Russell Purdy



03/07/1972 to 04/11/1972

I had been interested in the merchant navy from a young age my dad Dennis Purdy had been an engineer on oil tankers in the 1940s and 50s and had told me many stories of his life at sea. When I was 15 and thinking about a career my mum saw an advert in a national news paper advertising a career with BP as a trainee engineer on there fleet of tankers. I applied and went for an interview, medical and exam in London. I passed the tests and was accepted onto the course in late 1971.

My parents wanted me to complete my GCSE exams at school so I stayed on at school to take my exams the entered the course in 3rd July 1972. A friend of mine Kevin Bryce had left school and was working in Burtons when I told him about the course he was interested applied and was accepted and we were both put onto the same course.

For the initial part of the course we had to attend the Prince Of Wales Sea Training School, and so my time at the school began.

We arrived by train at Dover Priory station, being met by some senior lads in uniform. We were taken by them to the school on arriving we went to the sick bay where we had a medical, we met some of the other new lads on the course and then all lined up one by one to have a short back and sides by the barber.

We were then issued our uniforms a dress uniform and working gear our civvies were locked away for the duration of the course.  We were shown our bunks and given a draw beneath the bunk to keep what small personal items we were left with.

There were two senior intakes above us and in the first few weeks we new lads were put though a bit of a hard time running the gauntlet etc., but things soon settled down and we all got on pretty well after that.

The BP group of lads Myself, Kevin Bryce, Martin Walklate, Neil Deaves, Jeff King, Martin Euden and Bryn Dungy were on a slightly different course to the other lads we went to Dover Tech for some engineering lessons while the other lads did more on the seaman ship side, although we did have some seamanship lessons.

 Some of my memories of the school are:

·        Chippy giving us a lesson on dobbying

·        The flat irons in the main hall which we used to press the seven creases into our dress uniform bell bottoms.

·        PE once a week with the very strict PE instructor who put us though our paces.

·        Top of the pops on a Thursday night was the highlight of the week all sat round a small TV in the rest room waiting for Pans People.

·        Life boat drill and rowing around in Dover harbour.

·        50p a week pocket money.

·        Cleaning duties.

·        A stint as Galley boy peeling potatoes, and another stint as steward serving the officers there meals.

·        British bulldog in the main hall.

·        Getting confirmed (I think most of us only did it to get the time off and a day out)

·        A days training with the fire brigade at Dover Fire Station

Some of the lads not on the BP course I remember getting on well with were Brendon Griffiths, Alan Nelson and John Whybrow.

Also I remember Arthur (Charlie) Brown, Neil Trott and Gary Snook from Derwent Class 1972

The officers there that I remember from my time were Captain Vine. Mr Hadley and Chippy.

Mr Hadley was pretty strict but Chippy was much easier going.

 I have put a full list of all the boys’ names in our intake on the group photo on the web site

At the time I wasn't that keen on the discipline at the school but I think the self respect, pride and self discipline installed within us set my standards for the rest of my life. At the end of the course we went into Dover I think to the board of trade to have our photos taken and to be issued with our seaman's books.

On leaving we were taken to Britannic House in London (BP's headquarters) to have an introduction to the company had a couple of days leave then made our way to Falmouth to join the British Star.

British Star / Industry 12/11/72 - 20/12/72 


      N Deaves, K Bryce, M Euden, J King                                  J King, Me, M Euden and N Deaves


On the British Star

The entire BP group joined the British Star and Industry in Falmouth in November 1972, the two ships were moored in Falmouth docks and used as training ships for the lads on the BP training course. We were paid £10.00 per week and had a £10.00 a week living allowance and thought we were rich.

We spent about a month training on the ships getting used to working on pumps, boilers etc and finding our way around (without sinking the ship) I remember the fire brigade coming to the ship and filling it with smoke then we had to find our way through in breathing apparatus which was great fun.

We would go to the seaman's mission for breakfast in the mornings and dinner at night.


British Curlew 09/01/1973 - 06/06/1973

The group then joined the British Curlew in September 1973 in Dunkirk. We had a training officer with us who gave us engineering training and settled us into the life at sea. (I don't think he stayed for the whole voyage)

Sadly Jeff King one of our group broke his back in an accident.

We were in dock in Swansea I was working in one of the oil tanks I think with Kev Bryce and Jeff was working in another oil tank I think with Neil Deaves, we heard a crash and went to investigate Jeff had been climbing out of the tank slipped and fallen back into the tank, the ambulance was called and we had to haul him out of the tank strapped into a stretcher on a rope that span round as we lifted it (he must have been petrified) we then lowered him over the side of the ship to the ambulance.

I remember visiting him in hospital they had cut his dirty overalls off but his hands and face were still black which stood out against the clean white bed sheets. Jeff never came back to our group but I did hear that he made a good recovery.

We paid off in the Isle of Grain in June 1973.


British Confidence 30/07/1973 - 06/01/1974

The group stayed together joining the British Confidence by now we had all settled into life at sea. The main event on the Confidence was the crossing the line ceremony as there were  Quite a few new boys on the trip the officers and crew made a great event of the Ceremony.

We all dressed up in costumes and were chased around the ship the ones that hadn't been captured made a last stand on the deck above the bridge throwing eggs and flour  and pounding our attackers with the fire hoses, we were eventually overpowered and taken to the pool deck were we were painted with a mixture of oil paint and grease and then tipped backwards into the pool. Our biggest fear was they would cut our hair after all growing it after the severe cut we had at the POWSTS but luckily they didn't.

 We paid off in January 1974.


Neptune his queen !! and guard


British Ensign 24/02/1974 - 16/08/1974

The group was then split up I joined the British Ensign with Kev Bryce we were by then working as engineers doing planned maintenance and watch duties. I met some other old POWSTS boys on this ship, Steve Brooks, Alan Nelson (not the Alan Nelson from my 1972 course) and Carl McDermott.


Me on the British Ensign


Watch keepers Course (Dover Technical Collage) 16/09/1974 - 06/12/1974

The entire group met up back in Dover to complete the watch keepers course which was the final part of our training we took our city and guilds exam in marine engineering We lived in digs in Dover for the duration of the course. I shared an attic room with Kev Bryce and Martin Walklate in a hostel for homeless mothers with a nightclub in the basement (some mix). Also on the course were some other lads not from our group including Arthur (Charlie) Brown and Neil Trott.

A group of us did go back to the school while we were on the course and stood on parade on the main deck for Captain Vine we had all had a few beers and with our long hair I don’t think he was very impressed.

British Poplar 16/12/1974 - 02/05/1975

I joined the British Poplar in December 1974 with Martin Euden we served as fireman greasers looking after the ships boilers. I met up with another ex POWSTS boy Martin Grimes who I remember played the guitar and we had many a good night singing along to it. I paid off in May 1975 leaving the navy. I believe that most of the BP boys still serving were made redundant in about 1976 as the company moved to foreign crews. I would think this must have led to the closure of the school as BP’s intake would have been a large part of the schools income.

A school friend of mine Derek Tong went to the school after I had left we met up a couple of times in our local area but lost touch after that.

1975 to Present

I kept in touch with Martin Walklate and Martin Euden for a while after I left the navy but we eventually lost touch. I made a lot of good friends on all the ships I sailed on and at the POWSTS but in the days before mobile phones and face book it wasn’t easy to keep in touch and we lost contact. I have listed the names of the lads I can remember but I am sure there are others I have not mentioned. I'm still in touch with Kev Bryce.

I went into the motor trade initially reconditioning car engines, I then moved on into the car parts trade working for a number of large motor factors in Milton Keynes, Northampton and Birmingham as a Branch manager.

I am now semi retired married with three children and one granddaughter and am living in West Wales near the sea.