Story Line 141.

On the 1st January 1977, EW Training  transferred from HMS Mercury to HMS Dryad.

Story Line 142.

Just a general snippet about a place we Communicator's knew well. What was unique about Hong Kong when compared with every other geographical location the navy was to be found in?

Answer !  All RNH's were built just a few feet above sea level except for Hong Kong's 1949 RNH which was built on Victoria's Peak [height to top 1811 feet] at a dizzy height of 1337 feet, a total of 1348 feet above sea level. In 1959, the hospital was transferred to Army Command.

Story Line 143.


Story Line 144.


Story Line 145.


Story Line 146.

One for you Northwood people.

In April 1963, a R.N., Detached Unit at Northwood was established, comprising the staffs of C-in-C Home Fleet and NATO C-in-C Eastern Atlantic, commissioned as HMS Warrior, a tender to HMS President for pay and accounting. C-in-C Home Fleet, Admiral Sir Charles Madden who became C-in-C Home Fleet exactly fifty years [to the day] after his father was C-in-C Atlantic Fleet, tried unsuccessfully to have his HQ named HMS Iron Duke after his father's old ship in WW1.  After much change, we ended up with one Fleet only and Northwood became the home of CINCFLEET.  In 2002, CINCFLEET left Northwood for the last time and set up business in Whale Island, Portsmouth.

Story Line 147.

In 1962, Admiralty approved the establishment of a W/T Station on Ascension Island which was called NP [Naval Party] 1984 borne on the books of HMS President for accounting and HMS Mercury for administration vide AFO 302/62 ?  I wonder, was it something to do with the Cuban Missile Crisis - I was part of that in my little submarine awaiting orders to sink the Russian ships - or perhaps a bridge-head for communications [relay station] between the UK and Tristan de Cuhna ready for the return to the Island of her people evacuate from there in 1961 because of a massive volcanic eruption?

Story Line 148.

Remember Jenny, of Jenny's Side-Party of Hong Kong fame ?  How can you not if you were familiar with all aspects of Navy, Hong Kong style! Jenny died on the 19th February 2009 aged 92. She had served the Royal Navy from 1928 until 1997. Her name was Mrs Ng Muk Kah BEM and she and "her girls" washed and ironed; cleaned ship; chipped rust and painted ships; acted as buoy-jumpers; and when dressed in their best waited-on with grace and charm at cocktail parties, whether ashore or afloat. UK Broadsheets carried her Obituary such was her national fame. Lovely lady and it broke her heart to smithereens  when the British left the old colony in 1997.  May she always RIP.

Story Line 149.

'Furze House' in Kensington, purchased in 1954 for WRNS accommodation, was commissioned as 'St Vincent' 15th September 1983 and paid off on the 31st March 1992. The next day, 1st April 1992, Commcen Whitehall [CCW] took over the name and was commissioned 'St Vincent'.  It paid off on the 31st March 1998. Commcen Whitehall had been fully refurbished and newly computerised at a cost of £1M in October 1967.

Story Line 150.

In 1999 the Rate of ORDINARY disappeared and all junior rates below Leading Hand were called the ABLE RATE. On the introduction of the Operations Branch [OPS Branch] 1st January 1975 the Communications Branch Rate Structure changed from RO3, RO2, RO1 to RO2 [the ordinary rates] and RO1 [the able rate]. For RO, also read TO.

Story Line 151.

From the Communicator Magazine

The telegraphist branch always formed and controlled the NGS [Naval Gunfire Support] system in the ship, communicating with naval telegraphists ashore. The procedure was that friendly forces ashore [usually soldiers and marines but as easily, airmen, with the RN telegraphists attached] when up against strong entrenched enemy positions, could call upon warships patrolling just off the coast, for heavy gunfire support. The coordinates of the enemy position were signalled to the ship, and the ship opened fire with a couple of shots.  The fall of shot was critically important for the success of the mission, and the forces ashore, established as a FOP [Forward Observation Post] could see that fall/burst.  They passed the aiming corrections {altitude [range] and bearing} back to the ship and the ship pummelled the target as advised by the FOP, until it was destroyed.

These RN Telegraphists ashore were specially trained and formed a small elite force. This file gives an overview of their training and employment.


Story Line 152.

HMS Mauritius means a great deal to many in the Communications Branch, so this article, which comes from the Communicator Magazine, is a worthwhile inclusion.


Story Line 153.

This is a lovely and uplifting story again from the Communicator Magazine of the early 1970's.

It requires no introduction or explanation from me, other than to say BZ to these kindly sailors.


Story Line 154.

Although I had left the submarine service when they introduced the system called 'Radio Operator Submarine' into the Communications Branch, I was around and aware that things were going badly in the early days. Basically, they combined three existing branches into one branch and this affected the EW, the RO and the RP branches. Each would learn enough about each separate function to be able to be drafted as a competent operator into a ROSM complement billet in an operational running boat.  There was a provision which recognised the difficulty many RP's would have with acquiring the necessary Morse Code speeds/accuracy, and so told RP ratings that they were under no obligation to join the ROSM branch and that they could finish their time in the navy as an RP [Radar Plot] but also a seaman. The ROSM branch, in this case, RO's and EW's would not be taught seamanship and the ROSM branch was a Communications sub-branch and not a seaman branch, sub or otherwise.  Surprise, surprise, 99% of RP's stayed as RP's, and those that did change over to the ROSM branch found themselves still as RP's and thus as seamen, when it suited the Coxswain, the Second Coxswain [known as the 'scratcher'] and the boats' officers.  Since the RO's and EW's had never been seamen there was no temptation to use them for seamen duties.

The first part of this PDF covers the difficulties such a new branch was to cause and the second part is a comment on the ROSM by the [FOSM] Flag Officer Submarines now called [RASM] Rear Admiral Submarines


Story Line 155.

The place: HMS Mercury....The area: somewhere on the Broadwalk.....the Time:.....built early on in the camp's history but survived for a long time.  What was it?

To find the answer, look at the building wall facing you. In the centre, in the window to the right of the door, click on the top middle window pane.

Story Line 156.

The official start of HMS Mercury at Leydene!


Story Line 157.

In Victorian times, dating from the 1860 period, naval boys were taught flags and signalling as part of their basic training.  This very interesting file, taken from the 5th Syllabus or 5th Instruction of the Boys Training Manual, shows a whacky way of learning the Morse Code and some excellent flags and flag hoists. Two spell out well known naval names and one spells out a well known naval express.

The complete syllabus [instruction] can be found here

boys training fifth instruction.pdf

Story Line 158.

A List of British Naval Signalling Manuals [21 of them] through the Centuries.


Story Line 159.

A common sight up until 1964 was a probationary Acting Petty Officer.

This is EITHER
Acting Petty Officer Telegraphist - to 1958
Acting Radio Supervisor - from 1958
JIM BORLEY who served in HMS Belfast during WW2.

Well perhaps not common in terms of youth or time served - this man has no Good Conduct Badges and therefore we can either assume that he is 21 years old if he joined the service before or on his 18th birthday, and if he joined afterwards he hasn't yet completed four years service from date of joining so could be well into his 20's  - but more in terms of his professional status shown on his right arm, in this case, signifying that he had qualified at HMS Mercury to be a Petty Officer.

The probationary year was always spent in square rig, Class 3 Rig  [unless you wore Class 2 Rig uniform as a junior rate {writers, cooks, stewards, stores, coders, sick berth attendants}  in which case the uniform didn't change staying with black buttons and a red cap badge]. As soon as the probationary year had passed, the Captain approved a confirmation, and the acting PO became a PO shifting rigs into fore and aft rig, Class 1 Rig.

Being a petty officer in bell bottoms wasn't always easy especially when wearing a great coat or a Burberry, and if in doubt, despite the weather, off Burberry and all would be revealed!

I went 'through the mill' in 1962 being confirmed in 1963, so I decided to marry [6th August 1962] wearing a lounge suite rather than a sailors suit.

Made sense in a way to test the sailor first before committing him to spending money on the change-over rig. That said, it was always a give-away when nearing confirmation, because all acting petty officers asked for the release of money as a gratuitous issue well before the event to allow them to purchase kit ready for the big day, and had it be known that the confirmation would be denied, then too also the kit-money advancement would have been denied. 

Story Line 160.

Have you ever wondered about the statue of Lord Nelson, standing high above Trafalgar Square?  Clearly the finished product was somehow lifted into position and bolted/cemented on to the top of the column, but first of all, down at ground level it had to be designed and sculptured. The sculptor was a man called Edward Hodges Baily and he made a model of his design-thoughts in the greatest of detail, ready in all respects to be scaled-up and copied with the chisel into stone as the final product. That model was called a maquette,  which means a sculptor's small preliminary model or sketch.  On completion of his commission, Baily gave that maquette to the Admiralty and it still graces the building.

Story Line 161.

Malta, a story line in names only!


Story Line 162.

Many years ago, I attended a lecture given in the Navy Club [R.N. Club and Royal Albert Yacht Club] in Pembroke Road, Old Portsmouth about the "Ancient Order of Admiralty Messengers", a title which intrigued me. Ever heard of it? I hadn't, but it is well placed in my database now!

I start off with their badge of office

I had no idea of this very privileged and high profile public office, given only to very special people, making the simple word and traditional job of a messenger take on an entirely new meaning. The envisaged role of somebody wheeling a trolley full of packs, notes, envelopes inter alia,  around the corridors of our Establishment buildings [Whitehall, hospitals, museums, libraries etc], all messengers true, loyal and efficient, has been dashed, for I now know that there are messenger which begin with a capital 'M' and those with a lower casing 'm'.  My understanding of a messenger is shown in these two newspaper cutting from The Times, the first from 1944 and the second from 1919.


and whilst these men were messengers themselves or were in charge of messenger, they were not Messengers of the type spoken about in the lecture.

Incidentally, the monarch had his/her own Messengers, as did the Prime Minister, the Privy Council, the Treasury etc, and all were men of proven ability and entirely trustworthy.

Admiralty Messengers personally carried the most sensitive dispatches direct from the Sea Lords to admirals commanding at sea, often in situations where a non delivery could have resulted in a lost battle or perhaps even a war. The trust and reliability was only invested into the hands of only a very few people, some of whom, but not always, had previously held high ranks in the navy or military.  Virtually all of them were honoured either in the Services or on leaving the Admiralty Messenger Service and all were accordingly gazetted.  They were not only Messengers, but they became trusted confidents of the most powerful people in the land.

About the badge above it is stated that the badge comes from the 1820-1827 period, is hallmarked with London assay, and the anchor and greyhound are of silver.  The Admiralty Messengers’ badges identified the bearer and acted as a form of guarantee of dispatch and delivery.  The Admiralty ‘large’ pattern badge displays the various royal emblems of different parts of the United Kingdom: the 3 lions of England in the first and fourth quarters, the lion of Scotland in the second and the harp of Ireland in the third.  It is surrounded by a garter bearing the motto “Honi soit qui mal y pense” (Evil to him who evil thinks).  Upon retirement [or death after retirement] many of the badges are returned to the Admiralty {now MOD[N]} to be kept unused and not re-issued for historic posterity.  If one were to come onto the market it would command a high premium, especially if its provenance is known and that it belonged to a Messenger who had had a very "exciting" career.

Whilst Messengers [Kings or otherwise] had many powers not given to commoners, there were some which even they could not circumvent. See this cutting from an 1832 edition of The Times

There are many records on Messenger in the National Archives at Kew.


That's the end of this series of three Bits about Communicators and their things.

Good bye