I volunteered for the navy at the recruiting office in Wrexham. Two weeks later I received a letter saying that there was a vacancy for a signal man at HMS Ganges. If I accepted I could pick up a railway warrant at Wrexham. This rooted me through Chester Manchester, Sheffield, Peterborough to Ipswich where with about twenty others I was taken by lorry to Ganges at Shotley. This was a peace time naval boys training school and had only recently been taken over for adult recruits, so the staff, chiefs and P.O.'s were finding it hard to adjust as they were used to inspecting to see that their charges had washed behind their ears and changed their socks. We slept in dormitories having about fifty beds after a couple of weeks as volunteers and conscripts began to pour in, it was decided that all signal ratings would be sent to a new school to be set up on a large country estate Highnam court near Gloucster. On arrival by train our first job was to erect tents in which we were to live until finishing the course.
After completing our class was sent to various depots. I went to HMS Wildfire at Sheerness. Soon I was transferred to HMS St. Tudno moored in the medway at Queensborough. This was the depot ship for the Nore minesweeping division. I was drafted to HMT Bernard Shaw, an ex fishing trawler fitted with oropesa sweeps. We only swept at night due to air raids. Down the channel to the north foreland where we met sweepers based at Dover. Then back to base before dawn. This was the time that the Germans started to use magnetic mines and so we were sent to Brightlingsea to tow two experimental barges that carried electrical equipment to set off the mines. These obviously proved successful as it led to the fitting out of a lot of trawlers with 'Tails'. Then came acoustic mines, so we were fitted with a 'bucket' fitted over the bow. This rattled and set them off hopefully far enough ahead not to do the ship any harm.
I was then sent back to the Sparrows Nest at Lowestoft to be upgraded from ordinary signalman to signalman. After passing I was sent to join the newly commissioned HMT Tarantella. We sailed for Tobermory for two weeks working up under Commander 'Monkey' Stevenson a real tyrant. Who had everybody from the skipper to the AB's and stokers on their toes for twenty four hours a day. We were then sent to be based on HMS Caroline at Belfast ( A First World War cruiser where the skipper grew geraniums on the quarterdeck! )
The dance class flotilla was escort coastal convoys from Oban - Lock Ewe through the Pentland Firth to Methil in the Firth of Forth. We had a day of two in Granton (Edinburgh) before taking the north bound convoy back to Lock Ewe. The escorts consisted of three trawlers, one on each wing and one in the lead. Our crew was a mixed crowd. The skipper was Lieut. Viscount Traprain RNVR. The number one Barclay Moir ( a ships architect ), two subbies, the coxswain (Jimmy Shanks was ex-army having done 22 years and rising to RSM and then going fishing out of Aberdeen), the leading hand George Thompson, the gunner Harry Cockings a Cockney who was lost overboard in a gale in the Minch.
I see the details given about the dance class said that they had a 4 inch AA gun. Well it was 4 inch (ex a first world war destroyer but the angle of elevation was only 40 degrees so not much good for AA! ).
I had my 21st birthday during this time and my aunt sent a cake wrapped in a tin biscuit box duly addressed to c/o GPO London. Somebody slipped up and sent it to HMS Tarantula a gunboat in China. About nine months later it reached me having been re-addressed. The cake having been through the tropics twice was the size of a large teacup and as hard as a brick. The name of the ship was then changed to Twostep ( not because of my cake! ). The skipper was suddenly recalled and became the Chief Coal Controller for Scotland. We were sorry to see him go on the first anniversary of our commissioning he gave the crew a party at Freemasons hall in Edinburgh where he was the Grand Master for Scotland.
We then went by train to Bergen and sailed to Rosyth in 'Grille', a yacht given by the German people to Hitler. On the quarterdeck was a big cage built to accommodate four alsation dogs which had, been dropped with the paratroopers. They were being repatriated to be handed back to their owners. I was then discharged at Oulton Broad with a pin stripe suit and a green pork pie trilby hat.