Today, my Dad’s memoirs cover Navy food, smoking and cockroaches.
Food, as usual,in Navel establishments was good at HMS Raven but it was the first place where I came across cockroaches in numbers. Food was served in the Mess Hall and as Winter approached it was consquently dark at breakfast time and ark at evening meal time.
Men queued in the mess room where the meal was to be served and the kitchen shutters wre not raised until the very last moment when the meal was due to be served. Behind the shutters was a large hotplate to accommodate the plates of food. It was a ritual every morning and evening when the cooks in the kitchen raised the shutters that in one sweep of the hand they removed all the cockroaches from the warm counter top before commencing to serve the meal.
We were young lads kept fit and hungry by exercise and hard work and soon learned to ignore the cockroaches. If you spent too much time examining what was on your plate your mates would be quite ready to eat it. Not to say that cockroaches got into the food on your plate but nevertheless I was squeamish and always made sure.
In shore establishments that I served in meals were typically as follow:-
Breakfast usually at 7.30am
A plate of porridge with a tablespoon of either brown sugar or treacle in the middle. Those who prefer it the Scot’s way could have it without sugar or syrup. Then a plate of bacon, egg, sausage and tomato together with a couple of slices of white bread and tea or coffee. This was the first time I had experienced coffee.
Dinner was at 12.30pm and consisted of soup, meat and two veg. Plum duff and custard as sweet.
Tea at 5pm was 2 slices of bread, butter and jam or treacle.
Evening meal around 7.00pm was a main course and a sweet course with tea of coffee.
It was common at Naval establishments for Sunday evening meal to be a simpler one usually cold meat such as corned beef or sausage and chips or occasionally macaroni cheese.
Anything extra beyond these meals you had to buy yourself if it was available. If the establishment was large enough there would be a NAAFI canteen which opened for 15 minutes at stand easy (around 10.45am) and in the evening from around 8pm-10pm. Hot drinks and biscuits could be bought and a bar would be open in the evening. Prices were reasonable but as always fourteen shillings per week did not allow too great an indulgence in food and drink. Stand easy in the morning (and there was another 15 minutes in the afternoon) was for most the time to spend having a smoke and chatting.
Smoking was free in the Navy in that each man was issued with two tins (about 1lb) of either cigarette or pipe tobacco per month. Most men rolled their own cigarettes and very few did not smoke. Those who didn’t smoke either smuggled the tobacco home or sold it to their mates.
All establishments had Customs and Excise men at their gates and therefore smuggling tobacco out was fraught with danger. It was a serious punishable offence to be caught.
In December 1945 we passed out as SE3 i.e. a Safety Equipment Rating Third Class and were allowed to put a badge on our right upper sleeve comprising the outline of an aeroplane with the letters SE beneath. In working uniform this badge was in red cotton and in best uniform (No 1s) it was in gold wire.
And thus we were allowed to go proudly on Christmas leave for one week.