OGGIE OGGIE OGGIE

To indicate my best intentions that I do not wish to compete with 'west country' writers and their excellent web sites on all matters of guzzland, I start by steering you towards one of those sites, which has links to others.  However, I have to say that there are not enough photographs published and the text misses out some interesting facts and figures.  Thus, I suggest that you START OFF by browsing the west country sites, returning back here, if you wish, to see more photographs and to read of  one or two interesting  bits and pieces. Click HERE to begin your browse.

Whilst they are away browsing west country sites, I just want those of you remaining to know that I was a 'guzz' man, forced that way on leaving Ganges, simply because of where I came from.  There were three main depots to fill and man, and each one had its own ships and own drafting. Chatham was the smallest, followed by Portsmouth and then Devonport, the largest but only just, and to my eyes, one with an insatiable appetite for sailors.  There must have been an overall plan of who, geographically went where, and I can envisage the UK map, over which was placed a grid of sorts, into which well meaning WRNS officers would stick pins, each representing a quota. It probably made sense that all Irish, Welsh, Scouser's and Glaswegian's went to the west country depot and all east-coasters from Geordie land to Southend on Sea, went to the Nore depot, but its the in-between's which worry me, especially when I see that my little home town is due north of Portsmouth, and I ended up with an official number prefixed DJ! See RN OFFICIAL NUMBERS [RATINGS].  Still because I was a guzz man from leaving Ganges in February 1955 to joining submarines in 1958 [when all submariners were drafted from HMS Dolphin, the main Gosport submarine base] which changed my depot number to PJ, although Portsmouth [HMS Victory in those days] did not become my depot - that was HMS Dolphin, I have a vested interest in HMS Drake and the barracks of Jagoes [or Jago's]  where I, at times, lived in J61 mess and later in the Warrant Officer and Senior Rates Mess.

Welcome back, and I hope and trust that all was well on the janner and jagger sites. You have missed what I have been saying about my association with the west country, but read the paragraph above, then catch us up, starting with the next paragraph.

From information gleaned on your visit to west country sites, you will know that few, if any, really wanted the barracks. Upon completion it was thought that the War Office would take them over to house the Cavalry; admirals were very anti the change from hulks, and sailors considered them to be too far out [too isolated]. Also, it would disadvantage the 'seaman division' because they alone were moving ashore, leaving the 'steam division' afloat in their assigned hulks, with all the advantages of the ship environment [at least that is what they thought.] The isolation of seamen from stokers was not desirable [i.e., one afloat one ashore], and in 1891, stokers were doing their joining routine, and from that point, all the rooms in the barracks were occupied, some many years after being built. 

At the turn of the century, the barracks had two main blocks containing four barrack-rooms in each; detached blocks with officers quarter, wash-houses cook-houses, canteens, drill shed and offices. The captain had a large house, there was a large guard-house which boasted eleven cells,  and a clock tower.  On top of the tower was an operational semaphore, regularly used, this despite the common use of telephones. The eight barrack-rooms could accommodate 125 men each for hammock-slinging purposes, although given that number, any in excess of these had to sleep elsewhere [hulks etc] and the numbers recorded in the early 1900's fluctuated between 1200 and 1500, that is up to 187 men per room for food, ablutions, instructions, kit musters etc. A third block was started at this time adding on completion, a further 600 men to the barracks. Each room was set-out as a ships mess deck and the routine followed closely that which was worked on the hulks, but the lofty and light rooms put a very acceptable face on the timeless lower deck living customs, and the men's thoughts of 'out of the frying-pan into the fire' were soon dispelled. Each block had a cavernous basement, not that much smaller than the area taken by the rooms above, which was used for the heads, kit and hammock stowages, and drill when the drill-shed was not available. The warrant officers had their own comfortable mess room as did the chief petty officer. In each of the eight barrack-rooms, there was a room set aside for warrant officer who had charge of that room.

Apart from the 'proverbial' complaints of the day  [and would the sailor be a sailor were these not part of his make-up?] the sailors appear to have complained a great deal about the barracks being out of the way. There was then [as there still is] a dockyard train which ran at stated hours from a small station platform at the captain's house. However, seemingly, because the whole area, dockyard and barracks, were being constructed, the builders quite often used the train to ferry building equipment to and fro, which resulted in the sailor being denied access to the carriages.  My last appointment in Devonport was on the staff of FOF2 whose offices at Flag House, deep inside South Yard, were a long walk from HMS Drake, so I can imagine a little bit of their plight, anger, and frustration. The barracks also had the use of three very old steam launches which ferried the men between the barracks and the ships anchored or moored off.

The wash-houses contained boilers, washing troughs, a mangle and a centrifugal  wringer.  The men were allowed access all hours during their spare time, and the standards of clothes cleanliness increased.

The buildings had no circulating heating apparatus [central heating] but stoves and fireplaces were provided as a facilities for generating heat. As a fire extinguisher, each block had four large tanks on its roof, and water at high pressure could be laid on with hoses from the main by first phoning the local water company.

A small sickbay was established though later on this blossomed into a large sickbay and then into a mini  A and E hospital, with RNH Stonehouse being quite nearby for more urgent medical care.

Barracks cook-house was a large and modern work area full of the gadgets of the day, manned by Navy chefs with other 'locals' helping out. 

Next, in a special stand along building came the battery which housed the big guns used for gunnery training, which all, seamen [requalifying] and stokers [familiarisation] alike, attended. These guns had been transported to the barracks on the railway carriages from the dockyard to make room for dockyard basin extensions. This was the first time seamen and stokers had been together for training purposes, and so other skills, like cutlass drills, were drilled, though separately. The drill shed and the parade ground were well used, and perhaps as always, were not welcomed sessions by the masses.

The recreational facilities were by the standards of those days, stunning, made the more so when one considers that in a hulk there were none at all.  There was  an American style bowling alley, skittles, which was "rarely" used for its intended purpose, and which was turned into a "most popular" coffee-bar canteen. This type of canteen became so popular, that very soon other out buildings were being turned into coffee houses. The regular canteen took the form of small round tables with four chairs grouped together to form social groups.  Here the men could have smoking-party's or sing-songs with the schoolmaster playing the piano or other instrument. The third canteen was a place from which just about every article could be purchased, including the glass of beer to be drunk in the regular canteen, and this facility was only opened at certain times of the day. Then, there were the recreation-rooms where seamen and petty officers could play billiards.  Out door facilities were also provided, separately for officers, where men could play tennis and cricket [eventually] when the area has been properly cleared of rubble.

There were animals too, a couple of horses, put out to grass as ex chargers of  resplendent army officers, stabled in the barracks to be use for occasional and light work. You will have already learnt about the homing pigeons.

In 1900 the Commanding Officer was Captain Charles Johnstone RN, supported by two commanders, Charles. W. Winnington-Ingram RN, as the Executive Officer, and R.B. Colmore RN as the Drafting Commander, plus many other wardroom officers. The barrack Master was a warrant officer, a boatswain, with a further five warrant officers on the staff. There was of course many instructors.

Click to enlargeMain cook-house Click to enlargeMain entrance, guard-house and clock tower. Note signalmen manning semaphore Click to enlargeCPO's some in working dress [single] other in best [double] breasted Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlargeSing song. Note Schoolmaster and choir on stage Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Stokers in front of drill shed on the parade ground