To a boy of fifteen HMS St Vincent was a quantum leap into the unknown. An old fashion boarding school, with all the harsh disciplines and the bullying, or so it seemed at the beginning. This was brought on probably more by the word 'cuts', which was a form of corporal punishment administered on the bare buttocks of a boy. Although in my time at St Vincent I never heard it applied to any boy, however like any deterrent it was always there. St Vincent was a different world to the one I had just left, even to using a different language with fore and aft, decks, bulkheads, and words like 'avast lowering, or even 'pull together' which had a totally different meaning for the group of  boys about to operate  a set of oars, and dog watches which had nothing to do with a famous dog's home in Battersea. However, the instructors were a dedicated group of Officers, and Chief and Petty Officers, who helped us boys through the year I spent there. The rumors that HMS Ganges, the other boy’s establishment had a harsher routine, made us feel just slightly better.  But for certain boys who were completely    out  of   their    depth,   it   was    a   very  frightening     place    with   no   escape    committee   to    help.


HMS St Vincent was a shore establishment of the Royal Navy, located in Gosport, Portsmouth. The name was given to the barracks and training establishment in Portsmouth in 1927, after the one that been set up aboard the old first rate HMS St Vincent in 1862. The new HMS St Vincent was commissioned on 1 June 1927, originally like its predecessor as a training establishment for boys and juniors. On the outbreak of the Second World War, the boys were evacuated to the Isle of Man, where they merged with those evacuated from HMS Caledonia to form HMS St George, which was formally established in 1939. HMS St Vincent meanwhile became a training establishment for officers of the Fleet Air Arm and an overflow for the Royal Navy barracks. A signal school was also established. A torpedo training section was opened on 22 July 1940. St Vincent reverted to being a boy’s training establishment after the end of the war, and reopened as such on 1 December 1945. It continued to function as such until 1968, when it was decided to close St Vincent. The official closing ceremony was held on 8 December 1968, with the white ensign being lowered for the last time on 2 April 1969. The base was then handed over to the land agent the following day, 3 April 1969.

On health and safety quoted so much today, we had an old high mast everyone had to climb, with no hard hat, high visibility Jacket, or even a harness. There was a safety net at  the bottom which from its tension could become a good cheese cutter if you fell from the top. Would I say looking back   I was a St Vincent boy no? Did I love the place certainly not, did I hate it no. You see to me it was simply boot camp, and for the year I was there you did what the majority of boys tried to do keep your head down and work your way through it. Did it teach me anything?   Well one example was a young seaman had been told to find a 'spurlash'.  Having gone through various department and numerous stores, been instructed by a number of  petty officers and a chief petty officer in the correct  filling in of the requisite four part documentation.  He was finally put out of his misery by his divisional  officer - who informed him with a grin on his face that  a 'spurlash' was something the anchor made when it hit the water.  Which  only confirms the  real motto of HMS St Vincent  should have been.

 'Si non potes te capere non commisi iocus.'

(If you can't take a joke you shouldn't have joined.)


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