This is page FOUR

The Ganges badge is a diamond shaped badge which denotes that it is a SHORE ESTABLISHMENT. Had it been, as of yore, a ship of the line which today we would call a Capital Ship, the badge {or crest} would have been circular in shape.  However, that is academic because ships badges {afloat and ashore} as we know them were introduced in 1919, but remember Ganges, the barracks, was one of  H.M. Ship's for only 49 years.

Before that date, ships did have badges, but when they did, it was usually designed {and supplied} by the captain of the vessel and therefore it was possible that a ship would change its badge at the start of each and every commission. Even as late as the early 1960's ships commissioned for a two to two and half year period, retaining the same crew throughout. It was then decommissioned, and a new crew took over for the next commission.  It was also known that 19th century ship builders continued the trend started by the Vikings and used almost continuously since the eighth century,  of warning-off evil spirits by adding an icon to their creation, hoping to bring success in battle whilst guaranteeing, in the early days that the ship would not fall off the edge of a flat world, and in later times omni potency of the round or global world seas in all circumstances.

HMS Ganges had such a badge of its own in the 19th century, and that I show to you on page 5.  In common with many other British warships built post 1815 at the end of the Napoleonic Wars {Ganges was built in 1821} she also had a motto which just like today, was shown beneath the ship badge.

The badge we all recognise today really has nothing at all to do with the ship HMS Ganges, nor with Shotley Barracks from build to 1928.  It is a badge designed by Captain William Ford RN, Commanding Officer of HMS Ganges in 1927, 106 years after the Ganges first floated in Bombay [Mumbai] harbour.  It is of a male elephant {of the Indian type} and my researches positively suggest that it and the chosen motto were chosen for the following reason. 

The Victorians and the Edwardians [Captain Ford was a Victorian] were devotees of the most famous Anglo-British person who ever lived [born to English parents in Bombay where the Ganges was built] namely Rudyard Kipling.  He was a prolific writer of fact, fiction, short stories and poems, which the people had an insatiable appetite for.  He was a moralist but he also had a penchant for all things military which brought much criticism about some of his written works. Kipling was always a part of my upbringing and my children were also au fait with his popular works.  Rudyard Kipling  believed strongly that the German threat prior to the commencement of WW1 should be challenged and he was active in getting the Government to think that way. When war did break out, he was hurt to hear that his only son had been turned down for a commission because of his eyesight, and he did everything in his power to convince his many and influential friends that his son should have a presence in the British army at such an important time. He won for his son a commission in the Irish Guards.  His only son very soon became a statistic of that terrible war and was killed in 1915. Kipling was devastated and carried to his grave a guilt-feeling. However, this personal sacrifice and after much lobbying  of the Government advocating a military response to Germany, Kipling's military friends and devotees of his works grew ever closer to him, almost appointing him as their icon.  His works were read widely in the navy, the army and the royal flying corps and there are many references to the 'Kipling Library' in every officers mess. Rudyard Kipling is famous for so many things, and one of them comes from his guilt-feeling about his precious only son John. John's body was never found and Kipling spent  many years on the battlefield of Loos looking for it.  As one of the many manifestations of his grief he took an active part in the then Imperial War Graves Commission [later to become the Commonwealth War Graves Commission] and it was he who asked that the biblical expression  "Their names liveth for evermore" should adorn War Memorials and he also coined the phrase "Know unto God" {which sometimes is written Known only unto God} on the graves marking unidentified combatants of war.   Kipling was a great admirer of the royal navy and had many friends and acquaintances.  He was regularly in the company of naval officers and "much enjoyed their wisdom and friendship: he went to sea in several vessels including a submarine".  Kipling wrote many stories about the navy some of which I highly recommend [Petty Officer Pyecroft is one of his famous characters]. However, delightful though some of them are, the purist critics berated the stories, and some were even ridiculed for being unrealistic.

  The following article sums it up.


The April 1939 issue of The Kipling Journal carried a note of great interest to members. On January 19th HMS Kipling had been launched from the yard of Messrs. Yarrow & Co., Scotstoun on Clyde.

The ceremony had been performed by Kipling's daughter Mrs Elsie Bambridge who said that nothing would have given her father such immense pride and pleasure than that a ship of the Royal Navy would one day bear his name. For nearly forty years RK had had a special feeling for the Royal Navy, and for destroyers, as witnessed in his poem of 1898 The Destroyers.

Mrs Bambridge was presented with a silver tray engraved with an image of the 'K' Class destroyer, which is now displayed in the dining room at Bateman's.

Earlier, in the December 1938 issue, the Honorary Secretary, Sir Christopher Robinson, Bart. noted that the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty had accepted the offer of the Society to present a bas-relief plaque of the writer to the ship, and invited subscriptions from members to help bear the cost. This enterprise came to fruition, for the July 1940 issue recorded that the founder of the Society, Mr J H C Brooking had unveiled the plaque aboard H.M.S. Kipling. He and other members of Council were delighted to receive a bronze of the ship's boat badge in return.

The first, and only, captain, was Sir Aubrey St Clair-Ford and he and the ship's company were always appreciative of the practical support provided by the Society. It was a happy coincidence that one of her officers Lieut Niall Robinson was the son of the Society's secretary. So the mutual high regard with which Rudyard Kipling and the Royal Navy afforded each other during his lifetime was continued between the ship bearing his name and the Society.

Captain Ford [who became a Vice Admiral and was knighted, was one of the admirals stationed ashore in Malta during  the days of its heaviest air attacks from Italian and German air forces in WW2] would have certainly been a devotee of Rudyard Kipling, and so what follows should be of no surprise to you, although you may never have put two and two together before !

Captain Ford would have been a strict disciplinarian and a highly moral man.  He wanted a rallying point for all naval boys passing through his command [equivalent to a regimental colour] and what better source of inspiration could there have been than a recourse to the works of Rudyard Kipling, one of his own heroes.  The badge he designed bore a male Indian elephant.  Of all Kipling's works, Jungle Book [1895] is the most popular, and tells of an activity occurring in the India jungle. In that book, amongst many other characters [humans included] was a male elephant, the oldest animal in the jungle. His name was HATHI and he led his wife and his son on various missions. Kipling reminds us that elephants never forget and that they are wise creatures. They are of course also very strong. Kipling uses the old bull elephant to represent order, dignity and obedience. Captain Ford must have thought that he had died and had gone to heaven, that the imagine he wished to create was there, ready made, sitting on a bookshelf in his cabin. The old elephant and the motto "Wisdom is Strength" were a creation of the much loved and much respected doyen of all short stories, Rudyard Kipling. I don't need to add it, but I will anyway, so can you imagine why the poem 'IF' was chosen ?  It was not merely for what it says, though the poem is profound, but that the writer was a role model to all boys [nay, to all of  us] whose words should aspire all to achieve all that is best in life, and Kipling wrote this in 1910. Nevertheless, the words and their meanings were too high-minded for ordinary 15 year old boys, and I have always thought that his following poem would have been much better suited and more readily understood by the boys. When I was a boy we used to holiday in Morecambe with my paternal grandparents and whilst there, we would often visit my then favourite place called Heysham to see the big vessels. I knew this poem as well as I knew the Lords Prayer, and Verse 6 was one of the reasons why I joined the Royal Navy in 1953.

BIG STEAMERS By Rudyard Kipling
"Oh, where are you going to, all you Big Steamers,
With England's own coal, up and down the salt seas?"
"We are going to fetch you your bread and your butter,
Your beef, pork, and mutton, eggs, apples, and cheese."
"And where will you fetch it from, all you Big Steamers,
And where shall I write you when you are away?"
"We fetch it from Melbourne, Quebec and Vancouver,
Address us at Hobart, Hong-kong, and Bombay."
"But if anything happened to all you Big Steamers,
And suppose you were wrecked up and down the salt sea?"
"Why, you'd have no coffee or bacon for breakfast,
And you'd have no muffins or toast for your tea."
"Then I'll pray for fine weather for all you Big Steamers,
For little blue billows and breezes so soft."
"Oh, billows and breezes don't bother Big Steamers,
For we're iron below and steel-rigging aloft."
"Then I'll  build a new lighthouse for all you Big Steamer,
With plenty wise pilots to pilot you through."
"Oh, the Channel's as bright as a ball-room already,
And pilots are thicker than pilchards at Looe."
"Then what can I do for you, all you Big Steamers,
Oh, what can I do for your comfort and good?"
"Send out your big warships to watch your big waters,
That no one may stop us from bringing your food."
"For the bread that you eat and the biscuits you nibble,
The sweets that you suck and the joints that you carve,
They are brought to you daily by all us Big Steamers,
And if any one hinders our coming you'll starve!"

Rudyard Kipling also wrote a Poem which he called the ENGLISH WAY.  In his last verse, he hints at the stoic spirit of the English where we have produced great deeds and had to sacrifice much, and yet we still can raise a smile and get on with life.  He says:-

Greater the deed, greater the need
Lightly to laugh it away
Shall be the mark of the English breed
Until the Judgement Day.

This, were it not for the word English, could have been adapted for the British and particularly for the Ganges Boys, all of whom would have readily understood these words.

By the time Captain Ford was designing the new badge for a newly named shore establishment, Kipling was in his 60th year.  He died in 1936 aged 71 in the Middlesex Hospital. Dear old Walt Disney took the Jungle Book story and made it into a lovely film suitable for all ages and timeless. He made HATHI into a funny character, calling him Colonel HATHI, and often had him being forgetful and indecisive, the very opposite of what Rudyard Kipling intended.  Don't blame Walter !  We ex-Ganges boys will stick with the original story whilst being the first to volunteer to take the grandkids to see the Disney version.

For the thousands of boys who passed through Ganges [whatever its name at that time] whilst of a young age and therefore lacking in maturity, the nearest they got to aspiring to be wise was to be street-wise {although a few were wise proper, "wise beyond their years"] and like the elephant, learnt rapidly from their own mistakes and never forget their time at HMS Ganges.


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