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National Service in the Royal Navy, 1949-1950: Laundry

A guest contribution by Fred Peach

All the pages by Fred Peach on his National Service in the Navy:

Stages in the experience:

recruitment   You are on this page
basic training
job-related training
on the job

Interesting facts:

allegiance to Crown
rum issue
swimming proficiency

We naval national service­men had to wash our own clothes. There were, though, so I under­stand, differing provisions for naval men not dressed as seamen inasmuch as their white shirts were laundered by facilities in their camp.

How clothes were washed

At our training base in Cookham we could use the sinks in the shower/washing huts. On board ship we used a tin bucket of hot water. The soap was the cheap rough kind which was issued once a month.

At any time when a crew member was off duty one of his pastimes would be to obtain a bucket and sit rubbing away at his collars, underclothes, handkerchiefs and socks - always rubbing, the rule being you scrub dirt in and rub dirt out.

How the washing was rinsed

Once all our clothes had been rubbed and squeezed clean, the bucket was refilled with cold water and the clothes rinsed.

How the washing was dried

The washing was squeezed and wrung to remove as much water as possible and and then hung up to dry.

At our training base in Cookham we hung out our washing on string stretched between huts. This was, however, frowned upon by the authorities and had to be whisked away if there was a risk of an officer becoming present.

On board ship, if you could get away with it you could leave your washing to dry near the engine room where the air was always very warm - providing you were reasonably sure than when you returned to collect your dried clothes they were still there. Otherwise washing was hung up in the mess.

How the washing was ironed

in each hut or mess there was a communal iron, purchased by a small contribution from each mess-member. It was used to smooth the washed items.

Comparison with the other services

The other two services, as I understand it, did not have to wash their clothes themselves. They had laundry arrangements. Just another example of how we national servicemen in the Royal Navy had a harder time than those in the other two services.

Page contributed by Fred Peach who may be contacted at the following email address.

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