Issue: July 2019
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Next deadline: August 29


Written by
Published on January 2018

After leaving the train, of which we were all fed up and sore from sitting all day, we found that we were in a city called Portsmouth.   But, the catch was, after forming up in a marching order, we had to march through the built-up area to the Royal Naval Barracks which was about a mile and a half away.  That’s not far really, but we had to carry our kit bags and other items:  ie: a suitcase - and by the time we reached the barracks, which was named in the usual nautical term at the time as HMS Victory (later changed to HMS Nelson) we were exhausted.  

   We were bundled into one of the tall buildings which was sparse except for broad tables and toilets and washing facilities at each end.  After a meal, which was taken in the nearby mess, we were told to prepare for the night by each collecting a hammock plus pillow and one blanket which resembled a horse blanket.  A quick tuition on how to sling one’s hammock was given and the pipe down was sounded and we were supposed to be quiet.  
   The hammock and I could not get comfortable. Then I hit on an idea and I spread it under a table and made myself a bed!  Without knowing, I had chosen the better part, ie: at about 6am the next morning a Petty Officer came around each line of slinging hammocks carrying a flat paddle like a length of wood.  The ratings hanging on their beauty sleep were soon moved when he moved up and down each row giving each one a sharp slap on the underside of each hammock and subsequently roused each occupant.   
   Hammocks, etc. had to be tidied up before breakfast was served which was porridge and kippers – Ugh!   Life was, to say the least, somewhat boring.   All we seemed to do was to do our dobying (washing your clothes), roaming around in Portsmouth visiting the water side of the harbour or the local museums which interested me.  
   After a while, we were split into sixes and shown how to lay a table for a grand meal and practise how to serve wines.  We were to serve food from the left and remove used plates from the right.  The Navy was the profession I chose as it made me a non-combatant as I had no desire to hurt or kill anyone. Also, all the thoughts I had were singular - getting back to Canada!  
   I went out one free weekend and, meeting a Canadian soldier, he invited me to visit Russell Square where we found the Canadian Forces Club.   At the same time as I was in London I renewed my Canadian Passport.  At the Canadian Club I was made most welcome.  At the Canadian Embassy, after meeting other Nova Scotia soldiers, they took me to the free shop where I was plied with a 12 pack of sweet caporal cigarettes and various flavours of chocolate bars, along with a gift card from the Manitoba Red Cross.  Before I left the club I was given a card to fill in and send it to the club with my address on it. Subsequently, periodically I received a mail bag at HMS Victory with another pack of cigarettes inside and a card from the Nova Scotia Red Cross.  

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