Portsmouth boy sailor became Morse code expert and Freeman of London: RETRO

We have all heard and used the phrase, ‘He served man and boy’ to describe someone who spent their lives in some career or another.

Thursday, 12th September 2019, 5:46 pm
Pictured in April 1950 are sea cadets from Horsham. Top left is Mick Puttick who served for 45 years.
Pictured in April 1950 are sea cadets from Horsham. Top left is Mick Puttick who served for 45 years.

For Mick Puttick, from Cowplain, it could not be more true, as he served the country in the Royal Navy for 45 years.

Before he left school, Mick, who hails from Wisborough Green, West Sussex was a cadet in the Horsham Sea Cadets and had been taught how to send and receive Morse code by the age of 15.

In 1950 he joined the navy proper at HMS St Vincent, the boys’ training establishment in Gosport, as a seaman.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

In his 45 years service Mick served in 11 ships, and here they all are.

He passed his Morse test with full marks and after five weeks he was transferred to HMS Ganges, near Ipswich, to train as a communicator.

In 1951 he passed out from Ganges and joined HMS Cleopatra. I asked Mick if he ever received any signals that were so important he had to keep the information to himself?

He told me: ‘When King George VI died I was the one in the radio room who received the signal.

‘I typed out “The King is dead, long live the Queen” and passed it to the duty petty officer who handed it to the captain. He then read the signal out over the ship’s PA.’

Mick Puttick with his home radio and telegraph equipment.

During 1952/53 Mick was serving in the carrier HMS Glory and took part in the Korean War.

On Christmas Day 1952, an aircraft strike force took off for a sortie and two never returned having been shot down. As soon as this news was received no more planes took off that day.

Mick finished his time at sea aged 40, serving on HMS Scylla in 1975, but it was not the last of his time in the navy.

He was offered the position of careers officer in the recruitment office at Holborn in London, and later in Ilford. He told me he used to have two interviews a week for new recruits but when HMS Sheffield was sunk in the Falklands War he did not see anyone for weeks. 

The former Evening News and print offices in Stanhope Road, Portsmouth. Photo: The News archive.

After the recruitment position he worked on South Railway Jetty in the Naval Base showing naval cadets, just like he had been, around ships. He eventually took retirement aged 60.

He was invited to become a Freeman of the City of London which allows him to drive sheep over Westminster Bridge.

In 1994 he was invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace which he attended with his wife and late father who was thrilled to meet the Queen.

He has his own radio and communications office set up in a room at home with several aerials allowing him to talk to people all over the world in Morse code. He also belongs to many amateur radio clubs and societies.