"R.N.V.R." by One of Them

The Yachting Monthly, May, 1917

I WONDER if you who read these lines have even the faintest conception of all that these mystic initials mean and have meant to us since "the outbreak," and how irrevocably they have changed our lives.

You have met us so often in the "old days" on week-end pleasure bent, hurrying along in our old blue suits, bags in hand, with about thirty seconds to spare to catch the 1.23 to Burnham-on-Crouch or some other favourite yachting centre.

Little did we dream then that our hobby would be of some small use to the dear old country in her time of trouble. But there it is and here we are.

You, dear madam, sitting there so cosily in the corner of the railway carriage with your sweet grey hair and innocent eyes, with your anxious inquiries as to when the train is due to arrive, and as you have to catch the so-and-so at Liverpool Street, can I hurry it? And you, little miss, with you haughty contempt as you demanded of us "to be sure that this train stops at Mark Lane," etc., or with "Young man, please".yes, we sometimes get a please."put me down at Laburnam Road"; the latter being on the top of a crowded tram or 'bus. Most of the old grey-headed innocents being in various stages of deafness, it really does take a lot of courage to keep on repeating "I am sorry, madam, but I am a stranger to the district."

At first.I speak for myself.it was a great insult to my dignity, which suffered many sad shocks; but now, why, God bless 'em, it just tickles me to death, and I am waiting in hopes of being adopted and bodily carried off one of these days."as you will do to look after dear Fido, and please do be careful how you pick him up and put him in the taxi!"

The "rottenest" part of the whole thing is that I have never yet been able to "touch" anyone for their fares. But I still live in hopes!

After a searching oral examination before the powers that be, covering the entire ground from the "Master's ticket" standpoint down to our level, one feels absolutely lost in a whirl of leeway made up of Azimuth logs and four-point bearing lead lines, to say nothing of doggerels such as, "If to my starboard red appear, it is my duty to keep clear," etc.

The first "tin hat" is put over you when you are asked to describe the effect of twin screws on a ship, working one at a time and opposed to each other, both ahead and astern, etc., until you mentally curse the man whoever invented such a diabolical combination.

It all seemed ridiculous at the time, seeing that the majority of us were merely Corinthian sailors and not speed merchants, but I suppose it was just to find out what sort of stuff we were made of. It stands to common "savvy" that being "something in the city," we could scarcely be expected to know all about handling twin-screw propositions.

After waiting many anxious days, our commission arrived, signed by the King, and what a prehistoric worded affair it all is and how very proud I am at being permitted to wear the cloth of the Senior Service.

On a certain memorable day I had to pack my traps and report by sunset to the admiral at a certain ancient college, to undergo a potted war-time cramming in navigation.

How deeply we all appreciated the honour of being sent to such an historic school, where so many of our ancestors had completed their training, leaving to straightway make history.

May we endeavour to live up to their traditions.


Phew! How crowded and sultry after the cool precincts of the college. But here we are after passing out of their hands, well satisfied with the resultant marks credited us, earned after many weary headaches and with much burning of the midnight oil.

How we "old boys" used to chuckle at being at school again, and how our dear old captain used to "bully" us for studying too hard, telling us that he went about in daily fear of his life, expecting to be confronted by our indignant wives and families and torn to shreds for "sweating" us so hard. But we were all keen and enjoyed it immensely. Our only regret being that the course was all too brief. As to our gallant instructor.prince of good fellows."here.s to him, boys.the captain.may his shadow never grow less!" His name will be heard with gratitude and pleasure in many odd corners of the world long after the war has ceased to be a topic.

Looking back, what a really delightful time we spent in spite of the necessarily hard "swotting" entailed. How we enjoyed the delicious morning plunge after turning in at anything between midnight and 2 a.m. Study at seven, then breakfast, and so on through the ordinary routine of each day.

Our first morning on board H.M.S.., lined up two deep on the quarter deck, off hats; then we listen to those favourite, awe-inspiring King.s Regulations. What weird and wonderful calamities could overtake us should we fail in our duty before the foe. Those of us who were callous enough to laugh, took care that the eagle eye of the lieutenant did not fall on us or these lines might never have been written.

Next day we had to fairly take off our coats, much of the glamour being stripped from our ambitious dreams, when we were told off as "crew," having to man certain ships, and, during successive days, to work our way up from ordinary seaman, bo'sun, etc., until being finally appointed captain, and taking charge of the ship, were after the expenditure of much "hot air" passed out as efficients.

What a medley of subjects we revelled in.depth charges, torpedoes, Menotti batteries, lance bombs and drill, etc., gun drill especially.to quote the words of our patient instructor, "This 'ere, gen'elmen, is the . pounder 'otchkiss, and this 'ere is the britch-block," etc. Then the drill. "No. 2 faIl out, change rounds," etc., keeping us flying round the gun until I was the only one left to work it, the class being informed that I was the only one left who was not a "Casuhality, gen.elmen."

At last our appointments arrive, and we hurry off to our various destinations, wondering naturally what the future holds for us.

After many months we have fairly settled down in our new surroundings. It is just after 11 p.m., and I am on our little quarterdeck having a final pipe before turning in.

"I say, old man, chuck it. Aren't you going to turn in ?" comes the voice of my C.O. from below.

"Just coming, old chap. Shan't be a couple of shakes." Bother him, I verily believe he has not a soul above raising you six "or having a swindle" for drinks. You see, he is a bachelor, but one of the very best, and I am not looking forward to the time when he expects to get a shift. This is a digression, however, as when he disturbed me I was very many miles away with mother, sisters and sweethearts.

I wonder what they are all doing now. Do they know how often the dear old times are lived through again as I pace up and down with pipe glowing in the inky blackness of the night.

At last I begin to feel drowsy. You do get so in harbour, where for once in a while we lie perfectly still, a pleasant change after having to hang on by eyebrows and teeth. You become steeped in the peacefulness of the night. The cries of the birds come plaintively across the water. How it takes me back to the old Burnham days.

"I say, you old devil, are you ever com..

"All right, old 'un," I interrupt hastily. "I was just coming." And so, full of hope for the "day" when we shall all be with our dear ones again, I turn in.

Meantime we just "carry on," hoping that it may be our luck on the morrow to strafe a submarine or "put the wind up a Zepp." So long!
Illustration by Arthur Briscoe
The Yachting Monthly, May, 1917
[It is my guess that this was written by Gordon S Maxwell, probably a Sub-Lieutenant at the time. He touches upon a number of themes, particularly those experiences wearing the relatively unfamiliar RNVR uniform in the civilian world, similar to those in his book The Motor Launch Patrol published in 1919. -JLC]