HMS Ocean – smoking and other matters

Today Dad describes life on HMS Ocean – rounds, smoking  and ventilation.


The fact that our Squadron area was the living place for 60 or so ratings was respected by those in authority and so, whilst from time to time, other personnel had to pass through, we accepted this was necessary.  Officers rarely came through.  The discipline of the Navy required one to stand in the presence of an officer but if occasionally one did come through say an Engineer going to some problem further forward he would immediately on coming through the door call out “At ease” which meant you had no need to stand and could ignore his passing.

There were times when there was a formal visit by an officer.  One time was when every night and officer accompanied by a Petty Officer would do the “rounds” of the ship, a sort of look through all compartments to see that al was well.  This would be the Officer of the Day.  We all had to stand to attention until he passed through usually without comment.

Saturday mornings you were subject to Captain‘s Rounds.  This was an even more formal affair when you knew the Captain was coming because he was heralded by a Marine bugler a few yards in front of him and the Captain appeared accompanied by a Duty Officer, the Master-at-Arms (the ship’s senior policemen) and a couple of supermumeries.

Sometimes the Captain might stop for a word with a rating or make his displeasure known if he found something not to his liking, then he and his entourage would pass along.  Saturday mornings we would ensure that everything was smart and tidy to avoid any criticism.  Work went on on Saturday like any other day and often only the Leading Seaman and the two cooks would be present at Captain’s Rounds.

Tobacco was issued fortnightly.  This could be taken in one of three ways either :- Two tins of pipe tobacco, two tins of cigarette tobacco or an equivalent supply of tobacco leaf.  Not being a pipe smoker, like most I took the cigarette tobacco on a roll your own basis mostly hand rolled.  The tendency was to roll say 10 cigarettes at night and keep them in a small tin for the next day.  Smoking was not permitted during working hours and certainly was forbidden in certain areas where the fire risk was high.  Whilst not forbidden on the mess decks in the evening men tended to go out on the open boat deck to smoke getting some fresh air at the same time.

There were two means of obtaining ventilation on the mess desk.  There was an overhead trunking system which has apertures along it and this gave out some air but it was not always working.  The other system was better providing the sea was not too rough in that there were portholes which could be opened.  A scoop could be put into the porthole facing in the ship’s direction which brought more air in.  Unfortunately, if there was an extra high wave you got a scoop full of seawater over those nearest to the porthole.

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