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15 October 2014
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John Mills: Chapter 4


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Archive List > Books > John Mills - Memoirs

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John Mills
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England — Stamshaw (North End Portsmouth)
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27 January 2006

Stamshaw (North End Portsmouth) my next posting for gunnery training pre joining HMS Volage a Destroyer, building at Samuel White’s ship yard in Cowes, Isle of Wight.

After morning parade 24 sailors march out of Stamshaw Camp, down North End road a mile distance to Whale Island Gunnery School. Oilskins folded over right arm (forecast rain), turning right, and half way over bridge to Whale Island the order to double march (running) which was the norm over the island until leaving. Our training at the gunnery school consisted of gun drill at the same tempo (at the double) on replica 4.7 in guns that we shall man to action stations if called upon to do so.

Eight members to a gun crew; Petty Officer, Gunnery Instructor “Shouting Number”, we reciprocating standing in line shouting one, two, three to eight, then jumping to gun positions. G.I. shouting “Load, load, load”, two members placing dummy cartridge and shell on tray, a third member pushing contents into open breach. The Captain of gun closing breach and shouting “Ready”. Gun Layer and Trainer shouting out “On Target”, and Gun Captain at the top of his voice “Fire”. An exercise repeated.

G.I. would shout out change and number, and number one becomes number two, and two becomes number three etc, crew in new position would have to shout out new numbers, gun drill proceeding and changing numbers until back in original position. Repeated all day for several days, so in the event of a member being killed, we knew each others position. On other day’s instruction on types of ammunition, range finding, director control etc.

While at Stamshaw, a course of fire drill was executed, which meant handling water hose pipes, instruction with chemical apparatus, plus instructions on containment of fire. Another exercise was going in to large metal tank. Inside there was light on the first time and we had to find our way through a maze of rooms and doors in and out of tank only. The second time through, it was dark with no lights, the third time with gas masks on and again dark but with smoke. The fourth time the tank was filled with tear Gas and it was dark. Half way inside a Petty Officer with a mask took our masks off and then we had to proceed out. We each came out with eyes streaming from the effects of the gas, after a few minutes, there was no harm or ill effects to us.

Following another day’s instruction at Whale Island, on entering our accommodation hut, I found my gas mask missing from the hook by my bed. Inquiring of the others, who could not help me, I considered the mask stolen. I reported the loss to the divisional office. I was paraded before the Commanding Officer with loss of gas mask, and had a month’s pay stopped, which amounted to £4. 4 Shillings; 21 Shillings pay a week. We were paid fortnightly and I still was told to parade on pay days as before. The drill for pay required each sailor to step up to the pay desk in turn, take off cap, place pay book on cap and place the cap in the desk for the Pay Officer to place monies on the cap. The semen retrieve monies, say “Thank You Sir” and double march away.

Myself paraded took off cap, the Petty Officer with ledge said “Mills no pay”, I was told to say “Thank You Sir” just the same. I had a few Shillings, that’s all, for six weeks but I only required soap, toothpaste and razor blades, shipmates helped me out with these.

Having finished the gunnery course we had to spend one night in Victory Barracks and proceeded next day by tug from Portsmouth Harbour to Cowes, Isle of Wight to board HMS Volage to commission her. After a few days’ sea trials, we sailed to Scapa Flow (Orkneys) where there was nothing to spend monies on, suited me.

Lofty John Mills


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