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Monday, 4 April 2011

Engineering as it used to be. Part 2.


Now where was I? Oh yes I’d just been accepted into college.

At first I thought that I’d be handicapped by the lack of Technical skills learnt at school. I was wrong. It was all the other subjects which I’d never even heard about that would give me the headaches.

Subjects such as Applied Mechanics. What an earth was a Shear Force and Bending Moment Diagram when it’s at home?

Thermodynamics, or as in our case, Applied Heat. Entropy, Enthalpy, Boyle’s Law, and a myriad of other mystifying terms.

Naval Architecture. Complete with (as one reader posted in the comments previously), Metacentric height. Along with Water plane areas, Knees, Floors, Ribs, and Bow and Stern (I’ve never understood why they couldn’t be called the “pointy bit at the front” and the “bit that trails last”). Baffling.

Electro technology.  Generators, DC and AC. Volts, Ohms (There’s a law about that I believe), Capacitors, Inductance, and much more. Is your head spinning like mine woz?

Workshop Technology. Simple? Oh No. So much to master in so few years. Files, Hammers and chisels (Bloody painful if you get that skill wrong), Lathes, Milling machine (WTF? Do we have to make our own bread now?), Shaping machine, Pillar drill, Screw cutting, Tap, Die ( bit worrying that one), and chuck key.

Surprisingly enough after two years of this I became pretty Au Fait with most subjects and was nearly ready for my first Sea Trip.

Lastly before I went off for a Life on the Ocean Wave all those in my outfit were required to undertake eight weeks working under supervision, in a Naval Dockyard.

Now those of you who were around in the sixties and seventies, will know how the unions had a strangle hold on industry. Of course this played into the hands of young cadets like us. I spent eight weeks in Plymouth mostly on the beach, as we weren't allowed to even pick up a tool of any description. We just devised a Rota system where one of our number clocked us all in and out. Worked like a charm.

To be continued…………………………………..Life as the scum of the seas.


  1. Like yourself, I was a scum of the seas.
    Sailed to Aussie 1966. Deck Boy.
    Oh what fun we had .........

  2. The son of a friend has recently finished a two year "apprenticeship" in motor engineering at the local 6th form College. He seemed to be home as often as not but was forever taking exams. Seems he spent a week or so "doing brakes" and was then examined on it. The next two weeks he studied carburettors (or whatever) and again took the exam and etc.
    I asked whether he would remember everything for his final Exams.

    "Don't be silly, there are no 'Final Exams', that's it".

  3. Captain Haddock5 April 2011 at 09:35

    "Now those of you who were around in the sixties and seventies, will know how the unions had a strangle hold on industry. Of course this played into the hands of young cadets like us. I spent eight weeks in Plymouth mostly on the beach, as we weren't allowed to even pick up a tool of any description" ....

    Altogether now ...

    "We're children of the Dockyard Mateys, sitting on the Dockyard wall .. Just like our Fathers, doing fuck-all" ...

    Or .. "How many Dockyard Mateys work in Devonport Dockyard" ?

    "Dunno, but its got to be less than 50% of 'em" ... ;)

  4. "How many Dockyard Mateys work in Devonport Dockyard" ?

    Hardly any left these days of course, I wonder why.

  5. Anon. I regale you with my year at sea shortly. It could get a bit smutty.

    Banned. I used to sit an exam at the end of every year. Very few dockyard mateys left in Plymouth now.

    Captain. You would'nt want to hear me sing.

  6. Ah, the perils of the chuck key. I can still remember the sign next to the drill stand at school, even after 50 years. "The chuck key, if not in your hand, must be in the rack."

    This was to make sure you didn't fire up the drill with the key still in the chuck, flinging it merrily across the workshop and into some unfortunate's eye.

    BTW, our metalwork teacher was the brother of the drummer in the Tremeloes!

  7. Ah! - Ohms law indeed. I was once asked how I could work with something that couldn't be seen. I replied "Don't worry, you'll soon see it if I get things wrong!!" I have an electrically "modified" spanner in my toolbag...

    Teaching modern mechanics about carburettors?? I am surprised - I thought it was only old farts like me who still drive around behind them. (Or, for the old VW owners, in front of them...)

    And when it came to chuck keys, I didn't muck about - I tried for the distance record with the school metalwork department's Myford ML7 lathe....

  8. Captain Haddock5 April 2011 at 18:52

    Having spent time in both Devonport & Portsmouth Dockyards on Warships undergoing either Dockyard or Self-assisted Maintenance programmes ..

    I can honestly say that the only times I ever witnessed Matey's actually "working" was on "rabbit jobs" .. (i.e. things for themselves, or their friends) ..

  9. MD. We used to use what we had learnt, to try and work out where to position the chuck to ensure maximum trajectory.


    Too true,Too true.

  10. Ah you lucky man having the time out of college like that. We went to the company workshops for the "Odyssey Works Filing Course". At the time everything had to be made by hand, only a pillar drill allowed, to +-2/1000". If you got it wrong the 3rd phase cadets who "supervised" us used to put huge chisel marks in it to scrap it. We used to practice chiseling by trying to take the top off an old Allen or Ruston generator engine piston that had been scrapped, enough weight so it wouldn't move but just too low to be awkward.

    You talk about why are things named as they are; when I came ashore I went into brewing and as someone said to me early on, its the only industry which would say "Sparge with liquor and rouse" rather than "add water and mix". All old industries have these old naming conventions.



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