Today, my Dad’s naval memoirs cover his experiences on guard duty at HMS Daedalus.
Guard duty had both advantages and drawbacks. The advantages were that you did not have to attend morning Divisions as the guard was a watch keeping duty. Neither were you concerned with the daily routine jobs around the base. Watch keeping meant that instead of being on duty beteween 8am and 5pm you worked a shift system of 4 hours on duty and 4 hours off for 24 hours and then, in theory, the next 24 hours were free. The exception to this was that on your “free” 24 hours off you were required to do rifle drill on the parade ground from 9am until 12 noon. Then you were free until midnight when the next 24 hour rota commenced.
The advantage here was thta the afternoon and evening left you free to do as you liked and it was pleasant to go into the town of Lee-on-Solent when it was empty of other sailors. Warm afternoons were spent on the deserted beach, sometimes swimming in the Solent.
The drawbacks to guard duty were that for the duty days you had to vacate your Mission Hut Mess leaving any friends you had made and leaving your kit behind to live and sleep in the guardroom adjacent to the Main Gate of the base. Sleep was disturbed due to frequent guard changes. Also some of the guard locations could be irksome.
For instance, there was an Officers Gate some distance from the Main Gate giving onto the Officers’ Quarters. If on duty there you were subjected to having to spring to attention and salute any Officer entering or leaving the base and there were hundreds of officers. Ranks up to Lieutenant Commander received a salute by means of a slap on the butt on one’s rifle whilst at the Slope Arms. Above that rank Officers were entitled to a Present Arms. At least, however, on the Main Gate and the Officers’ Gate a sentry was kept busy which helped pass the time.
The North Gate, for instance, was a single gate in the airfield’s perimeter fence on the opposite side of the airfield from the guard room a distance of getting on for two miles. No one ever used that gate at night time and it was rarely used in daytime which meant being on guard there was not relished.
On the whole, however, I enjoyed being on the Guard. I liked the smartness that was required and the ceremonial that went with it. In my various movements in the Navy, each one was interspersed with a visit to Daedalus and therefore I was there on some seven or eight occasions. Each time beause of the selection system, I was chosen for the Guard.