20 January 2004

First Draft: South Shields. Marine College in 1949

The Marine College was originally built in the 19th Century as a training school for Deck Officers in the Merchant Navy and it was not long into the 20th Century before the Marine College started to outgrow its building in Ocean road in the heart of South Shields and then started to moved the Marine trainee facility up to the Westoe area of South Shields.

The old building in Ocean Road then became the training facility for Marine Radio Officers a recently formed department in the Marine College.

Jock delivered me to the reception and I was shown to a room containing a few other boys and as I waited others also were shown into the room. We numbered about 20 in all. I was the only one residing at the hostel the other students, all older than I were in private accommodation with a few from the surrounding areas travelling daily. We were a very diverse crowd coming from all over the UK.

We were introduced to our tutors... all 3 of them. Mr. Moore was head of department, mid-50s, and dark haired with horn-rimed glasses and smiled little. Then there was Mr Fergusson, we saw him the most, a dour Scotsman with no sense of humour and a sharp biting tongue but a most thorough tutor. The 3rd member, I forget his name now was a quiet man, the most pleasant of the three... at least to a 15 year old.

We were each issued with a hard backed workbook. When opened the left hand page was feint graph lined and the opposite page was normal lined. I found later these books were ideal for our study notes, many circuit diagrams, graphs, and masses of formulae.

We were also issued with a large thick green book with a large title The Admiralty Handbook of Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony, which was our "bible". The theory of everything we needed to know was in that handbook in great detail. The 3rd book was a thin book, a set of logarithm tables, 55 years later I still have them somewhere, I come across them now then when clearing out and each throw out I can't bear to part with them... it is a part of my past. We would be working with large numbers in our calculations like 10 to the power of 6... a million and 10 to the power of 12... a million, million were common numbers we would use in our calculations. No slide rules to be used and electronic calculators were yet to be invented in 1949. Logarithm tables are an aid to simplify the multiplication of large numbers. John Napier first published the original tables in 1612. I didn't know the tables were so old until I looked it up.

The last thing we were issued with was a pair of Ericsson headphones... I still have them; these were to be used for our interminable sessions of learning the Morse code, to a speed of initially 20 words per minute with no mistakes. We were told to identify mark them; it was common practise to leave them plugged in at the desks and lose them. I filed 6 notches on the metal headband and etched my initials on to the metal diaphragm of each ear piece. The marks are still there today. It may sound silly but I cannot part with these either.

I bought myself a good Parker fountain pen... a bottle of Quink royal blue ink but gravitating to green ink later... and some good HB pencils and ruler. I was set to do battle. No Biro's here either, these too had not been invented in 1949.

Tomorrow we would start our courses in earnest.

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