The Churches of HMS Ganges

During the period 1940 to 1945, approximately 80,000 HO's [Hostilities Only] were trained at HMS Ganges.  We know that is the case from demobilisation documents and from the document covered on this page, namely N.S. 36454/1943.

This is the only document [of many] which I have found expressly referring to men trainees [HO's] and the expense of boy trainees, and it is therefore worthy of publication!

The document concerns three building in HMS Ganges of which I have little to say [although I knew all three] except that on the HMS Ganges web site, under 'History' they show the Church of England Building, St Georges Chapel [sic] Church erected in 1907 and that was not the case! However, it is academic as far as the story goes.

The story is about the refurbishment of the three churches in the Establishment which come December 1943, were said to be "meagerly furnished" and in need of refurbishment. From the day the churches were opened for worship until 1940 and the watershed, the worshippers had been reluctant boys, made to go as part of their training, with never a thought that very soon, people worshipping there could be at war with many losing their lives. Church as such was a duty and not a personal requirement with a need for serious prayer, and the upkeep was not seen as important nor were the buildings themselves.  In 1940 when the men supplanted the boys, and the war was now real [the first year was often referred to as the "phoney war" - stand fast Scapa Flow and the River Plate!] and men, privately and corporately, looked to the church for guidance and strength and attended voluntarily and at any time of the day which suited them and their training programme. There, they prayed earnestly for themselves, for friends, for families and loved ones and for their King and the country which they proudly served.

By the end of 1943 after three years and a bit of vicious fighting and horrendous naval losses, many HO's had visited these churches {50,000 in all to that point}, some wearing their working dress and all adding to the fair wear and tear brought about in previous times by the boys pre-war, to floors/carpets, pews, books, furnishings, kneelers and hassocks etc. It was then that the Captain of HMS Ganges decided to ask for help to refurbish all three churches, not of course knowing that the war had yet twenty months yet to run [VJ Day] before we were to become the victors. For him, the time had come now and the future would look after itself. From his letter DIAG B1, 2 and 3, he appears to have chosen the line that the last three years of war and HO's were real [in religious terms] whereas boys and their many more years before 1940, were not.  This I believe, is why he chose to dedicated the newly refurbished churches as a Memorial to the men HO's [1940-43] with no mention about the boys who served in the Establishment from day one of RNTE Shotley. Like all Memorials, they are symbolic and iconic and remember a unique battle, war, group of people.  Memorials, once dedicated, are rarely if ever abandoned [at least in modern times] and this one is no exception. It is manifestly not a Memorial to HMS Ganges or to the boys or to all who trained there, but to the men of WW2 who trained at Shotley between 1940 and 1943 although of course, the dates and times the Memorial serves can be moved accordingly without deviating from the need/reason for having the Memorial. Thus, the Memorial is to all 80,000 HO's who trained at Shotley. The Memorial is recorded as an event in the diary of HMS Ganges, but not overtly on or at the Churches themselves.  I was a Methodist belonging to the Church of Scotland and didn't know the Memorial status was attached to my church.  I wonder whether any of my peers who attended the other two churches knew of the Memorial?  In my time, 1953, the word HO was never mentioned, and HMS Ganges appeared to be about boys training and only that! There is another  theory, and that is the 'Memorial' was funded by using the 'shop fund' which is the NAAFI Shop. The profits over three years from selling beer, cigarettes, toiletries, sticky buns, beverages etc, to which obviously the boys did not contribute, could have evoked the reason for dedicating the Memorial to the men!

Some of the Diag's require amplification and suitable notes are attached.




Sub paragraph [vi] E.N.S.A. = Entertainments National Service Association which was a body of professional entertainers travelling the world to entertain British troops. Amongst their numbers were Gracie Fields, George Formby, Wilfrid Brambell, Joyce Grenfell, Paul Scofield, Rebecca Cantwell, Noel Coward and Vera Lynn. Notice sub paragraph [xi]. When boys returned to HMS Ganges that pot was worth £1400.


Note the captains generosity in his paragraph 5


The letter in Plate B1, B2 and B3 doing the rounds in the Admiralty, read and signed off by the various front office Directors e.g. 'P Branch' meaning Procurement Branch and DofS meaning Director of Stores [various sections] etc. Messers Maples and Co Limited were world famous and supplied the very best merchandise to the very best people! They are still in business today in 2012.

With a warehouse that was one of the “sites of London”, Maple & Co was once the largest furniture retailer and manufacturer in the world, attracting visitors from near and far. The company was most prolific in the late Victorian and Edwardian era, specialising in fine quality Arts & Crafts Furniture, designed and produced in their own workshops. However, they continued producing fine quality furniture up until the 1980s.

Maple & Co was established by John Maple, a shopkeeper from Horley, Surrey, who later opened a furniture shop in Tottenham Court Road. However it was his son, John Blundell Maple , who made Maples & Co a success. With exceptional business skills, John B. Maple took over the company while still a young man. By the 1880s they were the largest furniture store in the world, exported their fine furniture to every continent.

Maples manufactured their luxury furniture entirely in-house, at a huge modern complex. A timber importer and furniture exporter, they landed prestigious contracts furnishing fine houses, hotels, embassies and palaces in Europe; among them Tsar Nicholas’s Winter Palace and the Hofburg Imperial Palace in Vienna . With his own empire established, John Blundell Maple achieved further fame in politics and horseracing – some lines, such as the Atherstoke antique cabinet, having racing connections in the titles.
Never compromising on quality, Maples produced a huge catalogue of fine furniture, covering every avenue of interior design. A Maples & Co sale today would cover everything from Chippendale Revival
antique dining chairs , to Aesthetic style carved oak dressers, to Art Nouveau tulip carved antique dining tables – all from the same catalogue.


If you cannot read D of S hand writing he says
"Referred to the Chaplain of the Fleet in the first instance for remarks. It is understood that the Captain has a selected two pairs of curtains at £93 a pair and requires further curtains etc for which coupons are required. This Dept [department] would be reluctant to give the Captain the "open cheque" asked for in his letter para 4 and 5 and in any case {DofC [Director of Control or the 'Controller', a very powerful man controlling all spending departments - prosecuting the war pre-occupied him} would have to consult as it is believed that the Admiralty cotton quota is already overdrawn. It is for consideration whether a supply of this nature should not be deferred until the end of the war"


Again, if you have difficulty reading the Chaplains letter, it says
" As these things are to be used in the beautifying of three churches - [see para 1] the prices of the curtains [and fittings?] mentioned above would not appear to be excessively extravagant, seeing that the curtains etc are needed for permanent churches.  We presume that the material is already available at Messers Maples and would therefore not incur any draws upon the cotton quota.  We understand coupons are not needed for this quality heavy brocade which we gather is being used.  Hassocks and kneelers are 'coupon-free'".

Remarkable to think that I joined the navy with a ration book with coupons for clothes [material] and other goods - rationing in all forms ceased in 1955.  I came from a family of nine [mum, dad and seven children] and when I left home, my mother tore out all my coupons for the family to use rather than allowing the navy [or some unscrupulous instructor] to steal them for their own ends. These are the same rationing coupons referred to in these loose minutes.


C of F = Chaplain of the Fleet

D of C writes " Noted.  No objection is seen to action proposed if the ultimate materials are supplied without replacement i.e. do not become a charge against the Admiralty cotton quota."


Apologies for the poor quality.
The letter is from Naval Stores Department @ Bainbridge Street London WC1. 5th January 1944.
"With reference to paragraph 3 of his letter dated 6th December 1943 No9/1, the Commanding Officer is requested to furnish a detailed list of his requirements for the furnishing of the Chapels as a memorial to men trained in HMS Ganges, which he proposes to purchase from 'shop' funds from Messers Maple & Co Ltd.  2. This coupon-free transaction will require Board approval and it is necessary to have the above information before the submission can be made.


The quote from Maple & Co Ltd of Tottenham Court Road with the letter heading cut off





D of C write below

Noted. As the amount of cotton material now revealed is the estimate is small, it is not anticipated that there would be any difficulty in granting a replacement certificate, should this be required.


E & O E above the word ESTIMATE = Errors and Omissions Excepted



Top minute from DofS,  throw a spanner in the works, first wanting Ganges to put this on hold until the war finishes but adds that if that is not desirable, then the Admiralty would make the purchase and Ganges would take the material/fittings on prepayment i,e, pay the navy.

The next desk up in the Command Chain  - no title - but he signs himself JSB 11.3.1944 agrees with DofS

It is then referred to the 4th Sea Lords office. The Admiralty A.C.S., Assistant Chief of Staff, endorses the Ganges letter and approves the procurement to be bought by Ganges on prepayment. On the 8th March 1944, the 4th Sea Lord died in office in RNH Bristol. He was Vice Admiral Frank Pegram.  His successor at the date of the minute  [13th March] was  Vice Admiral Sir Arthur Palliser. The job of the 4th Sea Lord was Chief of Naval Supplies.

Finally, Board approval is again given by the JSB man and Ganges gets its Memorial. D of S receives the approval on the 15th March 1944 [see rubber stamps on bottom of minutes].


The hand written comments on the bottom of this letter are probably to do with the 4th Sea Lord dying in office and his office caught off guard so to speak! It says" We can't hasten the 4th S.L. but we might find out whether he has passed the paper"




With approximately one year to run to the end of WW2 in Europe, the necessary work had been completed at HMS Ganges and each chapel was blessed early in May 1944. Ganges had a Memorial inside its gates.  As far as I can recall, there was no internal Memorial to the boys who trained at Shotley except for right at the end of its life, in the mid to late 1970, when people started to get sentimental about the site and its future, a plaque was inscribed and attached to the foot of the mast.  Thus, the only Ganges initiated, procured and commemorated pukker Memorial is the one I have just spoken about.

ABOUT Captain Fallowfield



Greetings and good cheer.