The work of a sailor.

Today my Dad describes a typical working week in safety equipment on HMS Ocean.

Reveille was at 6.30am, breakfast at 7am.  Straight after breakfast one made a quick dash up onto the flight deck for a glance up at the flagstaff on the island.  If the white flag with black crosses on it was flying you gave a little cheer.  This was the negative flag which meant there was no flying.  No reason would be given.  It could be the weather which would be obvious.  There could be other reasons not obvious to us.  However it meant Sam and I could spend a day in the Safety Equipment Section either working or skiving.

On the other hand if there was flying it would be the usual busy day.  Check the flying times.  First flight off would be a pair or our Seafires (in effect a Naval Spitfire) and would maybe be off at 8am.  Therefore each pilot’s chute and dinghy had to be in his plane already on (or due on) the after end of the flight deck.

Sam and I had already spent the previous half hour lugging six sets of chutes and dinghies from our section three decks down to either the hangar or the open gun sponsors just below the flight deck to put in the planes.

Flights generally went off in twos at hourly intervals.  If the first flight went off at 8am the next pair of Seafires had to be ranged ready to take off at 9am.  As soon as they went off, the first pair landed on.  At this point the ship was steaming at full speed 30 mph into the wind and the sea was causing the flight deck to rise and fall several feet.

Taking off needed both planes to be as far back along the flight deck as possible, shocks under the wheels, engines revved up to full power and at the batsman’s signal “chocks away”, brakes off and the first plane went hell for leather down the flight deck  (690 feet long) and off at the bow.  In every case the plane dropped height as it left the deck and disappeared.  You held your breath until the plane appeared some half a mile ahead and climbing.

On rare occasions the plane did not appear and then us on deck rushed to the port side as the ship went still steaming full speed past a Seafire in the sea, gradually sinking and the pilot trying to scramble out of it.  More of that later.

As soon as the first pair of planes landed on they were pushed to the hydraulic lift to be taken down into the hangar, one by one.  Here we had to be quick to dash and jump on the plane wing and heave the chute and dinghy out of the cockpit before the lift went down.

Half hour’s respite before the next pair were ranged ready for take-off.  And so it went on until the flying programme for the day was completed usually daylight hours until 7pm.

Amidst all this flying by 805 Seafires the other squadron 816 flew off and landed their Fireflies fighter torpedo bombers but they had longer intervals as they had 6 hours endurance.  At the end of 805 squadron flying all the chutes had to be stored.  Sometimes if we had a late finish and an early start next day we would store the chutes in the gangway next to the anti-aircraft gun sponsor ready for the following morning.

Flying took place every day, weather permitting, except Sunday which was a rest day and Wednesday afternoon which was called a make and mend a time when the crew could carry out personal tasks like washing clothes, doing any sewing etc.

Most lower deck (i.e. non-officer crew) took Wednesday afternoon to be leisure time.  Some would play deck hockey, tennis or badminton.  The less energetic could simply lie in the sun on the flight deck.

When the ship was at flying stations and from time to time the planes were taking off and landing in the intervals between deck hockey was played.

There was a flight deck crew of about 30 plane handlers whose duty it was to manhandle aircraft before and after landing.   Between times they would form teams to play hockey and there was a keen rivalry between the teams.

Message from my Dad dated 1st August 2009

“I decided that if there was any purpose in this story then I should complete it”

I hope my readers see the purpose in the story and welcome comments.

Today my Dad talks about flying times from HMS Ocean.

Derek “Sam” Turner and I worked together.  There was no one else in the squadron who was experienced in our particular trade and we worked well together.

At the end of the flying each day whatever the time might be we had time to take our meal and then either Sam or I had to distribute the next day’s flying programme.  This was drawn up by the Commander Flying, typed up by a writer from whom one of us collected the flimsy putting in the duplicating machine and producing some 25 copies.  These I then had to distribute to a number of senior officers such as the ship’s Captain, various Commanders who were heads of departments down to our own squadron C.O. each of the squadron pilots and our Air Engineer Officer.  This took me to various parts of the ship’s “island” and also to other places within the ship.  Each officer on the list had to be found and personally given a copy.

If I caught the right time of evening apart from the Captain who got his in his cabin, the other officers could be located in the wardroom anteroom or in the wardroom itself, a magnificent large room with the tables set out for dinner with silver service.  If the dinner was over my distribution was a longer job as I had to trace every officer in his cabin, in his workplace, whatever.

Having said all this, if the ship was doing night flying I couldn’t give out the next day’s flying schedule until the last plane touched down.  Night flying, thank goodness, only took place from time to time.

Normally after this duty it was time to relax  and go back to the mess, get out of full dress uniform (which I had to wear in Officer Country) and don a pair of shorts and enjoy a fag.  Meanwhile the ship was steaming along through calm or tempest.

My child is unhappy at school.

I have blogged about how my daughter says she feels unsafe at school, about our meetings with teaching staff and about how the Head has emailed me asking me to clarify any allegations against the school.  I replied and have had his reply.

Today, I am sharing some of the things received from the Head that give me cause for concern in view of their language and tone.

“I am aware that you recently met with teacher X to discuss some of the difficulties that A has experienced in settling in to her new school situation. I also understand that X clarified that, although A had experienced some difficulties with other children, she has also caused significant upset to other pupils in her class by making inappropriate comments …and that she had been rude to teacher X herself remarkably calling X “stupid”  Please see my previous post where my daughter admits the nasty comment but denies ever saying the teacher was stupid.  I believe her.

I don’t think it is surprising that having moved a long distance away from her friends, my daughter might struggle to fit in to a new school when she has a different accent and is not used to the school systems.  I would expect a good school to have tools in place to offer should there be settling in problems or behavioural issues.  My daughter’s behaviour was not raised with us until we started saying how unhappy she was at school.  Her report does say she has had settling in issues.  Why were these not raised with us earlier?

“I am sorry to hear that A is unhappy at school. I think that we all know that some of the responsibility for this lies with A herself (please be under no illusion that the ‘nasty’ comment was not the only way in which A has alienated herself from her peers – I had to speak to her on her very first day when she was found ‘sulking’ simply because she was ‘out’ in a game … This attitude was, understandably, not admired by her new classmates).

My daughter did tell me about the incident on the first day.  She felt the rules were unfair and it was a new game to her.  I explained she would have to follow the rules.  Again, this happened 3 months ago but was never raised with us by the school.

With regards to the girls in A’s class being ‘nice’ and ‘trustworthy’, it is difficult for me to disagree with this appraisal, having known most of them for the past three years. However, this does not mean that children are never unkind to each other – that is all part of the growing-up and maturation process, and it is therefore important that A reports any concerns that she has so that they can be investigated and resolved. I would, though, like to reinforce a comment made to you by Teacher X  – we have had four other children join this class during Year 5 who have settled very well socially and made friendships with other children very quickly.

I think the way that the other girls are constantly described as nice and trustworthy to my daughter contrasts with how she is viewed.  It seems if they physically or emotionally abuse her, this is just part of growing up whereas when she does it, it is defined as inappropriate and nasty.

I find the mention of other new girls to be a red herring.  I am concerned about my daughter and how the school meets her individual needs and ensures her mental wellbeing is intact.

With regard to the incident concerning the use of the word ‘stupid’, A’s version of events does not match that which was passed to me by both Teacher X herself as well as the children in the class. A is right, however, to tell you that she said absolutely nothing when asked for her version of events – this was unhelpful to say the least and did, indeed, waste everyone’s time. However, I can assure you that I did not ‘shout ‘ at Willow. I do have a naturally loud voice and she was spoken to firmly as her refusal to provide her own version of events was unacceptable.

I think my daughter was scared when the Head spoke to her.  I admire her for sticking to her guns and refusing to confess for some considerable time.  I still believe she never said what was alleged.

As stated above, it is important for A to report any concerns she has – if she does not do this then we are powerless to intervene and rectify matters.

I feel my daughter is scared and unlikely to voice her concerns as she feels she will not be believed because the other girls are so “trustworthy” according to the school.  I think the fact that a child is scared should not mean that the distress should not be looked into and/or rectified.

A was not ‘forced’ to make a confession – that is simply not possible, nor appropriate to suggest. For a significant amount of time she simply refused to provide any information at all. As already stated, this was unhelpful to say the least. I must emphasise, therefore, that when A  does speak to adults with any concerns, she is more helpful in providing an account of events so that we can appropriately investigate matters and reach a swift resolution.

See my last point about my daughter’s fear.  Also I think it is very possible for a child to be forced into action by teachers. Recent cases in the media about child abuse have shown how adults can use power to make children submit have not proved that very point,

As ever, I may have my thinking all wrong on this one but I feel that my daughter is disliked by some students and staff at the school.  I think staff should be putting such feelings aside in order to act professionally to help my daughter settle into the school and to build up her confidence (in them) where this is lacking.

Throughout this period, my daughter has admitted when she has done things wrong which is one of the reasons, among others, that I believe she never said the teacher was stupid.  She repeats over and over that she told the truth and was not believed.  This has left her with little if any faith in the school.

I do not think this school is right for my child.  I admire her so much that through this distressing period, she has maintained her learning levels.

I welcome any comments or advice.

Child Unhappy At School




My daughter is unhappy at school.

I blogged recently about my daughter’s unhappiness at school.

I was asked if she wanted to go on a residential school trip.  When she joined the school she did want to go but now reports feeling unsafe at school and does not want to go on the trip.

When I emailed the school to tell them this, the Head contacted me saying that as Head and Child Protection Officer he would like me to clarify what allegations were being made in view of her using the word “unsafe”

I had a long chat with my daughter and the following describes what she told me.

She  states that she is frequently pushed by a male pupil into walls and bushes.
She  feels that a female pupil and her friends pick on her.
I have to say on arriving at school one day I felt it was clear that a group of girls disliked Willow and were carrying out some low-level teasing.
In our meeting with my daughter’s class teacher, she stated that my daughter has never complained about any abuse, bullying or teasing by pupils.  My daughter tells me that she does not complain as she feels she will not be believed.  I have to say that in our two meetings with class staff there was a big emphasis put on how “nice” and “trusthworthy” the girls in daughter’s class are.  That may well be the case but it does not mean that daughter’s feelings are not valid.  Realistically, as I pointed out to the teacher, my experience is that few people, adults or children, are nice all the time.
I did ask the school to provide a book of some sort where my daughter could write down her feelings if she was nervous about saying things out loud.  It appears this suggestion has not been taken up.
I told the teacher that if my daughter feels unable to complain alone then I am happy to come into school so she feels that bit safer to
In his email the Head raised two specific incidents.
1. My daughter made an awful comment against girls on her table.
On the day she made the comment, she came home in great distress telling me immediately what she had said and how she knew this was very wrong indeed.  She was clearly very disappointed in  herself.  She was made in no doubt by the whole family that the comment was totally inappropriate.
The next day my daughter was scared to go to school fearing the consequences of her action.  I told her she would have to face the discipline and then once she had, she would be able to move on.
M daughter arrived at school and walked out arriving home later that morning.  I do not know when school became aware of this fact but I received a phone call from school after she had arrived home and it is a long walk home.  I calmed her down and returned her to school again saying that she would have to face school discipline as she had done wrong.  When I arrived at school, I told Reception I felt it would be useful for me to speak with the Head but was told that was not necessary.
I totally accept the comment made by my daughter was inappropriate and nasty.  It does not however define her and I would hope both she and the school can leave it in the past at some point
The Head also alleged that my daughter had called her teacher stupid. Once again, had my daughter said this she would have been told off at home.  From day one, my daughter has stated firmly that she never made this comment.  Here is what she has told us.
She was talking to herself one day in class and said a phrase that does sort of rhyme with stupid but was not that word and was actually about her lunch choice. At that point a pupil went to the class teacher saying that my daughter had called her stupid.  My daughter says he then persuaded his friends to allege the same. The teacher said my daughter  was to see her at break time and that at break, she sent my daughter to the Head’s office.  She says she went to the office and the boys who were saying she had said “stupid” were there.  She says the Head asked her what had happened and that she was scared so at first said nothing.  She said that the Head stated she was wasting break time.  She says the Head spoke  louder and asked “What are you here for?”  She then says she said “They think I said that my teacher was stupid”  She says the Head’s voice got louder and he said “They think.  I am pretty sure they know”  Then he sent the boys off saying their playtime should not be wasted because of my daughter.  He asked her to write a report but she felt unable to write it as the felt there was not an incident to report as she had not said “stupid.”  She says she wrote down “I ..” and then stopped.    At the end of break she says the Head checked on her report and shouted at her saying that she was to come back at lunch time without having dinner.  So she came back at lunch and he said that she had to write a report like in a newspaper saying she had done it because she had. So she admitted it to but did not write down what she was alleged to have said as she knew it was not the truth.  She states he then said she had to write down that she had said the teacher was stupid.  She said he disappeared but came back and she gave him the report.  Then she says he told her to write an letter of apology to the teacher.  She says she did this letter but kept it short as she had not said “stupid” in the first place.
Our concerns are that
1 My daughter is unhappy at school.
2. My daughter feels that she can not complain about anything as she will not be believed
3. My daughter is being picked on by several pupils
4. We don’t want our daughter to be defined as nasty by the school although we acknowledge as does she that she has made at least one nasty comment.
5. We are concerned that when my daughter has denied an allegation that she called a teacher stupid, she seems to have been forced to confess and apologise for something she did not say.
I have emailed the Head with this information.
It is clear that my daughter has lost all trust in the school so we need to work out what is best for her now.
I really would welcome comments on this one as it is a tricky and challenging situation.

My  Daughter Is Unhappy At School

Today Dad talks about rats and other unwelcome residents at sea.  He also describes how food was disposed of from HMS Ocean.


Apart from the sailors there were other less welcome residents in our living space.  I mentioned earlier that we made coffee from our own supply.  The silk stocking was necessary to prevent coffee grounds going through.  There were weevils in the coffee and the filter prevented them going through too.

Each man had a small locker about 15 inches x 10 inches in a bank of such metal lockers on the bulkhead in which could be kept personal items.  These were homes to cockroaches.  Early in my work with rubber dinghies I had made for myself a folding pouch of rubber-ringed fabric in which compartments I kept toilet items such as soap, razor, toothbrush etc.  It was normal to find when I opened it several cockroaches would fall out.  They could not be eradicated and so you had to put up with their presence.  Of all insects, I disliked cockroaches the was

Another regular resident was the rat.  The air conditioning in the mess deck was pretty useless but nevertheless it was there in the form of overhead trunking about 18 inches wide and about 6 inches deep extending along the deckhead.

My particular hammock space was alongside this trunking so that when lying in my hammock my head was about level with and six inches from the top of the trunk.  It was not unusual to open your eyes and see a rat sat on the trunking looking you in the eye with its mates trotting along the top of the trunking.  The only thing to do was to shoo it along past someone else’s hammock space.  Food was never left about on the mess deck but as far as I know the ship just ignored the presence of rats.

Talking of food, when at sea at the end of each meal any excess food was put in a common container and the contents dumped overboard.  The only change in that routine was when we anchored in Malta.  Then at mealtimes Maltese people would be allowed to come on board carrying containers.  These they placed strategically about the mess decks and any excess food we had was placed in their containers which they took ashore.  The majority of the Maltese population were extremely poor and the food in the “gash bins” as we called them was taken to be eaten.

Food could never be dumped in harbour anywhere and could only be dumped at sea.