Home! Part 2
Following on from my last blog post, my third home was just outside Reading, Berkshire; a naval base known as H.M.S. Dauntless.
I moved in on September 24th 1974, to find myself sharing a mess with five other strangers. We soon became great friends. One of the friendships has certainly stood the test of time. Alison and I still keep in touch some 44 years later.
My mess buddies were Alison, Helen, Caroline, Judith and another girl – whose name escapes me. This girl claimed she had been a hairdresser, so I actually let her trim my hair; she didn’t do a great job, but it soon grew out!
I spent 6 weeks here, doing my basic training. I learnt all about different types of ships (frigates, minesweepers, subs, aircraft carriers etc.), how to identify different ranks of officer (‘You salute the uniform, not the officer’, stuck with me through my navy days), how to identify the flags of different countries, and how to march – no mean feat for me as I have always been hopeless as knowing ‘left’ from ‘right’. Several times I heard our Petty Officer yell, ‘Clucas’ (my maiden name) and I would look around to see everyone else marching the other way to me.
On cross country I badly sprained my ankle, hence in our ‘Division Photo’ I am easily identified by a bandage.
We had some fun times, teaching one of the girls to ride a bike (yup, she had never ridden a bike before), getting into mischief – so being made to scrub the deck with a toothbrush – hardly punishment when you are doing so with an oppo that makes you laugh lots!
My dad was from Berkshire, in fact my Auntie Sylvie (dad’s sister) lives in Reading, so when I was allowed a 24 hour pass-out I went to stay at her house. My cousin, Leo, took me out for the night, driving Auntie Sylvie’s new mini. He crashed it on the way home and, boy, was he in trouble. That was the only night where I had been give leave to go out in civvies; the rest of the time we were only allowed out in uniform which was most frustrating. H.R.H. Princess Ann passed my division out, Mum and Dad came along and were very proud – as was I, because I had finally learned ‘left’ from ‘right’!
From Dauntless I was drafted to H.M.S Mercury in Petersfield, Hampshire. Oh my goodness! Dauntless was a female-only naval base. Mercury was a training base for Radio Operators…and full of men. I loved it!
The girls I had shared a mess with at Dauntless, were also training to be Radio Operators and we had really bonded by now. We trained by day and partied by night – often ‘jumping ship’ to meet boyfriends. ‘Jumping ship’ meant jumping out of our mess window where matelots (most of them were training to be Radio Operators too) were waiting to woo us. We were not allowed out after something like 9pm but (as was my motto) ‘Rules are there to be broken’.
I did feel rather grown-up when a ‘proper’ matelot (who was a few years older than me, and was there on draft, as opposed to being a trainee) asked me out. He took me for dinner to a wonderful restaurant and I dated him for a couple of weeks solid – that was a long time for me. I was a ‘no commitment’ type of girl back then and played the field.
I loved training and my call sign was Golf Hotel Whiskey Mike (H.M.S Penelope) – the things you remember eh?
I passed out with flying colours, then, to my horror, I was drafted to H.M.S. President…in London. I went to London kicking and screaming. I had joined the navy to live near the sea…
Within weeks of living in my new home in Kensington I was loving it. I’ll tell you all about that home over the next few days.
Changing my mind, being rather emotional and over dramatic…It’s a Girl Thing!