Royal Navy Station Card

Whether on board ship, or serving at a shore establishment, the Royal Navy has always like to keep track of where its personnel are and whether they have gone ‘ashore’ or not. Peg boards are common, with sailors ‘pegging’ themselves in or out as appropriate. Another common way is to take ID cards off men as they leave and only returning them when they come back. A variation on this theme was to use a sailors Station Card. These cards were small folding rectangles of card, colour coded red for Port Watch, Green for Starboard or blue for special duties men. This one has faded but was green for Starboard Watch:image

The card opens to reveal a small area for recording the rating’s details and duty station:imageAs can be seen this card was issued to a Clason Steward and revels he was rated as an ERM4, the G shows he drank ‘Grog’ or alcohol (T would show he was teetotal). He declared himself to be a member of the Church of England and he was in the petty officer’s mess. At the top of the card is the name of the establishment, HMS Chinkara. ERM (4) was the rate ‘Engine Room Mechanic’ Class 4, this rate was established in 1941 and indicated a more technical knowledge of small boat engines than the old stokers had.

HMS Chinkara was a landing craft base at Cochin in India. Another members of the ship’s company remembers:

Chinkara was a shore base located at Cochin, South India, her main function being that of a landing craft base in preparation for the forthcoming invasion of Singapore. I was part of a small team setting up the clothing store and was put in charge of the documentation procedures. As the operation expanded I successfully passed the Petty officer’s examination and was promoted to Stores PO on 23rd April 1945. Shortly afterwards Chief Petty Officer Palmer arrived to take charge of the store and I became his deputy, by which time things were really hotting up. Thanks to the atom bomb we had hardly got into full swing before we entered a `paying off’, phase.

After my promotion i shared a chalet with Writer PO John Bridges, also just promoted. We quickly established a regular Sunday evening bridge session with two Writers, Ernie Riley and George Mills, and the practice continued right up to those worthies leaving for demobilisation. Some other evenings were spent in the P.O. Mess (beer strickly rationed) or a trip out for a meal and/or g&ts at the Malebar Hotel. Nearly all my daylight leisure time was occupied playing cricket on the matted wickets. I captained the Supply team in the Chinkara Cricket League and we had no difficulty in coming out very much on top in the 1945/46 season. We had by far the strongest team with players from such leagues as the Huddersfield and Central Lancashire. Whilst in India I enjoyed a week’s leave in Madras and, more enjoyably, a week’s leave and a few weekends at Ootacamund in the Nilgiri Hills. At `Ooty’ I stayed with a Mrs. Gribble and her daughter, Mary, who was shortly to start a nursing career at St. Thomas’s Hospital. The four or five servicemen in residence occupied their time mainly playing badminton or picnicking in daylight, or playing cards and/or listening to records after dark, female accompaniment being provided by Mary and some of her friends. Perhaps I, a lad from a Yorkshire working class family, was most impressed (not necessarily favourably) by being waited on hand and foot by bearers.

There was plenty of wildlife in Sorthern India, tigers still roamed the Nilgiri Hills and elephants were frequently seen at work or in procession. Snake charmers were a regular sight, particularly at railway stations, but I did not dally to take in their finer points. Many tales were told of snakes and scorpions but the only poisonous species of snake I came across  was a small black or dark green one known locally I think, as a tittipolonga. This was stated to have the ability to jump although I never saw proof of that. Some of our late arrival colleagues came down from a base at Visakhapatnam where, they related that for some obscure reason, it was necessary to take their plates full of hot food out into the open en route between kitchen and messroom. Vultures perched on the rocks above and around the base were prone to swoop and make off with any meat on the plates of the unwary.

A distressing sight throughout the state of Cochin was the comparative large numbers of natives suffering from elephantiasis, a disease normally affecting the legs or scrotum. There is extreme enlargement of the area concerned due to nematode worms blocking the lymphatic vessels. Terribly swollen legs were a common sight and we were given to understand that a few unfortunates had to trundle their private parts around in a barrow although I never actually saw this. Another unusual sight, at least to a Westerner, was that of women working as coolies. When I arrived at Chinkara many roads around the camp were still under construction and it was amazing to me to see the way that coolies, mostly women, conveyed baskets containing 60 to 70 lbs. of earth, stones etc. on their heads and still managed to run with their burden.

Apart from the paddy fields and coconut palms, my lasting recollections are the Chinese fishing nets. These machines are immense contraptions consisting of a huge net lowered into the water on the end of a pole poised on a fulcrum. Once a catch has been lured into its meshes by a lantern on top of the `machine’, it takes half a dozen men on the other end of the pole to lift the haul out of the water. At the time I was there Cochin was renowned for its coir industry and oil trade from the crushing of copra and other oil seeds. The Tata Oil Mills near Ernakulem was renowned as the home of `Cocogen’, a refined and deodorised cooking oil. A stroll through the streets behind the docks revealed warehouses and courtyards heaped with spices, betel nuts and hanks of coir with a strong smell of `Eastern promise’.

Following the end of the war, the base was renamed HMIS Venduruthy and following Independence INS Venduruthy and is now one of the Indian Navy’s main training establishments.

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