All Fifteen reservists were posted to H.M.S. Pembroke.
On arrival at Chatham they found this was not a ship but a huge barracks accommodating over 23,000 people.
Pembroke, like Portsmouth and Devonport barracks, was one of the Navy’s fitting out depots and here Ambulance Brigade uniforms were replaced with the regulation sick berth attendant’s blue serge with the red cross emblems and buttons that did not require polishing.
For centuries the Navy insisted that all personnel should be registered in some ship’s books, so there was a ship called H.M.S. Pembroke, moored alongside the barracks and all officers and ratings were officially the crew. In Nelson’s time it had been a “ship of the line”, but gradually over the next hundred years the name was borne by less splendid ship’s. At one time it was a prison hulk moored there.
Copyright © Ken Wilson 1981