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ROYAL NAVY SCHOOL OF PHOTOGRAPHY (RNSOP)
(Also referred to as : ROYAL NAVY SCHOOL OF AIR PHOTOGRAPHY - RNSOAP)
1. THE BUILD UP
I arrived at HMS Daedalus early July 1944 from HMS Duke as a candidate for the Photo A's Course (Photographer qualified for Air). One or two others were billeted with me in Monk Block. Remaining students were somewhere in Daedalus kicking their heels (as we were) awaiting the start of the course. They were not known to me at that juncture in time, however. it was not long before we all met up when we fell in on the slipway for draft routine. We traveled by train with all our kit to Bognor Regis. On arrival we were greeted by a fierce looking RPO (or was it a Chief?) shouting for us to get fell in; followed by an instruction to load our kit on to a lorry. We were then told. in no uncertain terms, that there was no transport for us and we were to march the 5 miles to the School. At that time I thought that he was trying to put the fear of God into us - and he did! We were bound for a concentration camp? Later we realized that his bark was worse than his bite.
2. THE SCHOOL
The School was situated in the village of Felpham along the coast from Bognor on the A259 to Middleton-an-Sea. It consisted of 7 or 8? detached houses on the Summerly Estate. all individually designed. I imagine they had belonged to well off families and for one reason or another had become empty and subsequently acquired by the Admiralty. They were not adjacent but in close proximity to one another. Civilian families still occupied other houses on the estate. There were no shops or any other types of business. It was strictly exclusive and up-market. Not my vision of a Naval School. As I recall. houses were not numbered but named. Houses belonging to the School were:
a. Little Danes Court Where all our meals were taken. Food prepared by WRNS cooks
b. Croindene House acquired during the period of Course 28. Used for indoor leisure activities
c. The Strand Although part of the School. no longer used as it had been previously destroyed by fire and just a burnt out shell.
d. Little Alton Lecture and Dark Rooms
e.- ---NK---Headquarters. Office of Skipper - Commander Camidge? Administration.
f. Breoc Sleeping quarters
There may have been others but these are all I recall.
(I have photographs of all houses except Little Danes Court - unfortunately they are all stuck in an album)
3. OUR ARRIVAL
On our arrival we were detailed to Breoc House. I believe that all Course 28 students were detailed to this house. Imagine, 40 ratings in a 7 or 8 roomed house! I. along with 8 or 9 others. were put in Room 8, which prior to acquisition, would have been the lounge. A room upstairs was already occupied by 4 or 5? permanent staff (barrack stanchions). I don't remember much about them except that they always appeared to be in overalls. Furniture - bunk beds. chairs, tables etc, was of basic naval supply. There was a bathroom on the ground floor and, I believe. another one upstairs. There was also a sink in the kitchen. I certainly do not remember there being any shower or toilet blocks. How did we all wash etc. etc? (perhaps someone' else can come up with the answer?) There was a radio which was on a table in the hall.
4. COURSE NUMBER 28
Course Number 28 was made up of H.O.S. ratings (Hostilities Only Service) except for one, he being a Harry Smith a "Bunting Tosser" who would remuster if he passed the course. He was on a Short Service engagement (7 years service and
5 years on the Reserve). In the main we were all in our late teens or early twenties. A few had previous photographic experience. the rest of us were from various walks of life.. One who did have previous knowledge was Gerelli who had worked for a national newspaper. Another person who comes to mind was Frank Tizzard who apparently gained his pilot's wings with the USA Air force. (he had been transferred from Course Number 26).
Included Naval Ranks ranging from L/Phot to Commissioned Officers, RAF personnel and civilians. Names that come to mind:
L/Phot. Caton. (Nickname 'Mush') I later met him in Cape Town; he was aboard HMS Attacker.
Sgt Law ) They may have been Flight Sergeants
(Had drinks with Sgt Hargreaves on my return to Lee-on-Solent from overseas in 1945)
The Photo A's course was of 4 months duration, in our case, 24th July - 24th November 1944. with a break of 10 days? leave after 2 months. The syllabus included all aspects of photography and use of Service/Civilian equipments and materials. Instruction was given in the lecture / dark rooms of Little Alton and adjacent areas.
Cameras that come to mind:
Press. Van Neck (VN) Thorton Pickard (TP) S4 (RAF)
Stand. S4 (RAF)
Gun. G45 (RAF) and it's American equivalent GSAP
Air F24 (RAF) K20? Canadian hand-held
7. AIR PHOTOGRAPHY
Training took place at Cowdrey Park and RAF Ford. We had one day at each location, unfortunately, both occasions turned out to be disasters. First. we went to Cowdrey Park, I believe by train. The airfield was just a field with CGI hangars. There were several Walrus and other craft, possibly AVRO Ansons. We did not fly on this occasion - don't know why! We sat in a bell tent playing cards. The second time we went to RAF Ford (I believe later it became HMS Peregrine) and flew in an AVRO Anson piloted by Lieutenant Dicks, Fleet Air Arm. How many of us flew at one time? - do not remember. The rating who sat opposite the pilot on the starboard side had the "privilege" of winding the under-carriage up and down. Students took turns in going to the nose cone where the F24 camera, mounted on a cradle, was situated. Unfortunately, the camera would not operate. Several chaps had a go at it but to no avail. Lieutenant Dicks took a dim view of Course Number 28 and complained on his return to RNSOP. We landed up having a 'rollicking'.
8. OTHER INFORMATION
I do not remember:
a. Any Church Parades. Sunday mornings were taken up with the thorough cleaning of all houses followed by an inspection with PO IC in attendance.
b. PT or Sports activities. There were no facilities on the estate. During the-time that Course Number 28 was at the School. the Admiralty acquired a further house - Croindene - which was used for indoor leisure activities. Prior to that, no other facilities existed.
c. -A Canteen. A WVS mobile canteen visited the School during weekdays. Chiefy Brown had a small store which opened at set times during the week for sale of 'nutty' (believe we were allowed 2 bars of chocolate per week) and stationery. And that was it!
d. Pay Parades. I do recall we were paid every fortnight. (I was on
per day, 21/- per week. What form the parade took is a
complete blank. As we were living in a civilian environment, we were not allowed issue of 'Tickler' (or the daily tot), however, we did receive a bar of "Pusser's Hard".
e. A Sick Bay. There must have been one but I don't recall it. Harry Smith had a hand complaint and was/treated in Bognor. Whether it was another Naval Establishment or Civilian Hospital is not known.
9. OTHER DUTIES
a. Peeling spuds. This took place in the garage of Little Danes Court. It was not as bad as it sounds as there was a machine.
b. Security. . Patrolling of certain houses during silent hours, I remember Little Alton to be one.
c. Firewatching, at a Naval Establishment in Bognor. (Was it a hospital or WRNS quarters?)
10. OFF DUTY ACTIVITIES
Dancing, cinema, swimming, the beach etc, meant going into Bognor. Although the School was situated adjacent to the beach, it could not be used because of being mined, in addition, there were concrete tank traps along it's length.
Traveling outside the Bognor /Felpham area was strictly forbidden. However, this did not stop students making their way to London, Brighton and other 'exotic' places, usually by, rail using platform tickets. There was no such thing as long/short weekend leave or even overnight. Students had to be back in their house by 2300 hours? Our main activities centered around the two watering holes in Felpham i.e. The Fox Tavern (an Olde Worlde Pub with thatched roof) and The Thatched House (Friary Ales).
11. END OF COURSE
11. END OF COURSE
Students were informed who had passed and who had failed. Those that had passed were instructed to complete a form indicating whether they wished to serve at - Home, Abroad, Sea or FRU (Fancy having a choice). I marked the 'Abroad' and 'Sea' boxes.
We held an end of Course party at The Fox. I remember it to be a great 'whoopee' evening. However, I was later told that the Landlord is alleged to have said that he would not allow another as long as he was there! Did hear that someone had poured beer into the piano! I was given a Rail Pass Leave Chit for Swindon (my home town then) and another Rail Pass from Swindon to Arbroath (HMS Condor) for use after 10 days leave. 'Wally Hammond and Ken Matthews were also posted there. I was very happy with the increase of 2/- per day making the princely sum of 35/- per week.
There appeared to be 2 Photo 'A' courses going on at anyone time. in addition to FRU training. There was possibly some over-lapping.
I do not remember 'any student from Course 28 being 'in the rattle'.
Recall there were 2? Polish Naval Photographers at the School. Do not know what they were doing there.
Buzz-bombs passed over on occasions.
These memories of a green O.D. Photographic Candidate are to the best of my knowledge a fair account of my time at RNSOP, although memory has probably been clouded and coloured by the passage of time (over 50 years). Facts may be challenged and gaps filled by other ex - Photo A's. In addition, records may he checked at. .JSOP RAF Cosford
Item Description. Article
Remarks/People Involved. Phot A Course 28
Ship/Place/Originator. RNSOP Felpham
Date/ Date range. 1944
Submitted by. Not Known
Now Held By. RNPA Historian
Historians No. Hist103