I feel compelled to respond to the article by Lt. Swinden, RAN, in the December issue of the Naval Historical Review, entitled “HMAS Tingira – 1912-1927, a Legacy of Service”.
I joined “Tingira” as a Boy in May, 1926, and left her when she “paid off” in June 1927, and have happy memories of my time in Tingira. It was tough, and meant to prepare the Boys for possible warfare. However, it was not as bad as the article by Lt. Swinden made it appear to be, as he seemed to stress the “down” side. No mention was made of “Tingira” boys who were awarded decorations (and there were several) and nothing about telegraphist air-gunners (T.A.G.s) in shipborne aircraft.
I realise that conditions did improve after the 1919 caning incident, when the newspaper “Smith’s Weekly” published an article with a picture of the boy’s buttocks, showing the marks left by the cane, after which caning was banned. I find it hard to believe that that sort of punishment was necessary.
There was some “hero worship” by the boys towards most of the instructors. The divisional officer of the division to which I belonged was awarded a D.S.C. in WWI, and we felt very proud of him.
Not all instructors carried or used a “stonicky” (a rope’s end). I can only recall one or two. One was a burly P.O. Stevenson, whom the boys called Stonicky Steve, because of his frequent use of a stonicky. On only one occasion did I have to take evasive action from P.O. Stevenson. As one of my contemporaries said, it ranged from a flick on the tail that stung a bit, to a whack that hurt – more often the former. Probably the most common misdemeanour was skylarking at the wrong time and/or in the wrong place, and depending on the instructor, resulted in a verbal dressing down or a whack on the tail and having to go over the masthead (main mast) in quick time.
Harry Knight, D.S.M.