January 1964 was to be such a change for me.
Not only was I going into a rather focused program specializing in Nautical Navigation and other related subjects, but I was going to be living in the College during my time there. While I cannot recall any serious concerns, that would have been naivety on my part because I had never lived with a large number of boys before, nor had I been to Cardiff.
Cardiff itself was not going to be a problem because it was in British Railways Western Region and therefore offered potential opportunities for seeing many different locomotives!
Here I am all correctly dressed and ready to start another adventure:
My Mum went with me to Peterborough North railway station and, after a brief display of tears, pushed me into a railway carriage and waved as the train slowly moved off. I had a lot of mixed feelings during that train journey to Kings Cross station in London. I was traveling on my own, over a considerable distance which included changing trains in London, and for reasons other than train spotting. My Mum was clearly upset, and I was going into an unknown environment.
Arriving at Kings Cross station, I had to now find my way across London to Paddington station, and then get a train to Cardiff. This was a bit of an adventure (finding my way to Paddington station), and rather exciting because not only would I see Western Region trains in Paddington station, but I would be traveling on one!
Upon arrival in Cardiff, I just had to follow instructions on which bus to catch to get to the College*. Having reached my final destination, and reported in at the administration office, I had to focus on a very different lifestyle.
Whereas the program that I was on was planned around a career in the British Merchant Navy (cargo ships), the College was run on Royal Navy (military) lines and obviously was designed to reflect life at sea regardless of who one eventually sailed with.
There were a number of key rules. Time out of the College grounds (shore-leave) was only allowed on Sundays after church, and on Thursday afternoons. All students (cadets) had a curfew of 10:00pm on those days.
The routine cleaning of the College was done by the cadets and the College was formally inspected early in the morning (after a mandatory 6:00am run) and after dinner in the evening.
The cadets were divided into 2 “houses” and to maintain the nautical flavor, those 2 “houses” were known as Port and Starboard Watches. I was allocated to the Starboard Watch. Our living/sleeping quarters (cabins) accommodated 6 cadets each, and there were probably about 12 cabins to each Watch. Each cabin was put under the responsibility of a Junior Leading Cadet (JLC), and each Watch was under the responsibility of a Senior Leading Cadet (SLC). The 2 SLC’s reported directly to a Cadet Captain who liaised with one of 2 Officers who had considerable seagoing background. The Officer for my Watch was the Lt. Commander of the local Royal Navy mine sweeper fleet.
It was a very highly disciplined structure, and I had the rest of my travel day to adjust to it!
*Reardon-Smith Nautical College on Plasmawr Road