HMS Valkyrie, Isle of Man
Our next place of training was HMS Valkyrie at Douglas on the Isle of Man where they had the full radar sets which were still secret. We were given rooms in hotels on the sea front, Loch Promenade, to our amazement next to hotels behind barbed wire! These were occupied by German, Italian and Japanese men internees! I couldn't believe it; we used to go to the highly secret Radar Training Quarters each day and these men (our enemies!) so near practised juggling and acrobatics behind their wire! Why didn't they have the radar base in Scotland, or move the enemy up there? I suppose that's how we won the war. The women internees were on the other side of the island at Port Erin, what a lovely hideout for spies this island was!
The training got intense and of course it was a crash course to train as many mechanics as possible for the newly installed sets going on all our ships. But we had breaks in the evenings at the 'Onchan Hotel' doing the 'Okey Cokey' (which was banned and the Hotel doors were shut) we visited the famous Glens, Ramsey, and other beauty spots on our Sundays off.
I was billeted with a Londoner; who was a wine merchant in Wimpole Street before he joined the Navy. He asked me to play golf with him one Sunday, and he arranged the clubs and the course (he seemed to be able to arrange anything!). Well Doris had sent me a doeskin 'Tiddley' suit that I had ordered from Burtons, complete with gold badges. So I vainly put it on to impress him and I set off round the golf course, enjoying the game with my new friend. Unfortunately half way round it poured with rain, and my posh suit was ruined. We finished the 18 holes, and he said "Leave your suit with me". He knew everybody, and it came back like new, being cleaned and pressed by some 'Wrens he knew', which was a good job because clothing could only be obtained on ration books.
A few days later, whilst doing P.T. (compulsory) on the sea front before breakfast, something went wrong in my stomach, and I was sent to hospital (Cunningham's Holiday Camp which had been commandeered) for observation. I soon recovered but whilst I was there I did help a merchant seaman, who was a survivor off a torpedoed ship, and could not talk or write. By holding alphabetical cards up patiently I eventually obtained his name and next of kin.
Back on the radar course a week later, with another class, not so friendly, we were shown the latest battleship radar, No. 285. The instructor was (at the time) the only Chief Petty Officer Radar Mechanic in the Navy and he explained its working and range. He said the set could pick up aircraft at about 20 miles to 25 yards, and one of our chaps sarcastically said, "I should have thought you could have seen a plane at 25 yards!". The C.P.O. didn't like this remark, and with a screwdriver in his hand stepped back into the open workings of the set. There was a blinding flash, 8,000 volts but only a few milliamps, and things went quiet. Fortunately all was well, and he carried on with his lecture. A few days later we were taken one at a time into a darkened room where a Lieutenant tried to panic each rating he tested by saying the answers to the type of repair questions that they would carry out were wrong. This was to see how you would react in extreme circumstances at sea.
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