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time [GMT]. Likewise, in adverse sea conditions, resulting in a heavy swell within the Harbour confines, boat routines to Fexlistowe and to Dovercourt were cancelled.

I have deviated somewhat from the story, which is about observing the Lord's Day, but I think the scene at HMS Ganges on a Sunday is now well set!

HMS Ganges was made up of six constituent parts or areas. The Captains House at Erwarton Hall some distance from Shotley Gate ; the Annexe ; the Main Establishment ; the Admiralty Pier and Boating Jetty ; Ratings MQ's [north of the Annexe playfields separated by Great Harlings Road, left hand side of the main road B1456 heading for Ipswich] and Officers MQ's, north of Main Establishment playfields separated by Marsh Lane [now Gate Farm Road], right hand side of main road B1456 heading for Ipswich].

In each of the areas above except for the Admiralty Jetty, dhobying [the washing of clothes] took place routinely, chief of which was the operation of the main Laundry [on Laundry Hill] followed by the dhobying facility in each of the messes throughout the two Establishments, Annexe and Main.  Each would have had an outside drying facility, and some, the majority, would have had steam pipes feeding drying rooms and airing rooms.  It is probable that the Captains House used such facilities far less than all others followed by the officers MQ's whose number were few when compared with other groups borne for teaching and instructor duties, with the RNSQ [Royal Naval Sick Quarters] laundry having the need for the most intense wash for hygiene and sterilisation purposes.

My snippet revolves around one of these areas, namely the officers MQ's, often styled "MQ Patch".

It was the custom, if not habit, for the vast majority of married women in the UK to do their washing and ironing in synchrony, the washing being done on a Monday and the ironing on a Monday/Tuesday depending upon the weather. I can remember my mother, grandmother and aunts doing that and woe betide any who got in the way to disrupt that procedure.

Now it came about that a quite elderly lieutenant instructor officer was appointment to HMS Ganges [the vast majority of Schoolies were young lieutenants, with the odd smattering of sub lieutenants and four lieutenant commanders acting as min-HOD'S {mini heads of department}, with one commander and one captain]. This instructor officer was accompanied by his wife and his two children. For obvious reasons I cannot name him except to say, that his hearing was excellent meaning he never missed a thing - after all, he did have three sets of listening devices; one each side of his head plus one other about his persona?  I am convinced that  the expression 'nozzer' meaning 'No Sir' was designed for his classes/students none of whom ever saying other than "No Sir" to his questions.  He became well known for asking a question, waiting over-long for the answer which he knew would never come, and then addressing the poor boy full on, by saying, "well so and so, you have said nothing wrong yet - have you, to which the inevitable answer was No Sir ?  I can also tell you that the closing letter covering this snippet came from Wales and we might be able to assume that the family came from that fair land.

Anyway, her name was Daphne, and evidently poor Daphne did not fit in on the 'patch' which led her to not fitting in in the 'mess' [wardroom].  She became known as "Daffers".  There is clearly a 'slight' intended here, possibly referring to her "daft" and odd ways, but it could also have a bearing on her being Welch and a teasing reference to daffodil. We will never know why the nick name was coined, but the surviving bits and pieces of the snippet clearly show that Daphne was not at all pleased and that it was used as a 'put down', a derogatory comment or at best, a crude and hurtful tease.

Daphne, from almost day one at Shotley, had washing on her outside drying line; sometimes lots of it as expected for a weekly wash, but always, suggesting that she did her washing piecemeal style.  This could be seen by her neighbour's and this started to annoy them. Apparently having two children and a husbands daily white crisp and clean shift to provide for did not cut any ice with the other officers wives, for they too were providing the same or similar service for their own family, and anyway, if the norm, which virtually everybody adhered to was a 'weekly' wash, why was she 'bucking the trend'.  They managed it, so why couldn't 'Daffers' especially when the group on the patch were not 'women' but 'ladies' and expected to behave as such even down to garden washing lines?

As time went by and her husband was very conscious about what was happening and being said on the patch, inevitably, it got a mention in the mess. The Wardroom Mess President was the Commander, the XO and second in command HMS Ganges and he was debriefed about the situation, he, because of the Sunday washing line bit, suggested a visit from the senior Padre, the CofE Chaplain. Additionally, the officers HOD [Head of Department] became involved and he was an Instructor Commander second in command of the complement of the School Building.

The Padre, and the Barrack Master who at that time was also the MQO [Married Quarters Officer], had but very little influence on Daffers, who by this time had ostracised herself  and her husband from all voluntary attendances at Wardroom Events, leaving her husband to attend formal events, and in so doing, creating a very difficult situation for all involved, which was virtually unheard of before.  The Instructor Lieutenant had many Establishment commitments over and above being a school teacher and he had to toe-the-line.

Eventually, Daffers also decided to follow the norms of the patch washing line usage, particularly avoiding its use of a Sunday, but by this time the situation could not be fully resolved with Daffers sticking to her guns on not attending wardroom functions.  The time came when the accompanied appointment would have to cease, leaving the officer to fulfill the time-limits of the appointment and of course all the jobs/tasks/commitments expected of a naval officer. For her, it would mean a journey back to the family home with the children.

It was said that this could have been a possibility over time and that during this time, Daffers may have moderated her view and attitude to such an extent that she too would have stayed on.  However, the story eventually became common knowledge on the lower deck affecting the ratings MQ Patch and the junior rates of the ships company either not married or married but not accompanied. They went a little further and added to the title of Daffers, Lady, giving to her a Damehood dubbed DBE [normally Dame of the British Empire but on this occasion, Dobhy Bucket Extraordinaire] which in turn, hastened the premature departure of dear old Daphne. At the same time as Daphne was leaving because of her 'funny attitude' towards dhobying [early/mid 1954], another weirdo came on the scene but this time centre-stage for new entry boys.  He was a guy called Nobby Clarke, appointed as full time civilian dhoby instructor in the Annexe, a former corporal in the Royal Marines, or so it was said, but his liltte, fat, squat and ungainly appearance led many to doubt that. Many believed him to be a pervert for after he had given his infamous command of "socks and soap on the legde [that's window ledge] he was to "enjoy??" uncontrolled access by sight if not by touch, of countless thousands of 15 year old boys in the nude bending and stretching to fulfill his commands of making dirty articles of kit, clean articles of kit. It goes without saying that he was the most revolting person [they were no women anywhere in the Annex and very few in the Main Training Establishment] in HMS Ganges and it is probably a good thing that he was around before computers, otherwise his HDD would have been full to the gunnels with pictures of nude 15 year old boys, perhaps one of them me! On the other hand, Daphne was just a housewife who liked to be clean, and apart from a little stubbornness, that was her only crime. Coming from Wales [?] a predominately industrial country, it was probably the norm to wash every day.  Wherever you are Daphne, I believed that you were a thoroughly decent woman bullied by the officer-classes and  just tipped over the edge by lower deck fun.

END OF SNIPPET.