First Class Shipwright B H Symes, Diver, Seated on Left.
Among some recent military projects, I have seen three examples outstanding bravery and pioneering spirit…. ordinary people – leading the way!
Bertram Henry Symes (1876-1914) joined the British Royal Navy in January 1899. He trained as a shipwright, eventually becoming Chief Shipwright in 1918. What is most remarkable about his career, however, is the fact that he became a Ships Artificer Diver in March 1906. He continued to dive until May 1915, when he was noted as medically unfit to dive, after he got the bends. Shipwright First Class Symes, was adventurous, although he was not the first to become a ship’s diver, this was certainly early days of deep sea diving, with many unknown factors, and basic equipment.
H.M.S. Ocean leaving Glasgow, 1948.
H.M.S. Ocean was built at the Alexander Stephen and Sons yard on the Clyde, Glasgow, Scotland. The ship was launched in 1944 and commissioned 8 August 1945. Classed as a light fleet carrier was 630 feet long and had a crew of 1,050 sailors and could carry 52 aircraft.
We normally associate naval seamen as ship’s personnel. Peter Colin George (1926-2008) however, joined the British Royal Navy, Fleet Air Arm Division around 1945. He trained as an aircraft engineer, eventually becoming Chief Petty Officer overseeing engine and aircraft repairs. His training took place at H.M.S. St. James, Douglas, Isle of Man, then at the air craft handling unit R.N.A.S. Worthy Down, also known as H.M.S. Kestrel.
Landing jet planes on a moving ship (later known as an aircraft carrier) was a fairly new concept. He was at the forefront of industry as an aircraft engineer in the Royal Navy.
https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/tag/hms-ocean-r68/ describes the first test flight, take off and landing of a jet-powered aircraft from a ship which carrier took place 3rd December 1945, from HMS Ocean (R68). The aircraft was a de Havilland DH.100 Sea Vampire Mk 10 LZ551/G. An example of this aircraft was held at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, Somerset.
Towards the end of his days in the Navy, he worked at the Fleet Air Arm Museum.
Source: Ipswich Star – Button Boy
Finally, not quite so pioneering, but just as brave. One recent project described how a young boy-sailor took up the role of ‘Button Boy’ in the Royal Navy. He was noted as the ‘second’ a stand-in for the lead boy, but he still had to become accomplished and demonstrate his skill for this activity.
Each R.N. training facility sports, a land-based mast, and H.M.S. Ganges is no different. There is a long-standing tradition of young trainees ascending the 143 ft mast, a performance that takes place to music. The ‘button boy’ is the man at the top. He has to shimmy up the last stretch of the pole, climb over the lightening rod, and sit or stand-to-attention on the round platform at the top. Ipswich newspaper shares a descriptive story, Height of Dread for Ganges Boys. The trip down from the top is pleasing, tells our client, “you slide the rope from half way, where the others have to step to the beat of the music, all the way to the ground. It’s harder coming down.”
View a Button Boy video one of many to be found on the Internet.
So, all in all, ordinary young men, training for their jobs…. yet leading the way!
I love that my job allows me to delve into different subjects and discover new things. It is heart-warming too, that future generations, friends and family will be able to enjoy a small insight into earlier times!