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Here we are publishing a different found and received stories concerning The Sea Training School:


1. First what we found on a blog signed by Terry Hodgson 



on his blog signed as Normalguy


Here is his blog: http://uncontrollable.blog.co.uk/2007/06/03/part~2389107/


We selected only a part dedicated to his life on board of Bembridge


September 1970


I had left Farmstead Villa, no doubt much to the relief of all, except Pat.


Hi Ho Hi Ho - its off to work we go


I had been refused the opportunity to go to university. Pat had tried her best to get Surrey County Council to finance higher education for me but they wouldn’t take responsibility for my further education and were insisting that I should leave school and go to work. So I left school at 15 and joined a merchant navy training school, based in the Priory at Arundel Castle in Sussex. The school was specifically for youngsters like myself who had come from institutions and were looking for a step up the ladder of life. One thing was for sure, the local authorities were wiping their hands of us!


The idea of the school was that it should be land based for basic training and education in seamanship at Arundel and then we would transfer to TS (Training Ship) Bembridge which was to be based at Gosport Reach in Portsmouth Harbour. The Bembridge was a 500 tonne ex Trinity House (pilot) ship. She was an old lady, but to this 15 year old, it was a ship and a new adventure.


In addition to the seamanship we were also to specialize in one subject. I was going to specialize in catering, and did well in learning the trade and putting it into practice (Initially, on leaving the training course, I worked at a popular and well known restaurant in Ewell. I gave up after just a few hours though when I realized that the job involved opening packets and tins with some drunken Scot shouting at me!! I hadn’t undergone making 'real' food just to work with this drunk and opening tins or the freezer door!!


Whilst we were land-based the head of the trainings school was Eric St. John Foti. When we took delivery of the Bembridge and moved onboard Lt. Commander Preston RNR was appointed as Commander of the Bembridge. Preston was a member of the Royal Naval Reserves and obviously had a naval background. But as far as handling teenage boys with our sort of background was concerned he was green as cabbage!


Preston used to bark orders as if he was still in the Navy and we used to carry out the order.... eventually. I remember him as a nasty piece of work and have never forgotten one thing he said to me.


Cowes


We took the Bembridge from Portsmouth to Cowes Harbour on one occasion. I do not recall why, but I was on the wheel of the ship as we entered the harbour. Normally I would have been on galley duty being a catering student but I think I must have been on seamanship duty on this day. As we entered the harbour we were taking the correct line for a ship of our size, on the right hand side of the mouth to the harbour. Within a moment the ship had been 'thrown' over to the left hand side and was solidly aground just by the quay wall.


We were now obstructing the East - West Cowes Chain Ferry!


Preston shouted at me something like "what have you done you stupid boy?" I replied that I hadn’t actually done anything and had no idea what had happened. He continued ranting at me and being the stroppy lad I was I squared up to him and said "You were in charge of the ship - you got it wrong". He replied to me, "I make mistakes but I am never wrong boy!!" This has been my mantra of hatred towards authority ever since. I have never found myself able to forgive that comment. It seemed to cut right through me.


The press and TV along with the whole population of Cowes, it seemed, all came down to the quayside to ogle. It felt so embarrassing because everyone was blaming me and I felt the public all knew it was me at the helm when the ship ran aground.


The inquiry into the incident cleared me of all blame. Preston was ultimately held responsible but with the mitigation that when we entered the harbour there was a spring high tide. That spring high tide produced its own unique and dangerous undercurrents, resulting in what had happened to the Bembridge. Preston didn’t know the harbour and its tides, but he was the commanding officer.


He became even worse after this incident. He didn’t like being wrong and he took it out on us with increased discipline. As a result he became more hated by us all.


Guernsey


The Bembridge was a bit of an old rust bucket really. It wasn’t used to long journeys having been used by Trinity House (the pilot’s organisation) to sit out in the channel running pilots out to incoming shipping.


Whilst we were all excited when we were told we were going to cruise over to Guernsey from Portsmouth Harbour, I guess a few of us wondered if she would ever get there. She did though. It took 24 hours instead of 16 though. We tied up at the quayside at St Peter Port and in the evening the officers held a reception for the town mayor and cronies. I was duty officer on the bridge and whilst on one of my patrols of the decks I popped down to the lounge where the reception was being held, only to check everything was ok you understand. When I got back to the bridge to write up my log entry for that patrol I found a bottle whisky hiding inside my juacket. It must have slipped there from the lounge.


As the evening progressed the reception was going well. I was also having my own little party on the bridge. I didn’t bother with any more patrols of the decks, I just tucked into this bottle of whisky.


I think it was about 2230hrs (10.30pm) when I remembered I was supposed to be doing security and safety rounds of the decks. I lifted myself out of the chair I had been slumped in and lurched across the bridge. The door to the starboard side of the ship swung open as I grasped the handle, almost causing me to fall over. The fresh night air hit me hard. As I stood erect and straightened my uniform my head began to swim. I grasped the rail that ran round the top of the stairs outside the bridge and steadied myself.


I remember half slipping down the stairs and banging my legs and knees. I was too drunk to realise how painful the knocks were. Once again I straightened my uniform and started strolling down the deck, checking no one had stolen lifeboats or left garbage on the decks. As I drew level with the engine room I noticed smoke pouring out of the engine room skylights. Fear and panic took hold of me. I flung the door open that led down to the engine and smoke poured through. I couldn’t see my hand before my face.


I tried to concentrate my thoughts. Turning on my heel I ran back up to the bridge. Whilst we were at sea, and normally when we were moored in Gosport Reach we had a fire crew allocated. For the 24 hour period that we were going to be in St Peter Port as far as I knew no fire crew had been allocated.


The drink once more took control as I swigged at the now near empty bottle of scotch trying to think what I should do. I remembered the fire drill and alarm procedure. The alarm was to be a rapid succession of blast on the ships horn. I grasped the cord and pulled and pulled and pulled. I must have let off around 25 or 30 blasts and collapsed on the bridge deck laughing hysterically. Oh no!! That was the abandon ship signal; the fire alarm was, was, was, I couldn’t remember!!


I recalled what was happening and got to my feet. This time I exited the bridge on the port side. I don’t know why. Maybe it was for a change of scenery. The sight that met me has confounded me ever since.


Looking down from my position two decks above everyone else I could see There we were, tied up in harbour and people, visitors as well as crew, were jumping into the water. What on earth was that all about? I know the emergency routine was to abandon ship from the nearest available position but this was ridiculous. We were tied up in harbour!!


The island fire brigade turned out as well as local police and an ambulance and it seemed half the town came down to the harbour to see what all the fuss about. Whilst everyone was on the quayside and milling about, I made my way down to the lounge area to sample the culinary delights on offer. This was where I was found a short while later, slumped in a chair and incapable of anything other than feeling ill.


This was when I was forced to face up to the fact that I had an alcoholic problem. It wasn’t that I had to drink, it was just that when I started I couldn’t stop.


The next morning I was called before Commander Preston. I was charged with a whole range of offences including being drunk on duty and causing undue alarm and panic. I do not recall my punishment, or maybe I left before punishment could be announced. But I still laugh about this today.


Mutiny on the Bembridge


It was shortly after this event that whole crew mutinied. We were at anchor off Ryde on the Isle of Wight and I do not remember the reason for the punishment but shore leave had been cancelled for the whole crew for a month. Everyone was being extremely aggravated and wound up by Preston and his dactatorial ways. We had just about had enough and the lads started talking about just walking off the ship. We were well aware of the possible consequences of such an action but didn’t believe for one minute we would be shot.


I think it was about lunchtime when the whole crew met on the port side of the ship. We clambered into the liberty boat, a motor boat that was used for landing pilots on ships and the crew ashore, and headed away from the ship to Ryde. As we looked back we could see the solitary figure of Commander Preston on deck calling for us to go back. We all laughed especially at the thought that he was all alone and had no way to get ashore.


The liberty boat was grounded on the beach by the pier and as we all scrambled to get ashore we saw police cars with sirens and lights heading along the beach towards us. We had forgotten he had the radio to call for help. Holiday makers were running for cover as the police cars slipped this way and then that way in the fine sand as the tried to raced across the beach to reach us.


We all split up and ran in different directions. I ran into the town and after an hour or so headed back towards the beach. It all looked quite normal now. The liberty boat was now gone off the beach. The police cars were all gone and all the holiday makers were lounging again on the sand.


I never went back on the Bembridge. I hung around Ryde for a few days trying to work out what I should do next. Finally I had a plan. I caught the ferry to Portsmouth, hitchhiked up the A3 and found my way to a mate’s house at Chiddingfold.


Here is the end of his story.




 


 


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