Can you see this image on the left  or the one below, under the printing in blue which begins [Please note.......]? If you can't there are two things to tell you.  First off that you are missing out by not seeing the countless hundreds of thousands of graphics published  across the internet for the enhancement of browsing, and second off, that you can easily download one {a Player} now, for free, from this site Adobe - Adobe Flash Player which will reveal all.

This graphic reminds me of HMS Ganges when I was there {1953}; whenever the mouse pointer is outside the hemisphere which represents HMS Ganges [synonymous with me not being there],  the sunny days appear, but as soon as I and the pointer are inside {the perimeter walls of Ganges} the dark days appear.  By left clicking the mouse when the pointer is inside the hemisphere a rainbow can been seen synonymous that not all the days were dark.  Whilst open to correction and perhaps criticism, most of us think that way and very few I'll wager, would want to relive those days again !

In a moment I am going to tell you a story which will be the main theme of this webpage.  IT HAS NEVER BEEN TOLD BEFORE AND I BELIEVE THAT YOU WILL BE VERY INTERESTED BY WHAT IS REVEALED.  However, I have so many stories which I will eventually publish on this site, and they all affect HMS Ganges in one way or another.  They are all OFFICIAL STORIES from the Admiralty, and they will sort out the myths, the wild boasts and misleading anecdotes which are proverbially know as either 'swinging the lamp' stories or more succinctly, plain old bullshit, and Ganges boys' are chief protagonists in this area!  To whet your appetite for the future, these are just some of the subject I will cover:-

a.  A study of New Entries to HMS Ganges dated 1973
b.  HMS Ganges organisation of meals - covering the galley in the Long Covered Way/messdeck dining, and the introduction of the CMG block /communal dining - dated 1952
c.  Punishment of Juniors [U]  at HMS Ganges dated 1970
d.  Restrictions on the caning of boys as a punishment dated 1929-1931
e.  1914 and HMS Ganges' Fleet Paymaster absconding with the Establishment funds
f.  Plans of Harwich defences and Shotley's RNSS/Naval Establishments dated 1900
g.  The excavation under the River Stour from Parkeston to Shotley to install a submarine cable in 1915
h.  The incorporation of HMS Ganges' dead into the civilian Shotley Church 1940-41
i.  The transfer of the entire training of W/T offices' to Shotley dated 1915 [note the change over began in 1913]
j.  Where the WW1 bombs fell on Shotley  in 1917,
k.  Plus literally many other papers which are of extreme interest to those who served in the navy in the 50's through to the 80's.

[Please note:  All of these papers have been purchased by me personally {this one alone cost £120-00 GBP} and it is not my intention that you should do other than read them in-situ.  Moreover, I have permission to use them to publish to my own personal website, but were you to attempt this, you would be in default of the Copyright Law until you yourself have negotiated a personal approval.  Please therefore, do only as I ask.  Thank you.  To make the story much easier to read, I have broken it down into manageable sections so that you can take a break and re-visit when you are in the mood].

To re-run this animation, simply click on your browser REFRESH button

As you are about to see, 1954 went down in HMS Ganges history as a year without precedent throughout the period 1906 to 1976, namely its entire history - in short, more boys ran away from HMS Ganges in 1954 than at any other time and transcended the numbers returned by HMS St Vincent by a huge margin.  I was in Ganges for the whole of that year training to be a Boy Telegraphist, a fifteen month 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 - soon after, I was whisked away to join HMS Tyne {Captain BENNETT RN} for the Suez War of 1956.  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], and anybody trained at Ganges in the years 53-55 as a boy telelgraphists will have the identical entry on their 'history sheet' to mine but of course with different marks possibly,  and that 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. It is strange to relate that I did my Boys training at Ganges and I passed for the Telegraphist Rate [my Able Rate] in the Signal Training Centre [STC] St Budeaux which had been the Boys' Training School HMS Impregnable and which at the time shared the barracks with the WRNS of the Plymouth Command whose Quarters it had become. In those days, under AFO 2712/51, Communication Boys were rated Ordinary Telegraphists when aged 17½ and Telegraphist [providing they had passed the appropriate examination] when aged 18¾.  In my case [and others of course] I became a Telegraphist at 18¾ {18 years 9 months} back-dated for five months accelerated advancement to when aged 18 years and 4 months. This picture, 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 have 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 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  B O Y 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 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, etc. The bottom line in the picture below is the first line of my first report from my first ship, HMS Tintagel Castle.



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. 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 only, 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".  I have that book which laid down many of the rules which governed the running of Ganges right up to an including the watershed in 1972 which changed the age of 15 to 16 for school leavers. 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.

*Later, in 1956 the rules were rewritten again, this time to rid the Rules of the word 'BOYS' to be replaced by the word 'JUNIORS'. Then, in 1961 came a major rewrite to reflect the changing times, heralding in a more liberal punishment system, the introduction of other branch boys into the Establishment, and the lessening of the standards that had been the norm since training was restarted in 1946. This set of Instructions lasted until 1966 when virtually all branches trained at Ganges.  In 1966 a larger [in terms of pages but not size of book] set of Instructions were issued followed by another major change [Change 1] effective from 1968.  This edition lasted until 1972 when the school leaving age was increased from age 15 to 16 when the final edition was published. This reflected that Ganges would be for Part I training only sending their juniors to Fleet Establishments [Schools] for Part II training much reducing the course time required at Shotley.

The files below SCAN 1,2 and 3 show the training manual extant in 1966 and SCAN 4 that in 1968 until the school leaving age was increased from age 15 to 16 in 1972, when, thereafter, Ganges was demoted to Part I training only, closing in 1976.

SCAN 1 - Start to end of Chapter 5 - Page 5-3.pdf --- SCAN 2 - Chapter 6 to Appendix 5 - Page App 5-12.pdf --- SCAN 3 - Appendix 6 to List of Effective Pages Change No1.pdf --- SCAN 4 - Change 1 [1968]  Pen and Ink corrections and page substitutes.pdf

In a 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 15¼.  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 headmaster, a School Certificate {known as a School 'Cert} 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, the navy looked to the many Nautical Schools who had recruited much younger boys 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 10½ 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 passed the navy exam the Schools 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 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. 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 [7½p] 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 [37½p] 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 book 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. Seamen would train for 5a + 36b + 0c + 3d + 9e = 53 weeks [1 year 1 week] and Communicators for 5 + 36 + 15 + 1 + 12 = 69 weeks [1 year 17 weeks] 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.

Ganges training for W/T Boys' was adjudged by the Fleet to be, at best inadequate and at worst darn right poor: quote from Admiralty letters.

For W/T Communicators [the technical module for V/S Communicators was shorter], the size of 'c' [extensive technical continuation training] was made so for the first recruitment of 1951and before that, under the 1937 [BR] 'Training Service Regulations' the length had been 12 weeks making the overall course 66 weeks [1 year 14 weeks].  The reason for this increase in training time is summed up in this article taken from Pages 67 Vol 4 No 2 of the Communicator Magazine of Summer 1950.


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 totalled 765 marks: below that total mark is either a failure or a partial failure. Anything below 800 marks down to 765 marks is a THIRD CLASS pass and gains no accelerated advancement. 900 to 801 marks is a SECOND CLASS pass and earns ONE MONTH accelerated advancement. 901 to 1000 marks is a FIRST CLASS pass and earns TWO MONTHS accelerated advancement. Note: Before the war and before moving to St George, the standards were W/T or V/S 'A Pass' = 70% pass mark or more : W/T or V/S 'B Pass' = between 70% and 55% : W/T or V/S 'C Pass' = between 55% and 40%.  Below 40% was a failure and a back class/retry. This had no real bearing within Ganges itself, but once into the Fleet proper, 'A Passes' got onto the advancement rosters first with 'C Passes' bringing up the rear often many months behind. In just about every detail Ganges in the mid 30's onwards was just the same as it was when I joined in 1953 - same number [and names] of divisions and whilst the Annexe was called thus, everything associated with it was called "The Preliminary Course", the C.O.,  "The Preliminary Officer". 'AC' and 'GC' boy's were trained to the same exacting standards.

Now let's get on with the DARKER SIDE OF SHOTLEY as the title of this page indicates.


There are [and always were] many stories spread by Ganges boys about the cruelty and brutality at HMS Ganges.  By and large they are myths {99% of them}, put together by idle, mischievous and troubled minds, or by boys who never came to understand the difference between naval discipline and abject abuse.  One such ex boy came to my notice in 2003 and what follows is a verbatim copy of an article I placed on the then HMS Ganges Association Notice Board, which was still extant  [nearly six years on] until it was deleted recently by the 2010 webmaster.  This is the quote:-

QUOTE Godfrey Dykes <>
Many months ago, Bill Ethel, a Ganges boy in 1965 and now domiciled in Australia, wrote an article and placed it on the noticeboard concerning the then Captain [1965], Captain Godfrey Place VC.
The following is a direct quote from his article........ "But in addition to his own penchant for ritualised floggings, Captain Place presided over a camp where every few months some poor youth attempted suicide and where sadistic brutality was used to break the spirit of those that rebelled. As well, paedophilia was an acknowledged and accepted eccentricity of some of the instructors".
At that time, I challenged Ethel, to "come clean" with the details of his claim which I found unacceptable. He sent me and my little group a further email endeavouring to justify his claim.
He refused my second request for information particularly on the paedophilia claim and, as it were, he went to ground and appears to have gone into hiding.
I took the matter up with the MOD and the Chief Constable of the Suffolk Police Force [Ganges being on his patch]. The case was handled by the Detective Inspector in charge of the Child Protection Unit [Ganges boys were just that; boys]. The MOD confirmed that there had been no reported cases from Ganges during the 1964-1966 period. The Chief Constable, wrote to Ethel asking for details of his claim ending his letter by saying that if Ethel had not replied by the 22nd November 2002, the case would be dropped. This week, rather belatedly, I heard from the Suffolk CID that the case had been dropped and that Ethel had chosen not to cooperate.
G.DYKES 1953
19June2003 UNQUOTE.

Ethel was, and probably still is, one of the many raconteurs who took enjoyment out of 'padding' his stories with sheer lies, designed with the specific aim of gaining popularity amongst his peers.  In actual fact, by concocting such stories he brought total ridicule upon himself [especially when he made his claim after Rear Admiral Place has CTB], and had he not have been living in Oz at the time of his claim, he would have almost certainly been left with "egg on his face".  There  never has been any official report received by the Admiralty for 1965/6, but in 1967 a father complained about treatment at HMS Ganges, and the News of the World newspaper got hold of the story.  This is what they printed:-

News of the World, London, 23 April 1967

Storm over canings for navy boys

By David Roxan

FIERCE controversy has been aroused by the revelation that 69 boys in the Royal Navy were caned during the past 12 months. The boys were given up to 12 strokes on the buttocks with a cane for offences ranging from stealing to being absent from duty.

The Royal Navy calls this corporal punishment part of "our tradition, like the issue of a daily rum ration". Said a navy spokesman: "Don't forget at one time we flogged them round the Fleet, used the cat-o'-nine-tails and made the men walk the plank."

Yet in contrast the R.A.F. has never sanctioned corporal punishment for its cadets and apprentices and the Army abolished it in 1956, even though it has four times more boys in uniform than the Senior Service.

And 300 Royal Navy boys stationed at H.M.S. St Vincent at Gosport, Hants, are not subject to caning because they serve with adult ratings and the Navy has decided it would be wiser not to introduce the punishment in such establishments.

Those who are caned are at the all-boy shore bases of Ganges (1,700 boys) at Shotley (Suffolk) and Fisgard (440) at Plymouth, Devon. They are aged 15 to 18.

Last week in Parliament Mr Anthony Crosland, the Education Minister, expressed his opposition to corporal punishment and said it was rapidly dying out in our schools.

A Navy department spokesman commented: "We cane boys just like any decent public school. At the moment we have no intention of stopping this practice.

"Generally, boys are caned only for anti-social behaviour and only with the Captain's approval. The actual caning is usually done by someone like a chief petty officer. There are no regulations controlling the size of the cane.

"No clothing is removed and the punishment is administered under medical supervision."

Of the 69 boys who were caned, 22 were punished for stealing, 18 for improperly leaving the establishment, 10 for assault, six for disobedience, four for offering violence, three for striking a superior, two for bullying, and one for contempt, willful damage, indecency and absence from place of duty.


A spokesman for the Army, which has 10,065 boys compared with the Navy's 2,600, said: "We abolished corporal punishment in 1956 by order of the Army Council because we considered it to be a progressive step. We have no reason to regret this decision."

Mr Harry Howarth, Labour MP for Wellingborough, Northants, is to ask Mr Denis Healey, the Minister of Defence, to abolish all corporal punishment in the Services.

He said: "These canings are disgraceful. No wonder 15-year-old boys who sign on in the Navy for long periods are unhappy and want to get out.

"The situation is even worse because the other two Services maintain discipline without caning.

"I found out boys were being caned when a parent came to see me to discuss his son's education. I thought that sort of punishment went out with Nelson."

If Mr Healey turns him down, Mr Howarth intends to force an adjournment debate or to introduce a Bill under the 10-minute rule.

"It would mean changing the Queen's Regulations," he said. "Most of the Cabinet are against corporal punishment. Boys in the three Services should be treated exactly the same."

 For such a story to "paint an overall picture" of what was going on in the navy, a comparison has to be made with like-for-like conditions at HMS Ganges in a relatively near time-frame period,  to ascertain whether punishments were on the increase or in decline, and perhaps of greater importance, whether they were more or less severe than in times past.  As you have seen, 69 canings were administered and for the reasons stated.  Of these offences, there were 18 cases of boys improperly leaving the establishment, colloquially known as doing a "runner".  That a boy who has properly left the establishment but doesn't return, proverbially known as AWOL or Desertion, can be considered in the same way, is not in doubt.  The relatively near time-frame period I have chosen is 1954.  By comparison 1954 transcends 1967 in terms of misdemeanours and associated punishments by a margin large enough to render the 1967 figures insignificant and of no real  consequence or concern. The comparison is cognisant of the numbers of boys borne on the books during each period, with both periods more or less the same, differing little - although the navy was smaller and thus required fewer recruits, by 1967 Ganges was training a larger percent of the navy's requirement including the technical branches. In 1954, no fewer than 176 boys did a "runner" [some of them more than once] and 12 boys deserted, making the overall figure 188.  Ganges had an average of 1750 boys [ranging from 1600 to 1900] and the total number of punishments returned were 1850, more or less 1 punishment per boy per annum.  Nearly 260 boys were caned, many receiving the maximum of 12 cuts, and one boy, Boy 2nd Class J. BEAUMONT J926340 [during my time at Ganges] received the most severe punishment ever {recorded} administered at Ganges - in five days, he received 24 cuts [Monday and the Friday] for doing two "runners" back-to-back, with, believe it or not, a spell of No 11's punishment  in between.  As you will read in great detail, BEAUMONT was discharged as unsuitable for naval training. Incidentally, post-war Ganges figures never reached the 2000 mark, but in the period 1936 to 1939 the figures were respectively 2425 [see the PDF file inside this file The health of the Navy in 1936.htm (2012_11_19 20_20_07 UTC).html and scroll down to Training Establishment Boys - HMS Ganges - to see the 'ill health' statistics of the Establishment in 1936] 2500, 2500, 2675 getting on for 1000 more boys than in 1954 - where the hell did they put them all ?

So, clearly, times had change [moved on 14 years since my time] and one would expect conditions to have become less severe and more tolerant as these News of the World figures show.  OBVIOUSLY, Ganges was getting easier in 1967 just as it was easier for me in 1953 compared to a boy 14 years before me in 1939.  However, could it be the case that our parents, WW2 hardened, were less likely to go running to their MP to complain, and perhaps we boys, born pre-WW2 were more likely to "take it on the chin" than the juniors of the middle to late 1960's did ?  Before leaving this section let us look at some percentages. Take the number of boys under training to be 1800, so in 1967, "runners"/deserters score 0.01 and canings 0.04, and in 1954, "runners"/deserters were 0.104 and canings 0.144, or put another way:

1954 roughly 1/10th 1/7th
1967 1/100th roughly 1/26th

However, at this point it is important to know that the 1954 'run away from Ganges' figures were not necessarily the result of an over-harsh regime, and they were attributable to a rule change issued by the Admiralty to take effect on the 1st March 1954, which forbad caning for first offences unless desertion could be proved.  The ruling "opened the flood gates" to boys temporarily affected by homesickness [for example] who seized the opportunity of breaking-out half hoping that their crime would be seen as a prank without an ulterior motive of desertion.  Nevertheless, boys were becoming more bolshie and the overall crime rate was on the increase, pushing hitherto innocuous crimes up the punishment level and rendering more and more boys open to cuts [No 20 punishment] for non-running away offences. There was also an added complication which preoccupied many a boys mind, in that in the same month [March 1954] the Admiralty introduced a Discharge by Purchase scheme but few would benefit in the early days of the scheme.  It is reasonable to say that the morale of the boys at Ganges during the period 1953-1955 was at a low point, and that "blind obedience" was becoming unfashionable leading to volatile situations.  The two Captains most involved, The Earl Cairns and Michael Le Fanu [who we rather rudely but with great affection later called the 'Chinese Admiral'] were both absolute gentlemen, kind to a fault, much admired and respected, rightly went on to higher things after their appointments.  The Earl Cairns Earl Cairns - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia was promoted to Rear Admiral and maintained a high profile in naval matters [even after retirement] and Michael Le Fanu became my Captain on HMS Eagle our largest ever warship and aircraft carrier, and still so today, circa 2009 Michael Le Fanu - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  His early death was a great shock to the navy.

Over the years, there were several newspaper stories about corporal punishment in the armed services.  For balance, here are a few more of them:-

Hansard (House of Commons), 9 May 1902

Questions and Answers Circulated with the Votes.

Birching in the Army.

MR. LLOYD MORGAN (Carmarthenshire, W.)

To ask the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to the fact that Joseph Kibby, of the Grenadier Guards, was in or about the month of March flogged; and whether he will state the offence this man had committed, and also the offences for which punishment by birching is allowable in the Army.

(Answer.) The boy was birched by order of the commanding officer. The offence was disobedience of a regimental order, which forbade boys smoking, and absence without leave; for the latter offence he was liable to trial by general court-martial. Birching is not allowed in the Army, except in Army Schools under restrictions. The Commander in Chief disapproved of the commanding officer's action, and has taken the necessary disciplinary action.

(War Office.)

HC Deb 09 May 1902 vol 107 c1231

Daily News, London, 10 August 1903

The Naval Manoeuvres.

By A.G. Hales.



The Life of the Sailor.

Work, Play, and Punishment.


A British ship of war is capable of supplying a journalist with more pen and ink studies than any place of its size I have ever lived in. The life is clean, wholesome, and hard. It is a nursery for men, and it makes men. Seldom have I had such an opportunity of understanding the term "English gentleman" as this trip has afforded me. Here, within these iron walls, one is brought into hourly contact with the naval officers, and a page is added to life which is worth the keeping. I watch them at their work. In truth, they know the meaning of the word, for they work unceasingly in working hours, and play like merry boys in playtime. Early and late these men and boys attend to their duties with a conscientious exactness which is a credit to the service. No wonder the British Navy is the pride of the nation, for the men who run the Navy work for their prestige.


The work is hard and the hours long, the food and liquors plain, the life pleasant and healthy, and the discipline taut as steel. The cardinal sin is "slackness."

Boy Life Aboard.

The boys on board have a healthy time. Nine out of every ten of them will get a better up-bringing than they would have received in their own homes. They have to do as they are told, and do it as promptly as a bird flies from the spring of a cat.


No boy may smoke until after he is eighteen years of age. If he does, and is caught, he will most certainly be flogged across the buttocks with a stout cane. If he lies and is found out the same punishment awaits him. If he is impudent to his superior officer he is soon taught that a civil tongue is a jewel beyond price in the Navy. All offenders are tried publicly, no matter what their offence.

I have seen several of these trials, during which some twenty men and boys came up in custody, and I defy anyone to find fault either with the system or the conduct of such trials. When first tried the prisoners in a batch are marched aft to the quarterdeck in the custody of the ship's police. The commander hears the charge read out, the prisoner stands forward, cap in hand, and listens.

"What have you to say for yourself? Are you guilty or not guilty?" asks the commander.

"Not guilty, sir."

"Very well. Call the witnesses."

The witnesses are called, and the commander delivers his verdict. The first one charged is a lad of sixteen, who has been caught smoking. The second was charged with neglect of duty, and insolence. He, too, was about sixteen or a little over. The charges were proved up to the hilt. For smoking the lad was sentenced to receive three strokes with a cane. The other fellow was to get six.


Boys' Punishment.

I went to see the boys punished. In the waist of the ship stands a dummy gun; beside the gun a ship's corporal and a file of men. The ship's corporal is a ship policeman, a big, powerful fellow, who fingers a stout cane, such as schoolmasters in my school days used to use.

The prisoner who has been smoking comes forward, hitches his pants, and throws himself across the gun upon his stomach; his head hangs down one side, his feet on the other. A couple of men kneel by his head and take a wrist and an ankle each and draw them together so that the trousers fit very taut in the most prominent place.

The corporal throws himself into a striking attitude. Evidently this is to be no child's play. Swish! That boy would give every cigarette in his possession to be able to rub the spot where the cane has fallen, but he can't rub, he can only writhe and wait for the next.

The corporal is in no hurry. The first stroke had been a sort of overhead and downward cut. This second one -- whew! -- swish! It comes underhand and upwards. Offer the boy a plug of tobacco now and he will gnash his teeth and curse the very memory of Sir Walter Raleigh. He wriggles on the gun, and every wriggle wakes a memory of my school days. He has my sympathy, but I know it is for his soul's good. He will be a man some day, not an asthmatic weed.

Whizz! -- slosh! A straight forearm cut fair across the other two lines. The men let his hands and feet go, he springs erect with flushed face and suspiciously brilliant eyes, and trots off to his duties. He may smoke again. Probably he will; but he won't sit down to do it for a day or two.

The other lad gets his half-dozen, and the next time he feels like neglecting his work or "cheeking" his officers he will pause and consider the matter; but it is safe to wager that if he gets his portrait taken shortly he won't send one to the ship's corporal. That much you can read in his eye as he glances at the policeman in passing. I fancy I read a little more than that, but I may be mistaken.

I hope that no sentimental person reading this account of ship's punishment will cry out about it. The boys were not damaged; they got just what they deserved; they learnt, and it is well that they should learn in youth, that the way of the transgressor is hard, mighty hard.


The Times, London, 13 June 1904

Corporal Punishment In The Navy.

To The Editor Of The Times.

Sir, -- Certain doubtless well-intentioned but mischievous persons have of late devoted themselves to raising an agitation against corporal punishment in the Royal Navy. I propose to set forth exactly what are the King's Regulations on the subject.

Section 729. -- "It being requisite for the maintenance of the efficiency, discipline, and even safety of his Majesty's ships of war, that the power of inflicting corporal punishment, when absolutely necessary, should be continued; such punishment, under the following conditions, may be inflicted under the responsibility and authority of the captain, who is, however, to exercise the power vested in him with the greatest discretion and forbearance compatible with the discipline of the Service.

"Note. -- The power of commanding officers to award corporal punishment for any offences tried summarily under section 54, Naval Discipline Act, is suspended till further orders."

The Regulations then proceed to lay down --

(a) A maximum of 25 lashes.

(b) Necessity of a warrant properly completed 12 hours before punishment (except for mutiny).

(c) Exemption of petty and non-commissioned officers and first-class conduct men from summary sentence (except for mutiny).

(d) Exemption of second-class conduct men from summary sentence, except for (1) mutiny or (2) violence to a superior officer.

(e) That in case of (2) violence, summary corporal punishment is not to be carried out on board if the prisoner can be sent to a prison; and that, if reasonably possible, a Court-martial is to be held.

(f) That in peace time the approval of a flag officer present is necessary.


Section 730. -- "When the captain ... is of opinion that no punishment (other than corporal) would be applicable or expedient under the circumstances, then (except in open mutiny) he is to appoint one or more officers to inquire ... and after the report ... and after full investigation on his own part, he is to act as may seem right in his judgment."

Section 732. -- "Exceptional power is hereby given to the captain or to the commanding officer in the case of open mutiny. When an immediate example is necessary ... any person under the grade of subordinate officer ... may be summarily punished corporally ..."

Section 734. -- "By corporal punishment is to be understood the usual punishment at the gangway ... according to the custom of the Service, in the presence of the captain, the officers, and the ship's company."

Section 659. -- "Should a Court-martial award corporal punishment, it is not to be carried out without the previous approval of the Admiralty."

Section 759. -- "Birching is to be confined solely to boys rated as such, and is to be inflicted with the birch as supplied from the dockyard; the birching is to be given over the bare breech, and is never to exceed 24 cuts; it is to be inflicted by the ship's police in the presence of the executive officer, a medical officer, two or more petty officers, and all the boys."

"(The punishment is to be awarded by warrant, with (in flagships) the approval of the flag officer.)"

2. "Caning on the breech with clothes on is limited to boys, and is to be inflicted with a light and ordinary cane,. The number of cuts is not to exceed 12."

3. "Drummers under the age of 18 may be caned, but not birched."

The extracts given above show exactly what naval law lays down. I proceed to state how it works in practice.


Caning of Boys. -- Our boys do not differ essentially in their human nature from other boys. They are good-hearted, easily led, full of high animal spirits, and inclined to kick against the minor laws of routine. And, as in any other collection of boys, there is a percentage of ill-conditioned youths, lazy, dirty, foul-mouthed, and at first useless to the ship. To such a minority the word of his lieutenant, the advice of a chaplain, the reprimand of a commander are as nothing. But "six with the cane" exactly meets the case. It surprises the densest hobbledehoy into sensibility, and the law becomes something tangible and actual in his existence.

It has been my professional duty to see every boy who has been caned in ships where I have served after his punishment, and I state conscientiously that I have never found any boy the worse for it physically or in character. I have known self-respect grow side by side with respect for the arm of the boy's corporal who wielded the cane. I have heard over and over again, "No, Sir, it wasn't too bad; but I'll not let Corporal So-and-So have another go at me."

Birching. -- The birch is reserved for liars, thieves, and offenders against decency and common morality. I have seen it applied (a) to a boy who was habitually filthy, (b) to one whose leisure was given to telling foul stories to his mates, and (c) to a boy who had been grossly cruel to a ship's pet -- a monkey. There was not a man or boy on board who did not think the punishment fitted the crime.

The cane used is the familiar object of our school days, in the hand of a ship's corporal, who has generally some confidential instructions as to whether he is to lay it on hard or light. I know at least one officer who has taken "six" himself so that he might know to what sort of thing he was condemning others.

The birch is an ordinary birch, which, as some of us know, stings freely and occasionally breaks the upper skin. But the birch hurts less than the cane in the end. As for the birching being disgusting and degrading, I submit that it is never given save for disgusting and degrading offences. A boy who gets the cane for a boy's prank or for kicking against rules generally takes it like a man; a boy birched for a mean or low offence often howls like a cur. I speak of what I have seen and known.

Flogging. -- No case of flogging has ever come under my notice. The regulations quoted above are sane, moderate, and framed so as to emphasize the responsibility of the captain ordering the "cat" to be used. The "cat" will never be laid on again in the Navy except for open mutiny, brutal assault of an officer, or unnatural crime, in my opinion. But it is kept in reserve as the ultimate argument of the powers that be, and if a vote were taken for and against the retention of the "cat" as a possible punishment for crimes against country and humanity, the British sailor would uphold the custom of the Service and the Regulations of his King.

I hope, Sir, that I am as humane as the "humanitarians," but I know what I am talking about, and they do not know the Navy or human nature, if one judges by their published opinions. No man who has not grown old in the service of his country at sea, who has not learned to appreciate the strenuous virtues and strenuous vices inseparable from seafaring, should consider himself capable of judging a matter which lies outside the scope of his experience and knowledge. Yet we of the Service are willing to recognize that "humanitarians" are sincere and well-meaning men, although we consider their methods wrong and their opinions lacking in authority.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,


NOTE:  The translation of "IN PARTIBUS MARIS" which is Latin, is "UPON PARTAKER HUSBAND" which is, to say the least, cryptic.

Western Morning News, Plymouth, 7 November 1936

Boy disillusioned

Learnt His Mother Was In Mental Home

From our own correspondent
Portland, Friday.

When two boys appeared before a court-martial in H.M.S. Titania at Portland to-day, on certain charges, the Chaplain of H.M.S. Nelson, flagship of the Home Fleet, in which they were serving, told the Court that one of the boys was "thrilled when he learnt he had a mother."

But, added the Chaplain, he was disillusioned and his character disoriented when he found that his mother, brother, and sister were in homes for mental defectives.

The lads were ordered to receive twelve strokes of the birch each.



Dorset Daily Echo, Weymouth, 7 November 1936

Boy In Tears at Portland Court-Martial

Two youths, both with the rank of "boy" aboard H.M.S. Nelson, were at a court-martial on H.M.S. Titania at Portland yesterday ordered 12 strokes with the birch. They were accused of an offence aboard H.M.S. Nelson.

The Rev. D. Bunt, chaplain, said one boy's character deteriorated after he found his mother was in a mental hospital. He had also been "ragged" because he was seen in chapel a lot and saying his prayers.

This boy wept when he told the court that people laughed at him because of his smallness. At times he found himself not caring what he did. He never had letters like other boys, and said he seemed to have no one to think of.

Evesham Journal, Worcestershire, 17 April 1980

Letters to the Editor

For corporal punishment

Sir -- I refer to the letter from Tom Scott of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment.

I was undergoing training as a boy-entrant at an RAF Wireless School in 1937. A trainee was found guilty of stealing a florin (a week's pay) from a comrade and since he was under 18 his parents' permission was sought, and obtained, for the intended punishment of nine strokes of the birch. The entire trainee population of about 80 were formally paraded three deep around the gymnasium to witness the meting out of the punishment.

During my remaining ten months at that training school there was no recurrence of the offence. It proved a total deterrent. At the annual reunion of the survivors of those days, that birching usually comes up in discussion over 40 years after the event.

The culprit, far from being "humiliated" in the modern jargon, went on to become one of the best sportsmen of his Entry, and served his country well in war.

Is it just coincidence that when we had birching and some discipline in the home: (a) we had virtually no mugging, (b) people could go about their normal lives in our towns and cities after dark, (c) public transport was well patronised and treated with due respect for other users, (d) no schools were burnt down, (e) citizens could attend sports functions without fear of stabbing, or being struck by a dart or bottle, (f) the nation was not confronted with the vast sums now contemplated, to build more "corrective establishments" to house louts for whom one dose of the birch would have been adequate correction.

Could it also be coincidence that in those times there didn't exist the lucrative posts of educational psychologist and all the other 'ologists who still fail to find answers half as effective as the proven birch?

David E. Williams,
Squadron Leader retired.
Malinshill Road,
April 11, 1980.

Additionally,  there were several boys who made the head lines simply because their parents, and in some cases their MP's, believed their ridiculous stories and challenged, ultimately, the Captain of HMS Ganges and his officers as to their decision making.  As we go along, I will mention the most dramatic of them which ended up in Parliament.

Just reading some of these pages I have,  brings me much melancholy and answers questions I have been asking myself for nearly 56 years.  Why, for example do so many ex boys say that they liked their time at Ganges when I hated just about every minute of it. The official answer says that a very large proportion of Ganges boys came from either single parent families or were orphans  and being in Ganges provided them with more happiness than they had experienced at home. Nothing could be further from the truth in my case.  It also transpires that I was one of the last of the groups to join the navy with a reasonably high achieving overall RT [recruiting] score: I joined on the 13th October 1953. On the 1st November 1954, one year later, the navy had to lower the RT score from 45 to 35, thereby opening the gates to a much less able boy which was to bring with it its own training problems.  This led to there being AC boys, GC1 boys and GC2 boys, the latter one imagines to be a bunch of very low calibre ratings!  A point to mention here is that in 1954, four out of every five breakouts [runners] were GC boys,  and persistent or dedicated "runners" were from the GC2 level.  For some boys,  it would seem that they were haunted by letters from their mother [single, abandoned or divorced] asking "why did you go away and leave me ?", or "I wish you were here to give me money as I can't manage on what your father gives me."  Some of what you will read you will find unpalatable, almost unacceptable, especially when the head of Naval Law [NL] says that caning boys for breakouts is and has been for several years illegal, and an abuse by several Captains of Ganges. There is a section which explicitly states "The investigation resulting from the caning twice within a week of Boy Beaumont has revealed that at HMS Ganges at least the authority given in 1936 has been abused.  It is clear that Ganges are now caning for simply breaking out.  The 1936 document specifically stated that breaking out is a boyish prank and should not be punishable with cuts, whereas, deserting [difficult to prove] is. Another highly contentious statement reads "It only needed Mrs Beaumont to go to her MP and complain that her son had received a total of 24 cuts within  in a period of 5 days, for us to have another newspaper campaign on our hands - this time on the grounds of cruelty."  Naval law also pointed out that the navy were the only organisation which still administered the punishment of caning: it wasn't awarded in the Army, the RAF or by civilian courts, and as such, the navy stood the chance of being dragged through Parliament as a Dickensian force.  It is this last reminder which made the News of the World's report shocking, not necessarily that 69 boys had been caned. I wonder what the press would have made with the norm [in the 30's and 40's] being 6 cuts for smoking ?

Now we know that flogging in the navy stopped in 1883 and moreover, we know that discipline thereafter was just as hard.  We also know that the navy were not slow in coming forward with other harsh punishments and they remained in several forms for the remaining part of the 19th century.  Men's punishment in the various fleets were not normally given to boys, especially those concerned with prison and cells or deprivation of food, but loss of pay and leave restrictions were not unique to men only. 

It would be grossly unfair to say that Their Lordships were uncaring about boys discipline and associated punishments, but I am confident that I can get away with using the word ambivalence for many of the admirals. What went on in BTE's* [Boys Training Establishments] produced the future men for the fleet and the admirals were well pleased.

* There were several of them Ganges, Impregnable, Fisgard, and from 1927, St Vincent. Ex St Vincent boys should note that St Vincent started its naval life as 'HMS Ganges Overflow'.  After the Royal Marines moved out of Forton Barracks in 1923, the barracks remained empty for nearly four years until boys from a "bulging" Ganges were trained there [to the Ganges syllabus] in Gosport.  Shortly afterwards, it became an autonomous Command and trained only boy seamen and Fleet Air Arm ratings during the war, with the boys going to the Isle of Man to HMS St George.

They were also preoccupied with the needs for an operational fleet as the troubles in Eastern Europe came to the fore and Germany became more and more aggressive towards the enemies of Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey particularly Serbia.  WW1 wasn't too far away!  However, none of this concerned the commanding officers and their officers in the BTE overmuch,  for they in their turn, were preoccupied with meeting a quota and the conveyor belt must not stop, except during main leave periods, when maintenance could be done. With the best will possible, they 'tampered' with the welfare of the boys, and when the BTE crime rate fell punishments were moderated to become less severe, but when they increased, boys were positively harshly treated.  Remember that even in the 1950's/early 1960's,  that most dreadful of all punishments, group punishment, was regularly used and to an adverse affect on the vast majority of innocent boys.  Younger members will know of the 'Shotley Routine'  [the ultimate group punishment] almost as a throw-away statement, but I, although fortunately never a victim, remember it vividly.  I was in Rodney Division with, as it were, our front doors in the long covered way. Our back door was directly opposite the laundry and between it and us, was the infamous laundry-hill.  Laundry-hill was a major venue for those poor boys undergoing Shotley Routine, and we looked upon them [or at least I did] with pity and horror at their plight.  The fear of cuts filled one full of awe, but the fear of this beastly punishment offended ones very being as inhumane.  What Ganges used for punishment [especially the use of the cane] came from the very start of the birth of the RNTE [Royal Naval Training Establishment] in 1905 and the rules were more or less the same right up to the 1930's.

Of considerable importance was the cessation of the birch to punish boys and this occurred before RNTE Shotley was opened. However, birching was retained to punish homosexuals.  The petty officer instructors, as you will read, commented that the boys were more disobedient than they were when this punishment tool was in vogue, and that they were generally disrespectful towards the training staff. That there is/was a fear of the birch, appears to be irrational vis-à-vis the cane, as quite clearly stated in the newspaper article above 'Corporal Punishment In The Navy' when the writer states [under Birching, third paragraph] that the birch hurt less than the cane.

It is the following document which sent a "spanner into the works". A letter from the Captain of HMS Ganges Captain E J Hardman Jones OBE Royal Navy. Note the address of Ganges [Harwich Essex] - most peculiar ? - and that cute telephone number - you can just imagine the little village lady switchboard operator saying "Woolveston 5...whose speaking please ?" or "Hello, Harwich 43... who would you like to speak to?"  Unlike Harwich which is opposite Ganges on the other side of the wide and tidal River Stour, Woolveston is on the same piece of mainland as is Ganges, but by foot, a very long hike away.  Note the wide distribution to just about every naval outlet in and around Chatham because he considered the subject to be very serious.


The John Bull Magazine article referred to in the PDF file above refers to the treatment of Boy 2nd Class Edward BENNETT JX 125040.  That story will become apparent in the following PDF file.  Note the mistakes in the letter which must have further annoyed the Captain - one overtyped corrected letter and one typing mistake in the misspelling of the word 'true'.  The story had many flaws as well as being a pack of lies, chiefly because it referred to a single case [which was never proven] and because it was published five years after the alleged event took place in HMS Ganges.  Its story came from Hansards, the Daily Record of speeches and proceedings in the Houses of Parliament.  When the story was first mooted [which in itself was a full year after the person involved had been discharged from the navy] a prospective parliamentary candidate decided to latch onto the case thereby suggesting to the voters that he had their interests at heart [and private simmering grievances too]. He went on to win the seat and a couple of years on, brought the matter to the attention of the House. It was widely believed that the editor of John Bull lacked a suitable story befitting the imagine of the magazine for that issue, and so went for the sensational.       


The 'Extract from Board Minutes' enclosed in the PDF above, comes from N.L. = Naval Law Department.  The First Lord is a civilian who is the Head of the Board, senior to all its admirals. He expresses concern about the number of the canings in the two BTE's [Ganges and St Vincent] carried out by Captains following the old rules set in the early 1900's.  His concern is so great he is going to get the Board to consider the whole question.  This affair involved the Admiralty, the British Legion and Parliament.


A very important read covering the period from the earliest times in Ganges up and till 1930.  The RULES for and the REASONS why.


Actual punishment figures separating canings from other punishments. Note at the bottom of page 2 that in 1929 [under the old rules] there were 4426 boys in the Royal Navy and 4747 punishments were administered.  Shocking reading really ! Note also one page 1, under HMS Ganges, the very high percentages of caning especially in 1927, 28 and 29.  In 1927 particularly, no fewer than 36% of the boys were caned this representing 289 boys out of an average of 803. Again, in 1927 [a very bad year] the "All punishments" figure is 142% of 803 boys meaning that 1140 punishments of all kinds were meted out. Observe the relatively few boys in Ganges compared to the middle years of the 20th century with over twice as many boys training. The remainder of the file gives one a good insight into the reasons for and subsequent production of an Admiralty Fleet Order [AFO] although in this case a Confidential one [CAFO].  The new rules are succinct and unambiguous and they very much "tied the hands" of the over strict captains.  What it does mean of course, is that if you know of anybody who received cuts after this watershed, then you will know that they deserved their punishment because no captain would run the risk of exceeding his authority or "even sailing too close to the wind" on the subject matter.  Others, in addition to the Board Admirals and the Commanders-in-Chief, were watching and waiting to pounce!

Boys caning in view of John Bull and Bennett's  claims.pdf

This is the only Admiralty case involving a Ganges ex boy who took the navy to Parliament:  it is therefore a unique story.

This file was originated in the NL Division [Naval Law] of the Admiralty.  Note [page 2] that it covers the new rules and restrictions adopted in 1930 and with it, the new type of monthly returns for C's-in-C scrutiny, and on page 3, two further subjects namely the John Bull magazine story and the claims made by ex Boy 2nd Class Bennett {one year after he had been discharged as being unsuitable for the navy} and five years after discharge, the case coming to Parliament.

ex Boy Bennett's claim of flogging and cruelty at Ganges.pdf

Boy 2nd class Edward BENNETT joined HMS Ganges in 1925 and seven months later he was discharged as totally unsuitable for navy life. Evidently he waited just over a year to make any form of meaningful complaint against his dismissal, but eventually, almost three years on, his complaint caught the imagination of a 'prospective Parliamentary candidate' running for election.  His motives were probably honourable, although he used the event to demonstrate that he had the interests of his would-be voters at heart.  Even before the General Election United Kingdom general election, 1929 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia the prospective candidate Fred LONGDEN {standing for Deritend, Birmingham}  had written to the Captain of HMS Ganges, bringing to his attention the "rather terrible case" of young Bennett. The letter needs no further explanation except to say that the reference to "Suffolk Station" means No 5 Suffolk Street Birmingham [the address of the recruiting office].  His claims of ill treatment are of course possible especially against some of the petty officers of those days, although the birch is a non-starter [unless of course he was immoral or a homosexual].  Cuts, with an ordinary type schoolmasters cane, were always administered in groups of 6, never fewer, and no person was ever punished for having cigarettes [or using them] for their own sake, but was punished because the rules said you were not allowed them full stop. Thus he was punished [if at all] for disobedience. Bennett's claim was used for the story in the John Bull magazine published in June 1931. Out of context but necessary informative adage: ALL Boys who had joined Ganges in 1953 were born before WW2.  ALL Children at school in the 1940's and early 1950's were eligible to be caned at school for trivial offences by their headmaster without fear of  parents complaining,  such was the trust in society at large.  ALL Children were open to "abuse, measured by today's standards" in the home, either from strict [but good and well intentioned loving parents] or from the cruel, often inebriated father, who cared naught for all things.  Policemen also where given parental authority to chastise erring juveniles, and doffing ones cap to the likes of local Doctors was the accepted norm at least in the back waters of the Yorkshire Dales. Joining the navy and hearing about punishments given with the cane, were not as off-putting  as one might imagine, and moreover, whether it was called respect or diffidence, boys of those times accepted the norms of Ganges routine.  Looking back,  through the mirror provided by the social standing demonstrated by many of those boys today, there was not only an academic difference but a social difference also between the various groups of boys.  Ganges, like all levels of eco-social society had 'good quality boys' training alongside boys of demonstrably 'poor quality boys', and I claim that our officers and senior rate instructors treated us as one group, namely as 'mediocrity' biased to the side of poor quality.

Admiralty answer to the would-be MP.pdf

On receipt of Mr Longden's letter, the Captain of HMS Ganges acknowledged  it.  He then seeks advice from his C-in-C, who in turn, without answering the letter, passes it to the Admiralty for action.  Note the rather curt reply using the one word "Sir", leaving Mr Longden in no doubt that the Admiralty distances itself from the current mental/physical state of the complainant.

A new file is started to decide a defence against Mr Longden.pdf

Page 1 says a great deal when the Head of Naval Law states that  he doesn't want to enter into a discussion with a person who has no legal or obvious connection with the complainant. There is of course much duplication of material in these files, but please be aware that there are several Divisions within the Admiralty dealing with this problem each producing minutes, draft letters and letters proper. Note that on Bennett's Medical Examination  for Entry, Surgeon Captain MacDonald also signs for Bennett  on the Certificate. C.L. means Civil Lord. On page 10, Naval Law says "It seems to me it might be prudent [in our interest not the complainants] to have this all medically reported on.  This would ascertain the present condition if only to  dispose of what is hinted at that his condition is due to caning or ill treatment at Shotley".  He goes on to say "The case at present seems to be an unsupported, post hoc {after this} propter hoc {on account of this}........etc". Again, "There is no medical evidence of the reason of his present condition.  It seems desirable that we should get all the medical evidence possible."  Bottom of page 11, Naval Law says "In view of AG [above signature initials] support [spelt incorrectly] submitted whether to reply {indicating ?} liability on the ground of non-attributably to the service; and leaving to the other side the task of making out their medical case.  Possibly at a later stage further medical exam might be advantageous , but to ask for it now might raise false hopes & be interpreted to imply that we were anxious on the score of the point of attributably. Submitted". On page 12, bottom comment, Head of Naval Law, he says " If you see no objection it is proposed to support an answer as in the added draft. If they should submit medical evidence on which can be founded a prima facie that the present illness is attributable  to naval service, it would then be proposed to have the boy medically examined on our account. The draft reply was approved and subsequently sent.

Letters from and to Mr Fred Longden MP   

The Admiralty letters were from the office of the Civil Lord, a man often called Mr Hall but he went on [eventually]  to become a Viscount, NationMaster - Encyclopedia: George Henry Hall in whose name, his Private Secretary and when not him, a person signing a "pp" {per pro} on his behalf usually a deputy Private Secretary.  The letters are self explicit.  He went on to serve the Admiralty well,  following his appointment as Civil Lord with Financial Secretary to the Admiralty [1942-43] and returned as the boss-man of Admiralty, the First Lord from 1946 to 1951.

A new file and another series of letters to Longden MP.pdf

By the autumn of 1929 there were more letters exchanged between the Admiralty and the MP.

Another clutch of letters concerning Fred Longden MP.pdf

You will see that Fred Longden has consulted a private medical opinion namely a Doctor Markow concerning ex Ganges Boy BENNETT.  The results of the medical inspection revealed that BENNETT's condition was not inherited from his parents.  By inference, he continues to suggest that BENNETT's condition is due in total to his period of ill treatment and brutality within HMS Ganges.

HANSARDS. MP Longden and others in Parliament.pdf

The opening letter from Fred Longden gives notice that he will speak in the House on the adjournment of the days business.  When there is no Parliamentary time voted for a private member to bring a matter to the House, the adjournment  is his/her only way of being given a slot to speak.  However, it is not popular with MP's who have already spend many hours in the House that day dealing with official Government business - they have to stay behind, and of course many do not being too busy for trivia [as they see it].  Thus the opening statement  in this Hansards Report made by Longden is "I deeply regret to detain the House at this hour....."

The Admiralty case based on the knowledge that a question is to be asked in the House.pdf

The opening letter  is also the opening letter in the file above [Hansards.....] but is included to make sense of the Minutes published.

As you will have read in the HANSARDS file, the Naval Secretary speaking in the house, offered to reopen the case if there was any new information to hand.  He pointed out that the event was a long time ago and that the petty officers of BENNETT's time [1925/6] were not known and could not therefore be interviewed.  The business in the House was adjourned at 19 minutes to 11 o'clock [2241] and Longden would not be given another chance for a second adjournment.    From hereonin, any progress could only be made by lobbying the Admiralty either in person or by a continuing stream of letters, but the Admiralty stuck to their guns and the case petered out.  Ex Boy BENNETT did not get a pension or a disability allowance [which at 32s 6p per week] would have been generous in the extreme, bearing in mind that my own father was 19 in 1926 and his take home pay was £1-13s-9d.

This was the first case involving a Ganges boy [current or ex] who took the navy to Parliament involving Their Lordships in the Admiralty, the press and of course the general public.

Virtually up to and until JUNIORS were recruited instead of BOYS, so that is prior to 1957, punishments in the Royal Navy rarely moved with the times, and never kept pace with the changing attitudes of "socially correct" {today, in 2009, that's now plus "politically correct"}  Great Britain who was moving away from harsh civilian punishments. Arguably, the harshest of all was hanging [or, the death penalty] and on this score I have used Great Britain on purpose because it abolished hanging in 1969 whereas Northern Ireland {under the emergency powers Act} abolished it in 1973: {for those of my readers who are not familiar with our Island[s] Nation, Great Britain is England, Wales and Scotland and when Northern Ireland is added, the four of us become the United Kingdom}.  The last death sentence ordered by a Court in the UK was in 1973, passed upon  William Holden for the capital murder of a British soldier in Northern Ireland.  The sentence was not carried out. However, to get a better picture of punishments in the United Kingdom, one needs to know the dates of the last hangings in each of the separate four countries, temporarily elevating Wales from a principality to a country.  In England it was a double hanging [for the same murder] of two men one in Liverpool and one in Manchester both at 0900 on the 13th August 1964. In Scotland the occasion was on the 15th August 1963 in Aberdeen, the victim a man. In Northern Ireland it was in Belfast, a man, on 20th December 1961 and finally, in Wales, in Swansea a man was hanged on the 6th May 1958.

The Royal Navy [Admiralty Courts]  had the jurisdiction over all offences committed on the high seas which were outside the jurisdiction of the courts of common law - such as murder, piracy, and felony on the high seas, and this bizarre horrific murder of a naval boy was an example, plus others.

Sailors in naval uniform and commanded by naval officers who were serving in the WW1 trenches with the Naval Brigades of the RND [Royal Naval Division] came under Army discipline as this extremely sad story shows.  It is taken from the War Office files, this one WO 141/41 of 1919-1920

War Office: Registered Papers (Special Series) WO 141/41

Execution of four men of the Royal Naval Division for alleged murder of a German soldier War Office: Registered Papers (Special Series) Date range: 1919 - 1920.
Source: The Catalogue of The National Archives

The Admiralty Court also had authority to administer discipline in the Royal Navy; but since the Naval Discipline Act of 1866, that authority has been administered by naval courts-martial.  That situation remains except that Royal Navy personnel who are accused of murder are tried and punished as though they were civilians.  That also applies if the punishment for the crime committed  is life imprisonment.  However, there were other crimes which carried the death penalty which were inter alia,  "arson in royal dockyards", "treason and piracy with violence" and "espionage", although there was a lesser penalty for less serious espionage which was 14 years in prison.  In 1971 death for arson in royal dockyards was abolished and much later on, in 1998,  life imprisonment replaced hanging for treason and piracy with violence. The NDA [Naval Discipline Act] of 1957 reduced the scope of capital espionage from "all spies for the enemy" to spies on naval ships or bases.  Note is this file that the sections 78, 79 and 80 on death are still there but purposely left blank 1957 Naval Discipline Act [NDA].pdf - please note that the hyperlinks within the pdf have been disabled.  This 1957 NDA also started a new era of naval discipline, although in fairness, it didn't filter down to Boys at Ganges post 1957 and so they didn't benefit by it, the status quo remaining, meaning that these boys suffered virtually the same as say, 1954 recruited boys did.  Later, the Armed Forces Act 1981 abolished the death penalty for espionage.

We have already seen that the navy kept the cane and caned its personnel long after the army and the air force had abandoned these punishments and of course after schools had stopped such corporal punishments. Other punishments too had been 'designed' as long ago as the 1920's and were still extant when Ganges closed, in one form or another, regularly practiced in the Royal Navy BUT MUCH WATERED DOWN.  In a moment I will show you a list of those which affected a boys' training establishment, the majority of which, in the early 1950's,  involved deprivation, extra work, and physical punishments.  The punishments of old, still extant at Ganges in NUMBER FORM ONLY were much less severe by the start of the 1970's.

In the early 1950's [and, as I have generously stated above, ongoing from that point] the standard punishment for boys {men in the fleet had different punishments] were as always, rolling forward with amendment after amendment to QRAI [Queens Regulations & Admiralty Instructions] latterly known as QRRN where Admiralty Instructions are supplanted by Royal Navy, QRRN CHAPTER 19 AND 20 ARTICLE 1953 as follows;-

No 1 Imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months
No 2 Dismissal from Her Majesty's Service
No 3 Detention  for a period  not exceeding three months
No 4A Disrating of Instructor boys
No 4B Disrating of Badge boys
No 10A CMG working party [pre breakfast post supper] instructions not interrupted [INI]
No 11A Strenuous Drill, early/late musters, re-orientation, for a period not exceeding 30 days [INI] - really, the worst of all Ganges punishments.
No 14 Extra work or drill not exceeding two hours a day for a maximum period of 7 days. [INI]
No 15 Admonition - not found guilty but not proven innocent either.
No 20  In the old days No 20's was birching and No21's was caning.
 Cuts - shown as 6x20, 9x20 or 12x20.

Notice that this early 1950's list of punishments is almost devoid of explicit money [or pay] penalties but full of 'aggro' and harsh punishments.  Implicitly of course, if one were to lose ones badge boy extra money [No 4B punishment] one would lose money, so compare this list with that issued as yet another amendment to [QRRN Chapter 19 and 20 et seq]  of 1970.  Although this page will reappear as an integral part of the next pdf file, it is published here as a stand-alone 'comparing' punishment document.

In 1970, the above punishment list looked like this:-

Number of Punishment Manifestation of Punishment
No 1 Stet [above]
No 2 Stet [above]
No 3 Detention for a period of not exceeding three months
No 4A Disrating of Badge Juniors
No 9A Extra drill or work for a period not exceeding 14 days
No 10 Stoppage of leave for a period of not exceeding 30 days
No 11 Mulcts for improper absence. Mulcts meaning "to penalise by fining or demanding a forfeiture"
No 11A Stoppage of pocket money for a maximum period of 30 days.  The deprived pocket money was credited to the boy and paid into his POSB [Post Office Savings Bank] account paid to him when he left Ganges. However, a boy could claim a small allowance for his essentials [soap, toothpaste etc] during this period.
No 14 Extra work or drill not exceeding 2 hours a day for a maximum period of 7 days
No 15 Admonition - not found guilty but not proven innocent either.

Wow, look at all that money, and no cuts, nor harsh treatments  as of yore?  Boys now have become conscious about money and what it can buy.  In the early 1950's there was nothing to buy except the odd sticky bun, and although cigarettes [Woodbines in open top paper packs of five] were available in the NAAFI, it was ILLEGAL TO SMOKE.  Modern TV programmes are written by ex Ganges boys, at least Porridge was {?},  where "snout" [tobacco] is the currency of survival behind bars. In this programme, cigarettes are traded for favours and mark my words, Ganges ran on exactly the same lines. Running parallel with "snout" was what was to become known to us as we joined the fleet as a "rubber" [a term not used in Ganges during my time] which simply meant that you borrowed money with an interest pay-back option. Failure to meet the commitment of the option chosen rendered one to becoming a target by the lender or his appointed mafia.  It is a fact that this "habit" continued when into the fleet proper, where "bars" {a dictionary word} and "half a bar" were common expressions of currency.

My next story involves money - that junior rates get too much of it, as the navy enjoyed better pay rises than hitherto awarded.

A very shrewd Ganges Captain picked up this point [excessive cash] which again, unlike my time [53-55] at Ganges was aligned to generous leave ashore, albeit in unattractive venues like Ipswich, Harwich, Dovercourt, Fexlixstowe [and others].  He saw that these boys were purchasing personal things, like films for personal cameras, fu fu, posh soap [where we were issued with pussers-hard] nutty, sandwiches, attending movies, sending home generous allotments, and overall, they had an independence not  seen in HMS Ganges in former times. It was time to introduce a new punishment which would DIRECTLY HIT the POCKETS of Ganges trainees, where, clearly, the new punishments shown above, had ever increasing little effect on misdemeanours. 

Our man is Captain M J BUTTON Royal Navy and this is what happened.

He was the Captain who resided in Ewarton Hall in the period 1969-1971. These pictures were  taken in January 2009 at the Captains House [his married quarter]


The group picture [well over 100 years of Service if the photographers time is added] shows John Eilbeck on the left Ganges 1949 and again as an CPO Instructor in the mid 1960's, Mike Challinor centre [joined Victoria Barracks 1951] and me on the right Ganges 1953.  The photographer was Preston Willson, Victoria Barracks 1954.

Note in this file below  the signature [last page] of P. HILL-NORTON [if you are able <by virtue of age and service>  to appreciate it!].  Peter Hill-Norton , Lord Hill-Norton, became an Admiral of the Fleet and was the very first such person to have his own TV programme, mainly about naval gunnery.  He used to appear in his bath, full centre screen, where he would address his audience about the WW2 virtues of the Royal Navy - impressive stuff as I recall.  I served with his son Nicholas Hill-Norton who went on to become a Vice Admiral. A talented naval family without doubt.   Here is the file about punishing juniors by depriving them of their "massive" fortnightly  pay, something that hurt them far more than "jankers". GANGES new 1970 financial punishment.pdf.  Their pay  [page 3] when compared with mine for a Boy 1st class in 1954 [fortnightly pocket money - column two] of £10-0-0 GBP, makes my £0-7-6 <37½p> look rather sad!

Throughout the many years Ganges [at Shotley Gate, not at Shotley, which is a village some two miles distant from the main Ganges gate situated in Caledonia Road, as is common place when referring to the establishment] viz, 1905 to 1976, many tens of thousands of boys and men were trained, the boys from 1905 to 1940 [approximately] and from 1946 [approximately] to closure <although recruitment stopped some time before the closure> and the men, as HO's in the WW2 years, many hundreds of letters would have be written home complaining about conditions in HMS Ganges.  Many of these would have invoked a response by parents who wrote to the Captain seeking clarification on the points raised in those letters.  Clearly, the vast majority of these were politely answered and soon after, the matter was closed.  Surprisingly few were recorded for posterity.  Those that have been, cover subjects which had they fallen into the wrong hands [the press for example] could have been profoundly embarrassing for Ganges and the royal navy. Already on this page, we have covered a unique story dating from the mid 1920's which involved Parliament, a new set of punishments extant from the 1930's followed by a settling-in period, the gearing-up for war and subsequently the cessation of boys training at HMS Ganges until approximately 1946 which for all practical purposes brings my continuing story into the 1950's.  I say that advisedly because events show that the "complainers of petty incidences" were few from 1939 until the late 1940's at a time when most people were pre-occupied with the ramifications of the war, counting the cost of human and materiel losses, and all, civilians and sailors alike making the best of bad job, hoping and longing for better days to come.

Two such cases of notoriety occurred in the first half of the 1950's but before I tell you of these, it is important that you understand this general statement which will become obvious to you as you read your way through the following documents. Between the watersheds of 1930 and 1954 [remember that before 1920 punishments were harsher] one had every chance of being punished unfairly and illegally whilst at HMS Ganges.  This abuse could not, and did not continued in the royal navy [and therefore at HMS Ganges] after 1954. The word illegally needs to be clarified.  Captains of HMS Ganges had misinterpreted the "spirit" of the 1930 caning rules, and not the rules themselves, and they had administered severe punishment when the rules suggested an alternative measure.

The first case revolves around BOY FIRST CLASS J.C. WILSON JX 912355, whose case took up a disproportionate amount of the Admiralty time to resolve the issue.

John Christopher Wilson hailed from Leeds and joined the navy at the same recruiting office as I did,  exactly one year before me in October 1952 - but unlike Wilson, I don't come from Leeds. He was a GC Seaman, did twelve months at Ganges,  and a month after I joined Ganges, he was drafted to sea to the aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable on the 10th November 1953. According to one of his mothers letters of the 22nd September 1954 he had been discharged from the navy, invalided 3rd May 1954 - see last page of file.

File 1, is the loose leaf cover of the Admiralty file started on Boy Wilson WILSON - OPENING FILE LOOSE LEAF.pdf. There is, of necessity, some duplication on letters etc.
File 2, is a Blake Divisional letter to Wilson's father telling him of his sons unsettled ways. Wilson's father was ex royal navy and ex merchant navy and was disabled. WILSON - FIRST HINT OF UNHAPPINESS.pdf

File 3, indicates that there is a letter missing from the file from Mr Wilson in response to the letter in File 2 above.  This file, again from Blake Division  shows that Boy Wilson is settling down WILSON - SETTLING DOWN.pdf
File 4, is a rather sad and pathetic letter from Wilson's mother claiming abject cruelty in the way her son was treated WILSON - LETTER FROM MOTHER.pdf

File 5, a letter from the Captain of Ganges [my Captain in my time] The Earl Cairns RN., stating the punishments given to Boy Wilson.  The letter is all-telling with a desertion, a period in cells in close-custody, 7 days No11A's <one hell of a punishment in itself> and 6 cuts for his desertion.  The punishments are separated by many weeks indicating that he was not a permanent "pain in the arse" or a despicable "skate" [one who feigns situations to get them out of doing a duty].  If, as stated, this was desertion then the punishment of cuts was appropriate, but had it been a "runner" then he was wrongly punished.  This was an important issue and the Captain had to be happy in his mind that the Boy was leaving without permission fully intending never to return to HMS Ganges or the royal navy per se.  For a first offence today, leniency would be exercised and the boy would not be caned [were caning still extant] but not so in those days.  This, as you will soon read, was central to the Admiralty in telling Captains of BTE's that caning was only to be used on the worst cases and not for simply doing a "runner". However, File 6 below is unequivocal in that the Boy had desertion on his mind.  WILSON - GANGES LETTER TO CINC NORE.pdf
File 6, covers letters between Wilson's father and HMS Ganges.  He addresses his letter either to the Divisional Officer or to the Chaplain, but the Commander, Commander H W Firth RN., answers it. The third letter in this file, Mr Wilsons answer to Commander Firth, he forewarns the Commander that Boy Wilson has it on his mind not to return to HMS Ganges, in essence, to desert.  This, Boy Wilson does, and from Mr Wilsons letter and a letter from Mrs Wilson to follow in File 7, Boy Wilson has to be arrested at his home in Leeds and brought back to HMS Ganges in "irons".   WILSON - GANGES COMMANDER TO MR WILSON.pdf
File 7, almost brings a tear to my eye, for I find it so depressing that a mother should be put in such a position. WILSON - MOTHERS UNDATED LETTER OF CONCERN.pdf
File 8, shows the true nature of Boy Wilson, for clearly he was a waster ! WILSON - GANGES LETTER WARNING OF NO PROGRESS.pdf
File 9, gives an indication of Staff Work at its highest possible level and yet on an irksome mundane subject. Mrs Wilson's letter shown first in File 4 above accusing the navy of cruelty, has yet to be answered.  In this file we see a Commander in Chief, the Second Sea Lord and the First Sea Lord all active in the production of a draft letter answering the accusation, and then to see that letter dispatched to the lady. WILSON - ADMIRALTY LETTER TO MRS WILSON.pdf
Finally, File 10.  Once again, it is a sad letter written by a distraught mother, even possibly temporarily unbalanced by the trauma of the past two years during which he son was a royal sailor. WILSON - FINAL LETTER FROM MOTHER.pdf

Now for the second of the two stories, that of Boy Beaumont, the anti-hero of all boys who went through Ganges.  He is the only boy who in one week [five working days] received no fewer than two whacks of 12 x No 20 punishment, i.e., 24 cuts.   Whilst the Boy was totally inadequate and an undesirable [as you will read], his punishment, though justified, was unprecedented and never again repeated. Thus, if you were at Ganges in 1954, you can claim without contradiction, that you saw discipline, although an isolated case, at its most severe.

It was without doubt THE darkest hour in the history of Ganges discipline

a time when a boy, notwithstanding, would "work his ticket" and the Captain met obduracy with obduracy, stubbornness with stubbornness, bloody-mindedness  with bloody-mindedness, and had no answer [in or outside the rules] to step aside to tackle the Boy with  an approach befitting his social rank, his experiences,  all driven by an understanding [or lack of] of human nature.  He punished a Boy who absconded twice but he was not prepared for the Boy to abscond another dozen times or more if needs be.  Would the Captain, I wonder, have ordered 12 cuts for each and every subsequent break-out, because in the end, with this Boy, he would have been beaten at his own game? The Captain and the royal navy could have so easily have been dragged through Parliament and possibly the Courts, and were quite literally saved by Beaumont' mother, who, for whatever reason, did not go global with her complaint.  As the days and weeks passed, the Admiralty feared that Mrs Beaumont would go public and frankly, they were amazed that she didn't. 

The Head of Naval Law said on the 6th February 1954  "In 1936, the Board authorised Boys Training Establishments to punish by caning first offences of breaking out, providing the boy did it with intent to desert.  The investigation resulting from the caning twice within a week of Boy Beaumont has revealed that at HMS Ganges at least,  the authority given in 1936 has been abused.  It is clear that Ganges are now caning for simply breaking out." 

On the 5th March 1954 the Head of Naval Training at the Admiralty sent Captain The Earl Cairns RN., a PRIVATE LETTER  [NOT THE USUAL SERVICE PRACTICE !} In it he states that the Admiralty considered the two canings to be legally justified but that they sounded a warning that the propriety of the punishment of caning must be very carefully considered before it is awarded. It is generally agreed, as you say in your letter of the 17th November 1953, that caning is 'swift', stimulating and a surprisingly good deterrent. In this particular case, however, the inefficacious of caning as a deterrent was strikingly demonstrated by his immediate repetition of the offence after the first caning.  If Mrs Beaumont had written to her MP., or a newspaper, we might well have had a very difficult situation to deal with.  Nothing would be more likely to arouse public indignation than the award of 12 cuts twice within a week, even without any suggestion that the boy had an hernia at the time. No doubt you will have these considerations in mind when dealing with any future cases."

Boy 2nd Class JAMES BEAUMONT J 926340 joined HMS Ganges on the 9th June 1953 as I joined on the 13th October. Beaumont was a Scot from the Edinburgh area.  He became a Communications Boy and commenced his training to qualify as a Boy Signalman.  However, he failed his 8th-week examination and was re-categorised to the Seaman Branch.  Shortly after his re-categorisation he was discharged to the Royal Naval Hospital at Chatham pending an operation to mend an hernia. His mother signed the necessary forms, but the operation was not performed [being considered unnecessary] and whilst in hospital he was discharged as 'unsuitable' taking effect on the 29th October 1953.  He never returned to Ganges and never had a days instruction in seamanship. He left as he came, a Boy 2nd Class.

My first file reveals the file of Naval Law {File NL 3806}.  It is manifest that the two canings of Boy Beaumont within a five day period polarised the minds and thoughts of the main Board Members of the Admiralty.  They show the wheeling and dealing [and the ducking and diving] of internal politics, and whilst they are of one accord that the punishment was probably well deserved and delivered within the rules governing the Captain of HMS Ganges {and other BTE} they are closing ranks to make sure that

a.  there is no come back on The Board:
b.  there is no come back to their Desk:
c.  that the punishment is never ordered again:
d.  that the Captain of HMS Ganges is given a friendly tip-off [the semi official private letter]:
e.  if Mrs Beaumont does bring the affair into the public domain that the Naval Law Department is fully prepared for what can
    only be regarded as 'lambs to the slaughter', at the full mercy of the British public:
f.  the deceit [yes, the deceit] of reneging on a promise to Mrs Beaumont is maintained unless scuppered by Mrs Beaumont  herself:

In the event, in sub paragraphs e and f, Mrs Beaumont did not "spill the beans" or demand that the promise made to her by the Admiralty should be fulfilled, so the Admiralty were let off lightly, but, although an expedient,  the Admiralty brought ignominy upon itself because that deceit remains a stain on their record even to this very day.

BEAUMONT - Naval Law Minutes.pdf

In this file I will highlight some of the salient points, but for a real understanding of how the issue was resolved [or otherwise] one needs to read the file in depth. Even today, now 55 years later, it is still a good indicator of boys training just nine years after the end of WW2.

Page two points to an OFFICIAL Admiralty Letter dated 1.3.54 which orders a clear policy on caning, and to a DEMI/SEMI {Demi means Half whereas Semi means Denoting Half] OFFICIAL Naval Law letter {5.3.54} to the Captain of HMS Ganges,  pointing out the political damage upon the navy were he not to carefully consider administering punishments the like of which he ordered for Boy Beaumont. It goes on to mention Beaumont's discharge from the navy.
Pages three and four show the signatures of the Board Members.
Page 5 [use the Adobe zooming tool for a better read] is a minute from the Head of Naval Law to NCW [Naval Conditions and Welfare] asking them to promise Mrs Beaumont a further letter about her sons treatment in HMS Ganges.
Page 7, note the first entry by the Director of Manning. Weak seaman recruiting and the reluctance to lose any rating.  However, the second entry needs no further explanation.
Page 8, the first paragraph, written by Naval Law, is really the start of the deceit. The second paragraph starts the story of Boy Beaumont' crime and punishment .
Page 9, the first paragraph last sentence. Naval Law is in effect challenging Ganges. Paragraph three, highlights a corruption in the rules - note the first and second offences and the 6 cuts/12 cuts punishments.  Paragraph four condones the punishments.
Page 10, paragraph 6 is worth a full read. Note in paragraph 9, the words "which might possibly be sent to Mrs Beaumont".

Page 11, is an amazing statement given the folk law of Ganges as I and thousands of other boys knew it. What the head of Naval Law is saying runs contrary to what happened in Ganges up to this case in 1954.

Page 12, another astonishing claim in that the rules written in 1936 on caning, designed to be more liberal than in previous times and therefore lessening the harshness of Ganges punishments, were in fact, DELIBERATELY omitted from the Ganges copy of the rules to be followed by the CO.

Page 13, paragraph one,  acknowledges the Boards broken promise to Mrs Beaumont - deceit.  Paragraph 3, last sentence,  makes it abundantly clear of the abuse of HMS Ganges towards punishment. The rest of this page pulls no punches in its desire to bring Ganges to book, to address its abuses prior to this point.
Page 14, says that whilst an Admiralty Letter is on record as saying that Boy Beaumont' punishment was improper, Director of Naval Training suggest that this was an insinuation only [i.e., hinted at] and that Ganges should be told that the punishment was proper [i.e., factually correct] and that the status quo should be maintained until new rules are issued. Confusing and contradictory.
Page 15, the Director of Welfare and Service Conditions writes that the Captain of Ganges, the "man on the spot" should make the judgements of punishments but that he didn't explain his actions {about Boy Beaumont} well enough to get the whole of the Board on his side. Note in paragraph two, his [joint Board] reluctance to honour a promise made to Mrs Beaumont. Paragraph three, is a mild reprimand for the Captain of HMS Ganges and his many predecessors, and not having the necessary rules [Admiralty Letter of June 1936*] was no excuse for abuse because he {they} could have sourced a copy.  In the absence of that Letter, Captains had administered punishments sanctified by customs [of Ganges and NOT of the navy]. * This letter is included as page one of the next BEAUMONT PDF File below.
Page 16, unreservedly, paragraph four says that the Captains interpretation of "gross and continued disobedience" was wrong and that the second caning caused an embarrassment for the Board, and to justify it would cause further embarrassment; full stop. In paragraph five, the Director of Welfare and Service Conditions almost ridicules the wisdom {?} of punishments in boys training establishments.
Page 17, the wisdom herein is apparent. But note - the Admiralty clearly did not like this double caning of 24 cuts in a five day period.  It brought embarrassment but equally it challenged the sensitivities of each of the Board members.  It is clear from this paragraph six that the only reason the Board did not sanction the Captain of HMS Ganges was because the Captain thought he was doing the correct thing based on long-standing practices at Shotley - even though they were wrong and therefore abusive.
Page 18, Head of Naval Law reiterates the abuses extant in HMS Ganges in 1954.  Paragraph five is of great interest.  It did become desirable, and no punishments, except for imprisonment, were recorded on Service Certificates [SC's]. This of course post 1954 gives carte blanche to all ex Ganges lamp-swingers who claim to have done 'this and that' whilst at Shotley.
Page 19, states that the 1936 norms should continue as 1954 norms.  Note in paragraphs seven and eight, the reluctance to give Mrs Beaumont the promised letter concerning he sons punishments whilst at Ganges.
Page 20, the Board agree with Naval Law. Paragraph two say that in view of the political implication on the NDA [Naval Discipline Act] it would be advisable to add the "heavy guns" of the Parliamentary Secretary and the First Sea Lord to the circulation of the file.
Page 21, the first paragraph has an added letter 'y' to the left of the text - see Page 22 below for its use. The second paragraph is succinct. For my money, I wish that Mrs Beaumont had taken this route.
Page 22, Head of Naval Law writing to the Secretary to the Second Sea Lord, says that he assumes that the Second Sea Lord will wish to give a briefing to the Parliamentary Secretary re the paragraph marked with a 'y' in Page 21 above. The copy of a letter referred to in the last minute on this page is shown in the next PDF file.

This next Beaumont file looks at Letters and other Minutes BEAUMONT - Letters and other Minutes.pdf.  Note how many Service letters are endorsed with PRIVATE !  The matter was so near to political disaster that much circumspection was the order of the day. Note also that in some cases the letter ending breaks the rules, namely that when writing to a person in the first instance [e.g. Mrs Umbrella] one writes "yours sincerely" and when writing to otherwise [say, to a Sir or a Madam] one writes "yours faithfully", at least this is the way I was taught in my grammar school !

Page 1, shows the 1936 Admiralty letter which put a stop to caning boys willy-nilly for absconding and reserved the punishment only for boys who ran away with the intention of deserting.  Commanding Officers were tasked to put on their 'detective hat' and investigate before lashing out with the cane.
Pages 2  is a letter from the Admiralty [6.10.53] to Ganges, C-in-C Nore and RNH Chatham, telling of Mrs Beaumont' visit to London and Whitehall. It also mentions her visit to see her son in Ganges.  Above all else, travelling such distances [Edinburgh-London-Shotley-London-Edinburgh] in those days was not an easy task and would have taken up to four times longer than an equivalent journey of today:  it would also have been expensive for the woman. Note her claim of being treated less than well whilst in Ganges.
Page 3, a hollow threat ?: a child's cry for his mother ?: a letter addressed as in Page 2 above for all to take note!
Pages 4 - 8, contain a letter from Ganges to C-in-C Nore and also the RNH Chatham.  It gives a full summary about Boy Beaumont listing his crimes, punishments, attitude and suitability for naval Service.
Page 9, a letter from Captain Earl Cairns at Ganges to Mrs Beaumont about Boy Beaumont' health and happiness.
Page 10, a letter from Boy Beaumont' parents to Ganges.
Page 11, C-in-C Nore's letter recommending that Boy Beaumont be discharged as unsuitable.
Page 12, a Surgeon Rear Admiral's letter giving notice that there is nothing medically wrong and that he proposes to discharge the Boy back to duty [back to HMS Ganges].
Pages 13 and 14, a Confidential Signal, DTG [Date time group] 121450Z sent by C-in-C Nore asking for an early approval to discharge the Boy, and a letter follow-up. Note the Central Mail Office date stamp - 13 Oct 1953.  This was the date I arrived at the Annexe HMS Ganges to start my naval training.
Pages 15 and 16, Admiralty letters to Mrs Beaumont informing her of her sons health and status as a naval rating
Page 17, Admiralty letter of approval to discharge
Page 18, by date at least [10 November 1953] this letter from the Admiralty appears to be retrospective bearing in mind that the boy has now been discharged with Admiralty approval.
Pages 19 and 20, a letter from Ganges to C-in-C Nore
Page 21, a letter of caning support from C-in-C Nore to the Admiralty
Page 22, the first draft to Mrs Beaumont - despite the promise to her, not sent

Pages 23 and 24, a minute from head of Naval Law extolling the virtues of Their Lordships back in 1936, proposes that their wisdom remains as a guide for punishing Boys of the mid 1950's.
This, was to SPECTACULARLY  back-fire on Their Lordships of the early 1950's, because, according to the Captain of HMS Ganges, the unprecedented "runners" of 1954, immediately after the edict of reinstating the 1936 rule [wisdom] was issued (1.3.54}, was due ENTIRELY  to the non-caning of boys for the first offence of running away if desertion could not be proved.

Page 25, a minute from head of  Welfare and Service Conditions answering Page 23/24 above.

Page 26, is a warning from the very top of the navy especially paragraph 4.  Here they point out that the navy is already out of step with EVERYBODY ELSE [Army, RAF, Schools, Courts, Prisons and Borstals] and that even if the existing rules in the RN are obeyed to the letter, those outside the RN are waiting to pounce to pour ridicule upon the Admiralty for its Dickensian ethos.

Page 27, is, yet again, one of those "PRIVATE" letters between the protagonists in Boy Beaumont' case. It is a clear yet muffled "slap across the hand" for the Captain of HMS Ganges.

Finally on this page [more to come on others] is the main breaking story of when Ganges produced the worst punishment figures ever recorded and which brought Ganges into the national spotlight. 

The year was 1954 and whilst there was nothing to suggest to their Lordships that there was anything untoward which would question the morals, suitability of purpose and high professionalism abroad amongst the Captain, officers and training staff of HMS Ganges certain things came to light which rang "warning bells". All punishment returns [as well as annual reports covering morale, welfare etc] were submitted to C-in-C Nore whose legal department [working in HMS Pembroke] perused every word to make sure it met the strict requirements of [in this case] QRRN and BR 697 Boys Training Manual.  All Flag Officer summaries were submitted, for retention, to the Admiralty.  This report, ordered because of Parliament pressure, all 260 foolscap pages of it though not all will be used here, "tore" through the Admiralty not to mention the civilian population, and from it, emerged a rethink on No 20 punishment relating to caning or cuts and to discipline per se.  Thereafter, which for most of you was in your time, things got better and a much softer approach was encouraged, nay, demanded by Their Lordships.

Changing the subject for a moment for a necessary info-byte, the paper reminds us of the Ganges recruiting pattern.  Every five weeks [three per term - two of 14 weeks and one of 15] a recruitment joined the ANNEXE. The numbers in each recruitment varied greatly and were generally between 125 and 195 with an average of 170 boys. A normal entry produced two AC [academically Advanced Class]  and four GC [academically General Class] classes of seamen and one AC plus two GC classes of communication boys; the average number in a class was 21 boys. The training day was controlled by a watch system either Port or Starboard. When boys in the port watch were in school, the starboard watch were undergoing technical instruction in the signal school, the seamanship school or at gunnery class. Then they would change over. The school [and therefore the Instructor Officers] knew just how many AC boys and GC boys would be in each watch, so they could prepare their teaching pattern accordingly as we were taught separately,  School grading did not affect technical training so AC and GC communicators trained together in the signal school. Generally speaking, there were two W/T classes to every one V/S class.

The story starts here 1953 Boys Uprising at HMS Ganges.pdf  Where possible, pages are in date order. The anonymous letter was later accredited to Boy Second Class A.K. BLAIR J 926380.

Pages 1 and 2 of the file show the minute markings [a file] started in response to the receipt of correspondence sent to the Admiralty by Commander The Right Honourable T.D. Galbraith M.P. RN Retired, MP for Pollok Scotland: Secretary of State for Scotland and soon to be, in 1955, elevated to the Peerage as Lord Strathclyde.  He had served in the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth as a lieutenant during the Battle of Jutland in 1916.
Page 3, shows the typed Boys' letter which started the whole affair.
Pages 4 to 7, contain the actual Boys' letter and their enveloped addressed [reasonably well] to Commander Galbraith.
Page 8, expands the file

Pages 9 and 10 show a letter from a Mrs Elizabeth Cooper [dated 6th October 1954] mother of a Ganges Boy. She states that no fewer than FORTY BOYS ran away from Ganges, and that a Boy hanged or tried to hang himself in his mess. Her letter is strong, positive and articulate and clearly this mother wants answers.

Pages 11 and 12, expand the file to include Mrs Cooper's input. The Private Secretary to the Parliamentary Secretary suggests that at this stage the Second Sea Lord should get involved.
Page 13,  things are starting to move but not apparently expeditiously at this stage.
Page 14, Ronayne is a naval secretary at the Admiralty, whilst Rennie is the secretary to the Secretary of State for Scotland

Page 15, a second articulate letter from Mrs Elizabeth Cooper. Like her first letter, it was addressed to her MP, MP for the Windsor district.  She states that she actually went to HMS Ganges because of the concerns  addressed to her in her sons letters home.   Although assumptive [the improvement of the petty officers fox example] it was a mature and generous letter given the reason for her visit. She says that she was pleased with what she saw and had no further concerns.  I like this woman's penmanship, Ooops, penwomanship!.

Page 16, is a reply to the question raised in Page 14 above
Page 17, is a letter from Mrs Cooper's M.P., office to the naval Parliamentary Secretary.
Pages 18, 19 and 20, refer to a letters exchanged between Mrs Coopers MP and the Admiralty
Page 21, in parlance, the herald has arrived to say that the "shit has hit the fan shaft" !
Page 22, a letter from Commander Galbraith MP RN Retired  to the Naval Parliamentary Secretary Alan Noble Esq DSC RN Retired M.P.  I like the rather old fashioned way of referring to "young blighters".  His last line reads "at any rate see the letter".
Page 23, letter from Admiralty to Commander Galbraith M.P., from naval Parliamentary Secretary. The word "discursive" means rambling - what should he expect from young Boy sailors ?
Page 24, here we see the navy closing the case with a promise to Mrs Copper's MP that it will monitor complaints.
Page 25, Admiralty tells Ganges that should the writer[s] of the letter be identified, he [they] must not be punished.
Page 26, Ganges tells the Admiralty that the writer was Boy Second Class A.K. Blair J 926380.

This appeased Mrs Cooper, subdued Boy Second Class Blair and his fellow complainants but set the "cat amongst the pigeons" elsewhere,  not least in Parliament.  As is regularly stated in potentially 'juicy' stories, questions were asked in the House !

Here the Captain of HMS Ganges reports to his C-in-C on the numbers of boys running away from the Establishment in the years 1953 and 1954.  The 1953 runaways would have been caned routinely whereas only some of those 25 in the 1954 quarter ending March would have been,  unless second offenders. Captain Ganges - Improperly Leaving.pdf. Note paragraph 3 - it is a "slap in the face" for the Board Admirals who wanted less caning.  His paragraph 5 tells of a harsher regime in terms of punishment and yet the crime rate stays the same or increases. Paragraph 6 tells a little of the unrest amongst us [that is me included] during his period of incumbency.

C-in-C Nore letter of concern.pdf - "disturbing" is a strong word ?

Admiralty sounds-out other Boys Training Establishments.pdf  The Admiralty asks HMS St Vincent and HMS Fisgard for details of their Boys who have run away.

Fisgard and St Vincent replies.pdf - For Fisgard [answered by C-in-C Plymouth] a nil return.  For St Vincent [a more like-with- like comparison] caning was the norm for those who ran away.  However, as is patently clear from paragraph 1, the overall discipline at HMS St Vincent was known pan-navy, to be much less severe than at HMS Ganges. Ex St Vincent boys do not, nor did they ever whilst serving, have this hang-up about their boys training - it was certainly different from their civilian life beforehand but not so as to affect them for the rest of their lives.  They do not for example have a known camaraderie, an Association, a reunion: their alma mater was second-hand when they moved in, now passed down the line as a civilian school and its future now in question. Ex Ganges boys do have an Association [though I personally am not a Member] and a camaraderie, and they lament the passing of their alma mater which was built for them and now stands empty and forlorn after them, awaiting disposal. St Vincent's totals are, regrettably, difficult to analyse since no mention has been stated of the number of boys under training. Even so, 11 second or more offences out of 37  is a high offending rate, and the discharged figure is comparable to that of Ganges, and this with markedly fewer boys.

Number of Runners - Captain Earl Cairns' last letter.pdf - this was Captain Earl Cairns' last report before his appointment  became time expired.  It is to C-in-C Nore, and from him to the Admiralty. His paragraph 3 {only 3 AC boys out of 32 boys....} is of some interest, suggesting that running away has something to do with academic ability - this theme is built upon by Captain Le Fanu in the next routine report. If that means that a boy is off-put by his school and vocational [branch] studies, then I can quite understand that, because from my point of view, if I had done a "runner" it would have been because of everything else other than the 'classroom' which I personally enjoyed.   I tolerated Ganges but hated being there.  Note, again, in paragraph 6, that punishments are on the increase both in numbers awarded and in their severity [number of days punishment awarded]. Of the listed items, I can empathize with all except for item [i]:  perhaps the Captain was correct about 'ability'!  Irksome, a "pain in the arse", needlessly repetitive, thank God I am a sparker and not a dabtoe or a gun-buster, and many more derogatory comments, yes, but not understanding, no.

Captain Le Fanu' first and last report.pdf - the last report as indicated in C-in-C Nore's letter to the Admiralty. Academic ability again is mentioned.  It must have some bearing when we remember the return from HMS Fisgard on Boy Artificers was zero - nobody ran away. I have empathy with all the reasons, only I would add into [c] 'did not like' in lieu of 'scared' and into [e] I would add the words 'me not being at' between 'about' and 'home'.

Report prepared for the Parliamentary Question.pdf 

Put quite simply, this is a MUST READ by all ex Ganges Boys'.  It is profound, of original thought, and were you to encourage your children to read it they would get a better understanding of what went of in Ganges than you will ever be able to impart.

Unlike the case of Boy BENNETT [mentioned above] whose case was raised in Parliament in a spoken question to the House by his M.P., this investigation and answer was in response to a written Parliamentary question which is very different.  In this case an M.P., had asked the Admiralty for a report because he had received a written complaint.  The written complaint to which I refer came from Mrs Cooper, who later, visited Ganges to see for herself what her son had accused the Establishment of doing.  She was satisfied that all was well and had considered the case closed.  Thus her M.P., had adopted a similar stance.  The anonymous letter from a Ganges boy who subsequently was named as Boy Second Class BLAIR, was not treated seriously by the M.P., who received it [Commander Galbraith RN Retired] but he did consider that a check might be prudent in order to ascertain that all was well at Ganges.  It was therefore a paper-exercise, although it revealed many anomalies which benefitted all boys who went to Ganges after 1955.  Because I have recommended that you read the file in full, I am not going to attach a quasi index.

On this page I bid you farewell. However, before I go I wonder if you know that you actually trained at a PLACE OF FURTHER EDUCATION as defined by the Ministry of Education, after a thorough inspection, with "no holds barred" of all aspects of of HMS Ganges in 1952  by that Ministry.  The report is so full and comprehensive that it belittles anything written about the function of Ganges by the Royal Navy, and it is the definitive guide to HMS Ganges.  I intend to publish that soon, and with it,  the reasons why the navy asked for the Ministry for their blessing and the why the navy didn't like all the report!

Good bye.