Maurice Cornish
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Maurice Cornish - Aberdovey, Wales, 1946

I lived in High Wycombe during most of WWII and in July 1944 I joined the local Sea Cadets at the age of 13, together with two friends. All three of us subsequently went to sea in the M.N. In 1946 I passed the Matriculation examination and left school in order to join the training ship HMS Conway off Bangor, in the Menai Straits. The commanding officer of the Sea Cadets, in which I was by then a Leading Seaman, proposed to put my name forward to attend the Outward Bound School, which meant that they would pay my fares and any fees. Although I do not have a record of the exact dates, I was there during June/July 1946.

I found myself in a very large entry, so many that my own Watch were housed in tents pitched in the grounds. The Watch Leader was a Conway, Brian Lockwood, who became a lecturer in one of the London based nautical colleges after leaving the sea. His Deputy, interestingly enough, was Chris Brasher, subsequently a gold medal winner in the Steeplechase during the 1956 Summer Olympics.

During the course we must have experienced some wild weather as, one night, all our tents were blown down and we had to move (at some unearthly hour) into alternative housing!

I think it is interesting to remember that we had all been at our respective secondary school during war-time, consequently, although in my own case my school had a headmaster with ambitions for its reputation. We were taught in large classes, well over 30 in size and by some very makeshift staff. Consequently, our instruction in PE games was very limited, although it started to improve once we got some newly qualified female teachers. As a result, I had never even heard of most of the athletic disciplines which we were expected to exercise and then to be tested upon- shot putting, javelin, even long and high jumping. In addition, I was by this time 6’1” tall but barely 9 stone in weight. A combination of wartime rationing and natural teenage growth meant that there was no chance whatsoever of my attaining any of the athletic standards set, although I did my best and coped pretty well with the longer running events and the expeditions.

Our nautical experience was gained on the ketch ‘Garibaldi’ and I recall being taken out by motorboat to wherever she was lying at anchor. I think each watch was on board for 5 days and most of us became sea sick at first (she had a fearsome reputation!), possibly because of the strange smells emanating from below; a mixture of fuel oil, tarred hemp, canvas, bilges, and of course, our bodies!

I did not return to Aberdovey while I was on the Conway because I was in a slightly special group originally aiming for into the R.N. I was I glad I had been there but would have enjoyed it more had I been stronger physically.