The following is an extract from `Corvette Command’ by Nicholas Monsarrat, 1944 – enjoy
If you want an example of alert intelligence in the Navy, a young signalman, interested in his job and keen to get ahead, is probably the best specimen. From the very nature of his work, he knows more about the ship and her movements than any other rating; and he has the opportunity of learning much more besides. He sees almost every signal that comes in, on a very wide variety of subjects ranging from the First Sea Lord’s anniversary greetings to the provision of tropical underwear for Wrens. He spends long hours up on the bridge, in the centre of things, where he has the best opportunity of talking to his officers and picking up fresh ideas. He learns flotilla routines, the types and names and movements of other ships. The job of signalling itself enlarges his vocabulary – he deals in words, and they are the currency of intelligence. He can often acquire, too, a formidable knowledge of navigation: the charts are always there for him to study, and if, as is usual, he has an inquiring mind, he makes good use of the chance, aided by an officer who is probably only too glad to find someone interested – someone, moreover, who can often be most helpful in supplying information quickly and accurately at an awkward moment.
Watch-keeping is a boring job. Signalmen are usually talkative, retailing (among other things) the cream from the crop of rumours put out by the galley-wireless: their talk makes the time pass a bit quicker, and that, God knows, is something on the credit side at sea. When I was in a corvette doing Atlantic escort duty, burdened with a standing middle watch for nearly eighteen months on end, their companionship often made the difference between a spell of rank boredom and a tolerable watch. I have had something of an affection for the Signal Branch ever since. Thanks John T for your input.