My time as a Sea Cadet
I joined Hove S.C.C. with my best mate Keith ‘Ted’ Reynolds around 1951; we were at Hove County Grammar School. Mike Watkins, I believe, joined about the same time, give or take a few weeks and Andy Hiscock joined shortly after. We were all in 2nd Port Division with L/S Mitchell in charge. I can’t for the life of me remember his Christian name – was it Colin? Whilst I was there he became a Cadet P.O. & a C.P.O. after Ted & I left to join the Royal Navy.
Drill, spit and polish
Ted, L/S Mitchell and I were all in the Guard together, with C.P.O. ‘Gus’ Hayward as Guard Commander. By God he used to make us quake (until we got to know him), screaming out his orders. He was also superb at whaler handling. I rowed 2nd port, Ted was bowman and L/S Mitchell rowed stroke in the whaler racing crew; I remember the R.N.V.R. (as it was then), had 3 whalers & during races we dreaded Whaler no.1 which seemed to weigh a ton. I recall ‘Gus’ Hayward taking us down the hatch to the rifle range below the King Alfred Drill Hall, after parades, for target practice, but best of all, I was allocated my own .303 Enfield rifle. 4 or 5 of us used to cycle home after parades, each with his rifle slung across his shoulder. I lived in Hallyburton Road., Ted in St. Kenya Avenue., and at least one of the others in Stapley Road. I stripped my rifle down in the shed & French polished it – I could barely hold it on parade it was so shiny – but, by God, it did look smart.
Lt. Cmdr. Harvey was C.O. at the time, rather a large, portly, mild mannered man, as I recall. I don’t believe he had a 1st. Lieutenant at the time as C.P.O. Hayward was 2 i.c. & C.P.O. Ian Dare was the other N.C.O. Instructor. It was Andy Hiscock, I believe, who became an ace at single oar sculling in the Dingy at Maxwell’s Wharf, a technique I could never master: In fact, all I could do was stir the water up! It doesn’t surprise me at all that Cadet Mitchell, at whatever rank, should be awarded the Cornwall Medal as he was a model Cadet, always very correct & knowledgeable.
Of to sea
I remember going to sea on H.M.S. Curzon at week-ends. Didn’t we think we were the cat’s whiskers? Great times, especially as I was one of the fortunate ones who don’t get sea-sick, since mine-sweepers have a tendency to roll, even in harbour, from the moment they untie from the jetty.
Ted & I volunteered for the Navy in 1955, after leaving Hove County School with a very small handful of G.C.E’s. each. I was rejected because I was colour-blind, but Ted joined H.M.S. Collingwood and trained as an Electrical Mechanic before joining H.M.S. Bulwark in time for the Suez debacle. I met him in Malta a few times but lost touch after that. I’m told that he died soon after leaving the Service, some time after 1966. It was rather a sore point that I was rejected for the Navy in 1955, particularly with the S.B.A’s. at H.M.S. Sussex, as National Service was still in force. I had visions of being called up for the Army – no way! I didn’t want to be a brown job. I’d set my heart on the Navy, because I had two Brothers who had already seen service – one right through the War, and made it to Chief Yeoman before being invalided out in 1946.
If at first you don’t succeed
I thought to myself, “I’ll join the R.N.V.R. Once I’m in, I’ll automatically be called up for the Navy”. So down to the King Alfred I went and explained why I’d been rejected for the RN. After anther colour test, I was rejected again. But I was persistent; I had one final go for the Navy and I was sent from the recruiting office in Queens Road to London. One look at my notes told them this was my 3rd try. They sat me in a darkened room for 30 minutes and retested my colour vision. Then came the news I wanted; I join as a Cook, a Ship’s Writer, a Sick Berth Assistant or an Electrician. Eureka! I was in; I chose Electrician and went to H.M.S. Collingwood, where I was told I was too intelligent to be an Electrician and that I was going to be a Radio Electrician. Anyway, I was in. Mine was the last class at Collingwood before National Service ended.