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That RN school did little for my education as some
10th Oct, 2007 at 4:37pm
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Name: Chris Pearce ( 
Date: Mon 01 Oct 2007 22:19:20 BST
Subject: 61 to 64 
  Thanks Martin and Chris.

That RN school did little for my education as some of my spelling shows Wink

We were a Plymouth family and dad worked in the Dockyard stores and came home saying he had got one of a bunch of overseas postings he had applied for.
No one had any idea where Mauritius was and it took some finding on the map. None of my friends at Prince Rock School had ever been on a plane and I was off to a “great adventure” as an 8 year old.
Flying from Stanstead that was just Nissen Hut style buildings in 1961 we waited for hours whilst various faults were fixed on our plane only for it to fail again out on the runway. Due to cramped conditions in the “terminal” for hour after hour there was a potential for a riot if passengers had been sent back so our family and all the others sat it out whilst another repair was done and we then headed off into a night storm where the plane hit and air pocket over the channel and fell hundreds of feet with people and trays flying everywhere.
We made it to our stop over in Nairobi following un-scheduled stops as our plane had a fuel leak.
I could only ever remember seeing one “black” man near Plymouth docks and we had loads of jolly Kenyan builders waving to my younger brothers and I from opposite our hotel window in the morning, they were finishing building a multi story car park. Something we’d never seen before.
I remember our family walk around the city and calling to my mum and dad “LOOK THERE’S WOOLWORTHS” as mum said “don’t be silly” and got me across the side road only to be shocked as on our route back to the hotel there was Woolworth’s to my parents surprise.
We arrived in Mauritius at night and were fortunate to be met and taken to our ground floor 3 bedroom flat (number 60 I think) on the base. The estate had not been levelled or landscaped or grassed and the carport style garages were built shortly after we arrived.
It was hot on the first morning and my mother decided a Cold shower would be fine for me and nice and cooling! 46 years on and that was my 1st and last!
As an impressionable 8 year old how could I forget and as a child I didn’t have alcohol to obscure my memory, I don’t think the odd sip of dads Pheonix, Amstel or Tiger beer or the watered down tot of Navy rum we were allowed when we did a school visit to the visiting HMS Ashanti did any harm! Those were the days!
The school was another tale, and Cmdr Wood , Miss Shingles (recoils in Horror) and Mr Ramsey/Ramsbottom another story.
Who remembers Mauritius Purolait/Purlait milk in 4 sided triangular cartons?
On arrival in 61, milk came in tall bottles and was delivered by Ox cart and was often cooled by the delivery man in the road side drainage ditches !!!! TRUE
RN Hospital insisted that we had it as part of a good diet, but it had to be boiled before use and strained!
When the modern paper brick cartons started I believe that the milk was a combination of imported powdered milk and local fresh milk, real fresh milk in Mombassa on homeward trip in 64 was a real shock to the taste buds.
Days of adventure for kids in relative safety I guess, we played camp in the cable drum grave yard alongside the pistol shooting range, by the sports field at the back of the swimming pool. Jumped from the high corrugated iron roof of the grand stand on the main cricket/athletics field and did archery there with the Scots RN PTI who was my mates dad.
There was also the assault course alongside the field and the “Special Force” recruits were trained by their British Army senior NCO and Officer. As kids we often showed the special force recruits how to do the course and fell about with laughter as they were shouted and screamed at by their superiors.
Initiation rituals for a new kid to the school included little boiled type fruit sweets that had been coated with very hot chilli juice or to climb a tree next to the football fields that were full of VERY large spiders.
The memory of a banned trip on a local bus to Curepipe when a friend took the last seat that was a fold down job on the emergency door at the centre back of the bus.
The bus hit a bump and he swung out as the door catch failed and he was swinging above the road clinging to the door and seat in terror as the bus roared on with local people and us screaming at the driver to stop. The driver looked back down the middle of the bus to see what the excitement was about and hit the brakes and the door swung back around throwing our pal back down the bus central aisle!
Escape to far off parts of the island when our parents thought we were safe and sound at a friend’s home was common.
We saw nothing wrong is swimming in one covered roadside reservoir if hot! And scrumping pineapples on the side of Candos hill near the rifle range, it surely had to be wise to keep our energy up!
As mentioned before, we all “borrowed the odd sample” Coke bottle from the coke factory when off on an escapade. They always gave us some when we visited on the annual school trip! Even the officers kids did the same so it must have been OK!
Mauritius was such a friendly place apart from the snooty officer and lower ranks barriers. We were just kids, but treated like dirt by some naval officer parents and the odd more senior civil servant adult.
One thing we learnt was to be well mannered at all times as it could come back on our dads at work.
My friends and I befriended the Port Louis British Harbour Master and his wife and often stopped by and were treated to cool drinks and cake at their home miles away from Vacoas on our “days out”.
It was a shock when my parents were shopping in the “Hong Kong %26 Overseas” shop in Curepipe for raffle prizes for the Admiralty Social Club and the couple walked in and started chatting to my mum and dad as I tried to hide, “hello Christopher” gave away my secret. The lady told mum and dad how my pals and I were regular visitors to them and such nice boys and girls, small island and of course the couple were friends of our parents!
We rode on Giant Tortoises near Black River ( I believe they are still there ) and swam at every beach. Swimming at Le Chaland after a Cyclone a line of kids with some of our dads all snorkelling when a line of huge Barracuda swam past us,a Flic en Flac call to lunch prevented us meeting a very large shark that swam right where we had been minutes before, again following a Cylone when they came over the coral reef.
Now I have sense of guilt when I look at our seven finger shell lamps set on a polished wooden base shaped like the island and produced in the RN workshops.
We and others dived for the shells at the northern beach we called Grand Bay ( just around from Grand Bay itself) that the navy bus took families to at the weekend.
I think we were all a little more innocent in those days and ecology and being “green” had not been invented!
The many happy hours swimming and snorkelling and diving for shells at Grand Bay with my dad and his friend Gordon are not something a kid forgets.
Our maid Millie showing my mum how to cook curries whilst my mum taught her English cooking had to be better than kids TV today. Millies sons Richard and Abraham showing my pals and I how to split bamboo and make Kites from it with string and coloured tissue paper stuck with flower and water glue is better then any Gameboy in my book to.
Our neighbour Ron running with me on his back to the RN hospital for them to sew the end of my toe back on may not have been ideal, but I reckon I was healthier than today’s Ipod generation. I was only one of two patients and got ice cream and great food and was treated like royalty by the lovely navy nurses and docs.
I also remember one of the senior nursing staff got some live Turkeys imported to be fattened for Christmas at the back of the Wardroom and was not to ammused when the officers who had put up with the their noise had “old McDonalds Farm” played for her on the radio! (I think she was called Mc Donald)
There was also of course the social club events and others our parents were involved in, fancy dress with Gordon and Margaret his wife dressed as Romans and transported by local Ox Cart to the ASC, and my pal Brian and I allowed to ride on the cart to the club.
Trafalgar hall hosted the annual Scots association Burns night supper on the island. My mum Jean painted a huge hanging stage backdrop of Glamis Castle for them to use each year. She painted it using a post card picture as her only reference and was so pleased when a Scot walked in to the supper and looked and said it’s “Glamis Castle”.
Any Scots out there who remember that picture?
Us youngsters helped set-up the Go Kart club when crate loads of karts were sent to help entertain those on the base. One of the Navy dads was in charge and we spent every spare hour helping un-box the karts and then assemble them before the track got laid. Our reward was to drive them as soon as we could, all was fine until a couple of Naval Officers came to see how things were going and took karts out, we were faster than them as we were much lighter, but were then banned as it was “to dangerous for us” the day before the official opening fete where the RN Quatermaster Type (would it be? Senior non officer) Mr Hurry found there were not enough bottle openers for the beers and cokes so used his teeth on the “crown caps” until he ripped his mouth open to the delight of many of the men under him and us kids that knew him and his kids! He was a big man who drove a Mini and came from Aldershot!
The flag being hoisted at the Comcen compound and the “Met” balloon that was released from the fields the other side of the road from the Comcen always interested us kids, we always kept and eye open for the fabled Met balloons as there was a rumour that you got a 100 rupees if you found one that came back down Wink
I make my own chilli cakes, if anyone wants the recipe to bring back those old memories I’ll look it out.
We kids also climbed or walked Le Pouce and some Navy guys put the first steels on to the top of Pieter Both so you could get to the top of the “head”.
The Navy swimming pool had the ex “Mr Mauritius” strong man as the maintenance man come cleaner and life guard when it opened, he had been head of the labour team that came and painted all the quarters previously. Swarms of local workmen on Bamboo scaffolding attacked the flats peering in every window as they worked! A friend of my parents decided to get out of the “goldfish bowl” and read in the toilet only to find he was not safe from the painters eyes there.
I doubt that health and safety would now allow kids to jump from the diving platform at the pool when Cyclone winds
were building and we could land in the shallow end.
Anyone who arrived at Plaisance between late 61 and late 64 would have been met be my dad Peter as he was afforded the privilege of being the only non Mauritian afforded access to the “Customs Side” of the airport so he could get Naval and civil servants gear and personal effects through customs.
Cyclones with no electric and mum cooking on a primus stove with her faithful Prestige Pressure cooker and lighting from the hissing parafin tilley lamop.
My dad and neighbour Ron in standard issue wet weather macks and sowester type hats and plastic shoes making it through the cyclone torrentiual rains by Landrover with vital supplies when it was supposed to be cut off according to the Navy. Tales of the Huge Aerials sweeping men towards the heavens as they fought the cyclone wind getting them down, and the stifling heat of Tombo Bay.
Sadly my dad died on St Georges day 2006, but thanks to his ambition I had a great childhood.

Google Earth shows the pool is still there, and I can pick, out our old home and much of the school and base.
Hope that jogs a few memories.
Kindest regards
Chris Pearce


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Re: That RN school did little for my education as some
Reply #1 - 12th Jan, 2009 at 4:41am
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Hi Chris

I just came across this site, my name is Denise and I was born on the island of Mauritius in  Candos hospital in 1952.  My family lived first in vacoas then moved to different parts of the island before we returned to Vacoas in 1964 where we lived until 1974, before moving again to Floreal, where my mother took a job as a nanny with an American family and we lived in their maid quarters.   I couldn't  stop laughing when I was reading your story, I didn't realised that the milk man used to cool the milk down by the drainage on the side of the road, I suppose  anything would have been possible on the island in those days, that was really funny! you must have a very good memory of your time over there, it is a bit similar to my childhood, as a local, my sisters and I used to get into all sorts of michiefs.  I also worked on HMS Mauritius as a maid when I grew up.  I have fond memories of the families I worked for  between 1968 and 1974.  I left Mauritius in 1979 for Australia, in 1977 I met my husband an Australian who was working in Mauritius as a factory manager for an Australian company, our first son was born there and another one was born in Australia.  I feel very sorry for them at time, they don't know what a beautiful childhood we had on the island, your story certainly jog my memory, especially the pineapple's story, my sisters and I used to dig them out of the field and peeled the skin off with our teeth, we also used to chew the sugarcane straight from the field.  I went back to Mauritius in 2005 after 21 years, I would not like to live there now, it is not the same, mobile phones, ipods, cars everywhere, very sad!

I can go on forever

Really enjoyed reading your story, although I noticed it was posted in 2007 


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Steven Foster
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Re: That RN school did little for my education as some
Reply #2 - 18th Jan, 2009 at 6:58pm
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I went back to Mauritius in 2005 after 21 years, I would not like to live there now, it is not the same, mobile phones, ipods, cars everywhere, very sad!

I'm sad to hear that. I was there in the 70's (second time - I was born there in 1965 on Dad's first tour) and I've not been back since 1975. I think I might want to keep my memories intact.

Chris - great details: I was also taken to the hospital, twice - forehead injury cause by a bamboo spear (gang warfare - it was aimed at my stomach, but I tried to fend it off with my head, duh....I have the scar to this day), and falling out of a tree onto my head (which caused blurred vision).


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Re: That RN school did little for my education as some
Reply #3 - 20th Jan, 2009 at 11:56pm
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Hi Denise,
Thank you for your kind words, I wonder if you knew our maid Millie who lived in the maids quarters upposite the base flats at the top end towards the road between the flats and the officers bungalows.
My email adress is alongside my name if you can spare the time.
All the best
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Peter Norman
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Re: That RN school did little for my education as some
Reply #4 - 3rd Aug, 2009 at 10:39am
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Hi, I arrived as 5yr old at roughly the same time, your post brings back many memories, some great, some not so great, Mrs shingles still brings a shiver down the spine, and whilst as an officers sprog, I may not have received the cane from Woods, it was liberally applied on return home on numerous occaisions. Followed by removal to the french school at Vacoas, the nuns were just as strict, esp with rulers on the knuckles.
I am going to have a go at the chilli cakes as just the mention brought an intense memory smell, just wonderful . Also great memories of the pool and Mr Mauritius, being younger unaware of his activities.
I do remember being v impressed at the fire walking activities at some of the festivals. Definite lack of joy from parents at wanting to join in.
Will get slides down from the loft and scan some of the transparencies.
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Lindsay Heywood (nee Warren)
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Re: That RN school did little for my education as some
Reply #5 - 2nd Jan, 2010 at 7:36pm
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Hello all, and particulary to Chris Pearce,

Chris - we have corresponded previously via Friends Reunited - I too went out to Mauritius as an 8 year old in 1961 and left in 1964.  We must have been in the same class, but I'm afraid I don't remember you.  We chatted about one of my friends, Sally Hunt.

You have a great memory for someone so young!

I have always wanted to go back to Mauritius, but it sounds like a lot has changed.  Somehow, you think it has all stayed the same, but hearing that the school has been torn down, and reading about the new hotels at Flic en Flac make you realize it wouldn't be the same experience.  In my day, Flic en Flac consisted of a few tin shacks and a few goats and the beach was always blissfully deserted.  I learnt to swim at Flic en Flac.

Does anyone remember the OLD Le Chaland - the one before the one in all the photos was built?  Chris, you may, as you arrived in 1961 too.  It wasn't quite so close to the beach, and quite ramshackle, but I always loved it more than the new one. 

Some of my fond memories of Mauritius are -

The school - we lived quite close, on Grenville Drive, and used to play in the grounds after hours.  My friend Linda fell out of a tree there and broke her arm one Saturday morning.  I was blissfully unaware that I wasn't getting a good education, and somehow managed still to get in to grammar school on returning to the U.K.

I remember the assault course - we used to love playing on the rope course across the ditches.  My parents played golf and tennis, so we spent many hours at the Gymkhana Club.

Wonderful to see the photo on this site of Bagerooty's (SP?) shop in Vacoas.  Whenever my parents would shop there, he would always give us sweets for free.

My father played Neptune in the Christmas pantomine one year.  I have slides of him and the cast.  One of these days, I will have to get  the best slides scanned and will post some on this site.

Running out or space.

Lindsay Heywood
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