HMS GANGES - a desperately sad and moving story !

of virtually 50 long years ago !

[Written and published on the 13th October 2010, the day I joined Ganges in 1953}

See also this file which has further detail HARWICH HARBOUR

Hello and Greetings.

Before I start my page I want to acknowledge three people who have greatly assisted me in the bringing of this page to the WWW.  They are Suffolk people all of whom, having lived in the distant shadow [as it were] of HMS Ganges all their lives, know of its geographical environs far better than any one of us Ganges boy's/juniors will ever do. They come from the other side of the harbour we knew, from Felixstowe, where many of us spent some of our Sunday afternoon leisure time.  They are Mrs Sue Biddle and her husband Robin and Mr Robert J Studd. Sue's mother was friendly with Richard Anthony Studd's mother and Robert was Richard's third cousin once removed, so a distant part of the family. A big thank you to all three of you for your help, knowledge and cooperation.

1961 was to have been HMS GANGES' finest hour! It turned out for one man (and many others) a year which created two records, both unique, one a joyous and proud moment whilst the other a distressing and profoundly sad moment. That man was the Captain of HMS Ganges, Captain John Ronald GOWER DSC Royal Navy, uncle of the famous English cricketer David Gower. He Commanded the juniors training establishment from 1960 until 1962. He lived until he was aged 95 and died at his home in Suffolk in 2007, just thirty nine mile north of HMS Ganges as the crow flies. This picture [on the left] was taken of him at HMS Ganges in July 1961, and the one on the right was taken in 2002 when he was 90. The bottom right picture was kindly supplied by Michael Gower and I am most grateful to him. Michael is one of Captain Gower's four children who was just 9 years of age when the picture was taken at HMS Ganges.

Those of you reading this page who were at Ganges in 1961 may recall this incident and therefore find the story of some interest.

Both of these unique records will be mentioned shortly, but before I do that, it has to be said that the navy remembers well (and understandably) the auspicious occasion, but the inauspicious occasion was quietly laid to rest and forgotten as an event which marred the start of 1961.  However, it was not forgotten by the people of Felixstowe, and my intention now is to bring the story back to prominence, and to be a part of my HMS Ganges stories posted to this site.

It is understood that the programme of the Sovereign is in outline-planning up to two years ahead of a visit, and in detailed-planning for one year ahead. Thus, it can be assumed that the knowledge of a visit to HMS Ganges by Her Majesty The Queen was known, at least by the Admiralty and the Commander-in-Chief of the Nore Command, possibly in 1959, and certainly by the Captain of HMS Ganges in the early summer of 1960. HMS Ganges had had many royal visitors over the years but this was the first time a Sovereign had paid a visit and there was great excitement - see THOSE WHO HAVE PASSED THROUGH THE GATES OF HMS GANGES.htm.  The Queen's visit was to the County Town of Ipswich and her time in HMS Ganges was an integral part of her itinerary. Her Majesty made that visit on the 21st July 1961 and the event was praised as a great success, pleasing the Royal Party as much as their hosts, and Captain Gower would have been an extremely proud man on that day, proud of his Command and all in Ganges who worked so hard to make it the success it was. HMS Ganges was Captain Gower's last appointment in the Royal Navy and he would take fond memories with him into retirement. He served in the Royal Navy for 36 years.

It was perhaps fitting that such an officer as Captain Gower played the leading role in hosting Her Majesty, and he would have been grateful that the Summer Term 1961 (02.05.61 to 15.08.61) ended on such a high for him and the establishment. The Royal visit was well documented and is recorded for posterity in documents and the hearts and minds of all who were fortunate enough to witness this unique and wonderful occasion. It is therefore unnecessary for me to cover old ground except for showing you a video of the Royal Visit which you may not have seen. The video is the property and copyright of East Anglia Film Archive and covers the whole tour of the Queen in Suffolk on that day. I have edited out all but the Ganges visit. Regrettably, civilians, and in the case, journalists, will call both piers at Shotley Gate "Shotley Pier" as they have done here. but there are two, a civilian pier called "Shotley Pier" and a naval pier [or jetty] belonging to HMS Ganges called"The Admiralty Pier or Jetty".  In this case they are talking about the naval pier/jetty!

The Queen at  HMS Ganges 1961  Copyright EAFA edited from the original by

Regrettably, Captain Gower did not experience such peace of mind, pride and tranquillity at the end of the Spring Term 1961 (03.01.61 to 11.04.61) and he found himself in the hapless position of overseeing another record, this one with dreadful consequences which would involve him in sharing grief with a local Suffolk family and community !

Some parts of the following story have clear journalistic errors in the printed matter.  Moreover, there are statements which differ from claimed official naval sources (Naval History Webpage for example), but yet the information given to the Office of the Coroner must have come direct from the Captain's Office in HMS Ganges or from the Master-at-Arms' Office.  The main issue in question is whether Richard Anthony Studd was a Junior Seaman as widely reported in the press (relating the procedures in the Coroner's Court) or a Junior Mechanic (E) Second Class Official Number 056410 ? The other press issues are pedantic and do not influence the story in any way.

And so to the story and main purpose of this page.

Imagine (if it is at all possible) that you have put yourself into a position where every wakening moment of your day is demanding, peer-competitive, and unforgiving if you fail or fall at any hurdle. The regime is oppressive though never cruel; personality-driven and as such fully dependent upon the men [Chief and Petty Officer's] tasked to run the regime (some good, some not so); open to personal ridicule, torment, humiliation and all these things marshaled by a strict discipline which by any civilian standard, was a harsh discipline.

This was the lot of a boy aged fifteen who had decided that the navy was for him without first finding out what the navy wanted from him if he was given a training place - prior to 1956, a fifteen year old was called a 'naval boy' and during 1956 his title was changed to 'naval junior'. In reality, despite the recruitment literature, the interviews with the questions and answers at the recruiting office/school visit etc, it was not possible (nay, impossible) to impart to a boy what would be required of him, save for the statutory requirements of being able to pass an entrance academic test, to be medically fit, to be of good character and to have the blessing of their next-of-kin. The proverbial knowledge of (or perceived knowledge of) naval/military discipline would have been mentioned to a would-be recruit by the adult members of his family, but that could not be qualified or quantified unless the adult was actively employed on such a training task relevant to boys/juniors.

Like untold thousands of other naive boy's (from 1905, including me), this became the lot of Richard Anthony STUDD who joined HMS Ganges as a junior in June 1960 to be trained as a Seaman, where he was given his Official Number of 056410.  Also like most of the other boy's, he came from a loving family and full well knew the responsibilities of being a member of a close-knit group: this concept would auger well for his time in HMS Ganges when much of his time would be spent bonding with small groups of boy's in his class and in his division. What was different about the recruitment of Richard was that his home was, as the crow flies, less than five miles from the Main Gates of HMS Ganges and that was rare, very rare.  Most of the Suffolk/East Anglian boy's in the near-Ganges proximity, gave Ganges a wide berth, and clearly Richard's home environment had obviously circumvented any thoughts or apprehensions about the environs of Shotley Gate (HMS Ganges). His home town was Felixstowe, in the Walton area, at No 1 Queen Street - see map

which he shared with his parents Henry and Lillian and for most of the time his siblings John H Studd 1938, Roy Peel Studd 1940, Janet E Studd 1941, Raymond Paul Studd 1947-2000.  Richard was born in 1945. Lillian was also   to lose her youngest son Raymond before her own death.   The family, manifest in the parents activities, were well known, well liked and gregarious.  Lillian ran a fish and chip shop at the premises (and was recorded as a 'fishmonger') and Henry was a local builder.  Opposite Queen Street (a cul-de-sac) on the other side of the road was the local, The Feathers Inn, and the family spent many happy hours with their friends and neighbours there.

According to the local press coverage of the second Coroner's Inquest, Richard's father, who had been called as a witness, said that Richard seemed to like it there (Ganges).  We will never know whether he did (like it there) or not, but suffice to say that boys too have their pride and would not willingly volunteer their inner most feelings especially if they were melancholy and it was self attributable.

By mid February 1961, Richard had been at Ganges for nine months with no reports, explicit or implicit, of any undue stresses or worries either mooted by himself or from the Establishment. Outwardly, he appeared to be 'getting on with things' and keeping abreast of his arduous training. That 'getting on with things' is important and the vast majority of boys/juniors did just that.  Getting out of HMS Ganges at the first scheduled opportunity polarised one's mind and attitude, and by keeping one's head down whilst working hard to pass all tests, progress points and final examinations was the surest way to avoid being back-classed which elongated the horrible Ganges experience time factor.

At the nine months point of his one year in basic training (known as Part 1 training), his spirit and expectation of better times to come just around the corner as it were, would have been positive or at least less pessimistic, for as it transpired, Richard was not really happy at HMS Ganges rather like I and many others like us, were not happy. However, far from our minds and thoughts (as the statistics prove) were the alternatives to completing the basic training and really, there were few on offer. Running away from Ganges was an option, but it was folly for all who tried it were eventually caught and returned to the Establishment by the civilian police or the naval/military police. Many were caught within a couple of days of illegally leaving (or breaking ship) and few remained at large for a week.  Still on-the-run at the two week point was almost unheard of, and beyond that, never. Once back in HMS Ganges, one ran the risk of corporal punishment and a back-classing was an almost certainty, resulting in extra time at Ganges, the very reverse of what one most desired. Running away was not an option because apart from the foregoing and subsequent punishment(s), where would one run to - in my case, certainly not to my home way up north in the lovely and peaceful Yorkshire Dales - although........what if one's home was less than five miles away? 1954 was the worst year ever for 'run aways' from HMS Ganges and although not relevant to this story, this page shows the story of that period - THE DARKER SIDE OF HMS GANGES.htm

At the nine month point of basic training, the pre-finals and final examinations of non-branch subjects would have started.  These were subjects like academic school examinations, seamanship/gunnery examinations for non-seamen branches, physical training gymnasium examination and a couple of others. It would appear that Richard was due in the gymnasium for routine training or perhaps a pre-final/final examination in PT.  On muster, he was found to be absent and a search was made for his whereabouts. He was found, wearing his PT kit (white shorts, black socks/stokings, white jersey) but claimed that his white gym shoes (plimsolls) were missing. These were found but were in a dirty state. He was warned that he would be punished for his absence and for having dirty kit, but we don't know what happened after that initial contact other than he continued to wear his PT kit and one assumes, dirty plimsolls.

Why he would voluntarily miss his PT training session is conjecture, especially when he had bothered to dress for the occasion negative footwear. It could be that a boy had made the shoes dirty on purpose and possibly have hidden them,   designed to get Richard into trouble or it could be that Richard did not like formal PT training and was ridiculed by peers and PT Staff for not being agile and supple [the predicament of many boys], but this,  after nine months is unlikely. That he was warned for his prevarication - which would be dealt with by disciplinary action - would suggest that this was a first offence, and that the punishment (with mitigation) may have been extra work thereby eroding his leisure time, with a few extra musters at odd times to inconvenience him and his movements further.  What he did was hardly a crime although it did warrant some kind of a punishment for clearly (but maybe with mitigation) he had erred from the set rules concerning instructional periods and had thereby been classed as 'absent from place of duty'.  The course Richard took was to prove horrendous and unintentional, but the fear of being punished was too much to bear and like all immature youngsters, yes a boy and thus a child emotionally, he attempted to reach a person, an environment, which was friendly, loving and non confrontational or judgemental,  even though all involved knew Richard's action was a foolhardy and wrong action to take.

Nothing is known about Richard's next action other than that he stayed dressed in PT kit, kit well suited to energetic endeavour, but not to an outdoor hostile winter environment, which after some physical exertion, resulted in what could only be termed a sedentary and static posture brought on by sheer exhaustion.  The weather in February and March 1961 was mild with relatively pleasant temperatures - see here Monthly Weather Report 1960s - Met Office and then click on required months.

Although it is not stated that a boat, any boat, was reported to be missing from anywhere on the Shotley peninsular, the Coroner's Inquest suggested that Richard might have left his mess (in Drake Division), and walked down to the Ganges foreshore areas or beyond, say as far afield as Pin Mill - approx 5 miles from Ganges on the most direct route -  (where there are boats aplenty), and there spent the night in a boat. At some point the next day, he rowed across the River Orwell to the Felixstowe side using pieces of floor boards as his oars/paddles. Neither the boat nor the floor boards were found.  Below is a picture of Pin Mill just up from the village of Shotley.

Where he made contact with the shore on the other bank of the Orwell is not known, but it is assumed that it was in the region of Nacton Beach (immediately opposite Pin Mill where his body was found).  However, the area is known to have strong tidal movements (ebb and flow) and the boat, floor boards and contents therein, would have been at the mercy of the North Sea and the movement of water out of the Orwell and the Stour. The sea port of Ipswich is empty of sea water when the tide is out stranding vessels with a demanding draught, pulling the sea back to the Felixstowe/Harwich area and back into the North Sea. The distance between Pill Mill and Nacton, two villages on opposing banks of the Orwell is 3.3 miles but Pill Mill sits on the "usable banks of the river" whilst Nacton is someway inland. At this point the distance, water to water between Pill Mill and Nacton Sands is 1 mile. It beggars belief that this boy could swim the distance of approx 1 mile from Pill Mill [to Nacton 'sands' or more specifically 'mud'], without taking account of the ebb tide. Had he foolishly attempted this feat, he stood being carried out to sea or to the Harwich harbour seaways and certain death.   On the other hand, had he been washed out to sea on the ebb tide, he could well have been washed back into the river Orwell on the flood tide, and repeatedly so given the number of days he was missing. In short, the sea would have treated him as a piece or drift wood or as the proverbial rag doll.

Whatever the assumption, Richard's partly decomposed body was found on Nacton Beach some thirty three days after he absconded from HMS Ganges, making his absence the longest ever recorded and the second unique event of 1961. Richard could never have been more than five miles from his mess in Ganges or from the front door of his home in Queen Street Felixstowe, and that in itself, makes this death that much more poignant.  It was assumed that Richard found the greatest of difficult in negotiating the soft mud on the banks of the Orwell at Nacton, and after the physical effort of rowing across a wide stretch of water, became exhausted and probably rested. He may have repeated his quest to make a firm footing, resting in between each attempt until he was finally overcome by fatigue.  I can imagine his cries for help and his thoughts of home and all that he loved made in the last hours of his wakening compos mentis moments, and the sheer gut-wrenching pain his parents and family would have experienced when told that their boy had perished, all alone, just a few miles from his home.  I am somewhat dismayed that this story is not in the Ganges-domain, even if only to highlight the record set by an absence of thirty three days, and to my certain knowledge, there is not a mention of this tragedy in the Ganges Museum, itself, almost in visual view of Queen Street Felixstowe. Clearly Richard's attire was entirely unsuitable and led to a dramatic drop in body temperature which according to Dr T.H. Shaw, a Consulting Pathologist to the Ipswich and East Suffolk Hospital, resulted in death from exposure.



I'll wager that one in a million people, perhaps even just all but a very few,  will know of the following fact. Richard died on Nacton Sands not far from Nacton Village. In that village, Admiral Vernon, one of our most famous of  all our admirals dropped down dead suddenly at the age of 72 in 1757 nearly 50 years before Trafalgar, and he is buried in the small churchyard in the village.  Some years ago, my wife and I paid our respects to the church. Vernon, today a forgotten hero of our land and nation, is most famous [regrettably] for introducing rum into the Royal Navy: he did much more than that!  By the time of poor Richard's demise, Vernon had rested in peace in his grave for approximately 205 years.



 Richard absconded on the 13th February 1961 and his body was found on the 17th March 1961.  The weather at that time of year had a direct bearing on the condition of the body, and indeed on the death and the transition period from life to death.  Normally, the East Coast is very cold in February and in the following reference you will see the temperatures from 1941 until 1973, taken from records which started in 1710. These are average monthly temperatures in Celsius, and of note are the months of February in the years 1947, 1956 and 1963 which were respectively -1.9, -0.2 and -0.7. If we simplified this data, and ignored the leap year of 1956 using only a 28 day period, we could say that each of the days in 1947 had a temperature of -0.07 (to two significant figures); in 1956 a daily of -0.01, and in 1963 a daily of -0.06 - see 1941%20to%201973%20average%20temperatures.jpg.  However, staying with this reference, you will note that February 1961 (@ 6.9, was the warmest February on record in this period except for the year 1945 which was just a tad warmer. If we were to continue with the simplification of data for 1961, we would find that the temperatures were just above freezing at 0.25. Realistically, we need to take into account that winter daylight temperatures [10am-4pm] are higher than those outside this period and usually a good degree above freezing, making the night temperatures well below freezing.

The overall weather for the area and the period was, statistically, better than average!

We know that Richard did not drown and therefore that he was unlikely to have swum the wide river nor did he attempt to swim any part of the Harwich Harbour waterways, but, according to the Coroner, his death was "unascertainable", probably due to exposure.  An "OPEN VERDICT" was therefore recorded.  Richard was found and immediately identified because he was wearing his PT Kit which had his name sewn in red silk into his shorts, jersey, socks and possibly other garments he was wearing.  Later, the dentist at HMS Ganges confirmed that it was his recent work on the teeth of the deceased. This is Richard's death certificate.


The certificate was issued by the Coroner after three Inquests, the first being on the day after the corpse was found, Saturday 18th March 1961; the second after an adjournment, on Monday 27th March 1961 and the third [as shown in column 7 of the certificate] after a further adjournment, on Tuesday 28th March 1961. The certificate shows that he was aged 15 but he would have been only days short of his 16th birthday. The earliest a junior could join Ganges was 15. Robert J Studd, a Studd family genealogist, tells us that Richard was born in 1945.  If he joined at the earliest opportunity, his birth date would have been around March 1945, giving him a joining date at the beginning of June 1960. This accords with his father's statement given at the Coroner's second Inquest that Richard had joined nine months before he absconded in February 1961. Column 5 shows him as being a Junior Seaman Second Class and yet the Naval History website shows him to be a Junior Mechanic [E] {meaning electrical}. In addition to this, those attending his funeral from HMS Ganges included the Captain, his Divisional Officer from Drake Division and the "Engineer Officer Technical Training from the Technical Training Centre". In view of these attendees, it rather looks as though Richard was a Junior Mechanic [E] and not as stated on the death certificate and as given in evidence at the Coroner's Court, a Junior Seaman.  This error can only have come from the Captain's Secretary in HMS Ganges.

Richard was buried in the Felixstowe town cemetery after a hurriedly arranged funeral [within seventy two hours of the body being found and identified] on the 20th March 1961. Now, close by, at not too great a distance, lay his parents Henry Peel STUDD 1910-1989 and Lillian Maud STUDD [nee Tibbenham] 1918-2002. His younger brother Raymond, died in 2000 aged 53.

Thirty three days is a long time especially if one is waiting for news.  We cannot of course look back into the minds and daily occurrences of the Studd family during this period, but we can have a quick look at what went on in the 'outside' world as it were, looking at the international and national news stories and also to what was happening inside HMS Ganges during their wait for news of the whereabouts of Junior Studd. Two references to look at.

{a} HMS_GANGES_TRAINING_PROGRAMME_13.02.61_TO_17.03.61_r.htm {b} FEB 13 TO MAR 17 1961.htm

The event, post body find, was well covered by the Felixstowe Times press.  They told the stories of Richards funeral, his inquests and carried stories like this one FIRST_CORONERS_INQUEST_r Since the attending pathologist had not found the cause, the time and the conditions surrounding the death, the outcome of the Coroners Inquest's took the same line and as such, were without substance and detail. The case and Coroners Court were dissolved and the verdict an Open Verdict.  The general wisdom of the Lords Chief Justice is that open verdicts should be avoided at all costs.  An open verdict [which finds the death suspicious but cannot cite the cause or circumstances] is thus only to be used in the last resort if there is insufficient evidence to enable the coroner or the jury to reach any other conclusions. The fact of there possibly being uncertainty as to other parts of the inquisition, for example as to the precise cause, time or place of death, does not authorise recording an open verdict if there is sufficient evidence to record how the deceased came by his death. In other words, the coroner or jury should not fail to reach a positive conclusion merely because there is some doubt on some minor point. Technically, the open verdict is what it says - the case never closes, on the off chance that some evidence, however small and remote, may come forward which can lead to a result permitted in law, and therefore a closure.

I have cross referenced this sad story with others I have already written about which concern HMS Ganges.  If you have time read these, they are:-



Finally, I reiterate my introduction, conveying a sincere thank you to Sue and Robin BIDDLE and to Robert J STUDD for their generosity of spirit, their local knowledge and their cooperation in helping me with this project. A huge and grateful thank you.

I'll wager that one in a million people, perhaps even just all but a very few,  will know of the following fact. Richard died on Nacton Sands not far from Nacton Village. In that village, Admiral Vernon, one of our most famous of  all our admirals dropped down dead suddenly at the age of 72 in 1757 nearly 50 years before Trafalgar, and he is buried in the small churchyard in the village.  Some years ago, my wife and I paid our respects to the church. Vernon, today a forgotten hero of our land and nation, is most famous [regrettably] for introducing rum into the Royal Navy: he did much more than that!  By the time of poor Richard's demise, Vernon had rested in peace in his grave for approximately 205 years.