Google analytics

Sunday, 20 January 2013

I never understood……..

……The Naval stores ordering system. As some of my readers have guessed by now, I worked at sea in a paramilitary capacity. Of course this meant that we had the misfortune to use the same system for ordering stores as the Royal Navy.

It ranks in my mind, as one of the most badly managed organisations of all. Though you must bear in mind that it appeared to be run by bureaucrats for bureaucrats. It was certainly not designed to be cost effective or end user friendly.

Imagine if you will, that you’re an engineer and you want to order a 7/16 whitworth nut to replace a defective one. In a normal spares catalogue used by the normally sane world you would expect to find it as 7/16 whitworth nut, steel. Simples. Not in naval stores (NS).

What you would find is pages of “Nut, machine”. No further information being available. Each one would have a unique 10 digit number. Often engineers would resort to ordering one of each. That could run into hundreds of unwanted nuts sitting around in workshop drawers for years. (often till the ship was scrapped). Spanners to fit those nuts had equally vague descriptions. “Spanner, crescent”, or “Spanner, Ring”.

Just a couple more examples of the idiotic naming of common or garden items.

The commonly known hose clamp or jubilee clip used to secure the ends of rubber hoses was given the name “Clamp, hose, wormdrive”. Or the common or garden, known throughout the world, “O-ring”, was designated with the name “Ring Sealing, Toroidal. Even more obscure was the simple “Olive” used in plumbing compression fittings. So obscure in fact that after 43 years I used to resort to buying them in B & Q using my own money.

Denomination of quantity (D of Q). This was something you had to get right. It could be a singleton, dozens, or even miles. Woe betide you if you got it wrong.

On one ship I was on, the Supply officer considered we were short of the humble sausage. Just to check if there was anything missing from his order of diverse  culinary delights, he asked his Chief cook to check his order. The Chief Cook tried to explain that the D of Q was wrong but was told that he was only the minion, and should get back to the galley where he belonged.

Imagine the shock horror of the Supply Officer when a Forty foot refrigerated container turned up with rather a lot of sausages. (The factory producing them had actually had to go on special overtime to fulfil the order).

Packaging. Or to give it it’s full name. “Nato Standard Packaging”.

Now if I ordered 100 13 Amp. domestic fuses I would expect them to turn up in a common or garden Jiffy bag. Not from NS. Each one is wrapped in green greasy packaging in a plastic heat sealed bag. Then wrapped in corrugated cardboard, and finally packaged in a 3” cardboard box, liberally secured with vast amounts of brown sticky tape. Result: Small pile of fuses on the table and a full bin bag of packaging.

Even sales of unwanted items were in my mind badly mishandled. (Another department that hasn’t a clue).

Imagine if you will.

“One small fleet tanker, full service history, one lady owner (Her Maj), never raced or rallied. £5M ONO.

Bear in mind that this vessel had just recently had a £1M refit, you would think that the price was very reasonable. Even though the on-board spares (£1/4M) and the ICIS military communications suite (£1M) was not included in the price. When we were selling the vessel the cost of building a similar vessel at the time would have been at least £25M.

It was sold to the Portuguese for £1.2M, complete with all spares and the ICIS, and £0.5M of cargo thrown in.

It’s time departments like these were put out to pasture and normal commercial practices employed.

Just as an aside, a standard three pin socket cost £13. (In 1996). And did you know that you can still order “Scissors, lamp trimming”. Fuck me,  haven’t they realised yet that ships now use the new electrick lite.

Having heard today that 5,300 soldiers are going to be dismissed from the army, maybe culling 5,300 civil servants working for NS, might save a shed load more money for the exchequer.


  1. Ah, your "Denomination of quantity (D of Q)" brought back memories.

    Soon after British Gas lost its (benevolent) monopoly of supplying 'large' Industrial & Commercial Customers, the market was opened up to all-and-sundry.

    Suppliers had to bid for their gas, traditionally in pence per therm.

    On one occasion, one famous-name (oil) company bid for a huge quantity. The numeric figure they offered was similar to other recent prices. Sadly (for them) the relevant unit had changed from p/therm to p/kWh.

    There's 29.3 kWh in a therm. That oil company had bid nearly 30x the market rate; for millions of £s worth of gas.

  2. Don.t the army still have stocks of nails for horses shoes?

  3. Don.t the army still have stocks of nails for horses shoes?

  4. My best mate was in the R.A.F. during the days of conscription. His finest hour was related to his occupation, which was that of 'Instrument Fitter'. He searched for the required 'Anchor Pin' in the vast book which was the official RAF Stores Bible. every item was identifies by a ten digit number. Immediately below the Anchor Pin was listed 'Anchor (Sea). So he idly wondered what would happen if he wrote for the required 'Anchor Pin', but inserted the ten-digit Ident. for the Anchor (Sea).

    Ten days later, he was summoned to his C.O.'s office, and directed to look out of the window.

    To his delight, he was looking at a ten-foot long marine anchor, weight approximately two tons; but the icing on the cake was provided by the fact it was covered in rust-preservative!


Say what you like. I try to reply. Comments are not moderated. The author of this blog is not liable for any defamatory or illegal comments.