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David Martin (1955-6) - His story from the T.S. Indefatigable.

David Martin's Story - PO No 38 Raleigh Division 1955/6.

David Martin

David Martin

I joined the Inde on January 17 1955 and signed my indentures in front of Captain Irvine. The indentures said, amongst other things, that I should not frequent taverns and alehouses nor play at unlawful games. On the positive side I would be supplied with sufficient meat, drink, lodgings and medicine.
On arrival I was taken to see old Mr Doody who was in charge of the linen and clothing stores, and issued my uniform, including the long socks and shorts which were worn all year round. If you kept in his good books you could get nice fitting, as opposed to baggy shirts, trousers and jumpers.
It was so cold once that my fingers went all red and blotchy so I went to the Chief and was told it was chilblains and the remedy was to pee on them. Have you ever tried it? The pain was excruciating. I never did work out whether he was serious or mischievous. There were regular kit inspections in your dorm where all your worldly possessions were laid out and your number had to be visible on all the items.
Our boots were always spit and polished – literally. Mine were so new that they had a chrome effect to them and wouldn’t shine to a mirror like finish. The answer was go to the boiler room and with your boots smothered in polish get a red hot poker and set them alight which sort of achieved a base from which you could spend hours going for mirror finish. The boiler room is where some lads went for a crafty smoke. There were some tough nuts from Liverpool down there obviously worldlier than a lad from Ramsgate.



There was a brisk trade in cap tallies with ultra neat bows on them from lads who were leaving. The bows were usually stitched and wouldn’t stand a tug from the Chief which he was prone to do. Or you might get a jab with his two stiff fingers. All that happened was you put on a ‘normal’ bow for a couple of weeks then got out the pukka one again. Likewise trouser presses, these, comprising of two pieces of wood with four wing nuts, gave you the regulation uniform horizontal creases. This was preferable to having to sleep on them under your mattress.
Food was constantly in all our thoughts, sufficient wasn’t enough. I learned to like molasses as we always had this instead of jam. My aunt used to make her own marmalade and would post a couple of pots off which made me very popular. If you got peeling spuds on a Saturday there was a bonus in that you got to wangle some slices of bread and sugar. You may also have ended up scrubbing the mess deck floor or polishing one of the landings. Great fun this, as after the polish was put down it was shined up by one lad sitting on a blanket and being pulled up and down the corridor by the others.
About four months in I got very homesick and began to think of ways out. I learned that you could join the Royal, which would get you out, but then I thought I would be leaving one frying pan for another. It would be two years at Ganges and the thought of having to climb the mast soon changed my mind, anyway it was always the ‘Merch’ for me. Shortly after this the Lord Bishop of Bangor confirmed me at Llanfair PG Parish Church during our Sunday Church Parade. So I had to stay now.
Mr Firth - immediately christened Beaky for obvious reasons - joined during ’55 and created great amusement in his method of calling the morning parade to attention by shouting “Pwade, pwade tong’’ instead of the usual “shun’’. After we’d all stood to attention each Division’s PO would call out that our respective Divisions were “all present and correct ”. There were rumours going round that he was gay and that may be why he mentioned blackmail - referred to in Joe Earl’s story. He certainly caused a stir by having a boy clean his room and make up his bed. Be this as it may his seamanship and tuition was excellent both in the classroom and cutters. I learned all my knots and splices from him.

It was during this time that lads’ hair began to be cut in the style of Tony Curtis or a crew cut. I opted for a crew cut which the Chief didn’t like as he was always asking me to comb it down. However so many crew cuts began to appear I think the Captain thought that it should be regulation as I got called to his office one day and asked if there would be objections to a standard cut I replied ‘it would upset the Tony Curtises sir’. We never heard any more on the subject.
A trip to Liverpool was organised to visit a merchant ship. The coach set off early and the journey was quite straightforward apart from my being asked to comb my hair down. The ship was an Ellerman Line cargo passenger in the middle of loading. Our lunch was a Kashmiri curry. This was my first introduction to curry, but not the last. We went on to the bridge, down the engine room and finally along the decks to see the cargo being stowed. There were cases of fruit coming down which mysteriously broke open and cans were thrown up to us by the Dockers. We had a dormitory feast that night.
As boys left, so there were promotions to be had. First to Leading Hand, then Petty Officer and the ultimate, Chief Petty Officer. I didn’t make CPO, only reaching the dizzy heights of PO. There was a small meteorology station with wet & dry thermometers and wind direction, and I remember being in charge of the record book, but I never knew where the information went, if anywhere! Like non-coms everywhere we were the mainstays in maintaining order. Talking of order, naughty boys got the cane, not on the hand but on the backside, administered by the Chief. These were given in one of the classrooms bent over a desk. Everyone advised putting a newspaper down my shorts, which I did. How I got away with it I’ll never know as each stroke landed with an audible ‘thwack’. When punishment was over the proper thing to do was to turn round, come to attention and while saluting say ‘thank you sir’. Trouble is I can’t remember why I got them. It says on my Certificate of Discharge that my conduct was good. It seems my six of the best were overlooked.
My one and only Christmas show, held in the mess hall, was memorable by the amount of stage lighting that kept blowing the main fuse up near the main gate and we had to keep going up there to re set it. Chief Derrick did Stanley Holloway’s Albert and the Lion or did he do Anne Boleyn with her head tucked underneath her arm or maybe both? Someone did them as they have stayed with me ever since.
I was nearing the end of my time at the Inde and took another trip to Liverpool, this time to Water Street and the offices of Elder Dempster Lines. It was my interview for an apprenticeship. My hair was combed down, I was clutching my reports and my boots shone like a mirror. I must have done well for on the morning of May 5th I got dressed in my civvies and as was the custom took up the bugle and blew reveille or tried to! I didn’t even have time to say goodbye as I had been offered a lift to Aberdovey Outward Bound, which Elder Dempster sponsored.

Whenever I hear the Last Post being played now it takes me back to the parade ground and sunset, standing to attention while the flag came down perfectly in time to the bugle. 
TS Indefatigable, a never to be forgotten truly memorable experience.

I left on May 5 1956; my ‘Certificate of Discharge’ confirms the date. Said certificate says that my conduct was very good. It says on my ‘proficiency on leaving’ that my class was advanced and I achieved an average of 90% in signals and 90% in seamanship! My special qualifications were ‘Star boy, PO boy and I had a signals badge. To top it all my time at the Inde earned me 3 months remission of sea time. 

David Martin's Final Report

David Martin's Final Report

Outward Bound Sea School at Aberdovey Report

Outward Bound Sea School at Aberdovey Report

British Seamans ID Card

British Seamans ID Card

David Martin's British Seamans ID CardJune 1956

David Martin's British Seamans ID CardJune 1956

David Martin's certifictae of discharge

David Martin's certifictae of discharge

I subsequently went on to become a Midshipman with Elder Dempster Lines finally leaving the M.N. in '65 as 2nd Mate.

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