In at the deep end: join the navy and you’ll be hooked

Recruits starting square bashing at HMS St George, Gosport, in 1947. James Spurrier has arrowed himself on the left
Recruits starting square bashing at HMS St George, Gosport, in 1947. James Spurrier has arrowed himself on the left

THIS WEEK IN 1993: Royal Navy brings in drugs booty

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Mention here the other day about Pitt Street baths in Portsmouth took James Spurrier back to his navy days and two swimming tests.

He joined the Senior Service in 1947 and was sent to HMS St George at Gosport.

HMS Anson

HMS Anson

After he had gone through his joining routine, been fitted out with his kit and started initial square bashing, James and his fellow new recruits were driven to the baths.

James says: ‘We were met by about six physical training instructors bawling at us to strip off and put canvas suits on.

‘When I saw my suit it was huge and I was only a small lad, but I got into it, jumped into the pool and did the required lengths.

‘Then we were told to float for a few minutes, but suddenly my suit began to fill with water and I was sinking.’

James continues: ‘Quick as a flash a PTI grabbed a boathook to try to get the hook in the loop at the back of my suit. He kept trying but eventually missed the loop and hit me on the head.

‘I went down like a stone and the next thing I remember was lying on my stomach spewing water. But I passed.’

When he left St George James was drafted to the battleship HMS Anson at Portland which he describes as ‘awesome’. Soon the time came for a deep sea swimming test.

He adds: ‘This was something else. First of all you had to wear a boiler suit then go over the side on a boom which was attached to the side of the ship, then jump off and swim half the length of the ship. I passed that one too.’