Posting into PHILOMEL was a whole change of differing experiences. There was still the discipline, which continued to ensure we toed the line. Some of this became second nature such as Marks of Respect i.e. saluting. There was also the expectation of being on time and working as a group, these are traits that have served me well over the following fifty plus years.
One of the biggest differences was the first exposure to the Engineering Branch. We spent a lot of time both in the workshop and at school. School encompassed both engineering and schoolwork. The MES ( Marine Engineering School) was behind where the new Galley now is situated and adjacent to the swimming pool. In those days all engineering and workshop was conducted there. This is prior to the machine workshops being built up at TAMAKI ( Narrow Neck).
Senior Rates whom were Artificers taught all workshop and Marine Engineering and we very early learnt they were proud of their rate. They took being called Sir as almost an insult and quickly trained us in the title “CHIEF” This was before Warrant Officers were introduced so there were CERA (Chief Engineering Artificer) and ERA1 ( Engineering Artificer 1st Class) and there was the odd ERA2 ( Petty Officer).
Still as part of Training Division we resided in B5 dorm, this had all bunks and a recreation space at the end. The other B dorms were just being transitioned from hammocks to a bunkroom. Training Division also had a separate dining room opposite the CRO Flat. This changed shortly after we arrived when it was closed and they opened a larger dining hall ,which catered for all junior rates.
Workshop memories include having to make a square block out of a round bar. Use of chisel and file ensured we all had an array of blisters and bruises. Confidence with a hammer and chisel usually lead to over confidence and a hammer blow, which missed the chisel but didn’t miss your hand.
If the Duty PO thought there was talking after lights out the punishment of doubling up the Hospital hill was a favourite but as I recall we only did it a couple of times before it was banned after one of the other classes had a trainee collapse during this punishment.
After this it was doubling between the Cell Block and the PO’s Mess. We were out there doing this one night when after about twenty minutes no one had been to check on us, so we took the bull by the horns and fell ourselves out and quickly turned in. Nothing was mentioned so it would appear the PO had forgotten about us.
I found the school work challenging, and suddenly discovered that my three years at Secondary School and playing sport as opposed to putting some effort into school work came back to haunt me. Apprentices did twelve months training in NZ then went to UK for two years eight months to complete their training. Obviously if you were not up to the mark you were not going to be sent. Unfortunately with two other classmates this was our fate. We could either leave the Navy or transfer to other branches.
Making a decision to transfer to become an ME2 was a logical decision as I was enjoying what I had currently been learning so in August 65 made the transition. I found the rest of the year a bit of a breeze really and looked forward to becoming Ships Company and posting to sea.
Things that come to mind from this time were the movies at night in the Gym, you had to be early to get a good spot and bring your own chair. Most nights were pretty much your own after Dog Watch activities but we were one in four watches so every forth night there were musters, cleaning up for rounds which the OOD did every night from 1900. If your area was not up to scratch there would be a re-scrub later and the Duty PO was not happy having to come back and re-inspect your efforts.
The YMCA was housed in a building opposite B1 & B2 Dorm, this was good for a recreation space and as part of it was a shop for soft drinks etc. We of course were not allowed to use the Wet Canteen (Beer Bar). Behind the YMCA was the Library which was fairly well stocked with books. These buildings have now disappeared and the area is currently a Car Park.
Towards the end of our course we were sent to load stores on LACHLAN, which was making a dash up to supply ROYALIST which had broken down in the Coral Sea and was stopped in the water awaiting a tug. ROYALIST’s predicament was of course front-page news in all the papers. So of course at the end of our training we all looked forward to which ship we were being posted to. ROYALIST by this time had arrived home under its own steam, however you can imagine our consternation when the whole class was posted to her in January 66. We really were not keen to be recognised as belonging to her after all the adverse publicity and of course the enquiries that had already started.
So feeling a bit deflated at this outcome we had our passing out parade and went on leave and draft over Xmas with the thoughts of joining ROYALIST on return in 1966.
To Be continued