January to May 1952
by Allan Kindness PWSTS 1952
I travelled overnight from my home in Perthshire and after changing trains at
Peterbourgh I arrived at Stalham Station in the late afternoon. While waiting
for my connection at Peterbourgh Station - a wait of several hours - I met in
with Alistair Graham from Rothesay and another - whose name escapes me- from
Glasgow and both bound for PWSTS. Their company was very much appreciated as
coming from a farm in darkest Perthshire I was beginning to regret the whole
affair and wishing I had stayed at home!
On arriving at Stalham we were greeted by Commander Monroe who had - as an
earlier subscriber described it - a 'very red face' however it turned to '
scarlet ' when the Glasgow lad tried to explain to the Station Master who
collected the tickets that the ticket was in a poor state but that ' a man kept
coming along and hacking bits out of it!' Monroe was not amused!!, The rest of
the journey was completed in silence and my feeling of foreboding returned once
more. I really cannot remember much of my first night at Ingham except that we
were shown to our dormitory. However I soon settled in and started to enjoy the
course which covered the basics of seamanship. The Instructors were very good
and there was plenty of good natured banter - Mr Townsend ( I think that was his
name) used to shout ' come along boys fancy cakes for tea' - his wife had a
tearoom in Sea Palling which we used to frequent but we never saw any fancy
cakes - he was a benign and kindly man. Charlie Porte was another very good
instructor who had also an earthy sense of humour and if one of the boys passed
wind in class he would shout 'who dropped a googly' and if the culprit didn't
own up he would walk round the class 'sniffing' the collar of each boy in turn
until he was found.
I cannot recall Commander Aldis other than when I was his Cabin Boy - one day he
entered his room and caught me reading one of his books however he didn't fall
out on me and instead asked how far I wished to go in my Naval Career and when I
said the bridge he advised me to seek a Cadetship as while it could be done
'before the mast' I would find it easier as a Cadet. My Father's boss had
connections with Anchor Line of Glasgow and I succeeded in getting accepted by
that Company so when the time came for me to leave PWSTS unlike the rest of the
lads who headed for London I headed for home and joined Anchor Line on the 6th
June 1952 sailing on the MV Tahsinia - a cargo ship bound for India. I then
sailed on the Egidia, the Elysia which carried whisky to New York - grain
homeward - they also carried 12 passengers. From there I sailed on the Empire
Halladale which carried troops to East Africa until she was scrapped when I
rejoined the Elysia and when the 'E' ships were transferred to the Indian run I
moved to the Tarantia for 1 trip to the States so that I could go to Dundee
Nautical Coll when the class took up. Sadly I had an accident when travelling to
Dundee and after spending 18 months of going in and out of Hospital I was
discharged as medically unfit to continue with sea life and spent the rest of my
working life in General Accident Assurance.
I still look back on my time at PWSTS with a great amount of pleasure - it stood
me in good stead for later life either at sea or working in an office and it was
great to buy a computer and find such a comprehensive report on the school .
I only ever met one former PWSTS boy and that was when Alisdair Graham joined
the Empire Halladale as a Quarter Master - we often recalled the days spent at
Ingham. Sadly I believe Alisdair died a number of years ago but prior to his
death he was Harbour Master at Rothesay.
by Edward Ford PWSTS 1940
My elder brother David Ford was at the Hostel after me (I had not seen him from
when I entered the Hostel until after the war) I find from the records that he
was there at the time of the fire. My brother after leaving the Hostel went into
the Royal Navy as a signalman on mine sweepers down the east coast. On our
meetings after the war the war years were never talked about he died in 1980 so
i am unable to question him on his time at the Hostel. I was asked some time ago
by my Grandchildren what I did in the war and the following is my account of my
time at the Hostel, but since finding this web site it has put a question as to
the start date, the end date is correct as I have my discharge book giving the
date of joining my first ship.
Joe Tomlinson, an old family friend was with British Sailors Society and was
arranging for me to have a place at the Prince of Wales Sea Training Hostel, but
as the school was moving from the London East End docks to Ingham in Norfolk I
had to wait until October to take up my place at the school.
Life at the school was something new to me, I had never lived away from home and
here I was with other boys from all over the country all with a different way of
talking, one lad from Glasgow I could not understand. Ingham Old Hall was now
the home of the school, our boats had been moved up to the Norfolk Broads or so
we were told as I never saw them all the time I was there. The sleeping was in
bunk beds in dormitories twelve to a room, all the cleaning was done by the boys
and one spent a week at a time on each job. If your job was not done to the
satisfaction of the officer of the watch then you did a second week, this seemed
only to apply to jobs nobody wanted to do. Laundry you had to do your own and
time was set aside for the purpose, the day was governed by the ships bell and
was divided into watches. We had instruction in seamanship, sail making, rope
work, Morse code and semaphore. With the signalling I needed someone to write
the letters down as I called them out, I was unable to make words in my head out
of the letters flashed at me.
Life at the school was good as long as you ate what was given to you, there was
enough to eat, as long as you were not too fussy. Saturday and Sunday afternoons
we were able to go out and the school had some bicycles we could use otherwise
it was walking every were.
Sunday mornings we had Church Parade when we marched in our best uniforms with
the officers leading to Stalham 2 miles away, those wishing to go to the
Catholic or Methodist Churches were allowed to leave the march as we passed
them. When we were out from the school we had to be in uniform so at all times
and had to behave ourselves as there were only about 40 of us so any wrong doing
would soon get back to the school. My time at the school was very enjoyable for
most of the time I liked the things we were doing. No English or spelling (apart
from signalling) even so I managed to get my signallers badge. Owing to being
sick for a month with an infected ankle one week in the Norfolk & Norwich
hospital and three in the sick bay, I did not complete the course till the end
of June 1940, by which time France had fallen and a lot of our forces were
evacuated from Dunkerque. Apart from the RAF our defences were non-existent. On
the Norfolk coast at Sea Palling the Coast Guard had one rifle between three of
them and that was one left over from the First World War. The beach was not
protected in any way and we used to walk down to the Coast Guard station on a
Sunday afternoon and talk to the one on duty. At this time I was asked if I
wished to give up the idea of going to sea until after the war was over but as
there was nothing else I wished to do I said no."
here to read his full story
Mrs Milly Dunsby (PWSTS Cook)
by Margaret Bargewell
My Mother was the cook at the hostel from 1940-1953, my memories are of her
going to work about 7.30am until 2pm and returning again at 5pm to do the
Officers evening meal. As we lived across the road she had no travelling to do,
Her duties were to order all the groceries and working out the menus for the
week, also doing the cooking with some help from a Mabel Ward. I can remember
her making large bowls of pastry, this was made into 10 or 12 large jam or meat
tarts, after cooking each one cut into four, I now realize how difficult job
this must have been, as the war was on and rationing. Everything had to be done
by hand, the boys on galley duty doing all the vegetables and washing up and my
goodness the piles they had. I don't think many of the boys liked this duty
apart from the extra food they would get if left over from the Officers Mess.
Mr Painter I remember most
clearly, as he was in the Home Guard with my father, also one of his drinking
pals at the Swan. Mr Elgar was quiet man, his cap always looked to big for his
head .Mr Porte was to marry Mabel Ward, Mr Wilson went on to teach two of my
children at Stalham School. Mr Harmer known to the locals as Whistler, would
come in and cut the boys hair depending the mood he was in, would make all the
difference to how they would look after.
The fire was in 1941 and done a
lot of damage to the roof this was repaired, but in 2003 taken down and replaced
with red tiles. There were 2 large buildings in the grounds, 1 being used for
pictures, which the locals came to once a week, this same building has now been
made into a beautiful house.
The local girls would come down
the road hoping to see the boys, the best way was round the back of the farm,
but only when the farm workers had gone home, the boys would them nip over the
gate but had to keep an eye out for any Officers, or they would be in serious
trouble. I myself didn't have this problem as Mother working over there meant I
would make an excuse to ask her something, and would be told to go home, I kept
on touch with 1 boy from Fleet, I visited his home on several occasions, we
somehow lost touch, and I then met my husband and have been married for 58
It was a very sad day when
the boys left, and well remember my Mother shedding a tear or two, as her whole
life centred around these boys for 13 years her life was very flat until she
became Care Taker of Ingham School. I still live in Ingham and only 2 doors away
from when I was young girl.
Naive and Unworldly
by Fred Honisett PWSTS 1943
It was a very naive and unworldly boy that entered Ingham Hall (PWSTH) as it was
then. That was on August 31st 1943. My mother brought me, much to my
embarrassment, though I could not blame her, there was a war on, and she had
lost her husband (my father of course) only a few months earlier. I was 15 years
old and her only son. It was the Ladies Guild of Henley-on-Thames that paid for
my training. Then the widows pension was ten shillings a week, and the prospect
of eventually getting £10 a month was exiting when I got to sea. We got off the
bus at 'The Swan' as directed about 5.00 p.m. The officers present gave my
mother tea in the wardroom and very soon parted. The first night I cried myself
to sleep in my bunk. The next morning we were called at 05.30 and discovered my
cleaning station was outside doing the bins with a crewmate called McClean, I'm
sorry I forget his first name. When we went in for breakfast I felt I had done a
days work, only to find the day had not even started then. During the 7 months
training, things worked out very good for me.
course I remember all the officers especially Mr. Painter, who I don't think
thought much of me. We had excellent training there. A few names I remember were
Ron Breslin from Glasgow who beat the champion of Watts Naval
Training School, in Norwich
at boxing. Bill Bond from Wallsall was Ron's sparring partner at the time,
beating Watts School really did please `Freddie Painter. Other names come to
memory such as Myoscough and Maitland Andrews known as `Andy` from Newton
Stewart, who after I left became a C.P.O and also won best boy of the year
award. I did a trip with Andy on the `Port Caroline in later years. Two other
names I remember were Harrison and Vaughn who played the piano well, especially
the tune `Nora`. He came from Leicester. During our boat training on the Broads
one day an American bomber crew bailed out of their plane on a bombing raid to
Germany, and we picked them up. The pilot visited the `Prince of Wales` to thank
us with chewing gum etc. He said he just set the plane on course for Germany and
March 1944 came and we had our first leave. The best compliment I had from my
former school friends back home was "I went away a boy, and came back a man".
After a week we went to Liverpool and stayed at the Seaman's Mission in Garston
to be allotted a ship on the 'pool'.
My first ship was the `Port Caroline` where we went by convoy to West Africa,
Freetown to be exact. Then across to Buenos Aires. Where we were on `D`Day` June
1944 (a neutral country). I stayed with Port Line until 1947. When I changed to
`The New Zealand Shipping Company` on the fated liberty ship 'Samkey' which
after being on it for twelve months and due to go back, it sailed out of London
and two weeks later disappeared off the Azores with the entire crew forty-three
of them all lost. No trace was ever found.
Still with the N.Z.S.CO. I joined the 'Leicester' sister ship to the 'Samkey'
did a six month voyage on my leave I caught chicken pox the 'Leicester' sailed
without me and turned over, four of the crew were lost.
My wife to be, Joan decided for me to leave the sea.
My next 30 years I was manager of a retail chain stores another name that
disappeared 'Timothy Whites & Taylors', later to become 'Boots the Chemists'.
I take this opportunity to thank the 'Prince of Wales Training Ship' and all its
officers and lads for putting me on my feet. P.W.S.T.S. 1943-1944.
More information on Watts Naval Training School
by Dennis (Alan) Taylor PWSTS 1941
This very happy period of my life was marred by the fire that caused serious
damage to the hall. We were roused from our bunks by shouts of Fire! and most of
us quickly dressed before assembling in the courtyard. The commander was the
only officer present and the others were probably on Home Guard duty. After a
roll call the commander sent half the boys to fight the fire and the other half
to salvage clothing and bedding. I was with the fire party and the fire was in
Mr Painter’s cabin in the attic. The boys formed a bucket chain from the well
outside the back door, through the library and up the narrow back stairs to the
attic. I was on the attic landing and the interior of the cabin was well alight.
We were throwing buckets of water through the door onto the flames but not
making any progress. Mr Painter was in charge of the local Home Guard and some
of his .303 ammunition kept popping off. The previous week the home guard had
been practicing with grenades but fortunately for us he didn’t have a case of
these stashed under his bed.
After a few minutes the landing ceiling collapsed in a shower of sparks, plaster
and laths and one boy was slightly burned when his pyjama jacket caught fire. I
and another boy escaped the falling debris and we backed off into a room
directly opposite Mr Painter's. We were only there for five seconds when the
voice of authority ordered us to abandon ship.
The officers were back in charge and the fire brigade was on its way.
Next day we learned of the tragedy. The room, which in panic, we had briefly
entered the previous night was Mr Belsey's and his carbonised remains were found
in the ruins. He must have been unconscious in his bed but we never saw him.
complete and fascinating account of Alan's time at Ingham Old Hall click here
here to find out what happened to Dennis (Alan) Taylor
by Tedd Gregg PWSTS 1952
Upon reading through other old boys recollections, which incidentally brought
back many happy memories of my stay at Ingham from May to September 1952.
Like many other boys I arrived at Stalham station late in the afternoon. The
train pulled into the station and I was asleep. I woke up just as the train was
about to pull out, I looked out of the window, and seeing the station nameplate
I THREW open the door and myself with it onto the platform. It was deserted
except for one little old guy dressed in tweed jacket and grey flannels standing
way down the platform near the way out sign.. We approached each other. Your
name Gregg? This guy with the red face uttered, I said I it is, are you from the
sea school? Yes, he said, follow me; I was beginning to think you were not on
the train. I was asleep said I, are you the gardener? Certainly not was his
No further communication passed between us on our journey to Ingham. I was very
quickly processed and assigned to number six dormitory, I had just joined OLD
MONROES NAVY .
In due course a new intake arrived and we, No.6.DORM, decided to play a prank on
a poor lad named Palfrey. We told him it was his turn to ring the midnight bells
on the huge brass bell located on the landing. But this is my first day was his
plaintiff cry. No worries just ring the bell eight times at midnight OK. We did
not really believe he would do it, but bang on midnight the bells rang out loud
and clear/ Pandemonium broke out with officers running about shouting FIRE. This
bell was to be used only in case of fire.
Commander Monroe was not impressed; punishment consisted of moving Coke from A
to B and back again.
Another story I like to tell is of the time I was on Galley duty PWSTS was as I
recall a hungry place and a spell in the Galley was looked upon as a chance to
have a bit extra if available. This particular day a huge slab of fruitcake
appeared on the scene, we were eyeing this with envy, just then in came Charlie,
he came in regularly to escort the galley lady off the premises for about an
hour or so. This was our chance, out came the carving knife, and large section
was cut off and duly hidden in an empty drawer at the bottom of the cabinet.
Charlie and lady returned accompanied by a new instructor and his family.
Charlie was showing them round, when to our horror the sweet little girl with
them decided she needed to know the contents of all the cabinet drawers
eventually arriving at the bottom one Charlie was not amused. No cake for these
On completion of my training I was presented with my proficiency certificates by
Commander Monroe. 'Well Gregg you got off to a bad start but you’ve done well.
Good Luck and remember to keep your underclothes clean'.
My wife will vouch for that GOOD LUCK TO ALL
by Lucie Lucas
The Old Hall was owned by the
Gurneys who once were an independent bank in Norfolk, it eventually became
Barclays, then a Naval Training School, now a nursing home.
my latter years at school, roughly 1947 - 1952 I occasionally went to spend
weekends with a school friend at her house at Church Farm Ingham, just round the
corner from the Naval School. In those days it was the done thing to go for a
walk on Sunday afternoons, and we often used to meet up with a number of these
guys. We got quite friendly, and on Sunday afternoons, caught the train to Great
Yarmouth and went to the cinema with them. The photo was given or taken by me at
the time and is signed by many on the back.
about 9 months ago whilst turning out some old books out fell a laurel leaf with
my name and Alistair's pressed on it. My christen name is Lucille but I now call
myself Lucie (note Alistair spelt wrong).
was extremely good looking and his signature is also on the reverse of the
photo, but I cannot pinpoint him now as it must be over 50 years ago. I am now
Hopefully someone reading this
might be able to identify a few faces?
My school friend can remember a
Rackets Court which the Gurneys had built. The sailors used this once a week to
put on films shows. They, the sailors, stood up on the balcony at the back, and
the public sat on chairs below (she thinks this building has now been turned
into a lovely house). Also cricket matches were played in the grounds which
attracted many spectators. Cricket is still being played in the
After leaving school I drifted
away from the area and had no further contact.
by Tony Wren PWSTS 1950
I took a trip to Ingham recently and stayed two nights in the Swan Inn which was
excellent. The last time I was there it was out of bounds which was in 1950. I
am now 69 so I had no problems sampling the range of fine beers on tap. My
favourite was Nelsons Revenge which seemed to go down quite nicely if you are a
real ale drinker.
I bored the pants off the locals telling them about the good old days of the
P.W.S.T.S. Some remembered it and were interested.
I got my good lady to stop the car outside Ingham Hall and ventured in. It felt
very peculiar after all those years. I walked up to the hall and tried to find
someone to explain my presence. Eventually a man appeared and I told him my
reason for being there. He wasn't at all surprised saying that many Old Boys had
been back over the years. He let me wander around the grounds and I just soaked
up the atmosphere of times passed.
by Ray Leonard PWSTS 1948
Having read the many reminiscences
of others I feel there is little that I can add. Yes dhobi was Monday mornings
and yes it was cold as everything was done by hand with the exception of towels,
which went into a coal fired stone boiler. I had not been there long when I was
put in charge keeping this fire going, then when the PO was not watching decided
to chuck in my woollen underclothes as well. However being unable to extract
them without getting caught there they remained until then very end. On taking
them out they felt a little jellyish but nevertheless I hung them up to dry. The
trouble was when I took them down they had turned to powder. Dad was not pleased
when I wrote for cash to buy more.
Yes wages were 5s a week plus 1/9d I think if you got a Good Conduct Badge after
9weeks. There was also a little extra upon obtaining the Signalling badge.
Before receiving the GCB, Norwhich and Gt Yarmouth were out of bounds but were
allowed to go to North Walsham on a Saturday afternoon, where entertainment
consisted of the children's picture matinee. The advantage of this was that it
was cheap and you could afford cup of tea and a bun afterwards.
Sport was encouraged and we had a very good football and cricket team, boxing
was also included. Once a professional boxer was given permission to use our
wooden shed to train for a forthcoming bout. I cannot recall his name. We were
allowed to attend these sessions (this meant we were able to meet some of his
young lady followers) I was reasonable proficient and used to spar with him. He
liked to show off; by letting his hands hang by his side and repeatedly asking
me to hit him. After a while I got fed up with this so getting myself completely
balanced hit him with everything I had. It was like hitting a brick wall,
nothing. Then he hit me. There is a difference between a professional and a
15-year-old boy. Still no harm done accept my pride. There could not be many
schools where Croquet was also included as a game, and one, which we soon
learnt, was more skilful than it looked.
Yes we all did our time as Side boy, Galley, and Cabin boy. A week in the Galley
had its advantages as any leftovers were never wasted. Once when half a suet
pudding was returned in error from the Offices Mess I had scoffed it when
shortly after they wanted it returned. The Cook, God Bless her covered for me by
saying it had already been thrown away. We were well fed but my wife still
cannot understand why I like a Peanut butter sandwiches covered with jam. My
week as Cabin Boy was for Mr Painter, who after two days he asked me if I had
been emptying his 'Gosunder' I replied yes. He then he asked if I had been
washing it out and I admitted I had not as I had not been told to. I never got
into trouble just told to ensure it was done in future.
The sleeping arrangements were as described by others but I remember we had
piped music in the dormitories for a short time before lights out, the most
requested piece in my time was 'Opus One'.
We were encouraged to become Confirmed and attended evening classes at the
Church. One of the attractions was that there were also young local ladies
attending plus tea and cakes afterwards. When the time for my confirmation came
I was serving my time as Side boy under the watchful eye of Mr Elger who
insisted that I was to be the smartest one there. On the day my shoes shone so
that you could see your face in them and you could have cut your fingers on my
creased trousers and collar. I was then not allowed to move anywhere until the
time came to depart for the church. Yes I did meet a girl whilst there, and yes
I did go over the back wall a couple of times though I suspect that the stories
that came back were very similar to John Travilota's song in Summer Nights in
Grease. It was all very innocent.
We served for six months and only allowed home on very exceptional
circumstances. I was lucky, when I and another boy were chosen to represent the
school at a carnival being held in Ealing, London, He was selected because he
came from there and myself only 30 miles away. We were both very smart and went
off by train. London was new to me but happily the other boy knew his way around
and we arrived at the correct place on time. Our duties consisted on riding on a
horse drawn cart on which stood a very large bookcase complete with books
representing the British Seaman's Mission. This was okay and the day being fine
the streets were filled with people enjoying themselves, the only trouble was
that the float kept stopping and starting and each time the float went forward,
the bookcase shot back and it took us all our time to keep it upright on the
cart. Well we managed and as soon as it was finished dashed off home for the
night. The next day we had to return and I arrived at Victoria Railway station,
which in those days it was full with servicemen. I was stopped by two Naval MPs
for wearing my cap on the back of my head (remember) and told to put it on
straight. Initially I refused saying I was MN not RN however it came to the
point that they said that if I did not they would report me to my ship. I did
not want this and complied. Just then a little old lady turned up and lashed
into the two MPs telling them that they should be ashamed of themselves bullying
a small little boy like me. I disappeared quickly to find my train. Thinking
back it must have been hilarious the two big MPs and little me.
A month before discharge was due you were allowed to begin hand stitching your
kitbag (I still use a Palm and Needle for repairing the families leather goods
when required). Then fitting the brass eyelets at the end. I like many others
were not artistic, but one lad was and who for a reasonable charge would paint
in Indian ink a large ships wheel with the PWSTS insignia around the
circumference. This bag I had for many years until one day it got lost in
I am so glad I discovered this site as I have often thought back on my time at
PWSTS and wished that I could let it known how privileged I feel to have been
taught there. One hears nowadays how in some establishments of boys having been
abused etc., whereas we were taught standards and skills which lasted throughout
our lives by dedicated instructors and all other assistants. I hope by chance
some of their relatives may read this and appreciate them.
What I cannot understand though is why having retained most of the skills taught
with the exception of signalling plus all these very happy memories of yes one
of the very best times of my life, why is it what I learn about this computer I
forget within days??
Girls Get Together July 16th 2002
by Liz Austrin
Memories of Prince of Wales Sea training School at Ingham, near Stalham, Norwich
Norfolk. This information was gathered at a get together at Liz Austrins house
one summer afternoon.
We all spoke
about the happy times we had while visiting the lads outside the school and the
weekend outings. We thought nothing of walking or cycling in those days. Sea
Palling beach was a Sunday afternoon excursion. the officers were strict
especially about time, the lads made sure they were back in school by the time
ships bell rang. Sometimes us girls would go round the back of the school
walking along the side of a field to call over to the boys the other side of the
wall. On one or two occasions the boys would venture over the wall!
Saturday afternoons would often mean a train journey to Great Yarmouth and if we
had enough money a visit to the cinema ( or pictures as we called it in those
days). The boys looked so smart in their uniforms, lots of the local girls were
envious of us , arm in arm along the sea front.
Sunday mornings the boys could be seen marching from Ingham to Stalham church
for the service. Invitations to Sunday tea with the girls were taken up , it was
a chance for the family to meet the lads and a spot of home comfort for them to
On other occasions they would march to Stalham Staithe to practice their
oarsmanship and sometimes to launch the boats held in the davits.
Over the years late forties, early fifties we met and got to know quite a few
lads, some were quite special to us.
It was a very sad day when the last of the lads left the school in their
coaches. By then most of our group of girls were working in various shops in
Stalham High Street. Many tears were shed as we watched them go.
We all decided it was great to look back on the good times we had and we are
left with very pleasant memories. I have enclosed a list of names both the boys
remembered and by whom. The girls are listed using maiden and married names. A
message to all other boys not named , please forgive us, names don’t come easy
to recall from fifty or more years ago. You are all remembered with affection.
GIRLS GET TOGETHER JULY 16th 2002 - NAME DATE (year approx)
Guildford 1950 from Sandbach, Cheshire
|Ernie ? 1951
from Orkney Isle
|Alex Dodds ?
|Mr Belson P.O.
1950 from Tilbury
|Felix ? ?
1948 committed suicide at Ingham Old Hall
1950 from London
1951 from Scotland
|Jacky ? 1951
Green 1950 Essex
toto Vivian 1951
Anyone wishing to make contact with the girls can do so
by emailing the
PWSTS web site by clicking here. Arrangements can then be made on your
Phipps PWSTS 1949
is fondly remembered by myself and two others trainees of the class of 1949, and
our abiding memory is his use of the fine cased model of one of J&C Harrison's
tramp steamers (possibly the Hanbury) for his lecture. As new entrants were
regularly joining our numbers, several lads had "seen it all before", and
Charley's opening words were "now this ere ships", at that point the audience
would all chorus the rest of the line, "is a flush decked ship" to which he
would reply, "yes I know some of you have heard this before".
was another adventure, and when oarsmanship left much to be desired he would
remove the tiller and threaten to ginger things up with the same, such physical
assault (which of course never got to the application stage) was known as
One day in late
Autumn we were having a bad day trying to make headway in the rather heavy boat,
on a wet and windy morning, and the slave master took pity on his soggy crew.
Turning the boat around, we rigged a ramshackle mast from crossed oars, and a
set of surprisingly effective sail made from our oilskin coats buttoned
together, and returned to Stalham in style. Unfortunately, when dismantling this
"jury rig" we found that the strength of the wind has been sufficient to tear
the fabric horizontally, and all the buttons hung off foot long ribbons.
It was the
practise of all the boys to mark the passing of the 26 weeks course by cutting
notches down the edges of the asbestos sheets in the toilet block, usually on a
Monday when the news entrants arrived, and our tutors would say "you'll look
back on these days as the happiest time I your life", and were they ever right?
Arriving at Ingham Old Hall
Hartwell PWSTS 1947
On the 11th
February 1947 I travelled from the Isle of Thanet, Kent, to Stalham by train. On
arriving I went to the local police station, as I had heard that all the roads
in the area were blocked. This turned out not to be true and the local taxi
driver was summoned to take me to Old Hall. This entailed driving along
narrow roads where the snow was piled almost vertically up to about ten feet on
either side. However we arrived safely and my first glimpse of my new home for
the next six months was this large house and grounds shrouded in snow.
remember my reception at all, but I do recall having to enter the room where all
the other lads were assembled, a daunting experience for any newcomer.
I can't be sure
how many boys there were, about twenty I think, and I bunked in a cabin with
about ten others. Presumably the twenty or so were divided into two watches,
port and starboard, and slept in separate cabins. each morning at wake-up
(6.30am) we were roused by an officer with the cry "Hands off cocks, hands on
socks!" At lights out we were not permitted to keep our underclothes on under
our pyjamas, even in the bitter weather, and on one occasion, I had forgotten to
collect my clean pyjamas from the locker room some distance away from the main
building. This necessitated my having to shiver in bed until late enough to be
able to re-dress and sneak out hoping none of the staff would catch me. I seem
to remember it required locating a key to the locker room as well as creeping
some distance to fetch the missing pyjamas. Luck was on my side and my mission
Breakfast and lunch were served in the dining mess away from the main building,
but tea, which always comprised two slices of bread and peanut butter (no
butter) and a piece of cake, was always taken on the first floor landing of the
main house. Boys were allocated on a rota system to prepare the breakfast toast
on the big Aga stoves which burnt night and day.
- Each boy had to perform this duty for a week, which entailed full dress,
welcoming and visitors, sorting the post, and most of all sounding the watch by
sounding the bell every half-hour. I recall one boy who sounded the bell one
short, or was it too many ? On one occasion, sending shudders through the
- A full size ship's lifeboat was moored on a nearby broad, and each week we had
to learn how to row it. I recall that the oars seemed enormous and difficult to
- We all had to learn the Morse Code for visual signalling purposes using an
Aldis Lamp, and we also had to learn semaphore using both flag and the
mechanical arms. I found using the arms difficult as the arms were large but the
handles to operate them were very small and there was a tendency for the weight
of the arms to overshoot the required position because weak hands couldn't hold
them in position. This nearly caused me to fail my semaphore test!
Soundings - The 'chains' and heaving the lead - this of course could not be
done for real, but a useful substitute was at hand. At the end of the front lawn
was a long brick wall with a ha-ha on the far side. A set of wooden steps
enabled one to climb to the top of the wall to where a small platform protruded
over the other side. This represented the real chains over the side of a ship,
erected specifically for the length, being marked at each fathom by a particular
token that could be recognised by feel in the dark. All of us had to learn these
'marks' by heart. At the end of this rope (for our training) was a long lead
weight of two pounds - a real ships weight would be twice that, and would have a
wax-filled cavity in the bottom to sample the sea bed.
of heaving the lead is as follows: with the lead-line held coiled in the left
hand, the weighted end would be dangled over the ship's side just above the
water - out case just above the bottom of the ha-ha. The leadsman then proceeds
to swing the lead forwards until it is horizontally in front, and then pull
sharply back with the heaving hand to the shoulder. The lead and line would then
circle right over one's head and when it is horizontally ahead the line had to
be released which then snaked far forward which in the case of a ship moving
forward would allow the line to have sunk and be vertical at the point of the
linesman to enable him to take the sounding and so ascertain the depth.
The danger in
attempting this procedure is that if done incorrectly by allowing the heaving
arm to rise above the horizontal, the lead would not circle and would be likely
to crash onto the head of anyone nearby! Most of us were scared of doing this at
Compass - This is where we all had to name the various points of the compass
and could be given any starting point and asked to continue in either direction
from it. There was a 'wheelhouse' where the wheel and compass were connected,
and also a ship's telegraph. Boxing the compass and heaving the lead described
above, both proved to be a waste of time in practice at sea as ship's compasses
were marked in degrees, and more modern methods o sounding were in vogue by this
Hold - There was a mast and derrick and a full sized hatchway - but no
hold - where we could learn how to rig a derrick and how a hatch should be
securely covered and battened down.
Heads - These were situated in a yard outside and comprised tow facing rows
of about six toilet bowls each having a covering flap of some kind for privacy
reasons. However, after a couple of visits when shyness wore off, boys never
used the flaps and were happy to chat to each other quite freely.
Activities - There was a large outbuilding (a barn?) away in the trees where
each week on a Friday, I think, films would be shown. Early that morning a
couple of boys would be detailed to go and light the stove the before breakfast,
in order to provide some warmth for the evening. Local girls were always invited
but they were placed in the balcony whist the boys had to remain at ground
level. However, many romances began from this inauspicious start. At weekends,
the boys were able to go for cycle rides with the girls or walk to nearby by Sea
Palling - but not on the out-of-bounds beach, where earlier one of the boys had
been killed by a mine - and sometimes take tea in the small local teashop.
Splices and Canvaswork - We all had to learn the various knots and splices
and different types of rope used at sea. Also the proper was to bend and hoist a
flag. We also had to learn how to use a needle and palm, and ultimately make our
own kitbag for when we were discharged. I emblazoned mine with the PWSTH logo.
- Shortly before I left to join my first ship, Mr Painter, the OiC, created two
Petty Officer posts, one for each watch, and I was promoted to one of them.
Goodness knows what I had done to merit it!
Discharge - Following my discharge on 9th August 1947, I went to join SS
Pacific Importer, owned by Furness Withy and Co., in the Pool of London,
together with Dick Goldspink from the same course as me. The Pacific Importer
was an ex-Liberty ship of 7000 tons, 400ft long and 72ft wide. I can remember
that first walk up the gangway, with my kitbag on my shoulder, onto the main
deck to report for duty. A very exciting seven and a half months lay ahead for
two sixteen year olds from the PWSTH at Ingham.
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A Long Time Ago
by Elwyn Owen PWSTS 1950
remember the 26th January 1950, arriving at Stalham Station late in the evening
after a long and exhausting day’s travel from North Wales. It was a dark, very
cold gas lit place and I was the only one to get off the train. By now I was
feeling lonely and pretty apprehensive at what I had let myself in for.
A man approached and said he had come to take me to the school, I thought he was
an officer; in fact he was a taxi driver. He was very nice but did not lessen my
apprehension when he said that if I needed anything, I’d better get it before
going in, as I would not be able to get out again after we got there.
My fear grew as we drove up the long drive and this imposing building loomed out
of the darkness. The duty boy in best blue uniform, boots and white belt and
gaiters opened the door and I had arrived on the Quarter Deck of the Prince Of
Wales Sea Training School.
The duty officer then arrived and I was whisked at bewildering speed along the
corridors to the mess deck. In no time at all I was stripped off and thrust into
a scratchy white front, white duck bell bottoms and a blue denim top. I was then
given a plate of tinned tomatoes on toast and told to hurry up, as it was time
to go to bed. I still can’t stand tinned tomatoes.
I learned later that the officer that night was Charley Porte. Over the next 26
weeks he was to influence me in a way which has stayed with me ever since. He
was well respected and the seamanship he taught me I still remember to this day.
I am still adept at “Bends & Hitches” and where each is used.
That first night in the dormitory was quite daunting, and I soon found the
English are not good with Welsh names so I quickly adopted the new name of Jack,
which stayed with me for many years after. I did not mention it was the name my
Father had for a long gone pet dog. I was also glad I’d taken extra English
lessons at school.
The next morning did little to dispel my homesickness. We were turned out of bed
at 0630, and dressed only in shorts and plimsolls, made to run in the driveway
for 15 minutes. This was a daily routine whatever the weather. When Charley
Porte was on duty, he would sometimes bring a small stick. He called it Percy,
and with great humour threaten to “introduce you to Percy” if you did not run
fast enough. This was treated as a huge joke and within days all my homesickness
I cannot remember the showers referred to in another part of the site. Hot water
was only available on two days a week, heated up in two large coppers outside
the school building. We each had a bucket of hot water with a scrubbing brush
and a bar of hard soap for washing clothes. There were some half a dozen baths,
also outside, but with a corrugated tin roof and walls, open at top and bottom.
Cold water was supplied with a hosepipe, hot water carried in buckets to them.
Bathing was shared, two per bath, slowcoaches were reminded to speed up with the
Great ingenuity was used to overcome the lack of ironing facilities and so
enable us to be smartly turned out with the creases in the right places. White
fronts and collars were patted dry on the hot coppers, bells turned inside out
and seven lines wetted down each leg, folded and clamped between two pieces of
wood secured with nuts and bolts. Silks, a three man job, tightly folded while
wet, rubbed with finger, and placed between the pages of the correct size book.
Then we were ready for the weekend.
We looked forward to Sat/Sun afternoons to go and spend what was left of our 5/-
a week pocket money in Gt. Yarmouth, Norwich, Sea Palling or North Walshingham.
Dressed in our smart, new sailor uniforms, we were confident we could attract
the attention of the local girls. At the school gate, those who had been lucky
said their goodbyes knowing the Duty Boy would strike 8 bells slowly enough for
them to leg it from the gate to the Quarter Deck in time.
Every day was packed with hard work, learning and humour. One day, the dog owned
by Commander Monroe, jumped onto the hatch as it often did, only to find we had
just removed the covers. Fortunately it was unharmed and we learnt how to sling
a live animal from the hold. Another day we were on the broads in the whaler,
the holiday traffic just starting, and the boys whistling at the pretty girls as
they passed. Charley on the tiller says “All right quiet down, haven’t you seen
a bit of **** before” and the boys howl with laughter. On one bright spring
morning with the wind astern, we run free for miles down the broads, forgetting
they were too narrow to tack back. It was a long, hard pull back to return in
time for lunch.
There was one piece of tuition, which I had intended to draw to Charley’s
attention. When heaving the lead, he taught us to pull the line so as it would
go full circle three times before letting go. I’m afraid it did not take account
of modern design, which put the wing of the bridge over the chains. When I
conscientiously did this while taking soundings in a West African creek, the
Skipper poked his head over the wing just as the lead weight flew a couple of
inches past his face. I learnt an entire new vocabulary of swear words that day.
The rest of the trip was a constant reminder of my embarrassment.
The weeks have passed quickly; suddenly it’s my turn to leave. I’m surprised to
feel sad at the prospect. It’s to be another three and half months before I get
home, a total of nine and a half months, as my mother often reminded me. I
returned home better able to cope with whatever life would throw at me thanks to
men like Charley Porte. I owe them.
Happiest Times of My Life
by John (Jock) McDougall
I am an ex-pat
Dundonian born in 1930, I joined the Sea Cadets at 14 years as it was always a
dream of mine to be a sailor, at the age of 16/17 I got a job in St Andrews at a
hotel (live in) it was there that I came in contact with the local branch of the B.S.S I had been previously advised that they sent one boy a year to the Prince
Wales (this was the norm all around Britain) after several interviews with the
Ladies Committee I was selected from a group of other boys, yahoooooo!! I was
I left my great
job, said goodbye to my Parents and was on my way to Norfolk to start the great
adventure of my life. I was so excited that I couldn't remember my trip south
nor my first day at Stalham. On arriving at the school I was introduced to three
other Scots who showed me around. my first parade was when I met the officers,
the Skipper, a wonderful old man tough, kind, and an endless source of
knowledge, boy seaman at 12 in the R N, when it was ships of wood and men of
iron, ex champion boxer of the R N, he was a wonderful source of trivia
that seamen had forgotten all about, he always said that it was a pity that the
modern seaman had swapped knives for combs. On my first parade he walked up and
down in front of the boys swinging a 24'' x 3'' inch rope with a huge star knot
on the end of it and telling us that because of the war we had missed our
boyhood, but that would change over the next six months (we got the message!!).
was definitely the image of the Grandfather that every boy wanted, as for
the star knot, I only saw it swing once and the recipient deserved it. We had a
house mother (Mrs Mason) who came in every day and a fantastic cook (Mrs Dunsby
who lived across the road) each boy had a cleaning station and the place was
kept spotless, we also did a week as side boy on the quarterdeck as well as two
weeks in the galley as 'KP' I didn't last in the galley because I nearly
poisoned the Sassenachs with my porridge, it was the 'KP' job to stoke the fire
in the stove, toast the bread and put the pre- prepared porridge on the stove.
As an afterthought I put salt in it as well as the sugar already in it, guess
what happened ? I thought it was great .......
For a young boy
this was the life our training was done by Mr Wilson, a local disabled M N Deck
Officer, exec was a Mr Elgar, the Skipper also took us for training, We had
signals every day i.e.; semaphore , international code, aldis, and in the
evening we had a lecture on the social dangers, of a seaman in foreign ports.
The Skipper would test us every morning on signals and one day one of the boys
noticed that the Skippers messages were taken from the morning paper. So we read
the paper every morning till the Skipper worked it out that we were too good so
he started to send the messages with a deliberate error, that's when I saw the
star knot in action, but he called for a volunteer to accept it on behalf of the
other four boys, well I was a devout coward!!
He also took us
for boxing, well now, we had lots of champions who reckoned they could take this
old man, I still have the scars on my nose, we had the best football team in the
area beating most of the farm teams, don't know much about the cricket team ,
pubs, and beaches were out of bounds, after church parade we could go down to
the village until approx 7.30pm, to go near a beach was taboo (Cromer was just
down the road apiece) but it was still lousy with mines and barbed wire etc etc, sometime before, two boys walked onto the beach, one was killed the other badly
wounded, if we went within ten feet of the beach some local would ring the
school. Life was good the training was most efficient, it was said that every
boy leaving to join his first ship would have the knowledge of an A B. such was
the signals training that we four boys who joined the Orient Liner 'ORONTES'
were put in charge of the signals locker, so most of our duty was on the bridge,
several years later I was Q M on the 'Otranto' homeward bound from Australia
when suddenly through the darkness came a beam of light asking what ship!
What ship!, the officers of the watch were dumfounded, they couldn't read morse
so I relayed it to them, it was an RN destroyer, part of the escort to the Queen
on her way to Australia, that little episode earned me an extra ten bob a month,
such was the training of PWSTS.
on very well with the local populace, they would come to our weekly movies in
the rec. hut, and we played great hard games of football with the local farmers
(there were about six teams and they had there own pitches on various farms) we
would have fish and chips every Friday for lunch and the side boy would cycle
down to the village and get orders from our neighbours on the way down (fringe
benefit) some of the boys would also get invites to Sunday afternoon teas and
the girls loved us ! Once a week the local Parson would visit and prepare some
of us for confirmation at Norwich Cathedral each boy was well looked after but
not molly cuddled, dobey day was on a Monday and we had a real bath inside but
only six inches of water and two in together, after classes we would have tea
then retire to our wardroom which had a huge open fireplace about 5ft x 7ft with
a huge log burning away, the boys would usually study, write letters or play
snooker, bed was at 8pm, that was when the ghost would walk .
The big day
came when Jim Addicott, Derek Bent and Ken Mellor and myself were assembled for
the farewell, although it was exciting it was also very sad, leaving that
wonderful place, the Skipper wasn't there so I went to his cabin and there he
was, sitting there looking out the window with a tear in his eye, he was losing
some more of his boys.
We took off and headed for London to 'The Stack of Bricks', the hostel for seamen
owned by the B S S where we were kitted out with civvie clothes working and
dress, we were there for three weeks then taken to Tilbury for the beginning of
the great adventure....
PWSTS in my
opinion was the best sea training school in the UK. There were boys from all
over, Iceland, Channel Islands, Faros, and I think at one stage NZ. It was a
privilege to have been chosen especially in times when it was hard to get into
the MN. My six months at Prince of Wales was one of the happiest times in my
life, when I joined the 'ORONTES' with my mates we were re-fitting for the first
trip after her trooping for 5 years, and two days before, my mate Jim Addicott
was taken ashore to hospital with suspected pneumonia and we were told that he
had died two days later, I found out fifty years later that he was still alive
and that we had sailed with the same company Fulhams. I have since caught up
with him when he came out here to see me.
Still Near The
by Ted Finch
I also attended
the school when it was at Ingham (nr Stalham) in 1948 and well remember Jock
McDougall, Jim Addicott and Messrs "Freddy" Painter, Elgar and Wilson, the
instructors. I believe that Mr Wilson ended as a teacher at Stalham
School. At that time the school was named PRINCE OF WALES SEA TRAINING HOSTEL (PWSTH)
and actually changed it's name about June 1948.
I ended up about 12 years later as 2nd mate of a liberty ship before getting
married and coming ashore. Now retired and operate the Mariners Mailing List and
have one or two ex-PWSTS boys among our subscribers! I am sure they will be
interested. Still live only a few miles from Ingham.
by Bill Meads
The girl in the
sidecar was my sister, she and her boy friend came to visit just before I left
to go to sea. I did have a few dates while I was there. Like most of the other
boys we mostly met girls at the cinema in Yarmouth. There was one really good
looking Ingham girl that I still remember. Her name was Peggy, we met on my
first shore leave and had a kiss at the school gate which was duly reported and
I lost my next weekends shore leave, and had to do the Commander's wife's
When I next got shore leave I found that Peggy already had a date with another
new boy. Later I found out what most of the older boys already knew, that
Peggy had a thing going with her mates to see who could date the most PW boys.
With Peggy's looks it was no contest for the other girls. Peggy liked to eye
her prey up in church on Sundays and of course those of us who had already been
her victim enjoyed watching her do this.
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