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News > Life After Hymers > Geoffrey Teasdale's Royal Navy Career

Geoffrey Teasdale's Royal Navy Career

Leaving Hymers was not the 'end of school' I had hoped for...
Geoffrey Teasdale (at Hymers 1942 – 1948)
Geoffrey Teasdale (at Hymers 1942 – 1948)

I entered Lower 3A in 1942 just before the boarders returned from Pocklington and in the middle of the bombing blitz on Hull. An interesting classmate was “Fred” Barshack – sent from Vienna by his Jewish parents just before WW2; his parents failed to survive the Nazis. Major Cavill (who enjoyed beating us) was only the second Head – following Gore – but was succeeded by others at a great rate, all of whom started the process of making Hymers into the great school it is today.

Our Masters then were mainly “dug-outs” – too old or infirm for military service, but on the whole, very good…Cobby, Telfer, Birtles, Pickles, Dennis, Miss Allen and “Shag” Anderson (a pipe smoker) and his lady wife known as “Shaggess” who managed to teach me Art: also a woodwork teacher who introduced us to fish glue heated in a “bain-marie” (I still have the oak coffee table I made). School at that time was austere: the woods and lake out of bounds, a bomb crater at the head of “Majuba” rugger pitch, bicycle sheds and Victorian loos. We had the largest non-military school JTC (Junior Training Corps) in the land, with six platoons (an under-officer in charge of each), and a Signals section with beautiful old (WW1) leather covered phones and lots of phone line to – occasionally – enable communication. The JTC was great fun with Boer war rifles and a .22 shooting range in what is now a gardener’s store.

Having at last managed to matriculate, I decided to be an industrial chemist, and joined Bankside paint company in the lab, studying at night school for BSC, in a dimly-lit and murky Hull’s ancient Victorian schoolrooms for three nights a week, before catching the last train home to Withernsea. Paint making is a fascinating science, but offered a staid and unadventurous future.

I joined His Majesty’s Royal Navy – which all of my friends thought was a branch of Hull’s Ellerman Wilson line – no more schooling – just sailoring he thought! Joining our last battleship Vanguard in 1949 as an Ordinary Seaman, our group was asked “Anyone got a School Certificate?” I raised my hand, the only one, and was put on the long hard slog to become a Naval Officer. Matric only saved me taking the lowest naval education test, so on to master new subjects with two years of professional study – squeaking through the Admiralty Selection Board, and after a year at Dartmouth, became a quivering Acting Sub Lieutenant in a still very large Royal Navy – but now HM the Queen’s Navy, and present at the Coronation Review of the Fleet in Spithead, followed by a Coronation visit to Goole (with a wave to Hull en passant).

End of school it was not. Three years of professional courses then followed, and at last to sea: brief spells in two ships, then sent off to land Centurion tanks at the 1956 Suez incident. I stayed on in the Amphibious Warfare squadron, based in Malta for the next three years visiting the Graeco-Roman ruins of Leptis Magna, Sabratha, and Cirene while putting soldiers ashore for desert training, and visiting the flesh-pots of Riviera, Italy and Greece.

Next to join a destroyer serving first in the Mediterranean, off to Iceland in the “Cod Wars”: a spell ashore at Plymouth, followed by my first sea command based at Portsmouth, when I came to know the UK coast very well, and had a Gordonstoun sea cadet called Prince Charles aboard for a week – soon after he was caught drinking sloe gin in a Stornoway hotel. The Admiralty logic kicked in; a Staff job, followed by a 3 year Staff College course (compressed into 21 months), and sent back to sea in command of a Rosyth-based squadron – clearance of WW2 mines off the European coast, an official visit to Hull (on sailing, took Hymers cadets to sea and landed them at Bridlington) – later took the Guardship squadron to Caernarvon for Charles’ inauguration as Prince of Wales, followed by the fleet review in Torbay.

I managed to avoid being the Assistant Naval Attaché in Moscow, and became Naval member of the Joint Secretariat in Malta – secretary to the Heads of Services, and the High Commissioner’s Defence committees. Mintoff then ejected us all from his island, and in 1971, joined the staff at Portsmouth Naval Base, to be told that one of my many jobs was to deal with oil spills (the TORREY CANYON spill not long before and very badly dealt with). Where to learn the trade? No-one around but for arm-chair experts, so started a second career which lasted to the end of my uniformed career and for sixteen years later devising equipment and systems to deal with marine oil pollution at sea, in harbours, and on the shore. National committees sprang up like mushrooms, and working from the Admiralty, I was kept very busy for the Navy, the Army, the RAF, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, while presenting papers at conferences and carrying out inspections around the world.

Looking back – great satisfaction after a most interesting career mixed with a lot of fun times: mind you, the Navy had ‘gone to the dogs” during my time – something decrepit old fellows like me have been saying since Drake and Nelson’s time – tout ça change! Michele and I now devote half our time to living in southern France and trying to find time to visit other places.

Cdr Geoffrey Teasdale, OH 1942-48

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