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A NAVAL CAREER IN THE EYES OF COLIN ROSS Pt. 3

After Xmas leave I returned to Auckland and joined ROYALIST.  It was easy to identify those posting as you had your kitbag on your shoulder and had your respirator bag slung from a shoulder.  There were quite a few of us coming out of Training Division and posting to ROYALIST on the same day therefore the posting in routine took some time.

ROYALIST was by now berthed on Calliope West Inner, White bait corner as it was affectionately known. Originally we were to be accommodated on the Stokers Mess and all thought we were now Ships Company, however further disappointment awaited us that day.  It was decided for whatever reason we would all be accommodated down aft and treated as trainees.  This of course went down like a lead parachute.

As Training Division we were turned to at 0600 scrubbing down the upper deck, I had always thought that’s what they had sailors for, however it was the scrubbing of the wooden decks on the Quarterdeck and waists either side of the bridge that awaited us each morning.

After breakfast, which was eaten on the mess deck, as the ship had broadside messing, which meant you had to lash up and stow your hammock as the mess tables were all below slung hammocks.  The meal was collected from the galley and then you walked back down to the mess to eat it.

After breakfast the mess cooks would clean the mess, all plates went back to the galley and you had to clean your own knife fork and spoon as these were issued to you and you had to guard these as those whom had misplaced theirs were always on the look out for replacements.

From day one on ROYALIST all the new stockers were assigned tasks, most of us were involved in boiler cleans.  After the salt-water contamination of the boilers in the Coral Sea it was deemed necessary to clean all four boilers.  This work was extremely hot and dirty as you would either be in the steam or water drums wire brushing to remove any deposits.  The dust, which was a combination of salt, corrosion products and boiler compound, was very fine and got into the pores in your skin.  It took a lot of scrubbing to get it out at the end of the day.

One of the interesting features of the ship was the Tiller Flat.  At sea there was always a sailor and a stocker on watch down there and as they weren’t allowed to read or sleep the place was spotless.  You could quite literally have eaten your meals off the deck, it really did gleam.

We straightaway were put into four watches which meant you were duty every forth day.  As you can imagine being the newbies we got all the unpleasant duty watch tasks.  This was cleaning in the galley, cleaning of mess decks, passageways and anywhere else that was deemed in need of a clean.

The mess decks had linoleum flooring laid over the steel deck but a lot of the passageways were steel decks, which were painted green, but of course the paint was chipped in places and always seemed to require a lot of effort to even look remotely clean.

The other tough rule to handle was that as trainees we were required to go ashore in uniform, this with a ROYALIST cap tally of course always lead to derision from some quarters of the civilian population.  Of course whilst we were suffering this indignity the Court of Enquiry was being progressed and being reported in all the local papers, so as can be imagined we were not happy to be ashore in uniform.

An incident that took place whilst I was still on ROYALIST had a very fortunate outcome.  HMS DAMPIER was a Royal Navy survey ship that in ROYALIST’s hour of need in the Coral Sea had gone to her assistance and at one stage took her in tow.  During one of these assistance evolutions DAMPIER had collided lightly with ROYALIST and the impact had shattered the formica in DAMPIER’s aft bathroom.

DAMPIER arrived in Auckland and in early 1966 underwent a maintenance period at which time the Dockyard replaced all the shattered formica.  On completion of her maintenance she proceeded to sea as usual for sea trials.  However on returning to Auckland on completion she suffered a telegraph failure approaching Calliope West opposite ROYALIST.  As a result of this she hit the wharf rather heavily and as a consequence shattered all the newly replaced formica in the bathroom.  Also the impact knocked the dockside crane off its rails and its boom crashed down onto ROYALIST’s quarterdeck.  Luckily Duty Watch had completed their muster and the quarterdeck was empty.

In March all stokers were mustered in their mess and our Divisional Officer came down.  It transpired they needed three volunteers to post to INVERELL the following day; I couldn’t get my hand up quick enough and was duly selected as one of the lucky contenders.  This actually had a downside as the rest of the stokers class went to either WAIKATO, which was brand new, and commissioning in UK or HMS BLACKPOOL, which the Government had negotiated as a temporary replacement for ROYALIST and this, was also to be commissioned in UK as HMNZS BLACKPOOL.

Whilst this was a disappointment as far as career went, I was just glad to get off ROYALIST and finally get to sea.  As you will see from the future story this quick decision and wish of mine probably cost me advancement in the future of about eighteen months.  However it was not with a heavy heart I packed my kit, donned my kitbag and respirator and trundled down the jetty to join INVERELL and a life on fishery patrol and as a training ship, but at least I was now Ships Company.

To be continued

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