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Purser Cadet Training. Some might like it.

Parts of the training to beome a Purser Cadet was contracted out by P&O.Our induction training was carried out in the basement of Beaufort House in St Botolph street.We had been allocated a training officer who choreographed the whole exercise.Various bods from Hotel Services, Personnel and other parts of head office were dragged down to the basement to introduce us to the world of shipping and P&O passenger division

Beaufort House

Home for Purser Cadet Training


From here we were then dispatched to various parts of London for additional training sessions. I had forgotten about the typing lessons until I was reminded about them by a fellow purser friend this week. Up a flight of stairs leading off Oxford street was our typing school. “Touch and Type”. You have to remember that in those days there were no computers and work processors had yet to be invented. So, it was all sit up and beg typewriters and if you made a mistake it was “Tippex”or “Snow Pake”.

It wasn’t until the end of the 1970’s that photocopiers started to become common place. Carbon paper was the method of retaining a copy of your work and thus any mistake had to be corrected on all the copies. Tedious and time consuming.

On board ships where multiple copies of crew and passenger lists were required for port clearance the dreaded Gestetner machines came into play. The original manuscript was typed onto a thin stencil this was attached to the drum of the gestetner machine, this allowed ink through the stencil to print the paper. All was well until the stencil got tangled or torn and had to be retyped. This was after you had removed all the ink from your hands.


Another week we were dispatched to St Katherines Dock. This was nothing like the luxury development that you see today. It was a dirty working dock, and our classroom was a glorified cabin, tied up outside was the lifeboat where we were to learn our skills as lifeboat men. Our teacher was real old “Salty Seadog” I think he was called Cyril. Well Cyril didn’t mince his words and was pretty hard task master trying to knock us into shape rowing the lifeboat around the dock. His favourite saying when we did something wrong was “Some might like it – Some might not”. I think at the end of this we were awarded a lifeboatman's certificate.



Our training continued down in Southampton. I remember this well as we were accommodated in “The Merchant Navy” Hotel on The Avenue. This was quite a smart hotel, especially after my Salvation Army hostel digs in London. The best part was that P&O were footing the bill and they even provided breakfast and dinner. My first taste of a little luxury.

The downside to this visit was the fire training course at Warsash Naval College. After a couple of days in the classroom learning the theory of firefighting, we then had the practical fire fighting to contend with. Our first task was to wear full firefighting gear with heavy breathing equipment and were chased around the grounds at a rapid pace until we dropped on the grass with exhaustion. Non of us were as fit as we thought we were.

Next there was a concrete bunker, we climbed onto the top and there was a metal hatch with a metal ladder leading into the bunker. A fire was set in the bunker and our task was to lift the hatch and get down the ladder as quickly as possible. Of course, lifting the hatch fed the fire with air, causing it to flare up. I know I was pretty scared at the thought. One cadet burned his hand on the ladder. My turn came and I have got to say I was S****** myself. In my haste to get in quickly and for the hatch to be shut to stop that flare up, I missed the latter completely and landed on my backside beside the fire and had to be dragged out by one of the training officers.

On another occasion a metal building that resembled part of a ship superstructure, inside a smoke bomb had been ignited. We went in, in teams having to maintain physical contact with our team members. We were each numbered. The task was to find an unconscious body and bring it out, of course visibility was almost nil. We were bollocked when we got out and were not in our numbered order, meaning we had not maintained physical contact and could have been separated from the rescue party.

One cadet, I think it as Dave (S) grabbed hold of the smoke bomb and had to be treated for a burnt hand. I often wonder if this type of training would be allowed in this day and age with all the Health and Safety regs.

Thankfully my fire training was never tested to its full extent. I did however discover a fire in a working alleyway one night when I was duty assistant purser on Oriana. On this occasion a call to the bridge got a fire team down there pretty quickly and extinguished it.

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Salty Seadog
Salty Seadog
Feb 22, 2021

The Thistle hotel was just starting to be built when we were training. I went back years later and was astounded by the development.


John Martin
John Martin
Feb 21, 2021

I remember my Lifeboat Course. In Liverpool. It was the last course that was based in Albert Dock. We had a contingent of Canadian Pacific stewardesses on the course. The Lifeboat Training Centre was being relocated to Trafalgar Dock, further down the Mersey. Part of our practical examination was undertaken while rowing the course boat down the river as it started to snow.


John Martin
John Martin
Feb 21, 2021

There were, on occasion, a need to stay in London rather than travel from Southampton on a daily basis when involved in recruiting / training hotel staff with Fleet Personnel. The Thistle Hotel adjacent to Tower Bridge was my place of repose. Looking at the model layout of St. Katherine's Dock, there must have a been a few design changes before completion.

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