Chairman Neil Ramshaw opened the meeting promptly at 1030 a.m. with seven apologies having been offered.

Alan Pitchfork, a member of Knaresborough Men’s Forum, was a returning Speaker with his topic of “Boy Sailor”. This proved to be a fascinating and interesting one hour interlude recalling his experiences as a voluntary Royal Navy recruit from the early 1960’s into the 1970’s. Originally volunteering at fourteen and a half.(too young!!) Alan left school at fifteen to join up and was assigned to H.M.S. Ganges near Harwich a land based facility for Boys Training in the Royal Navy.The original H.M.S. Ganges was a 19th century (1821) warship which went through various guises before finishing sea based service at the start of the 20th century.

Alan’s early training focussed on discipline and cleanliness particularly associated with their living accommodation (The Mess) with time spent on marking/sewing/ embroidering all his kit, taking part in kit musters and getting involved in sporting and musical activities–in his case hockey and as a drummer in the Ganges band!! Early friendships were formed during training and he shared an amusing anecdote about “Tiny” Thomas who blossomed from five foot nothing (just the minimum height!) to over six feet; losing touch for a number of years as they went their separate ways (postings) but meeting by chance in a bar in Hong Kong. We were told about the Ganges Mast (143 feet high) and the hair-raising requirement of “going over the mast” ; about the officers in charge notably Captain Plaice V.C. ; diving courses and learning Morse Code as part of his training to be a Radio Operator. His first ship after training at Ganges was to be H.M.S. Whirlwind the only surface ship with a periscope! ..and bound for the West Indies as a guardship but this posting was cancelled due to timing issues and he was transferred to H.M.S. Centaur an aircraft carrier with an initial six months in dry dock at Portsmouth and which then joined the Mediterranean Fleet. His second posting was too a brand new frigate H.M.S. Arethusa part of the Far East Fleet and which eventually had a sad demise as a “target ship” in the 1990’s. Alan spent some time in the “Silent Service” (submarines) serving on H.M.S Repulse (Polaris) and shared some of his Submarine Escape Training Tower (SETT) procedures he had to go through. The talk reminded the audience of a time not that long ago when our Royal Navy had scope and influence on a world stage and a number of questions at the end indicated the interest engendered.

The Vote of Thanks was given by Neil Ramshaw on behalf of the thirty-two attendees.



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