leaking and could be adjusted by means of the elasticated straps, but to continue with
“Everything seems to be in order” – “To prove that there is gas in here, and to
give you an added confidence in your mask, you will be asked to remove it before
A long standing ritual, and everyone present knew that there was gas in the
chamber; they had all been through it many times before, but it was just something to
add that little bit of unpleasantness to the proceedings, they leaving, gas mask in hand,
and eyes streaming with painful tears.
It was during this period that I was to renew my acquaintance with C.P.O.
Bungay Williams, an instructor colleague discharged to pension only two weeks
Such a short time in Civvy Street, but all naval pensioners were liable for call up
in an emergency; at least, they were up until the time of attaining the age of fifty-five
Mobilisation over and war declared, the training programme continued; all of my
class managed to pass their exams, even one lad of who I had almost despaired. It was
sad to hear some time later, that he had been killed when his one and only ship had
been in action.
I came across several members of this class in the ensuing years, and most
gratifying it was to meet up with two of them who had attained the status of Petty
Officer Gunner’s Mate.
My next class comprised direct entry Sub Lieutenants (A), and these I had to
teach the rudiments of seamanship, although they were destined to become pilots in
the Fleet Air Arm.
Before I could be allocated another class I was drafted to the Torpedo School at
Portsmouth, for it was here, at H.M.S. Vernon, that I was to carry out my long awaited
H.M.S. Vernon. 30th September - 6th December 1939.
I was not a little surprised to find that four of the would be coxswains in my class
were acting petty officers, for it still rankled somewhat that the commander of
Emerald had considered that I was too short in seniority to be considered for a
However; as time passed, acting petty officer coxswains were to be much in
evidence: the commissioning of reserve fleet destroyers, fifty clapped out American
destroyers, and the corvettes and escort vessels building each requiring a coxswain in
I knew of one instance - and there may have been others - where a commanding
officer refused to accept an acting petty officer as his coxswain; understandable in
away, for a destroyer coxswain, if not a chief petty officer in his own right, had to be
given an acting rate as such, and I suppose that in this particular C.O.’s estimation,
acting petty officer to acting chief was a bit much, especially as it also meant a change
The course itself consisted of school, signals and destroyer work, examinations
having to be taken in each of these subjects.
School work involved navigation and the keeping of victualling accounts, for
until the advent of the larger destroyers; coxswains had always been responsible for
the ordering, issuing and account of Paymaster’s provisions: in later destroyers, a
Supply Petty Officer was included in the complement, the Paymaster’s stores then