My Dad continues his naval memoirs as he talks about serving at HMS Daedalus in World War 2.
In the ways of the Navy I did not go direct from Pwlllheli to Eastleigh but went first to HMS Daedalus at Lee-on-Solent. This, in effect, was the Fleet Air Arm barracks although combined with an operational airfield. Daedalus was a massive transit camp holding several thousand Fleet Air Arm. IN addition to having an operational squadron it also had a training role for flying crews.
An RAF Coastal Command wing operated Sunderland flying boats from there using the slipway and waters of the Solent for their craft.
The administration blocks included the Headquarters of Admiral (Flying) and all his staff.
Lee-on-Solent had originally been built as an RAF station and was typical of pre-war RAF layouts.
Red brick admin buildings and red brick two storey dormitory blocks. However with the onset of World War Two the base had been transferred the base had been transferred to the Royal Navy and had been greatly expanded by the building of rows of Nissan huts. Fleet Air Arm ratings occupied these although in a later visit to Daedalus I was housed for a short time in the brick built dormitories which were far more warm and comfortable than the Nissans.
I spent two months at Daedalus awaiting the move to Eastleigh. The routine daily was the same. Called from our beds at 6.30am by baton waving Petty Officers. We had to bath, shave and toilet in the nearby ablution block. Beds and kit to be made up and stowed away tidily. All kit and possessions had to be kept in a kit bag which in turn was kept in a storeroom at the end of the hut. Anything left lying about was taken by the Petty Officer and put into what as known as the scran-bag. Possessions could only be extracted from the scran-bag on payment of a bar of soap. Soap was not issued, each sailor had to buy his own.
Breakfast was 7.30-8am although the canteen was half a mile from the hutted camp. At 8.30am all personnel paraded on the large parade ground for Divisions.
Men were grouped into different squads of about 75 men, quickly sorted out into lines and then inspected by a Divisional Officer usually a Lieutenant. Any defects in attire or personal appearance were noted and required to be rectified.
The Camp Senior Officer appeared. He was a Commodore RN although often his deputy a Captain RN substituted for him. The entire parade ground was called to attention, the Union Jack was raised at the mast to the tune of God Save the King and then the Senior Officer/s marched of. Every sailor on parade then removed his jumper and collar so that he was stripped down to his white flannel or blue jersey (depending on the time of year) ready for calisthemics. A Royal Marine band was present and and they played pleasant tunes for about 20 minutes until 9am whilst 1000 plus sailors did exercises standing on the spot, all the time sweating and cursing or sometimes humming a catchy tune under there breaths or singing it if there was a dirty version. Colonel Bogey was quite popular.
After that, fully dressed,once more the day’s work began.
Each Divisional Officer had a list of the numbers of men he had to provide for the day’s tasks. There was a huge variety of these so that every man in every division was allocated a task. A man could find himself one day sweeping the roads, another day painting stone kerbs in white, a third day cleaning the canteen, another delivering coke to huts and offices. All tasks seemed to be humdrum and endless. One of the tasks I quickly fell for was the guard. I realised throughout my service that when in barracks being a tall man was a disadvantage. The Navy system of parading was in ranks was always the same, tallest men onto the flanks, shortest at the centre. Being 6 foot tall always meant that I was at the end of lines and if any men were required for guard, the Divisional Officer always detailed these first and consequently chose his numbers fro end ranks. I was always chosen for the Guard.