Punishment for sailors
Today, Dad’s memoirs show how he could be a very naughty sailor and sometimes learned a sailor’s lot was not a happy one.
Life in the RAF Station for a sailor meant that discipline was relaxed. We had no Navy Officers or NCOs to supervise us and we could get away with things that we couldn’t dream of in a Navy ship or base. RAF Officers left us alone as we were something of an anomaly. We were aware that if we committed a breach of the rules the RAF could not punish us but would have to return us to our Navy base for trial and punishment. Naturally if we did anything really serious they would not hesitate to send us back but we knew that minor infringements would be overlooked.
Service dress was a prime example. Although when we sailors set foot outside the camp we had to be absolutely properly dressed, when we were inside the camp we realised we could get away with not being properly dressed. It gave us a kick to know that we could flout the rules without reproach Bear in mind that in the three services in those days only Officers could wear civilian clothing. Other ranks had to wear uniform at all times except when on home leave.
By the time a few weeks had passed we sailors had shed some parts of our uniform and other bits so that eventually I was wearing Navy trousers, hoes and jumper but had divested myself of the jersey, silk collar and hat and had replaced these with a khaki battle dress jacket bearing Royal Navy on each shoulder and with a white silk scarf round my neck.
I remember a few months later on leaving to return to the Navy I had to have my card signed by various departments as part of my leaving routine. I reported to one officer who from behind his desk looked me up and down and asked me if I dressed like that back in the Navy. I looked him straight in the eye and said “Certainly Sir” Obviously he was not fooled but like I said, what could he do about it? When I left the next day, I was the perfectly dressed sailor “pusser” as it was known in the Navy i.e. by the book.
On one occasion a couple of us Navy men did suffer punishment by the RAF. It was evening meal time in the massive eating hall and the RAF food was excellent. It had been fried fish that evening and with two or three RAF colleagues we were yarning around the dining hall after the meal. With cups of coffee (another luxury we did not have in the Navy) we pulled out cigarettes, handed them round and lit up. The RAF men joined in but pointed out that smoking in the eating hall was forbidden. “So what” we said “we’re fireproof”
How wrong we were; along came the Duty Orderly Officer and a RAF Sergeant and told us to extinguish the cigarettes which we did. He then told us that he knew he could not punish us matelots but he could certainly put the RAF men on a charge. We said that was unfair. He said the only alternative was for us matelots to accept his punishment. We succumbed. The punishment was to wash the trays which had cooked in there the evening meal.There were over a thousand personnel at RAF Bassingborun and there were hundreds of greasy, fishy cooking trays, stacked six foot high all round the kitchen. It took us while nearly midnight to complete the job and we stank of fish for days. The Officer had made his point. We did not smoke in the dining hall thereafter.