I have often written about the mast at HMS Ganges where so many sailors joined up as boys aged 15 and six months.
It was an integral part of Ganges and there was no getting out of going up it. We were lined up six abreast at the bottom of the ratlines and on the order ‘first six, up you go’, up we went – no ifs, buts or maybes.
Six rungs up the following six were given the same order. It went on until the whole class of about 40 boys were scrambling up to the half moon, the small platform way above the first. It also meant going around the lower platform via the devil’s elbow.
Once done you never had to do it again but we did. In fact, I used to climb to the main yard, sitting on it under the platform, to read the Sunday paper or write home. It was the only place to get some privacy.
When Ganges closed in 1976 the mast became a National Monument Class 2. It was supposed to be kept pristine. Just look at it now.
The main and topgallant yardarms have rotted away and snapped in half while the royal mast where the button boy had to climb to has also broken and is hanging by a rope 140ft up.
Perhaps it should have met the same fate as the one at St Vincent, Gosport – dismantled.