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13 November 2014

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You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire > Entertainment > Books > Daedalus - sailors without water!

Brian and Kris from HMS Calliope

In the Navy....

Daedalus - sailors without water!

Local man Graham Bebbington was fascinated to find that thousands of young men and women had come to this part of the world – Newcastle under Lyme to be exact - to be trained to fight in World War...

Curiously – for this is a land-locked area, young men and women were brought to Newcastle - to be prepared for the Navy!  As there was no large expanse of water they trained on a ‘dummy ship’ – HMS Daedalus the Second.

Graham explains why his interest in this historical oddity turned into a story he had to tell....

I had been aware for some years that the Fleet air Arm had occupied Clayton Hall (now the home of Clayton High School) during the  hostilities, but only became really interested on being told of the effect that the coming of the “ship” (or ‘stone frigate’ to use a naval term!)_ had on the then-sleepy village of Clayton and its inhabitants.  Clayton Hall became a Royal Naval Artificer Training Establishment (RNATE).

The villagers’ quiet life would, from now on be disturbed, for example as the dawn chorus or cockerel was replaced – by the distinctive sound of the bugle, which could also be heard at other times of the day to.

Also the establishment’s band would regularly practice marching, along nearby Northwood Lane and residents became slowly aware of what appeared to be a foreign language – “Lef, ri! Lef,ri! Lef, ri!” which accompanied the sound of the marching feet.

"...4,000 personnel qualified here – all went on to serve in ships and others stations in the war effort. Some never came back. This book is for them."

Becoming hooked on the accounts, I commenced research on the story.  It took three years to complete...

I discovered that it was not all doom and gloom and seriousness.  Young people will have fun whatever the circumstances.
When not involved in studies I for their qualifications, the high spirits of the Fleet air arm apprentices produced many interesting and amusing incidents.
For example, one prank was referred to at the time as “the Second Gunpowder lot”.

Practical jokes in the ranks

Use of explosives naturally formed part of the training, and one evening during a party at the NCOs' mess, certain apprentices thought that they would get their own back by inserting a home-made smoke-bomb between the outer wall and the inner (it was a Nissan type building).
Before long the implement exploded and a suitably effective dense cloud resulted.  After a brief period, out spewed very irate NCOs with their wives and girlfriends!

A less scientific approach was used in the case of pranks involving the canteen tea urns.
On occasion salt, pepper and mustard would be discreetly poured into the urns and then given a good shake to mix the brew. After that, it was a question of waiting to see who caught in the trap....

American troops

With the arrival later of American troops and also Bevin Boys young men brought in to work the mines, there were regular punch-ups between them and the Fleet air Arm apprentices – and certain Newcastle town centre pubs were declared out of bounds.

It seems the disagreements were generally about girls, or, perhaps due to much alcohol, or even perhaps due to the misunderstandings with our American cousins, problems could arise merely as a result of differences in meaning of words.  In some occasion, peace was only restored with the intervention of the US Military police, the notorious ‘Snowdrops’ who were renowned for their use (or misuse) of batons.  Generally, one did not argue with them!

Effective training

Nonetheless, HMS Daedalus 11 was a highly successful training unit. Whilst sits extensive facilities were in fact dispersed in requisitioned buildings over the whole of Newcastle, it was described as the time by officials as a “triumph of ingenuous administration”.

I hope that in my book – which I much enjoyed researching – I have been able to give a flavour of what it was like to be based there, and record some of the events known to have happened, as well as the reactions of the weary civilian population around!

I was even lucky enough to persuade Rear admiral Iain Henderson CB, CBE RN (Rtd), a former Flag Officer Naval Aviation to write the foreword, so I hope his endorsement gives the forces’ stamp of approval too., the publication records events through those who served there, and member so the civilian population.

4,000 personnel qualified here

Records indicate that in excess of 4,000 personnel qualified here – and all went on to serve in ships and others stations in the war effort.
Some never came back.   This book is for them.

Ship Without water is available form local bookshops or can be ordered online from the publishers Churnet valley Books - the link to the website ca be found on the right hand side of this page.
The ISBN number is:  1 897949 63 4

last updated: 18/10/2008 at 12:22
created: 15/12/2005

You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire > Entertainment > Books > Daedalus - sailors without water!

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