The Lower Deck 01


The Lower Deck

“Wahey-Wahey-Wahey! Rise up and shine !”

These were the words which woke me to life on my first morning with No. 8 Naval Squadron in March 1917 as I lay snug in my blankets on the floor of a French hut at Furnes. Slumbering forms were all around me on the floor, while others more fortunate occupied the two-tiered sleeping bunks around the sides, and I saw the huge bulk of the Jaunty (Chief Petty Officer Rosling) striding over the sleeping forms as he thundered his morning reveillé “Wahey! Wahey! Wakeee!!”

To the needs of the somnolent Samway, Headquarters Carpenter, the Jaunty ministered with a stick and Samway was heard growling "Oi, Oi, steady on with that stick, Chief.”

Sleep had been intermixed with dreams – and my mind had wandered through the night back over the route by which I had found my way to No. 8 Naval Squadron. The road had been by way of a few hectic weeks at the Crystal Palace, where in language more lurid than polite I had been taught that the first necessity of the Service was to look after oneself and if necessary then “Pull up the ladder, Jack.”

Here it was that the physical instructors, prize fighters all, with an almighty fine specimen for a chief instructor had first put the wind up us. The familiar scene rose before me of the chief instructor perched upon a raised platform armed with a whistle and a voice like a racing coxswain. The whistle blew, the minor prize fighting instructors immediately yelled and cursed as one person, and energised by fright we rushed towards the palings, tearing off coats hats and jerseys as we ran, hung them on the fences and raced back to position in the line tying our braces round our waists at the last moment, hoping to avoid the punishment meted out to the slow-moving mugs who were found absent from their places when the Whistle of the chief blew for the pandemonium to cease. The “Jerks” which followed sorely tried many a man’s physique and gave many wisdom enough to see the doctor next morning with some plausible excuse for dodging the P.T. parade.

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