Edward ( Tom) Jones

Watts Naval School 1945-1949

(183)


The officers at watts school at that time were, Captain Felton, Bert Busby.

Mr Haslem taught seamanship but he died soon after I got there, and was replaced by Mr Green.

At the time Mr Green seemed quite strict, but after I attended a reunion recently, and had a long chat with him, he turned out to be such a nice man. He could have put plenty more of us on defaulters, and let us off ! He remembered nearly all our names !

Then my favorite Officer Sid Pointer, a lovely man, I always came top in signals prehaps that's why I still remember him well.

I don't think many boys left the school who couldn't swim, I learned during the first summer I was there. There were a lot of boys who had never been in water before they went to Watts.

Bert Busby and his wife used to teach us swimming, we never had swimming gear, so it was a bit embarrassing when you got to fourteen.

We used to have a swimming gala once a year, and they found us trunks for that.

The teachers I can remember were the headmaster Wallis Hoskin, Mr kennerdy, and the groundsman was Fred Hall. Fred gave me a cut down cricket bat for scoring a few runs in the cricket final !

Bert busby was the P.T.I , he also took us for boxing. Every year we had to box on a eliminator format.

When slogger Harrington came back from the war he took over as he was an ABA champion pre- war.
I can remember being hungry most of the time. I think that when I first went to Watts it was very harsh, as I got older, and more resilient, it didn't worry me so much.

In the summer we had siesta, we had to lay on our beds for an hour, around one p.m. If you got off your bed, or made a noise, you were on defaulters!

I think we all suffered from a poor education, and I can remember reading somewhere it was deliberate policy not to over educate us!

When it came round to holiday periods we had to nominate someone who would take us, the used to put a list up outside the dining hall door who had been accepted. As the end of July approached, and boys names had gone up, there was a lot of tears near the dining hall door from those who hadn't been approved.

I can also remember on the notice board, next to the holiday notice,was Kiplings poem If.

The words seemed very appropriate, about being a man my son.

We were allowed to go to East Dereham once a month, on the train, from mid-day saturday, until about the 6.30. when we got the train out of Dereham back to County hall station.

We had films saturday night, and whoever went to Dereham would bring back chips, and your friend would save you a seat in the dining hall, where they showed the films.

When you first joined Watts you had to qualify, which entailed you learning the sailors hornpipe, and learning to march.

You were not allowed to go into Dereham until you were qualified in these two arts.

We had a swimming pool which was down by the river. In the summer, which began April or May in those days, we had to go barefooted, except for sundays, to get to the pool. We had to walk over a large area of loose asphalt, and on the approach to the pool, the ground was covered with spiky gorse bushes.

In April it was agony,but by September your feet were so hard you could walk over broken glass!

While I was there we had a mass absconding, I think the boys were treated very harshly over that.

When captain Felton was in charge of the school it improved a lot, and his wife was very nice as well.

Ican remember she used to read to the boys, mostly ghost stories !I am not sure, but I think it was her who told us about the birds and bees. Living as we did, we only saw a girl about once a month!

We used to go on cross country runs, mostley through young forest trees, sometimes we would come across fields of carrots or beet and stop and to eat a few, then continue our run.

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I can't remember any public floggings at Watts in my time there. The question about being in contact with people on the outside, I used to write to my former foster mother, but Barnardos had a policy of secrecy.

I was thirteen before I found out that I had a father, and two sisters, living in London.

My oldest sister tried for years to find out where I was.

The bugler calls

We all had a number, no name, they had a system where the bugler called your number over the tannoy, with a bugle call, and if you didnt report to the the quarter deck in a certain time, you had to give a good reason why.

I think he had to go to more than one site to make his call.

On the subject of absconding, I think there more than twenty-seven who escaped in the mass absconding, as has been reported, more like fifty.

As to the subject of myself ascondoing, where would you go, we were all orphans, or destitute children, the people I was fostered with before I went Watts treated me terribly, regular beatings with a stick so that left them out.

We had a religious service every morning, and evening . They had large hym cards which were lowered down for us to follow, always ended with the last verse of the naval hymn, eternal father. There was a plaque on the wall which said fear god , honour your King, I'm afraid that by the time I left I didnt believe in god.
Time was measured the same as on board ship, by ringing bells.

I don't think we were very well adjusted when we left Watts, I myself never felt I belonged any where until I married, and had my own house. I vowed I would never treat my children the way I had been treated.
As to todays generation, I think every previous generation think they had it tougher. I subscribe to service pals, and people on there, who were in the forces in the eighties, are complaining about the Squaddies of today ! I think it has always been so. I personally think its just the luck of the draw who you are born to, and the generation you live in.

If there is one item I would really have changed about Watts, it would have been a better education.

Another item I remember is some of the boys were caught up in the scandle of emigration to Canada and Australia, which I think the courts cases our still going on over. A friend of mine went to canada and he wanted me to go with him, which I declined.

I recently read Reg Trews artical, Bakers Dozen on the web, made me cry my eyes out. I can remember some good days at watts, I think the best moments were the nights befor leave, when the school band played ot the quarter deck. I finished my schooling but didnt want to go to ganges, so I stayed on at Watts for another nine months, as commander freemans office boy,

I used to sit through, and record, all the punishment canings. All the items that were conficated from boys, I used to take out of the locker, and give back to them. They were harsh times. Remember tiller bonk ?

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Please get in touch with me if you were there at the same time