by Terry Dalton
My memories are very mixed with the time I
spent at Dover. Just as all those before me mentioned I too arrived at
Dover Priory Station to be met by a senior boy, this time it was a lad
called Tony Randerson & one other lad whose name I don't remember, Tony
came from Yorkshire. There was I with this large suitcase being march
towards the steps that led up to the school, I thought I was fit as I used
to do a lot of walking, but Tony and this other lad went up them steps
with my suitcase like antelopes leaving me puffing at the sight of them,
and I didn't even smoke, one of the few I think that didn't? When I walked
into the school I had the biggest culture shock of my life, I had, had my
hair cut short the previous day but another was given that same night, I
think the barber was on a high rate of pay. When tea-time came and I was
sat down at a table there was enough slices of bread and butter for one
each with one spare left over, as everyone had snatched the first slice I
soon caught on and took the last slice, big mistake, one of the senior
boys called "Fenton" gave me a good hiding and making it clear I was to
ensure senior boys got theirs first!
I don't have any bad memories of the
cooking, although the cornflakes were good, the fish & chips excellent.
Having to wear our uniforms when on shore leave made me proud but very
conspicuous, especially when the Duke of York's boys were out in force,
but joining my first ship the "British Architect" in South Shields dry
dock I was hand clapped as I walked to the gangway. Fond memories, shame
most of the docks have gone up there now There were a good mixture of
Scots, Yorkies, and of course "southern softies at the school and much
rivalry ensued in the four months we were there. Quite a lot of fights to
start with mostly between the yorkies and us southern softies. I remember
one lad called Graham Gore-Brown winding some of his fellow yorkies up to
fight me not for any reason other than being a southerner but although
being small in size I never to this day have walked away from trouble, a
good black eye and some bruising that could not be hidden and a call to
see captain Vine the next morning. When I explained to Captain Vine that I
had fallen down the stairs he said I must of been crossing another lad at
the same time as he too had fallen down the stairs, he did not pursue it
any further and I think my life became a little easier with the Yorkies
Mr Smith did not like anyone and I think
the feeling was mutual, I remember him chasing Rosie around the kitchen
when he caught her on his own, did we laugh. Mr Carpenter was a ok type of
guy and Mr Porte a gentlemen as was Captain Vine, I was sorry to hear of
their passing's. The PT instructor was a hateful guy and I did not like
him at all, not many did. I studied my seamanship well and enjoyed the
level of fitness I came to achieve, I was for some obscure reason given a
"Merit Star", followed by a "Good Conduct Stripe" then low and behold
called into see Captain Vine and was told I was to be made up to a leading
boy. This was magical for me as I came from a large family and did not get
any extra money sent, the stripe was worth a shilling, the star I think
another shilling and what ever the leading boy paid, I think I ended up
with about fourteen shillings. From this money I had to buy whitener, beer
on Saturday afternoons, stamps etc, how I stood in line on parade at times
and got away with it I will never know.
On leaving the P.W.S.T.S & going to the
Board of Trade offices for my final eye sight test of which I failed left
me devastated after all that training and perseverance, I was taken to
BP's head office in Moorgate EC2 where I was offered a position in either
the engine room or as a catering boy, I chose the latter and ended up as
2nd cook & baker. I served on the British Commodore, Centaur, Trust &
Architect and enjoyed immensely my time at sea, From my time at the
P.W.S.T.S I can only remember meeting one or two lads from there, and no
one in the last 42 years since. However I have to admit, it was the
discipline, training, physical exercise and gaining self confidence that
all came from the P.W.S.T.S that truly moulded my life and it did not do
me one bit of harm despite all my gripes along the way.
by Paul Skelton
I recall walking past the Sea
Training School one sunny day around about 1969-70. Can't remember whether it
was a morning or dinner time now.
However, this one small and younger student was surrounded by five or six other
students, perhaps more; there may have even been an instructor there as well, in
those days at my tender age of 9 or 10 everyone looked big to me, and I just
can't remember who they were now, but they were all in uniform, I can remember
that. I can't say that he put up much of a struggle, but was tied to a rope that
was attached to the mast that once stood outside the college and was hoisted up
to the top and back down again by his ankle. I can only assume that it was
either an initiation ceremony or that it was his birthday. I thought no more of
it at the time and assumed that the students must get used to climbing to such
heights anyway, but it sure does sit in my memory.
by Alan Carman PWSTS 1959
In writing this I realise how
much my memories of my time at the PWSTS Dover mirror many of the others printed
here. I have so much to be grateful about and so many people to be grateful too.
Firstly I am forever grateful to my Parents for sacrificing so much so they
could afford to send me to Dover. This financial burden could not have been easy
for them in 1959.
On 12th March 1959 I travelled to Ramsgate in Kent to have my Ministry of
Transport sight test. I remember failing the first test, being told that my eyes
had not become accustomed to the dark. After a 30 minute wait I was re-tested
On 29th June 1959 I travelled from my home in Winchelsea East Sussex to Dover
Priory station. I remember pushing my forbidden packet of cigarettes down the
side of the train seat as we arrived at Dover station. I was met at the station
by one of the lads in uniform. We walked to the school via a footpath at the
side of a Church. This was to be the first day in what appeared to be a long
four months that totally changed my life for the better. I was a fifteen and a
half years old country hick who had never been away from home.
The Commodore was Commodore Hough. He seemed to have an ability to appear just
when you didn't want him to. He was able to move about without making any sound.
One evening when having a crafty cigarette on the upper parade ground he just
appeared. We all thought that the area was a prime position for the crafty cig,
no one could have seen us! Or so we thought.
Chiefy Hadley I remember as being a totally unflappable person. A very good
teacher. One of life's gentlemen, sadly to pass away before he had a chance to
Mr Smith was a strict person, you got away with nothing with him. He gave me a
right rollicking after I failed to salute him when I saw him out one Sunday
walking on the front at Dover with his wife. He felt he needed saluting even
though he was dressed in his civilian clothes.
Charley Porte, what more can be said about him. I felt he was one of us lads
rather than one of the staff. He enjoyed himself, he enjoyed teaching us. We
always looked forward to the nights he was the Duty Officer, life at the school
was more relaxed when he was about. I was very saddened to read of his untimely
death when I found this web site. What an inspiration he was to us lads.
PT Instructor Mr Taffy Simpson, I am to PT what Dumbo the Elephant is to brain
surgery, needless to say we did not always see eye to eye. He trained us to
perform at the opening ceremony of the upper parade ground. I always found it
easy to do press downs rather than the ups that he wanted me to do.
I remember Little Cook and Big Cook, the best night was when we had Fish and
Chips for supper and as duty Galley Boy you had to serve out the portions. That
night you stuffed yourself.
School memories. The gas iron, running to the Foreland lighthouse, Church
Parades, Cashing your Postal order at the shop at the end of the drive, Having
to march every time you were on the drive. Running down the back hill to the
cigarette shop. The infernal steering "machine".
I left the school on 30th October 1959, after a few days at home I travelled to
Liverpool to join SS Oronsay. On arrival in full PWSTS uniform, we were all
transferred to the docks by a mini bus. We were all greeted with shouts and
hoots from the dockers and tradesmen who were working aboard Oronsay.
I did two trips on Oronsay, then one trip on SS Kenya Castle. I arrived back
home in early December 1960 from my round Africa trip on Kenya Castle and took a
Christmas temporary job with the Post Office delivering Christmas Mail. In
January 1961 I joined the SS Scottish Star. I did three trips on her, one to
South America, one home waters and then one trip to New Zealand. In October 1961
I joined SS South Africa Star for a further visit to New Zealand. My last two
ships were the SS Sugar Exporter and the SS Sugar Carrier. Both trips were to
the West Indies in 1962. On my arrival home on 10th August 1962 I decided to
leave my sea career behind. I had enjoyed myself, however I had become envious
of my mates at home, and the grass appeared to be greener!
My life ashore has gone well. I have been lucky with my careers within the Post
Office, and Sussex Police. I have now decide to retire from work slightly early.
Hence I have been able to write this. Of all the places I have visited
throughout my career New Zealand has always been my favourite place. I was
fortunate to travel to NZ in February this year with my wife. It was nice to
visit the North Island and three of the ports I had been to before, Mount
Maunganui, Napier and Auckland. On our return to the ferry terminal at Auckland
Harbour after a harbour cruise, I realised that this was where the Oronsay
berthed on my first trip, some 46 years before.
As I said at the start of this, there are so many people I am grateful too. The
Instructors at Dover, my parents, but mostly the lads that I trained with and
the subsequent people I met whilst at sea. In this day and age a good start in
life is so important. I had that start with my time at the Prince of Wales Sea
Training School Dover.
Thank you shipmates.
Eating Worms in
by John Usher PWSTS 1964
The memories I have of my time at the
Prince of Wales are surprisingly numerous for such a short time:
• Having all our hair cut off, a major
tragedy in the sixties.
• Leaning to play the Bosun’s pipe and going to Ramsgate to pipe some
dignitary aboard at an official reception.
• Smoking in the parade ground at the top.
• Walking the dog up by the Borstal – can’t remember it’s name.
• Polishing the corridors, a wonderful smell.
• Sandie Shaw and Petular Clark posters on my bunk.
• Cups of tea on the path by the kitchens, a lad from
the Channel Islands doing his party piece of eating earth worms.
• Scrubbing the front steps and polishing the brass.
• Visiting Ray Warner on Townwall Street to have our photos taken for the
• Catching the bus home to Folkestone in full uniform on a Saturday
• Church parade at the parish church.
• Learning to dobby our whites and ironing our serge trousers (was it
seven creases or five?).
• Rowing in the inner harbour.
• Visiting the Submarine Pens at the Eastern Docks.
• Going aboard a whaler that was in port on it’s way to the south
Atlantic. It had live pigs and chicken on the after deck.
My career at sea did not last long, a couple of deep sea trips to
Australia and NZ on the Port Quebec and the Port Albany’s maiden voyage, a
spell in between on home trade for Port Line taking ships from Liverpool
around the continental ports and back into London.
I had only just scraped into PWSTS on the eyesight requirements, I could
read all the letters and pass all the tests first thing in the morning but
as my eyes grew tired my vision deteriorated. I used to secrete myself in
a classroom in the evenings and swot up on what I couldn’t read during
When I got to sea the
challenges increased, on one notable occasion on a short trip aboard the
SS Dorset with the New Zealand Shipping Company we were leaving King
George IV dock late one night when I was called to the bridge and asked to
note down the telegraph orders. I explained that I would need my glasses,
the Captain who obviously had a strong aversion to spectacles threw me off
his bridge. On arrival at Liverpool and signing off, my discharge book was
on it’s own at a separate table. More eyesight tests, luckily early in the
morning, and a return to Port Line.
Practicing for my steering ticket was a traumatic experience, the giro was
an orange mist and the click, click getting faster as I over corrected
blindly. I left the bridge in cold sweat and saw the wake was a very wide
These events rather damaged my self confidence, I didn’t handle the ‘Board
of Trade’ acquaintances too well and missed home and my mates so decided
to try my luck ashore. I drifted from job to job for a while including a
couple of spells on the cross channel ferries, owned at that time by
British Railways, I served one winter on the Shepperton the ancient train
ferry to Dunkirk. I think of her when I see the Eurostar speed past!
I then met my wife Janette who brought some focus in to my life, this I
have retained through thirty five years of a very happy marriage. Shortly
after we were married we moved to Sussex, I took a temporary job with a
chicken processor which lasted twenty four years and saw me rise from
factory hand to Production Director. I left the company following a
take-over and have since held similar positions with a number of companies
in the food industry, at present I am working with a fruit and vegetable
importer in Paddock Wood.
I have enjoyed a very satisfying career ashore but feel with better
eyesight I could have realised my original ambition of working my way up
through the ranks to captain and being a skipper of a ship rather than a
We have two wonderful children, Matthew and Naomi and are looking forward
I definitely benefited from my training at PWSTS and my short career at
sea, I learnt a lot about myself and mankind in general.
The PWSTS 1973
by Paul Mansfield PWSTS 1973
As colleges go it wasn't bad, but it was different, we were dressed in
Navy uniform and the college was run like a ship (or so we were told, we found
out differently when we eventually got to sea) we slept in dormitory's, we
weren't allowed out at night's and went to the tech-coll down the road during
the day having marched there, if we were caught smoking or even in the company
of those that did, we were caned, I'm sure Captain Vine enjoyed it, but we did
learn quite a lot, when to keep our mouth's shut and where not to be at certain
times of the night. Some of us were quite fond of fish and chips; so every
Friday night two of us would volunteer to do the CHIP run, which was a bit more
dangerous than it sounds? It meant we had to remove the window in Kelvin dorm;
as they were nailed shut," I reckon the HSE would have a field day if they ever
visited the place back then", we would then have to climb over the tiled slate
roof (we were later found out because of the rain that was seeping into the
building due to broken tiles, which cost us all in Kelvin dorm 5p each for
repairs!!) down and over the colonnade then down a drainpipe to freedom and the
local chippie, after the return journey back to the dormitory; it was harder
work coming back, which meant shinning up the drainpipe we came down; the fish
and chips in their newspaper wrapping were absolutely deliciously exquisite,
after the mundane and bland offal we were used too which was dished up by the
local volunteers, lovely ladies, big cook and little cook, and Rosa the
assistant cook, my favourite, Don't get me wrong; they done a good job to turn
what measly portions we had into something almost edible!
The weekends seemed to take an eternity to arrive, after Saturday lunch we were
allowed to venture out on to the public dressed in our navy uniforms, we were a
smart bunch and proud of it, most of the older locals were good to us or maybe
just took pity on us, they knew what we had to put up with in the college we
called home!! But we weren't so popular with the younger local lads (you know
what they say, all the nice girls love a sailor) and most of the local lads
girlfriends loved us!!! They just wanted to touch our dickies, ( The blue and
white type scarf around our necks, what did you think I meant??) for good luck!
But the local lads were the least of our problems, the junior leaders from the
army camp up behind the castle were the one's we were worried about, they came
out in greater numbers and because we were so conspicuous in our uniforms became
fair game for a rumble, we certainly knew how to run, not that we were cowards,
we didn't want to get their blood on our uniforms, it was a bugger to get out! !
So after we had been at the college for a few weeks we learnt to wear our work
clothes under our uniforms, and in the middle of summer it was hot, if we got
caught we would be in the Captains office next morning for a caning, we would
change in the bogs down on the seafront. In them days we were allowed ten bob
pocket money but for that we got a packet of fags two pints of the local slops
and a bag of chips, or if we went down the seaman's mission café, beans on toast
and sometimes a free sausage, and lots of it, it was like eating at the Ritz,
not that we have ever eaten there but I guess you get my drift? After church on
Sunday we were allowed out again, but as nothing was open apart from the arcade
on the pier we opted for the canoe's, hand built by us lads as a project and
fairly seaworthy, but I don't think the coastguard thought so when their launch
came after us and threw a round of !!!!***??? at us and telling us to get back
to the beach, we thought nothing of it then, paddling up the English Channel
alongside the cross channel ferries!!!!!!
The college, a very old building had a lot of history connected to it, it was
built next to a cemetery, So there was quite a lot of ghost stories to be told
on a dark night in the dorms, there was the one where one of the boys was on
duty on the quarterdeck (the reception area) where he fell on the stairs and
caught his land yard on the banisters and hung himself, you could hear his
footsteps along the landing if you were still awake at midnight, but personally
I think it was the rats looking for scraps of food, they were probably as hungry
as us. We would do daft things to invoke the devil, it was said if you put a key
on the first page of St. Andrews gospel at midnight the devil would come for
you, so we didn't try that? But we did try the ouija board, and after several
attempts and achieving no results, someone mentioned that I should put my
grandmothers crystal ball, who had recently died and had left it to me as she
believed I also had "the gift" because she was a clairvoyant and a very good
one, she was of Spanish Romany decent, any way the ball went under the glass, a
condition of this was that the lights would be turned out whilst performing the
act of conjuring up the spirits and when the glass stopped a torch would be
shined on the letter at which the glass stopped, this was to stop any cheating,
there was at least 10 of us with our finger on the glass laying on the floor,
when I asked the big question, is any body there, almost immediately the glass
moved to the first letter and stopped, the torch was shone and there was the
letter 'Y' bear in mind, there was at least ten fingers on the glass in total
darkness and the word YES was spelt out which went on to spell, Nan, when asked
whose Nan , PAUL's came the answer, by now I thought something strange was
happening, so I asked what her name was as nobody new it except me, so when the
reply came back LILLIAN , that was it!! I took my ball, put it back in the
drawer and refused to continue, I think most of us were a bit scared that night,
after a session like this your supposed to smash the glass to release the
spirit, but someone had put the glass on the small window ledge in the linen
cupboard where next day when two lads from Plimsoll dorm were in there who knew
nothing of what went on the night before in Kelvin dorm, the glass flew across
the room and smashed on the door, needless to say they came out of that room
like two scared rabbits.
We used to do other daft things, we would get one of the new lads to stand on a
plank blindfolded and tell him we were going to lift him up to the ceiling, we
would lift him maybe half an inch whilst he was standing on the plank and then
touched his head with another one which would make him think he had been lifted
up to the ceiling and then we pushed him off the one he was standing on, the
look on his face when he thought he was falling was hysterical.
We did actually do some work at the college, we would practice rope work which
involved tying a heaving line around the columns in Drake Hall and with our yard
long piece of rope practice tying knots, bowline, cow hitch, clove hitch and a
multitude of other useless knots which I must admit have come in handy over the
years even if it was just to show off on how fast I could tie a Bowline
(something Mr Hadley would make us practice over and over again), but I did
learn to splice which I was grateful for and which came in handy on a number of
occasions especially when making hammocks.
Every night before tea we would have physical education, which involved, amongst
other things, lifting weights, our instructor would place 20-kilo weights on our
chests and get us to do sit-ups, we became extremely fit but also extremely
knackered. After tea we would iron our uniforms and especially our trousers, as
we had to put seven creases in each leg, which was for the 7 seas, which were
actually the seven oceans, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South
Pacific, Indian Ocean, Arctic Ocean and the Antarctic Ocean. (Not a lot of
people know that!) We also had to get the creases right in our dickies? Which
were the blue and white collars that sailors wear around their necks, this is
the thing that most girls wanted to touch for good luck, well, that's what they
told us! But I'm sure it was just a chat up line to get into our knickers. But
what did we know; we were just spotty faced 16 year-old lads! The memories and
experiences from the PWSTS will haunt me forever and went a long way in
preparing me for the rest of my life I wouldn't want to forget them.
Nights in the dormitories could be very strange we would talk about everything
and anything and sometimes do some very strange things, we would pass a
pillowcase round and those who remember it, will know what it was for!!
As with most schools there is always an element of bullying, and this one was no
exception, I suppose I was lucky being quite a big lad for my age and able to
handle myself as I was left alone while the smaller lads had the bashings, there
was an old galvanized coffin like locker in the colonnade where all the yard
brushes were kept, it had about 50- 1" round holes in it and could be locked,
so, when the instructors were away for their dinner, one of the less fortunate
lads would be put inside and a water pipe inserted thru one of the holes and
left running for about 15 minutes and because the holes were nearer to the top
than the bottom ,whoever was in the Coffin came close to being drowned.
Cleanliness was another issue that wasn't taken lightly, because we all lived
together, we were aware of the smells that could be generated after a good work
out, so a shower was a must every night, but, I remember one lad, Ginger, would
hardly ever bother, and was becoming quite a bit offensive to the nose, so he
was stripped naked, pushed into the urinals, pissed on, then scrubbed with a
yard brush, only then did we discover the reason he wouldn't shower, it was
because he was covered in sores, which we later found out was scabies, he also
had a perforated ear-drum which he didn't tell anybody about until the end of
the college course, which meant he couldn't go to sea, so he had done four
months at college for bugger all, and not only that, when we took our lifeboat
ticket "which was done down in the harbour with an old lifeboat from the Torry
Canyon," as soon as he set foot on it he would get seasick, its no wonder he had
such a dislike of water?
The big day came when we were issued our blue discharge books and we became
members of the seafarers union. We were marched up to the castle where in a
small office was an even smaller man peering at us behind them old NHS issue
round framed spectacles, he took out an old camera and took our passport picture
without uttering a word as if we were just a bowl of fruit to be photographed, a
funny old sod.
We were marched back down to the college where we all compared mug shots and had
a good old laugh,
Now we were ready for sea,
Before we left college we had to go to the Guildhall in London to present
ourselves before the Lord Mayor. I can't actually remember what the occasion
really was. As we were all standing in file the Lord Mayor came down the ranks
to inspect us and when he got to me I said, all right mate? He gave me a dirty
look and carried on down the file, Captain Vine, which was walking behind the
Lord Mayor, gave me such a dirty look I knew I was in trouble?
The next big event and the final one was that we were to be confirmed but there
was a problem, one of the boys, Bill Hawkins, had not been baptised which meant
we had to go to a baptism, and for some strange reason our instructors did not
come along to the Church and as there was only four of us who wanted to go to
the baptism we were left to our own devices.
My First Job
After leaving the PWSTS we were given leave before joining our ships, my mum
found me a job working in a factory in Swindon making industrial blowers, I
worked on a production line for about 3 weeks and my first wage packet gave me
£36 which was quite a lot then for casual labour, a lot more than the £7.50 I
was getting for the next two years at sea?
My First Ship
I joined the Rotherwick Castle in Birkenhead, an old tramp ship bound for Africa
as an engine room boy, the lowest of the low. The ship was in all the newspapers
because a few days earlier it had docked in Southampton where a young female
stowaway had reported to the police of her friend that had been murdered by one
of the crew, a young engine room lad a little older than me, one of the girls
had been staying in his cabin when she broke an ivory carving meant for this
lads father which he had purchased in Mozambique he got mad with her and rung
her neck with curtain wire and then threw her over board, apparently, according
to the inquest she would still have been alive when he threw her overboard !!
Because there was no body, the lad that had killed this girl only served five
years in prison. There had also been a lot of drugs found on board, so when I
joined the ship most of the bulkheads (walls) and the deck heads (Ceiling) had
been removed by the customs and had not been put back so it looked a right mess,
everything was strange and a bit daunting to me at that time but I was soon
taken under the wing of another lad, my long time shipmate Keith who I still
keep in touch with to this day, we got up to things that would make your hair
curl. That night I had my first taste of navy life ashore? The Duke, a pub in
the docks full of sailors and whores with the Rolling Stones 'Angie' playing in
the background, the air thick with cigarette smoke and stale beer, a rough pub
for rough men!! One of the lads had bought a case of beer so that we could carry
on drinking back at the ship, and wanting to impress; I offered to carry it back
to the ship; all went well until I reached the top of the gangplank, tripped and
dropped the lot on the deck, broken bottles and beer everywhere, I wasn't the
flavour of the month after that I can tell you.
The next morning the ship sailed for South Africa my first job was to work with
the electrician in the officers pantry and because I was full of beer I felt
quite ill and working aloft, the electrician thought I was seasick and suggested
that I have some breakfast to soak up the bile in my stomach, more like the
The first port of call was Lobito in Angola before all the war started, it was a
lovely place we arrived there just before Christmas of 1973, as the ship
anchored in the vast blue lagoon surrounded by golden sands and coconut palms
most of the lads on deck jumped into the sea for a swim, the Captain seeing this
from the bridge ordered them all back on board, so boarding nets were thrown
over the side for them to climb up, the reason for this was that the shark nets
had not been closed and the all clear given.
I went on to have a fantastic 10 more years at sea.
Thanks PWSTS and all its staff for some of the best memories of my life.
Chief Hadley (Pernod)
Mr Carpenter (chippie)
Creeper (can't remember his real name)
Alan Rainbird PWSTS 1957
Could not smoke until 16 years of age. I was 16 when I started and had to wait 3
weeks before I could apply for permission. Pulling and sailing in the harbour.
Oars in the whaler being very heavy especially when you are a little 16 year
old. I was chosen as one of four rowers when Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
left Dover aboard an RN vessel.
Exercises in the mornings, either run up and down Military Hill or to the
Lighthouse. Some times PT. I believe the instructor was ex-military and about 70
years old and very fit. Wondering why swimming trunks had to be worn when we did
our dobby. Realising why because of the volume of water being thrown around.
Marching to the Duke of York Barracks for swimming.
Once while QM having my ear nearly wrenched off by Charlie Porte for sounding
the pipe for "Smoko" but by going for the Church clock and not the QM clock.
Helping to level the ground on a newly acquired piece of land somewhere to the
back of the School.
I was promoted to Leading Hand at some time, I think this entitled me to another
6d a week. Going by coach to London for a prize giving ceremony. We marched from
somewhere to St Peter's Church on Cornhill and then marched to the Mansion House
for the ceremony. One of the lads returning from shore leave on a Saturday
evening rather the worse for drink, only getting away with it because Charlie
was on duty.
I am still amazed, when I stop to think, of the vast amount of knowledge and all
the practical skills that I learned in such a short period of time, even to
sewing canvass together to make my own kit bag. One or two names I recall form
? Carbis ? Tee, Les Newman, Ian Strachan (New Zealand), Ron Wilkie (New
Zealand), Fred Trebere (Jersey).
Someone from Hastings, A Taffy, someone who had lived in Egypt who was never
Whilst at sea only coming into contact with 3 or 4 ex PWSTS boys at most. We are
a rare breed. I visited the School 17 years after leaving. Chief Hadley showed
me around, but not a lot brought back memories. I then had a chat with the
Captain. Not inspiring. I joined the Old Boys Association but heard nothing
The Schools Flag
by Charles Clark PWSTS 1956
that the school's flags seem to have survived. There must be many former pupils
that remember their use during formal occasions. In my case the memories go back
to October 21st 1956 -Trafalgar Day - when, with Tony Hill and Horace Lee, I was
part of a group that presented the PWSTS flag in Portsmouth Cathedral.
exciting for a Kiwi boy like myself. Horace did the hard work, and carried the
flag hoisted up in a blancoed contraption made of canvas. It was a simple job -
all Tony and I had to do was to accompany Horace to the altar, standby as he
presented the flag to the bishop, and then the three of us would scoot back up
the aisle to the rear of the cathedral. In keeping with the dignity of the
ceremonial this was to be done using the military slow-march - a ludicrous way
of walking, which we rehearsed but never quite mastered. The cathedral was full
of dignitaries, most having gold braid up to the elbows, and Lord Nelson
(probably the gggrandson of the original, but still a creaky old fellow) was
also present. The three of us were totally overawed by this company, and
nervousness made us pick up the pace until our slow-march resembled a gallop...
A bit of a shambles really, and not a sight that would appeal to the military
mind. Anyway, the admirals didn't keel-haul us, and there was some compensation
when we won the odd bottle of grog at the charity bash held afterward.
by Tony Fox PWSTS 1962
passing Signals badge , when in the intermediate class, and Chiefy teasing me in
front of lads , saying shall I give it to him. I remember getting my Leading BOY
anchor , and the Saturday morning work stations , cleaning ship , also MR. HOUGH
telling me I had to build up self-confidence. I also remember taking a party of
signalmen on a display , and piping the mess call on boatswains whistles .
my Stay in 1954
Smithers PWSTS 1954
On arrival at
Dover Train Station, you were met by one of the senior boys who usually took
from you any Cigarettes you had, no smoking at the school they said, (you never
got them back). On arrival at the school, you were issued with a complete Sailor
Outfit, 2 white tops, 2 pairs of dungarees and 2 work shirts. The clothes you
were stood up in were taken away and you didn't see them again for 4 months. If
you had any money, that was also taken from you except for 5 shillings. Your
parents were allowed to send you a 5/- postal order, per week, and all your mail
was opened so if an uncle or someone wanted to send you extra money, you were
not allowed to keep it, it was kept for you until you left the school at the end
of your 4 month term. On Saturday morning all the boys would queue at the
Pursers Office to collect their 5/- postal orders, which you had to sign for,
(opening mail would not be allowed today).
You had a list of things you had to take to the school, 1 towel, flannel,
toothbrush, toothpaste, 2 pairs of black shoes, 3 pairs of black socks, 3 pairs
of underpants, 3 vests, 6 white handkerchiefs, 1 tin of black shoe polish, 2
shoe brushes (I remember my father marking my shoe brushes with a red hot poker,
two lines across each brush, I still have these shoe brushes today. On
Wednesday's we went to the pictures as they were known in the 50's (today it's
the movies) 34 boys marched down the hill from the school to the Odeon cinema in
Dover where we had a special concession and went upstairs for 1/-, in the gods
as we used to call it, but you only got the pictures on a Wednesday evening if
you passed the morning test which was, at the back of the school there was a
steep grassy hill and Mr Smith "Smithie" or Charlie Porte would line all the
boys up at the bottom and on the word go, we would all race to the top and back
down again, but the last 3 boys down wouldn't go to the pictures instead they
would go to the local fish & chip shop and get the fish & chip supper for the
rest of the boys when they returned from the flicks. I saw many good movies in
Dover, but the one that sticks in my mind is "Calamity Jane" with Doris Day. The
song of the day during my stay at PWSTS was "Ole, I am a bandit" everywhere one
went, it seemed to be playing.
During my 4 month stay at the school, we had a visit from the Duchess of
Gloucester. I remember it well because I was quartermaster at the time, 12 - 4
watch. It was quite nerve racking, ringing 8 bells at 4pm.I made a right mess of
that!. We were also Guard of Honour to the Duchess of Gloucester at the Manor
House, London in July 1954. A Saturday morning chore at the school was cleaning
windows. We didn't have all the fancy cleaning liquids like we have today, just
a bucket of water and a newspaper and believe me that's the best way to clean
windows. I still use this method today except I add a few drops of Metholated
spirits to the water.
I learned a lot of things at P.W.S.T.S which helped me all through my life,
things that I still use today. I still splice rope and use different knots,
things that Charlie Porte taught me, I've never forgotten.
Seven Knife Edge Creases
by Paul Aitken-Smith
I have very fond memories of the PWSTS during my time there in 1957 in Leander
Class, from the never ending bull**** to the crafty hidden ciggie smoked in the
boiler room, the cross country runs, the steep hill that finished the run at the
side of the school and finding it difficult to stop as your legs were on
automatic pilot. The washing, the ironing, trying not to let the blue colour run
into the white on your collar, trying for seven knife edge creases in each
trouser leg using brown paper and water.
Your first run
ashore from the school into the town of Dover, trying to stay discreet out of
the way of the Gordon Highlanders who were stationed in Dover Castle. Finding
out that there where more than four points to the compass and in the steering
room being told to steer the reciprocal course of north north east by a quarter
east, trying to achieve nine words a minute at morse code.
Yes good times
made better by good officer who tried very hard to install so much into us in
such a short time.
Endeavour Class 1973
by Brian (Bobby)
Moore PWSTS 1973
I joined the
school in July 1973, my parents drove me down from Nottingham to Dover to start
my 16 weeks training. Upon arriving I was told to get my kit so a I managed a
quick goodbye to my parents and told to get my kit together. I was in Endeavour
1973 other class and the other classes I remember were Derwent and Cutty Sark.
My class tutor I think his name was Mr Burgess who turned out to be a good
instructor. There were four deckhands and eight engine room boys in my class
The school not only prepared deckhands for sea but engine room lads as well.
Captain Vine, Mr Carpenter (Chippy) and Chief Hadley were the other officers and
once a week we had this PT instructor who I did not like because he did not like
anyone, our PT kit had to be spotless. Any dirty marks we tried to hide by using
shoe whitener in fact it made it worse. Early morning rise was 06.30hrs then
down to the hall for 1/2 hour physical exercise and finally 1/2 hour cleaning
duties before breakfast. We all had a cleaning station inside the school which
we also carried out on Saturday mornings for 2 hours. My first station was the
dhobi room it was damp smelly and horrible with a drying room adjacent to it.
Lessons commenced at 08.00hrs i.e Ropework, navigation or lifeboat drill and one
afternoon a week the class would undertake basic electronics at the local
College. In the evenings we had one hour of prep and then watch T.V until bedtime
which was 21.00hrs. Lifeboat drill took us down to the docks and in the inner
harbour was a set of davits with a lifeboat. We practised rowing and bringing
the boat alongside. Each of us had a number and a specific job to do when
lowering the boat into the water. I wonder if the davits are still there?
Thursday afternoon was cross country and kick a football around on the borstal
grounds. Then straight back to school for a shower which were few and far
between Saturday and Sunday afternoons was our free time but we had to be back
for 18.00hrs. Sunday Morning we marched down town to the local church in full
uniform. This is where I was confirmed.
Best Days of Our Lives
Williams PWSTS 1960
days at the PWSTS seem so Long ago but never to be forgotten. I joined in the
Autumn 1960 till spring 1961. Then four of us joined a port line ship in
Liverpool. We came from all over the UK, and there were a couple of lads from
Rhodesia. There was a group of us who stuck together, (Clive Austin, Pete
Bloomfield, Brian Baird, Eric Ward/Meyers, and myself. We went everywhere
together, and helped each other ,there was always a good bond between the lads,
and would pick each other up if one was a bit down . There are fond memories
about the staff, in particular 'Officer Instructor Bill Porte' Charley who was a
great guy and was the boys favourite, but also he was strict but fair. We all
bought him some Old Holborn when we left, I will never forget the look on his
face when we gave to him.
Up in the
morning, doing PT, running along the cliffs to the lighthouse and back, playing
football against Dover police, sailing around the harbour in the rain and snow,
marching, kit layouts, watching the ships going up and down the channel,
watching the Shepperton ferry going out of Dover to France, and the Lord Warden,
Invicta , Maid of Kent. All which Bill Porte, and Will Smith took us on as part
of our training. On Saturdays and Sundays shore leave and off to the pictures
and Smokey Joes Cafe with the girls, which where a good bunch. Happy days and it
was the making of myself, and I am sure most of the lads that had the privilege
to be at the PWSTS, Dover. These memories will never die, NEVER !
Moyse (Gus) PWSTS 1969
PWSTS from 13.1.69 to 17.5.69. Was in Arethusa class and our instructor was
Chiefy Hadley. I joined the Port Auckland on leaving - the embarrassment of
walking along KGV docks in London dressed in that rig makes me cringe to this
day - hello Admiral lost your battleship then. Still, the school was a great
leveller and looking back it amazes me how fit the majority of us were when we
left. Does anyone recall the runs up Shakespeare Cliff or being bussed up to the
Junior Leaders barracks to use their swimming pool ? I remember, however, a few
of the lads jumped ship during the night while I was there - I waited until I
got to Australia. Left the sea some time ago, returned to education - gained an
Honours Degree in History and Politics and a Postgraduate degree. Am now a
qualified Librarian - but at times still hanker after the vagabond and
philandering life that I adopted after leaving the PWSTS.
Some of my memories of the
by Alan Knott PWSTS 1963
The alarm bells
ringing to wake you up in the morning. If Charley was duty officer woe betide
any boy still lying in his bunk after the bells had rung. He would run through
each dormitory with a length of parcelled rope, (called his stonicky) giving
these boys a wallop as he passed.
The early morning P.T. and sometimes the pre P.T. run up to the top of Military
Hill and back. Three of us boys thought it would be clever to hide in the garage
halfway up Military Hill and wait for the runners to pass us on the way down
before rejoining the run. What we did not know was Commander Huff was waiting up
the top of the hill and ticked each boys name off as they arrived (three names
were missing). Our punishment was to run up and down Military Hill every morning
for a week, before the rest of the school had risen. The various cleaning
stations and duties and preparing your cleaning station for inspection on
Saturday morning (added bonus of having the radio piped through the school
Saturday and Sunday afternoon leave. Going home for a slap up tea with several
of my class as I lived in Dover, then off to the pictures, having to leave the
pictures early to get back to the school. (Twenty hundred hours) The mistake of
attending sick parade when Charley was duty officer and telling him I had a boil
on my backside. He used the medical technique called two thumbs and a squeeze,
followed by the usual two aspros. It worked.
P.T. with Mr Simpson (Taffy) (evening period) this inspection of your P.T. kit,
in your kit was the smartest he let you go early for your shower. Badge boy
leave on Wednesday evenings instead of make and mends (sewing etc).
Trying to get everything rolled up and laid out on your bunk for kit inspection
Rowing and sailing around the Wellington Dock.
Being hung over the side of the boat after just missing Charley with the band
lead and line when it slipped through my fingers on the backward swing,
Charley's exact words were "If that had hit me you would have been dead
tomorrow". I have many more memories of the school and staff, to many to write
down but I feel honoured to have been to the P. W .S. T .S and felt the training
and discipline prepared me for shipboard life. The officers were all excellent
in their own way. I would very much like to be able to contact any of my old
classmates especially Jess Baugh who I went to sea with on my first trip (Port
Captain Dave Edge PWSTS 1963
I attended the
Prince of Wales Sea Training School during its later years at Dover. By that
time the school had acquired a primitive sort of steering simulator. This
comprised a ships wheel with a view through 'bridge windows' to a seascape
beyond. This seascape was painted on a canvas looped round rollers. This would
be rotated by the instructor and the trainee was supposed to apply corrective
helm. Should the wheel be turned the wrong way the instructor would take great
delight in rotating the seascape faster and faster as the unfortunate trainee
frantically applied more and more helm in the wrong direction. With the enclosed
waters of Dover docks near to hand we would also 'march' (I was the only one in
step) down to the docks a few times a week for practical boat-handling.
You're in the Navy
by George Sheppard PWSTS
was at the school in 1967, I remember my parents standing with me talking to
Captain Vine, an officer (can't recall his name) told me to follow him through
some doors, it was the dining area. I said to him that I was not hungry and
wanted to say goodbye to mum and dad ! "You're in the navy now sit down and
eat". That was the start of my time at PWSTS. The first weeks were hard but for
those of us who stuck it out it was the best start to not only life at sea but
life in general, the discipline and respect that you learned has stayed with me
all my life. I will always remember the pride I felt when we took parade at
Mansion House in London. Yes the old school will always be part of me.
by Charles Clark PWSTS 1956
When I was at
the school the Commander's name was Hough and he had Chief Officer Hadley as
second in command. The other instructors were 'Smithy' and 'Charley' Porte. Of
the four Charley was perhaps the one who got on more easily with most of the
boys. He had a pretty relaxed manner, a big craggy face always ready to break
into a wry smile, and a good sense of humour. He didn't take himself too
seriously and would often bend the rules for minor infringements (boys caught
smoking etc.) rather than see the offender sent for useless punishment... we all
smoked as furiously as our weekly allowance and the price of Woodbines would
allow. The other instructors were maybe a bit less forgiving, but I think that
all in all they were a pretty good bunch.
Charley did a lot of the instructing in basic seamanship and drill as I recall,
and was particularly memorable for his tendency to duck into the pub for a swift
pint whenever he took the boys out on a route march. He obviously had a sensible
outlook on life.
by Greg Bright PWSTS 1964
My time at
PWSTS was very happy. In fact, I think it was the making of me, as I hadn't done
anything with my life up till then. It all started when 2 instructors came to
my secondary modern school in the middle of Birmingham on a recruitment
campaign. It really gripped my imagination and nothing would stop me. I had to
get a job to raise half the money to go (£106 for the 3 months course I think it
was). My father and I travelled all the way to Dover for the interview which
was a success. On the way back through London we stopped off for the (Board of
Trade?) sight test and I failed at the first attempt. They said it was probably
due to being unaccustomed to the sea spray, which I encountered earlier in
the day. I was left in the darkened room for 30 minutes whilst my eyes became
accustomed to it and at the second attempt I passed, much to my relief.
Captain Vine was newly installed as Commander by the time I arrived for my
course. I thought he was a gentleman. There was a big black dog, (I'm not sure
if it was his or the schools) but I did quite often get the job of taking this
dog for a walk twice a day along the cliff-top path up behind the school. I
thought this was wonderful, as from up there you had a terrific view of the
Channel with many ships steaming up and down.
We used to have a very young clergyman (Padre) come in every week and take
Confirmation classes. Quite a group of us then travelled up to Canterbury
Cathedral one evening where we were all Confirmed in the Crypt. I still have
the New English Bible I was given.
Not So Happy
by Peter Buxton PWSTS 1974
I have to admit having less than
happy memories of the school, I didn't enjoy my time there much. I think my most
intense memory is lying awake at night in the bunkroom, hearing the foghorn from
the harbour every minute or so.. and rowing about the docks in that huge
lifeboat in the freezing rain... boy we used to get cold
by Dave Smithers PWSTS 1964
I remember my first day at the
school, arrived about 1pm got caught smoking about 2.30pm got caught again about
6.30pm and was up on defaulters the following morning in front of Bill Porte.
Because I had only been at the school less than 24hours he let me off. If
through defaulters you saw a officer four times next time you saw the Captain
and your good conduct stripe got put back one week. If you never saw the captain
for nine weeks you got your stripe. Funny enough I never saw the captain
throughout the school and I was the first one in the class who was up on
by Tom Roddis PWSTS 1968
I attended PWSTS as
a 15 year old residential student during the winter of 1967/68. The head of the
school was Captain Vine and my class tutor was Mr Smith. It housed about 50 boys
in three dormitories and the course lasted for four LONG months. My class was
known as Grenville 67.
The regime was very strict, early to bed and early to rise, with a daily workout
in the front yard before dawn, no matter what the weather.
New boys were introduced to the visiting barber within hours. Any long hair that
was all the fashion in the 1960's soon landed on the floor, to be replaced by
very short back and sides. Following that, our first visit to the shower room
was celebrated by the older boys hurling buckets of freezing cold water all over
us. We made sure that we kept up that traditional shock attack for the next
class of new boys six weeks later.
TV did not exist. Surprisingly, I can't remember any larking about after lights
out at 9pm - everybody just seemed to crash out from exhaustion. The wake up
alarm bells always came too soon the next morning. God help anybody who was not
standing to attention by their beds within 60 seconds.
The uniform was that of the Royal Navy. Every single item of clothing had to be
neatly folded and kept in its correct position in our bunk bed drawers. Kit
inspections were frequent. The dormitories were kept absolutely spotless.
Our clothing had to be hand washed and ironed to perfection. Bell bottom
trousers had to have seven horizontal creases for the seven seas. Footwear had
to maintain the mirror like finish of the Doldrums.
General seamanship lessons were well mixed with regular cross country runs,
circuit training, drill practise and rowing a lifeboat in Dover harbour.
The top exercise yard was up some steps behind the school. It overlooked the
school building and we could just see France on the other side of the English
Channel. We would daydream about eventually sailing on the ships that passed in
the distance. It was also a great observation post to watch out for Officers
coming if we managed to get hold of any cigarettes which were totally banned and
like gold dust.
Our spending money was restricted to 50 pence per week which we could use when
we had our freedom for a couple of hours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Leaving PWSTS left one with both a great sense of relief and achievement. We
were pretty well equipped for life at sea. The regime had served us well, even
though it felt more like Borstal training at times.
When I revisited the building in 1992 it was being used by Dover College as a
girls boarding school, although it was closed for the Easter holidays at the
time. The narrow cobbled street and the tiny cottages that led down from the
front school gates had all been demolished. A major road now runs alongside the
building, which was just a quiet lane back in 1967.
In 1996 the then derelict building was taken over by the Dover YMCA. Despite
extensive enquiries, I have been unable to find out what happened to the PWSTS
archives and records.
by John Rae PWSTS 1958
I had the
privilege of knowing Lt Bill Porte in 1958 when I was at the school. My first
encounter was Dover station
on day one. I was a teddy boy and turned up dressed so, who was there to meet us
his fist words were who has got a fag ? The mistake I made was giving him one as
he told us it was not allowed for us to smoke so he might as well have the
packet. Another thought comes to my mind was when he used to march us anywhere
in Dover. Outside the school was a pub and he would send one of us in to order a
pint we would march by and he would swallow in one. He was a great character and
taught us well, I left the the school as a leading seaman and great memories of
different things that happened in the school.
The Main Hall
Buxton PWSTS 1974
remember this picture of the main hall well.. We had "General stations' twice a
day during my time at the school, which meant 3/4 of an hour walking around with
a broom sweeping...
It used to take about 5 minutes to sweep it, but we weren't allowed to stop, so
we had to go round and round and round for the full 3/4 hour..!! There was a
classroom to one side of the hall, which was used for lifeboat instruction, if I
remember rightly, and one end of the hall had been partitioned off, to make a
room where the deck boys used to practice splicing wire rope.. The hall was the
focal point of the school, all the musters, church services and general running
of the school was done in there..
The pillars in the hall were handy too, we hade a long mooring rope, which was
stretched around all of them at waist height, for us to tie our knots onto..
(With our 2 metre long length of rope, which was issued to us, and woe betide
anyone who lost/misused that length of rope!!).
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