You may have already visited my page called and there, seen the impressive list of Royal patronage headed up by two Kings and two Queens.  In addition Lord Mountbatten [although he himself a member of the royal family] visited to witness a marvellous gala day. He was indeed a famous admiral, but of course much of that war time fame came from his days as the Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia and not as a sailor!   Never given the opportunity to prove their worth in that Naval VIP domain, was of course King George VI and the Duke of Edinburgh, both of whom served in the navy but were dragged away to higher office's as history unfolded. Thus,  for this page only, they cannot be considered to 'fit the bill'.

Remarkably, over seventy one years, Shotley Barracks/HMS Ganges, had very few VIP admirals [juxtaposed with the Royals who visited in larger numbers] who deemed it necessary or desirable to grace a humble boys training establishment?

That said, in 1948 an admiral visited which history has a heavy bias to as probably one of the most famous of all admirals, hailed as a true champion both pan navy and pan allies, and yes, a truly great war time leader! His affectionate name was ABC,  because of his two initials and his surname, viz Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Browne Cunningham [there was also another Admiral of the Fleet Cunningham in WW2, but his name was John Henry and he was no relation of ABC].

Clearly the majority of the great battles fought in WW2 were land battles with armies marching over borders with little for the admirals to do on that score, but a great deal for the generals and air chief marshals to do. When armies had to cross great stretches of water to distant lands to capture vital territories new, the admirals held sway as to whether those armies succeeded or not, and this is why ABC became so famous as a sea tactician and as a ruler of the waves.

You will recall that Britain held Egypt and several  other areas of Arabia and North Africa, and in the east, and in Asia the massive land mass of the Indian sub continent inter alia other territory.  The Axis powers, chiefly Italy and Germany, had annexed most of Europe and had crossed the Mediterranean into north Africa. Their aim was to take British territory in Egypt and Africa and then move east to attack India from the west. Japan, an Axis Power, had taken great parts of S.E. Asia and were moving west to take Burma, Siam, and then on to attack India from the east in a giant multi-continent pincer movement.  At all cost Mountbatten had to hold and push back the Japanese in S.E. Asia from his HQ in Ceylon, whilst the navy, at all costs, had to harry the Axis powers at sea in the Mediterranean, secure the supply line for the Allies already in Egypt and North Africa, whilst at the same time denying the Axis Powers ant form of a supply line from Europe. A tall order by any standards. ABC was appointed to this post as the C-in-C Mediterranean with bases in Gibraltar, Algiers, Malta and Alexandria.

Before he, or anybody else, was able to achieve these goals, the German commander in North Africa Erwin Rommel  had become, world-wide a much fear man, held in total awe by all including the Allies, rampant and omnipotent, with Egypt starting to batten-down fearing a German over run!

Only one commander could have held the whole show together [he who held the seas held the land adjacent to it] and that would have to be a naval commander.

Soldiers and airmen could of course sort out the land and air battles but only if they had food, shells and bullets, water to drink and fuel for their vehicles and aeroplanes, supplied on a regular basis with a nigh on guarantee that the supply line would be totally dependable and defended.

Almost from the word go, ABC dealt with war at sea [Mountbatten was just one of his any sea captains aboard HMS Kelly which was sunk in action] and there were many losses in the northern and central parts of the Mediterranean, fighting the Kriegsmarine, the Italian navy, and both the German and Italian air forces. But the spirit of the British shone through and we barged our way through, of course being helped by the surrender of the Italian navy in 1943.

On the land front a new commander was appointed in the guise of Bernard Montgomery, and with the guarantee of a regular trusted supply line [bringing in more aircraft by sea for the RAF and thus a better show in the air to assist both the land and sea commanders] he brought Rommel back down to earth to reveal an ordinary man with none of the special God-like powers the Germans claimed for him, when up against a much more competent British army commander. Rommel was to leave North Africa in total disgrace and later on,  Hitler offered him 'Hobbs Choice', either to be executed by his own kind or to commit suicide; he took the latter way out!

ABC had supplied the British 8th army [wrongly called British because it was composed of soldiers from the UK {the majority} and from  Australia, India, Canada, Free French Forces, Greece, New Zealand, Poland, Rhodesia, South Africa] not from Europe via the North Atlantic, but from South Africa mainly, travelling the route into the Mediterranean via the South Atlantic. From Gibraltar onwards it was heavily protected and escorted and put ashore as soon as possible for Montgomery's immediate use.

On the other hand, the Royal Navy [chiefly] were busy by ship, submarine and air force, sinking anything which dared set a course south from the Southern European coast,  heading to replenish Axis forces in North Africa, and these vessels contained everything from a jar of pickles to fighting troops: all were subjected to a watery grave!

The Allies got stronger, were better led, whilst the reverse was the case for the Axis Powers, and predictably. the Germans never did meet the Japanese in central India the pincer movement snapped at its pivot, for they too were suffering the same defeat only this time meted out by famous USN admirals at sea,  and just a little piece of clever US nuclear engineering from the sky, plus of course, the dominance of the  most famous of land commanders in WW2, US General Douglas MacArthur!

The first three years of WW2 were the toughest in the Mediterranean [siege of Malta 1941/2] until the Italian surrender when we had but one enemy to fight, and in 1943 Cunningham was appointed to be the First Sea Lord which he held successfully for three long years until victory, stepping down in 1946.

After the war, ABC was elevated to the Peerage becoming the 1st Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope  HM The King in full recognition of his service to King and Country created him a Knight of the Thistle [KT]. Like many of the very senior admirals he was appointed to be a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath [GCB], Created an Order of Merit [OM] and won in all, three Distinguish Service Orders [DSO & Two Bars] for his performances as a destroyer captain in WW1.  He was born in Ireland of Scottish parents in January 1883 and died on the 12th June 1963.  What an imperial honour it would have been to meet and shake hands with this very famous admiral.

That's enough, and I do believe I have painted an adequate picture of ABC to make him The most important Naval VIP to ever step foot in HMS Ganges. BZ and three cheers for ABC.

So to that august visit [which took place on the 10th June 1948] and my thanks to the IWM for the photographs. There are photographs here which are nothing to do with the Admiral of the Fleet's visit, but everything to do with HMS Ganges  or with Shotley Barracks prior to 1928 which are relatively recent finds.

ABC inspecting the royal guard paraded in honour of the King's Birthday Parade. Note  the impressive array of medals, honours and decoration worn by the admiral, which many argued were the most ever awarded to a sailor who had spent his time with both feet in the naval hot-tub, and not, as some did, with a foot in other hot-tubs and even luke-warm ones!

A new one on me!
I have never seen the [or a] Royal Standard used except when the monarch [or owner of the standard, Queen Mother, Duke of Edinburgh for example] are present.  However, this was a scene in HMS Ganges for the 1948 King's Birthday Parade. Truly looks a splendid affair with all the resplendent uniforms and the ladies with posh outfits and hat's: note however, the young ladies who are hatless! It just goes toshow that if you invite the "top" admiral to take the Royal Salute, this is what one gets - marvellous and well done HMSGanges.

By the loos of things, a very wet saluting dais deck!
Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Browne Cunningham takes the salute as the fieldgun division marches past. Note the waiting-on officer, a commander with sword, who will have been the fieldgun O.I.C and possibly the Establishments gunnery officer, there ready to answer any questions the saluting officer may have.

The fieldgun march past advances. Note the Royal Marine Band extreme top right.  Like all marching division, they would be accompanied by martial music, and it would appear they are playing their instruments. The admiral awaits the order "eyes right" before returning the salute.

A senior rate instructor with the gun crew [four boys - one, hat only. immediately behind left hand boy] with the limber detached and out of view, probably preparing to load and fire. Blank rifle cartridges are fired. inside a  cut down shell casings [so the casing fits the breech] which have had the centre firing point drilled out, and in its place a thread has been cut in the brass rear of the reduced shell casing. Screwed into this hole is a short hollow brass adaptor, the centre of which carries a blank 0.303 bullet. When the order fire is given, the firing pin strikes the centre of the blank bullet cartridge and an explosion occurs, the noise from which reverberates inside the empty cut off shell casing, greatly amplifying the explosion, making a loud bang rather like a live round would sound. 

The guns being fired!

The Royal Guard stood to attention, being approached by senior officers walking on the middle left, who will inspect them before the parade marches past and leaves the parade area. See below for more details.


Here comes a most impressive Royal Guard in full numbers and regalia.  A wonderful and sadly, rare event to observe. Note the guard commander centre front, and behind his is the Standard Bearer. He normally carries the monarch's colours [on this occasion we could expect to see the King's Colours but not of HMS Ganges {individual establishment/ships don't have them} but probably that of the Chatham division from HMS Pembroke as Ganges is administered by C-in-C Nore - Nore being a physical geographical place in the River Thames] which are presented to various branches of the navy personally by the ruling monarch, so that each has a colour. These are usually the Fleet Air Arm King's Colours, the Submarine Service Colours, Scottish Colours normally kept in the premier Scottish Base which was HMS Cochrane at Rosyth, then the Portsmouth, Plymouth and Chatham Colours. Before our navy ceased being a global navy, each outlaying station - Malta, Singapore, Hong Kong etc also had their own  Colours. Its rather like the monarch presents his/her colours to the Household Division, a group of soldiers forming five regiments of guards, each with two regiments, so ten guards colours in all, viz for example, Ist and 2nd Battalons of the Grenadier Guards. These are trooped, on rotation, at the annual ceremony of Trooping the Colour on Horseguards Parade London, for the monarchs official birthday in June each year. The monarch also celebrates his or her proper birth date but in a private way. The boy's are carrying .303-inch rifles with fixed bayonets dressed in their best No 1 suits with white caps, white cotton fronts [collarless shirts], white belts and white gaiters. It is a very proud moment for the boys, and very few actually take part in such a royal occasions throughout their service in the navy. Sadly I never did!

This is what a Queens Colour looks like, this one being carried by a lieutenant which is the norm for a major naval event. It is a white ensign with a royal cypher in the centre and a naval ensign-staff crown atop with a traditional drape. Like all national or very important standards, it s deeply revered and much saluted when being passed.

Another very fine sight and a pleasure to listen to and march by. The boy's band always referred to as the 'bluejacket band'.  Formed by drums and bugles only, and trained by professionally trained musicians from the Royal Marine Band.  We sailors will always saying that the R.M. Band is the finest of all military and naval bands. In war time, R.M. Bandsmen usually act as medics so they receive medical training alongside their band training. The bluejacket band is entirely a group of volunteers who practice in their own time and attend full time naval events and instructions just like any other boy does. Not on a par with a proper military band, but they will outdo other bands formed by boys of their age group and were always a big attraction in and outside HMS GANGES.

Again the bluejacket band. This time you can see just how many their numbers are.
The boy at the front is the traditional military band leader known as the drum major. He looks the part because his mace is very ornate and pretty heavy and he needs some good muscles to wield it  around his body  without dislocating his shoulder socket. They are a smart bunch or lads, very able, and within the limitations of just drums and  bugles, they create a melodious tune.  They also give up much free time to practice for the good of the Establishment and also the many outlying areas in East Suffolk which enjoy their performances at their fetes. Note the mast dressed with bunting [flags to you!]

Whilst here, just a couple more Ganges related photographs for your pleasure.

Nancy at the time of WW1, the HMS Ganges mascot.
No I don't think that she is having  'a drag' although she might have picked the still lighted butt up out of the gutter, and has a want to copy what other sailor around her do!

Every naval establishment and non sea-going vessel, had a sea-going tender which in most cases was symbolic. This, a steam pinnace,  belongs to HMS Ganges shown alongside, waiting, in Harwich. The tender can be any vessel in the water, powered or sail, medium sized or tiny [HMS Mercury had a yacht called the Meon Maid] and when large ships were in dock [stone or floating] it was customary to use the captains launch as a tender! For a short period in late 1926 and early 1927 it was HMS Ganges and was documented as steam launch No 218

This was the wireless telegraphy station at Harwich set back on higher ground, which in WW2 served F.O. Harwich whose HQ were on Parkestone Quay in HMS Badger.

and this gentleman was the Rev W Lancelot  S Fleming. MA and senior chaplain HMS GANGES in 1944 when adult HO's populated the Establishment and not boys.

The captain and his lady Rear Admiral Cayley present prizes at the Shotley Barrack Fete open day.

Admiral Cayley congratulating Trawler Boy T. H. Dawson, who was so keen to do his bit that he altered his age to sixteen and a half, although he was only fifteen and a half. He had been mine-sweeping for six months and was blown up once, being one of eighteen survivors.

Start of Division by Division  march past Admiral of the Fleet A B Cunningham

Junior Radio Operators David Blackman (left), aged seventeen, of Battle Road, at St Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex and Anthony Richard Turner, aged sixteen, of Pavilion Way, Eastcote, Ruislip, Middlesex, have won the Royal Navy its first gold medals under the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme. Serving in HMS GANGES, the Boys's Training Establishment at Shotley Gate, near Ipswich, they receive their awards from the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace on 3rd November. Among the tasks they have undertaken is a route march of one hundred miles in bad weather across the Yorkshire moors, sleeping under canvas and cooking their own food. They have also helped to teach other young ratings training under the scheme. Here they are hiking through a wood.

HMS Ganges quarterdeck immediately in front of the top entrance into the long covered way which has the majority of boys messing accommodation. Note the clock and the scroll under which says "Fear God Honour The King"

A much closer view of the central quarterdeck artefact. Note the sheer size of the object the boy is looking at. It is a German mine launched from a specially fitted U-Boat. Below is the submarine moored in London on the Thames called UC5. Note she has two of these massive mines, one on the for'ard casing and one immediately abaft the conning tower. It would be interesting to see the resultant explosion were she to be depth charged!

Flag hoist training on the Shotley Signal Training Mast

Letting rip with a Maxim machine gun which apparently yakes some handling no doubt having its own mind!