THE ULTIMATE PRIVY (1943-1946)
During World War 2 there was a base for Motor Launches and Motor Gun Boats known as HMS Black Bat situated on the training ship 'Marshall Ney' at No.5 Basin HM Dockyard, Devonport. Initially our offices were in the 'Crows Nest' until cabin-like structures were built aft. There were no toilet facilities and we were a good five minutes walk to the nearest in the barracks which meant, one on duty at 0900hrs we had to hold on until we left work at 1700hrs.
Eventually we moved into our new offices but still there were no toilet facilities for Wrens. After a lot of discussion it was agreed to cordon off a section of our rest room and install an Elsan pan loo; this to be emptied weekly by one of the sailors. After three weeks the sailors objected and we were back at square one, no loo.
Another committee of our gold ringed superiors decided that a brick privy be built overhanging a lesser busy wharf would solve the problem. No plumbing - just a seat. No plumbing meant no hand basin. All evacuations, liquid or solid, no messing, straight into the river. The cold draughts to our nether regions in winter was unbelievable!! Chocolate brown toilet paper, flat shiny squares, made by 'Bronco' and all stamped OHMS. To make matters worse it was home to the biggest sea lice I had ever seen.
When nature called we usually had to make our way to this exclusive toilet facility through a group of sailors who would congregate nearby. There would be an enormous chorus of 'Hoorays' when an evacuation went 'plop, plop, plop' into the river below. We relieved, though poor, female occupants had then to emerge red faced with embarrassment to a further round of applause. Certainly there was no other privy like it in the Royal Navy - ANYWHERE!
L/WRNS Mrs. Phyllis Cloke (nee Endean).
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