-H.M.S. Hood Crew Information-
I Was There! Where? The Autobiography of Alec Kellaway
by Alec Kellaway
Updated 06-May-2014

We are delighted that H.M.S. Hood veteran and H.M.S. Hood Association member, Alec Kellaway, has been generous enough to allow us to publish the complete text of his book, 'I Was There! Where?' which he wrote and typed himself.

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Portsmouth Barracks

RNB during working hours is full of activity even in peaceful times but now that the war had started the amount of personnel moving around the barracks had greatly increased. The shape of the barracks had changed since I left there in 1936, there were extra huts around, under the parade ground a large air-raid shelter had been built, all the mess rooms had been fitted with black out curtains, the mess floors had been cleared of all polished surfaces, because of fire risk. On arrival at RNB I had to present myself to the regulating staff to be put on the books for messing, entered either T or G and added to the catering list for meals. From there I had to go to the engineering block for order regarding the mechanical course. A quick visit to the medical room, strip off, present myself to the MO, lift my arms and pronounced ok. Following this a visit to the dental officer, which I knew, would be ok as on the Hood we had regular dental inspections. After this I was at a loose end until the following Monday when the course started.

It may be wise now to give details of the course. A once only chance of getting promotion; fail this course and there was no return. The outcome on the final day when exams were taken defined your chance of promotion. During the 3 month course you were given various tasks to do on which an assessment was made, points from these assessments were added to the written exam, in the end there could be four evaluations which affected your future. The two persons obtaining the highest marks were always rated PO right away. They would then go to sea to obtain their boiler room certificate and then be recalled to the training establishment at Plymouth for two years training to become Mechanicians. This is what we would all like to achieve but there were only two vacancies. Above a certain pass mark a candidate would be qualified for PO but their name would have to go on a roster which would mean that when their name reached the top they would be promoted. Likewise a lower pass mark would mean that the qualification would be for Leading Stoker only. A lower pass mark would mean failure; there was no chance of trying again. In the first weeks of the course a preliminary exam was held and from this the entrants were divided into two groups, A and B, With others I was in Group B, this is not saying that A is better than B but to equate the groups. I did very well in this test and it was thought that I would make Mechanician. A course member, Jacker Tee, even stated that I would be B group’s candidate, anyway as the course progressed Jacker did say to me that I would not reach the higher level and named two who would. This did not sink into me until later. It would appear that there was something akin to nepotism; in this case the candidates had senior rates who knew them and would give all assistance possible to help them. At the end of the course I qualified for PO and awaited drafting to sea

The course was very educational the subjects covered boiler maintenance, chipping and filing a rough cast steel cube then getting it as square as possible cut a key way, then make a key to fit. There was also furnace work heating metals and forging them into different shapes, as well as working with the coppersmith making oil cans and there were activities with electrical systems. The course was never dull and there were days when us candidates had to take charge of the class to assess our power of command. It was surprising how much information was given and how much knowledge was gained throughout the course.