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Naval CP - May 1897

Corpun file 24266 at

The Press, Canterbury, New Zealand, 3 May 1897, p.3

Life on board a training ship.

Letter from a Canterbury boy.

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The following letter, dated February 24th, received from a New Zealand boy who has joined the Royal Navy, will be read with interest: --

I write to give you the life on board a training ship. In these ships there are from 1000 to 1100 boys, and about 100 seamen to look after these boys and teach them to be seamen of the Royal Navy.

A boy on entering the navy receives the following kit:
2 serge frocks [woollen jackets],
2 serge trousers,
serge jumper,
2 duck trousers,
4 check shirts,
2 flannels,
2 pair of drawers,
2 pair of socks,
2 pair of shoes,
1 silk handkerchief,
1 knife,
2 caps.

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On Monday morning we have sail drill all the morning in summer time. In the afternoon one part of the boys go to school and the other to gun drill. On other mornings, some boys wash down decks and the others go away in the boats for a pull. At 9 o'clock instruction begins, seamanship or gunnery, till 12 o'clock; then dinner, sea-pie perhaps, till 1 o'clock then instruction again till 3 o'clock, and we pack up for the day. From 3 to 5 we mend or wash clothes from 5 to 8 below doing nothing particular. The schoolroom is open and well lighted and there are books and papers of all kinds for all to read. Thursday, inspection of bags in the morning in the afternoon the boys are allowed to go on shore. The same day they receive their weekly sum of 6d to spend in three hours.

There is an instructor to each section, one officer to every division. There are four divisions. Some of the instructors are very nice and some of them very rough. Every boy in the service has to learn to swim, and he is allowed fourteen lessons in this instruction. After a boy has been in the ship about eight months he is rated a first-class boy; he has then six weeks heavy gunnery to do, and then six weeks on the brig. When he has left them he is ready for sea anytime.

There is caning done on board, one or two every week, and a birching now and again, but not very often. When there is a caning going on all the boys in the ship are there to see it. The boy is strapped down across his hammock and caned by the corporal of the ship.

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Boys get leave twice a year and are able to visit distant friends at no expense, as they get their fare paid and ten shillings to spend. At Christmas the boys get four weeks and at Midsummer three weeks. Boys that live within sixty miles of the ship are allowed to go home for three days in every three weeks. Instruction goes on all the year, the same winter and summer. In summer the boys turn in at 9 o'clock, turn out at 5 in the morning; in winter at 8 and turn out at 6 in the morning. The boys are divided up into two watches, starboard and port watch. Saturday mornings are different from all the other days we turn out at 5 in the morning, one watch holystone the deck before breakfast and the other go through the bath, then breakfast, wash down the lower deck, clean your mess up. There is a captain to each mess and two cooks. At half-past 8 fire station, where every boy has to go; clean your mess up again for dinner. After dinner, prepare for Sunday. Sunday, turn out at six, have our breakfast, and then Wesleyan and Roman Catholic boys get ready to go on shore to church, the others have church on board. In the afternoon the boys are allowed to go on shore. Sunday is the best day in the week.

A boy after being in one of these training ships eighteen months is drafted off to sea. It is not very often that a boy deserts his ship. A boy can obtain a good conduct badge and he receives one penny a day for it. These ships are the old three-deckers of Lord Nelson's time. In winter time we have concerts on board and magic lanterns to pass away the winter evenings, which are long and dark. In each mess there are from twenty four to thirty boys. You can know the captain by a crown on his arm. Boys can write letters on board and receive them, as they have a postman of their own. Every boy in the service serves twelve years after he is eighteen years old. The time he is in the training ship does not count in his time. If a boy takes to it, he will get on all right with his mates. The navy is better than the merchant service, and it makes a man of every boy that joins it. He can learn any trade he likes on board the seagoing ships. The food is served out by the captain of the mess and two cooks; the table is well filled and plenty for every boy. On board these ships they have a band of about forty boys and men, so there is plenty of music in the ship.

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