Sea Pie by Horace Willie - Royal Navy WWII History and Service life

3 cold trench-type shelter. This played havoc with the training routine and in May we transferred to Highnam Court near Gloucester. This consisted of a large house with extensive grounds where tents and marquees were erected so that training could continue. It was all very makeshift. The food was poor too. It would have been easy for the camp staff the old barrack stanchions to fiddle the rations and they probably did. We were four to a bell tent plus kit and I shared with three other lads Bill Shaw, Jimmy Robert Shaw and Bill Stiles. We went about together quite a lot. There were no recreational facilities on the camp and when we had shore leave as we had now learned to call it nearly everybody waited on the corner opposite the camp gates for an RAF vehicle to pick us up and take us to Ross on Wye about 14 miles away. There was plenty of RAF traffic and within a minute or two invariably along large RAF vehicle called a Queen Mary I think would pullup and take everybody. I don’t know what the time record was for the journey as the rear part of the vehicle swayed one side of the road to the other as it rounded the bends in the road. Fortunately there was never an accident and a collection for the driver was all we paid. The RAF drivers could be relied upon to get you there and back. The examinations were taken and we were drafted to the Signal School near Petersfield HMS Mercury. That was another canvas camp far worse than Highnam Court. The two sentries on the gates were armed with staves on which a short bayonet was fixed. Such was the state of our defences at that time. The place was unpleasant in all ways and men were glad to take their turn at nightly firewatch in the small factories that had sprung up around Petersfield to be away from the place. We were thereto be drafted to a ship and I was soon sent to join HMS Ramillies in dock at Liverpool. The ship was built around 1916 for service in the North Atlantic and was in fact, on the scrap list in 1939. Now I had to learn something about the real life and its strange ways. Do you draw? Gravity is the soul of wit but it can be misleading and confused. A simple enough question and it is the most important one to be asked in the Service. Fortunately I remembered the advice of the Chief Gunners Mate and I did not say “Not very well Sir”. Perhaps the question could have been better phrased thus: “Are you in the habit of imbibing a modicum of Dutch Courage made up alas, of two and one in this goddamned ship? One and one on the boats and neaters if you are half dead.” I refer of course to the rum ration. Yes always request it always draw it for if you dont drink it yourself it will work miracles for you. There can hardly abe limit to its value. The old three badgers will fall at your feet for sippers, and move heaven and earth for you for a tot. The love-light shining from a young maidens eyes could scarcely be brighter than the old matelots frantic gaze ashe accepts your offer. She will look perfectly lovely of course but he will fill your life with ease and bliss and do your dhobing in double quick time. Perhaps not though if it is made up of two parts water and only one of rum. The worst crime you can ever commit in the Service is to accidentally knock over another mans tot. It will stun him. Watch for his eyes to change from gaiety to sadness then perhaps even to anger. The penetrating silence of a few seconds that seems timeless begins to make you quake in your shoes. Dont worry he will not kill you. He is just thinking in his own slow way how to address you and when he begins your knowledge of invective will increase fourfold and you will learn new words. You will move away as soon as you can muster the dignity to do so but you will murmur to yourself “Oh Death, where is thy sting?” and your unknowing messmates will say to you “Whats up with Stripy?” You will live in purgatory for 24 hours for only then will you be able to draw another tot. When you get it you will approach Stripy calmly and make
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