The Sea Cadet, No. 8, Vol. 2, April 1945

A convoy o f merchantmen in the North Sea The Old Red Duster By JAY PAYTON The old days arc forgone good. You cannot runaway to sea anymore. The adventure-loving boy who hears the call of the sea in future will have to stop and think about it seriously— and then prove that he is good enough togo to sea. There was a time when the Old Red Duster flicked anything it could get off the pierhead. Now it has been taken and washed and scrubbed clean—and, as befits a proud flag, it is particular about the men who work under it. That is as it should be. Not so romantic, perhaps, not so good for the storybooks but all the better for the Merchant Navy. Sea Cadets have the chance of a career that really is a career for the Merchant Navy looks to the Sea Cadets and similar organizations for its officers and seamen of the future. No one can tell yet just what the opportunities will be, for on the size of our Merchant Navy after the war will depend the number of officers and men required. But there is every prospect that the great carrying trade of the 228 Seven Seas will continue to need the best it can get. Conditions in the Merchant Navy to-day are very different from the conditions of pre-war days and the change is not just a war-time one. Definite promises have been made that the all-round improvements that have income war will continue in peace. In the bad old days, when a seaman had been paid off from a ship he was left unemployed and unpaid until he found another. Afloat, he lived in squalid, uncomfortable quarters, sometimes with twenty men sharing the same bunk-room. Food was often indifferently cooked and seldom varied or appetizing. He worked, if required, eight hours of overtime without pay, beyond his normal fifty-six-hour work­ing week. To-day most ships have a maximum of four men to a cabin some—follow­ ing the pre-war lead of Scandinavian ships—have only two to a cabin some even have individual cabins for everyman on board. Instead of a cabin space of 12 square feet per man there is a minimum now of 32 square feet, and messrooms are no longer poky little holes, but spacious quarters, each with its bookcase where library books are kept. Food is on afar more generous scale. But plenty of food is not enough in itself—unless it is well cooked. So to-day cooks are given higher wages if they hold advanced certificates, and the standard of cooking has risen accor­dingly. Every bunk is provided with a spring mattress and bed curtains, and there are a table, chest-of-drawers, and mirror. Washing facilities have also been greatly improved, and inmost ships you will find the latest types of showers installed. Naturally, in wartime a great deal has been done to improve life-saving apparatus, and all manner of appli­ances have been invented and provided for, merchant ships—smoke signals, five-star rockets, motor engines for lifeboats, portable wireless transmit­ters, nutritive rations in air-tight con­tainers, even apparatus for converting seawater into drinking water in life­boats and rafts. Over 230,000 weather­proof suits have been supplied.
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