Joining the Navy as an Apprentice straight from school seemed like a good idea at the time. We were the first class of apprentices to go to TAMAKI and were part of the first full intake I believe at the new TAMAKI at Narrow Neck. Previously apprentices had done their naval introductory training at PHILOMEL. Having been dropped off at the main gate PHILOMEL I like the rest of the apprentices were treated really well up to the time we signed the dotted line, boy then things changed and we became trainees and the lowest of the low.
Memories include the issue of uniforms, which we stamped our initials and surname on our working kit ( No 8s) and then had to sew (embroider) our names in red cotton. Boy was I glad I had a short name and I also had some embroidery skill prior to entry so was not a big deal but some guys really struggled. The uniform was not always a good fit but you were supposed to somehow always look smart.
Our GI was Jack Baigent!! Jack was an unsmiling disciplinarian. We had as one of our class Kerry Benton. Kerry was a tall gangling bespeckled chap whom CPOGI instantly noticed. When the said GI asked Kerry what his name was Kerry replied “Kerry Benton Sir you may have known my father MAA Benton”. Obviously there was some history there between the GI and the MAA as it seemed that any punishment handed out always included Kerry Benton.
How well I remember doubling around the parade ground with a rifle above the head, and of course the rifle was more valuable than the pesky trainee carrying it. The 5-30 ‘Wakey Wakey” calls which proceeded a run then down the cliff path and a plunge into the freezing ocean. Or carrying that 4” shell around and it weighed a ton or certainly felt like it.
I was selected to play inter-service cricket during this time. I was somewhat overwhelmed when introduced to the other team members, which included amongst others Lt Cdr Eric Deane, Lt Rick Calkin and Leading Seaman Bill Morley. I was instructed that there was no reference to rank in the team and everyone was on a first name basis. This was a shock as I was used to calling pretty much everyone SIR at that stage of my naval development.
We only spent six weeks at TAMAKI for basic training and this time flew by. It was very intensive and was amazing how much we learnt in that time from parade training, seamanship, naval history, marks of respect and the naval structure amongst some. By mid Feb we had posted to PHILOMEL to begin apprentice training.
To be continued.