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Why did the Admiralty summon Cdr Walker to London?

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Posted by Robin Selby on January 19, 2019 at 07:21:02 user RobinSelby.

After successful postings at Malta and Hong Kong, Cdr Walker was sent to HMS Ganges at Shotley. He probably wondered whether he had done anything to upset the Second Sea Lord, who was in charge of personnel. If so, this meant an end of his hopes of becoming a Captain.

Ganges was very large, consisting of about 2,500 people. It educated and trained boys for the Navy. It was commanded by a Captain, so Cdr Walker would not be in charge. It was not a place that one associated with high-fliers such as Cdr Walker. It was a pretty grim sort of place (‘Shotley As I Knew It’, by R L Maguire – ‘I have no good – or kind – recollections of Shotley’. There are also extremely interesting oral histories along the same lines in the Imperial War Museum which are available on the website -¬item/¬object/80005758). In the normal course of events Cdr Walker might have been posted to the Naval Staff to widen his experience before promotion to Captain. A posting to Ganges suggested that he had been passed over.

There are two questions – why Cdr Walker was summoned to the Admiralty at short notice, and what it was that Mrs Walker had to buy in London.

The summons to the Admiralty was odd, because the Admiralty upheld the chain of command. If it had wanted to discuss anything about Ganges, it would have summoned the Captain of Ganges. This could only mean that there had been a crisis at Ganges which meant that the Captain had been suspended, so that Cdr Walker had been sent there in the rank of Acting Captain to replace him. There might have been any number of reasons for the crisis. For example, in 1914 the Captain was held responsible for the disappearance of cash at Ganges, though he retained his job (ADM 156/11), and in 1928 a boy died after falling from the 142 foot mast, and a question was asked in Parliament.

Someone must have told Cdr Walker about the real reason for his posting at Shotley before he went to London, because ‘when they had come back for high tea at Miss Powell’s they learnt that something had happened that had made Daddy at least feel quite different. Tea was over before he came in smiling to himself’.

We know from Missee Lee, two books later, that Cdr Walker was promoted to Captain, so his time at Ganges and subsequent service on the Naval Staff must have been successful.

We can now surmise what Mrs Walker needed to buy in London. At Ganges, she would need to entertain visiting VIP’s and local dignitaries, so she had to expand her wardrobe. She might also have bought some special Chinese tea for Cdr Walker.

Cdr Walker must have had considerable powers of self-control, to keep his worries hidden from both children and readers.

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