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- June 2003 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The Boy’s Manual of Seamanship and Gunnery dated 1871, for Boy Seamen in the Royal Navy, by Commander Berney
What advice would you give to a youngster joining the Navy in 2003? Ponder on what our predecessors said in this respect. Do the following extracts still apply? I WISH TO ADD HERE A FEW WORDS by way of advice to the boys:
I would impress upon a boy’s mind who has selected the Navy for his future career in life, that he has chosen one of the most honourable professions, that of defender of his country, one in whose hands very often its honour and standing with other nations is entrusted. He should ever keep in mind that the Navy has always been considered the right arm of England; most highly esteemed by his countrymen, and of which every Englishman is naturally proud. This being an acknowledged fact, two things are required of every boy, and these should never be lost sight of by him – viz., honesty of character, and a determination to become master of his profession. The latter he has every opportunity of accomplishing. He is received into the Navy at an early age, and at a great expense to the country; he is trained to fill with credit to himself the highest position it is possible for him to attain; always provided his conduct will justify it, for all the training in the world will avail nothing if good conduct is not added to good qualifications.
It is to this, therefore, that I would specially call the attention of every boy joining a training ship; it will not take him long to distinguish between the good and bad boys; then let him avoid the latter in every possible way. Boys of good character are allowed to land from the ship twice a week for a walk, or to see their friends if they reside in the neighbourhood; my advice there is, prize this privilege without infringing upon it, as any deviation from the rules often leads a boy into loose habits, and the first step down the ladder of destruction is commenced.
A mean or cowardly boy will sometimes rather run the risk of incurring the displeasure of his superiors by wilfully breaking the regulations laid down for his guidance, than stand the scorn and derision of the bad boys, who will in every way induce him to do wrong, and laugh at him for being afraid if he refuses. But the brave, honest boy, who fears nothing but the displeasure of his commanding Officer for direct disobedience of orders, his great aim is to conquer all difficulties and go forth into the service maintaining a good character, continuing in the path he has marked out for himself, which is to lead to the top of his profession. These are the boys who eventually are promoted to one of the most valuable classes of Officers in the Navy – viz., Warrant Officers.
I would therefore ask each boy on first joining a Training Ship to consider these remarks, which are offered for his future good, and to remember that rules must be strictly obeyed, and that leave is a privilege granted him for recreation, to use and not to abuse. When on shore avoid all intoxicating drinks and the use of tobacco in every shape. Never enter a public house. Make this, on joining the Navy, the fixed principle of your life – allow no inducement to cause you to turn aside from the path you have marked out. When on board pay strict attention to your instructions; be cleanly in your habits; careful of your kit; always ready to obey orders, remembering that implicit obedience is one of the chief ingredients required in making a good sailor. A boy that does this, will finish life as he has commenced it – a credit to himself and the Service.
If you commence life in a Training Ship with dirty habits, inattention to your drills, and a disregard to good order when on shore, you will leave it with an indifferent character; if you start badly, you may be sure you will end your course badly; perhaps be dismissed the service with disgrace, or discharged from your first ship on paying off as an objectionable character, being ever after shunned by your old shipmates as a man unworthy of being known, thus becoming a burden to yourself, and die at an early age, unregretted and uncared for.
The Naval College Handbook c1934 for Cadet Midshipmen joining the newly established Royal Australian Naval College. Type of Boy Required The old saying that the ‘fool of the family’ went to sea may have once had a certain amount of truth in it, but it is certainly not applicable to the requirements of our Navy of today.