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Ralph's National Service

31st July 2022 @ 6:06am – by Ralph W
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Editors comment:- according to the National Archives, there have been 186 Ralph Warburtons in the forces since WW1! However these archives do not include the Navy including the Fleet Air Arm – so there were even more!

MEMORIES OF MY NATIONAL SERVICE

RALPH JAMES WARBURTON BEM

1956

Living in 49 Exeter Road , Bootle (Liverpool) with my parents .

APRIL. Received my call up papers along with the order to Report to Recruitment Office in Liverpool.

Did so and found Ground Floor was the Army, second floor the RAF , third floor the Navy and top floor the Fleet air Arm.

So I climbed to top floor and requested the FAA. Was lucky and taken on – along with, as I found out later , 31 others for the intake that month across Great Britain. A select band indeed.

Rail voucher received and told to report to Lee on Solent, Royal Naval Air Base .

A lad who had only been one long rail journey before – to Butlins at Ayr in 1947 If you like, still tied to my mothers apron strings . Scary times indeed. At Lee on Solent issued with my number . LF 957842.

Issued as well with full kit of Number 1's, Number 2's and working clothes, Number 8's . Kit bag and boots and housemaid sewing kit .

At the time I weighed less than 8 stone so suffered under this heavy load.

Posted to HMS Gamecock near to Nuneaton for 8 weeks of Boot Camp.

Allocated to a mess along with 31 other recruits . Bed and locker for me right at the top on the right of the centre aisle . Big pot bellied iron stove in the centre .

Chief Petty Officer takes control and reminds us that as from now he is god ! Scared rigid as we stand at attention as be tells us what a sorry lot we were.

Instructed to embroider our kit with our initials and surname – In red wool . And given an ink stamp kit for the mess to use as the guide .

My name was long enough but I felt for the fellow in the bunk next to me -" Osbaldstone "

Much initial work. Then in big black boots to the parade ground and many weeks of square bashing as CPO licked us in to shape . Those big black boots dimpled toe caps. And we were required to get then smooth and glistening . Using a hot iron and loads of spit and polish this was achieved as fast as we could .

Many kit inspections with the coin tossed on an ever taught bed cover ! Living a life none of us had ever had. From a scared bunch of raw recruits we were moulded into a good smart unit by our CPO .

Station dentist was a butcher and ripped out 7 teeth from my mouth in one go. Dental hygiene those days was awful !!

I was made Class Leader by CPO – a crown sewn onto my left sleeve ! – and as such had to take parades with my shouting out the orders of Attention, Quick march etc- with gobs of blood spitting out of my massacred mouth . Promotion to Class leader was resented by some in the mess who had fancied their chances and sneaky little things were made against me. Like peeing into my kit bag !

Shore leave was much loved and I recall taking up with a young girl name Eunice and snogging in the dark of a cinema seat . We did not have much in the way of money – being on something like £3 a fortnight!

Had to iron our 32 inch bell bottomed trousers of wool with 7 creases – reflecting the seven seas of the world. Using soap in the inside to fix the creases !!

8 weeks over and we were posted to our new station.

I had opted to be a meteorologist and accordingly was posted to HMS Harrier at Dale , South Wales . My oppo then was a tall skinny fellow names Roger Smith from Manchester .

Camp at Dale was great. Sharing it with loads of WRENS . Learning all about weather fronts, occluded fronts, cloud formation, the Beaufort wind scale .

Shore leave was at Haverford West . My first ever taste of raw scrumpy – and my last! I was very ill!

Recall the time of Frank Sinatra and his singing Flying down to Rio – in "Come Fly with Me ". Loved the song then and still do. No girl relationships. Very shy was I .

Recall swimming in some very rough Atlantic Seas at midnight . Gang of matelots and WRENS . Very happy times .

Training over and passed out as a Meteorological Observer 1st Class

Allowed home leave and there I was – a jolly Jack Tar in my uniform in Exeter Road , Bootle . No cars of course. No phones – and no money!

Next posted to RNAS Nuthatch near Silloth in Cumbria .

Still with Roger – and our Leading Hand was John Morran . A kind understanding boss.

Many months of 12 hours on , 12 hours off as weather observations were taken – day and night and transmitted by short wave radio to stations of RAF and FAA across the country. Long lonely nights as we each worked alone through the 12 hours .

May 1957 and my pal Frank Cleary, who was in the RAF, invited me to his brothers wedding, saying he has a girl lined up for me . Named Pauline Keating .

No civvy clothes – PO John Moran loaned me his double breasted charcoal wool suit. We were in the month of June. Very warm weather and I was deeply tanned from my 12 hours off duties.

Train to my parents house in Exeter Road Bootle . Picked a pyrethrum flower from Dad's Garden and into my bouton hole. Caught the Bus to Litherland and the COOP hall .

Boiled ham salad wedding breakfast. Pauline trying to talk to me as I wolfed my food. Joan , sister of the Bride came over to look me up and down.

The up shot was I stole her from Frank and we were the together for the next 43 years . Another story of great happiness.

By April 1957, I was posted to join HMS Albion. A huge Aircraft Carrier, tied up in Portsmouth. Scary times as I walked up the steep gang plank, Saluting as I step aboard – and to my hammock below the landing rear section of the flight deck . Noisy place when in action, as the planes landed right above my hammock and caught the arrester wires.

Working as a team of two under the control of the MET officer – with the rank of a Commander. Working in the Control Tower and taking winds obs on a heaving flat- top deck, in all weathers. We sailed up to the near arctic. Near to Iceland. In exercises with the United States Navy. Some aircraft lost as they crashed off the side of the Yankee carriers.

Sailed up to Oslo and shore leave. Saw the Viglund Statues in a huge park . Quite strange and dramatic – and sexual . Very serene sailing up the rivers in a 28,000 ton ship . Anchored off the land and using bumboats to get on shore.

Courting Joan by mail. Many letters bearing the legend SWALK etc.

Sailed out to the Azores and caught the tail end of a Hurricane. Seeing the bows dipping beneath very high seas .Quite scary. As I recall I never suffered from seasickness.

Working – just the two of us on 12 hours on 12 hours off – and at one time as my oppo was ill I was 24 hours on – sleeping when I could on the map table in our MET office in the Control Tower.

Sailed to Gibraltar. Still with Roger Smith . Seeing the GUT on the Rock. Naughty place with ladies of ill repute . Bought gifts for Joan. Swimming off the rock in the Atlantic and was stung by a Portugese Man of War jelly fish . Not very nice.

Sailed on the Portugal and anchored off in River by Lagos. Too big to dock by the quayside .

Went ashore and on landing, was offered a holy medal of Our Lady of Fatima or a bottle of brandy or his 12 year old sister – for 12 escudos! My first taste of such matters. Said no thanks. Taken by older sailors to a brothel. Saw for the first time in my life a half naked beautiful dark eyed girl . Scared out of my wits as a true virgin!

April 1958. Then on £7 a fortnight

Demobbed and into the big world .

Still a virgin!

Found me a job at Littlewoods Mail Order as an assistant stock controller on the grand sum of £8 a week. Big increase for me

The rest is history as we married, had three wonderful boys , many adventures and world travelling. I climbed the ladder to become a full Board Director – and wham bang – Heart Attack, triple bypass etc – from, a life time of smoking, rich dining , thousands of hours in an airplane seat.

Now. With a very fine family. My Joan dead now for 22 years.

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