Military - vs - Civilian Service On Ships

May 3, 2005
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I'm not sure if this is the right place for this......but...
I am reasonably sure there might be some persons who are very well versed in both sides of the subject to have opinions.....
Both in 1912 and at present , if you were in a position to choose either, what would your opinion be as to the best choice for overall conditions for a person to consider, especially for a long time employment or career on an ocean going ship ?
Military, such as service in the Navy ?
Civilian, such as service such as with White Star ?
I realize that this is more ( most likely ) or less a matter of personal opinion , but I would be interested in personal opinions on the advantages and disadvantages of both.

I really don't think I would be qualified to make an opinion since I probably wouldn't consider either.
My own service would probably be considered very light, comparing it with what I have read about life for the officers and crew of the Titanic.
Probably some of the old salts would say this about my Naval Service in the USN " Blimey ! Sounds like you were on a bloomin' all expense paid pleasure cruise with a bit of technical school and training thrown in for good measure ! " :)
 
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Jim Currie

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Hello Robert.

Way back in 1952, I was a lowly Cadet. The the Destroyer USS John W, Weeks was taking part in a giant exercise named "Operation Mainbrace". I was based at Greenock in Scotland and along with five other Cadets, was the guest of Officers on that ship. I was torn between 2 things... accommodation and ice cream and chocolate cake. In other words, the grub was great (ice cream to us who had just been through WW2 was a dream come true but the accommodation was cramped to say the least).
The British MN at that time was still close to the RN. However, the British MN had lost many of her ships to the U-boats so replacements were modern and spacious with one man cabins becoming commonplace. I chose the MN. A few years later, when attached to the Navy during the Suez bun fight, I had occasion to spend time on HMS Tyne. How thankful I was that I chose the MN.
Nuff said...I'm sure Rob and other ex members of "The Andrew" will take me to task.:mad:
 
May 3, 2005
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Thanks Jim -
Your comments are always appreciated.

My position was that at about the the same time as yours, I had no choice - it was some branch of the military as the "draft" was in effect during the Korean Conflict.
You could be drafted into the Army or enlist in another branch of the military.
One of the Professors at the Junior College I was attending talked me into joining the Navy because of the Electronics School.
He had been an ETC during WWII.
I also must say the Navy feeds well, both at sea and ashore. And I went from ETSR to ET2 (almost made it to ET1) in nearly 4years Active Duty. Then 4 years in the Inactive Ready Reserve and Honorable Discharge to complete the then 8 years total requirement at that time.

So no further comments. Just waiting for comments.

Incidentally, I was also a Cadet - Army ROTC. Arlington State Junior College was then a branch of Texas A&M - All male / all military.
But after 4 years of that - 2 years High School / 2 years College I wanted no part of the Army ! LOL!
 
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Jim Currie

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Thanks Jim -
Your comments are always appreciated.

My position was that at about the the same time as yours, I had no choice - it was some branch of the military as the "draft" was in effect during the Korean Conflict.
You could be drafted into the Army or enlist in another branch of the military.
One of the Professors at the Junior College I was attending talked me into joining the Navy because of the Electronics School.
He had been an ETC during WWII.
I also must say the Navy feeds well, both at sea and ashore. And I went from ETSR to ET2 (almost made it to ET1) in nearly 4years Active Duty. Then 4 years in the Inactive Ready Reserve and Honorable Discharge to complete the then 8 years total requirement at that time.

So no further comments. Just waiting for comments.
Remember the end of the Korean thing very clearly. We were the same. We had Conscription and if you left the MN you were immediately conscripted back in. That went on for another seven years, Even after that, I couldn't get out of it until I was 55 years old. Because of my rank, I was on hostilies recall up to that age.
 

Ada

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Dec 8, 2018
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Well, in 1912 I think we should also ask: "Which navy?"

In the Russian navy, being a non-officer (much like in the Russian army) was often hell - bad food and frequent corporal punishment. Savage beatings were common.
The Japanese navy - same issue with the beatings (something that continued up till ww2), but also more professional and tight-knit as far as the offcers go.

The British navy was very much an "out at sea"-oriented force. Conditions are cramped, sailors don't spend that much time on land at the base even in peacetime. Which is a big contrast with the German and Austro-Hungarian navies, that are naval-base-oriented, so you would get much more shore time in those.

Judging from the memoires of Polish navy officers (who in 1912 would be serving with either German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian navy), the Austro-Hungarian navy was by far the most democratic and least class-biased of the three. Because it was so multinational, it was also the least opressive if you happened to be from some minority nation.
 

Seumas

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Portsmouth and Plymouth were both very much "naval base oriented". Tens of thousands of naval families used to live in those two towns, of course times have changed now. To a lesser extent, Malta also once had a sizeable community of RN families living there and not just those of the officers.

I don't think the Russian or Japanese navies would have allowed my Great-Great Grandfather to do what he did. As a young man he joined the RN in September 1903 and was a "Jack Tar" for precisely twenty five days before asking for a discharge and returned to his trade as a housepainter. All the RN asked of him was simply to return the money allowance for bedding they had given him upon joining. :D
 
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Jim Currie

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Well, in 1912 I think we should also ask: "Which navy?"

In the Russian navy, being a non-officer (much like in the Russian army) was often hell - bad food and frequent corporal punishment. Savage beatings were common.
The Japanese navy - same issue with the beatings (something that continued up till ww2), but also more professional and tight-knit as far as the offcers go.

The British navy was very much an "out at sea"-oriented force. Conditions are cramped, sailors don't spend that much time on land at the base even in peacetime. Which is a big contrast with the German and Austro-Hungarian navies, that are naval-base-oriented, so you would get much more shore time in those.

Judging from the memoires of Polish navy officers (who in 1912 would be serving with either German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian navy), the Austro-Hungarian navy was by far the most democratic and least class-biased of the three. Because it was so multinational, it was also the least opressive if you happened to be from some minority nation.
A small correction.

The Royal Navy did not spend a lot of time at sea during peacetime. In fact, there was a joke among MN sailors that RN sailors were not seamen since they hardy wore out their sea-boot socks. Of course that was not true. But if you understand that an MN Seaman could be away from home for up to 2 years and the deep sea men were out of sight of land most of that time, then you'll understand the reasoning behind the joke.
For example, I sailed from Coos Bay in Oregon all the way down the center of the pacific in a 10 knot ship with but a single day stop at Honolulu for bunkers,. It took a total of 5 weeks and the first ships we saw after leaving Honolulu were those converging on Sidney Heads..
 

Ada

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Portsmouth and Plymouth were both very much "naval base oriented". Tens of thousands of naval families used to live in those two towns, of course times have changed now. To a lesser extent, Malta also once had a sizeable community of RN families living there and not just those of the officers.

I don't think the Russian or Japanese navies would have allowed my Great-Great Grandfather to do what he did. As a young man he joined the RN in September 1903 and was a "Jack Tar" for precisely twenty five days before asking for a discharge and returned to his trade as a housepainter. All the RN asked of him was simply to return the money allowance for bedding they had given him upon joining. :D
Well, in Russia he would most likely be a conscript-sailor, which meant he wouldn't have a choice.

As weird as it may sound, the navy in Tsarist Russia was seen as the "high tech" branch of the military. Russia had droves of peasant conscripts and these landed in the army, but pretty much everyone who had to do with machines in civilian life (factory workers, automobile engineers, but also craftsmen) was likely to be drafted into the navy rather than the army.
Which is why the navy was the least "politically safe" part of the armed forces, because it had a high percentage of inteligentsia and workers. Its also the reason why Poles were very over-represented in the navy - the Polish lands were amongst the most heavily industrialized parts of the pre-ww1 Russian empire.
 
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May 3, 2005
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Remember the end of the Korean thing very clearly. We were the same. We had Conscription and if you left the MN you were immediately conscripted back in. That went on for another seven years, Even after that, I couldn't get out of it until I was 55 years old. Because of my rank, I was on hostilies recall up to that age.
If you are interested in the Korean Conflict from a British Army aspect, "A Call To Arms : Interlude In The Military " , by Edmund S. ions, makes interesting reading. He comments on the " 5 and 7 " . I have exchanged correspondence with Mr. Ions. In the book, he also writes of his difficulties and delays in resigning from the Army.

IMHO " A Call To Arms " is every bit as good as "Sherlock Holmes In Dallas " , written under the pen-name "Edmund Aubrey is bad .
It is full of errors : John Connally did not sign Lee Harvey Oswald's discharge papers. Dallas is described as "A strange restless City whose very atmosphere seems to breathe a sense of rnenace." Irving is described as " Mean surroundings which would provide a means of motive of sorts for a man to kill a successful President with a beautiful wife." We disagreed on his Conspiracy Theories. I am not really sure if he ever visited Dealey Plaza but he said he did.
 
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May 3, 2005
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Well, in Russia he would most likely be a conscript-sailor, which meant he wouldn't have a choice.

As weird as it may sound, the navy in Tsarist Russia was seen as the "high tech" branch of the military. Russia had droves of peasant conscripts and these landed in the army, but pretty much everyone who had to do with machines in civilian life (factory workers, automobile engineers, but also craftsmen) was likely to be drafted into the navy rather than the army.
Which is why the navy was the least "politically safe" part of the armed forces, because it had a high percentage of inteligentsia and workers. Its also the reason why Poles were very over-represented in the navy - the Polish lands were amongst the most heavily industrialized parts of the pre-ww1 Russian empire.
From what I have read, the Japanese Navy was also "high tech", especially at the start of WWII.
I suppose Phillips and Bride would be considered "the high tech nerds and geeks" of 1912. LOL
 
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Ada

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From what I have read, the Japanese Navy was also "high tech", especially at the start of WWII.
It was, but I'm under the impression that the "culture gap" between the navy and army, while present, was not as big as in the Russian one. In Japan, both Army and Navy had their very proud traditions, each vied for the "high quality conscripts" and each stressed the technology - each of them had its own airforce for example.

In Russia, the divide was much sharper. It was the navy that was explicitly the branch that was supposed to get all the engineers, factory workers and urbane city-dwellers. I do not have the data with me, but I remember that literacy was visibly higher in the navy than in the army. This was by design.
 
Nov 14, 2005
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Having only been on US Navy ships and shore stations I couldnt say much about it. But one tid-bit I could add was what my dad told me. I remember him telling me that that 2 Liberty ships ships he was on during WW2 were way better as far as the food and berthing went. He said they ate really good compared to the fleet guys. To take a guess as to why maybe because the merchant marines at that time were union and that was something that was bargained. Or it could have been he just got lucky and got on ships with really good cooks. He said when he was transfered to the USS Wisconsin BB64 after europe was done it was a step down as far as chow and berthing conditions were concerned. On my ship breakfast was good the rest just ok. Understable though as they were feeding 5000 guys 3 times a day.
 
May 3, 2005
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Having only been on US Navy ships and shore stations I couldnt say much about it. But one tid-bit I could add was what my dad told me. I remember him telling me that that 2 Liberty ships ships he was on during WW2 were way better as far as the food and berthing went. He said they ate really good compared to the fleet guys. To take a guess as to why maybe because the merchant marines at that time were union and that was something that was bargained. Or it could have been he just got lucky and got on ships with really good cooks. He said when he was transfered to the USS Wisconsin BB64 after europe was done it was a step down as far as chow and berthing conditions were concerned. On my ship breakfast was good the rest just ok. Understable though as they were feeding 5000 guys 3 times a day.
Steven -
The ships I was on were much smaller than the one you were on - complements of about 1,000.
The breakfast was often variations of the well known " SOS," but on Sunday mornings breakfasts you could get steak and eggs cooked to your order.
The Cook's specialty seemed to be cakes and pies. They made some really good ones.
One pie that I remember was made of mixed fruits instead of apple or cherry filling.

Jim- Of course there were lots of chocolate cakes, too ! :)

This seems to have developed into sort of a things about our good ole'' Navy days. LOL
But as you mentioned your transfer was sort of a letdown.
I first considered my transfer after only six months from the USS Sicily (CVE-118) to USS Kenneth Whiting (AV-14) as a letdown but it turned out to be a good turn of luck.
It was the closest thing you could get to shore duty.
Also included an R&R cruise to Hong Kong with a guided tour and a steak dinner at Repulse Bay Hotel.
Also I met a fellow shipmate who was both a fellow ham radio operator and photography hobbyist.
He was also the Senior Petty Officer of the ER / OE Division.
He had set up a darkoom in one of the store rooms.
He also had built an enlarger from old camera parts.
All of this was stowed way when not in use in a crate marked "Radar Spare Parts"
We did a lot of developing, printing and enlarging in our spare time.
I also inherited the air and surface search radars from him and was Senior Petty Officer when he completed his enlistment.
And we also built a lot of " ham radio gear" transmitters and such in our off duty spare time.
I have visited him on vacation trips and we still keep in touch via e-mails and Christmas Cards.

So much for the sea stories.:)
 
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May 3, 2005
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I suppose this is a bit of trivia, but I also suppose it is a bit on the subject of military service.
Hong Kong visit also included Tiger Balm Gardens.