Saturday, 20 July 2013

Shep Woolley - Rammit Mate I'm RDP

I’ll be driving along on my own, heading to work or down to Bunnings, and I’ll put on one of my Shep Woolley CD’s and I let him take me back to madcap days when life seemed less serious or made less serious by irreverent characters you came across in the Navy; when work was fun and we still got the job done; and today is today and tomorrow will take care of itself, so let’s have another beer – and I’ll shout out loud, right there sitting in the car at the lights, ‘Rammit Mate! I’m RDP!’  This is another of my favourite Shep Woolley songs.  I couldn’t do a better job in explaining what RDP is, so this is how Shep introduces it on his album:

“RDP – in every sailor’s life, there comes a period which sailors call RDP. This means, Run Down Period.  From the very first time a sailor joins the Navy he joins a grotty training establishment somewhere probably stuck out in the middle of Ipswich like mine was.  And you’re there for something like about, a year, you see, and when you’re leaving, you’re so bloody chuffed, you know, “I’ve had enough of this bloody hole, ooh if he got up my nose one more time I’d have him”, you know. And that is when you’re having your run down bit, you see.  And then you’re dying to get to the fleet, and you get to the fleet and you get on a new ship, and it’s great! – for two hours!  And then you start again, “e’ gives me the bloody earache e’ does”, you know, like that, you see. And this is what you call having a run down period, you see and in every commission and every sort of barracks you go into, at the end of it all you always have this RDP bit.  And the best part in a sailor’s life when his most important RDP comes, is before he embarks on that lovely ship called citizenship, you see, and he enters that great big cavern outside called civilian street, you see, and this song, particularly, I wrote, I was standing one morning on the gangway HMS Blake and I went out in the dockyard to have a slash and I came back and saw this submariner walking toward me with his mac on and his cap pulled down over his eyes and I said to him, “have you got the time mate?”  He said, “Piss off!” just like that, he did, and I thought I’ve got to write a song about that, you see – and so the ensuing song”:

Rammit Mate I’m RDP

(Shep Woolley 1940? - )
la la la  la  lala la  la la la  lala la,
la la la  la  lala la  la la la  lala la,
la la la  la  lala la  la la la  lala la,
         Rammit!  I’m RDP!
I was walking through the dockyard,
one morning bright and fair,
When a sailor came towards me,
he had long and shaggy hair,
And he looked for all the world as though
He didn’t have a care
And he said, why are you looking at me?
I said, well it’s your uniform, you really look a scruff.
He said, see me in me civvies mate,
I’m really quite the stuff,
And when I put me BRUT on,
I smell just like a puff,
I’m a smoothie from RND.
I’ve been to Honolulu and I’ve been to Tokyo,
I’ve been to San Francisco, most any place you’ll go.
I’ve been nine years in the Navy,
And there’s just three days to go
         Rammit mate!  I’m RDP!
There’ll be no more get your hair cut,
No standing out in road,
No more duty watches, no more RPO’s
No killicks, pigs or PTI’s now they get up my nose
       And Rammit mate! I’m RDP.
As I return me pusser’s dirk,
I’m sure I’ll feel the loss,
Two blue suits and steaming boots,
For now I’ll count the cost,
But I’ll stand outside the barracks and make rude signs at the Joss
        And Rammit mate! I’m RDP.
I tracked polar bears in Iceland
Film stars down in Nice
Grissly bears in Canada
And snappers in the fleece
But now it’s nearly over
And there’s two days to release
          Rammit mate!  I’m RDP!
I’ve held me share of punishment
I’ve sweated in the sun
I’ve had 9’s and fines and DQ’s
But now it’s nearly done
And now some silly basket has just asked me to sign on
         But Rammit mate!  I’m RDP.
But now I’ve stood here talking really long enough
I’ve got to go to barracks mate
You see, I’ve got to pack me stuff
Perhaps I might come in again
If civvy street gets rough
But Rammit Mate!  I'm RDP!
Here’s another Navy poem that I wrote, Kye and Cake Blues.  The genre is Navy, Shep Woolley, but influence for the rhythm came from an American folk, bluegrass singer, John Hartford (you probably know of him for the song he wrote and made more famous by people like Glen Campbell, Gentle on My Mind).  I’m driving along listening to a John Hartford CD that I picked up in a music shop or car boot sale, and I’m captivated by this song, Corn Cob Blues.  I love the monotone, talking style and quirky lyrics.  I just had to write a poem like that.
2010.  Every kid who joined the Royal Australian Navy as an apprentice ‘MOBI’ remembers the winter evening ritual at HMAS Nirimba of risking encounters with senior apprentices, regulating staff and cranky cooks to reach the galley and get a kye issue in winter - hot cup of chocolate and  a piece of cake.  Like salmon in a mountain stream, success was not always a certainty.

Kye and Cake Blues

Now the cook stood guard at the galley door
Only picked up his hook two weeks before
The poster swivels on a government stool
And ships him out to Mobi school
The cook did Nam and believes in fate
But he’s never guarded kye and Madeira cake.
The first term sprogs grow bold in a week
They crawl on their knees through a muddy creek
The cook he snuffles at the air that stunk
And they blame dry cleaning that their battledress shrunk
So he studies the drain like a greasy lake
And ponders on kye and Madeira cake.
The seniors listen for the scran hall squeal
And they play another hand of mah-jong deal
The Reg Chief’s asleep by nine o’clock
Lurking in the shadows near the dhoby block
And everybody thinks how do they make
Cocoa kye and Madeira cake.
Well the fog rolls in and the cook he sneers
At a scran-bag birdie with his beret on his ears
He’s been back classed and looks corrupt
With his fingers all made from Bakelite cups
Still the birdie hopes the cook’s his mate
Or he gets no kye and Madeira cake.
Now a chippy with a pannikin excites concern
It’s twice as round as the cookhouse urn
The sprogs get to thinking it ain’t their night
And they jostle each other and start to fight
The cook wonders why his life’s at stake
Doling out kye and Madeira cake.
A fat kid’s ribbed when he turns up cute
Dressed in his slippers and a sleeping suit
His mother he knows doesn’t quite understand
And she wants him to play in the Mobi band
Night dress code you never can break
If you wanna get kye and Madeira cake.
The mob’s in a mood and the mood is hate
The cook stands up on an old milk crate
And he thinks he heard something said
About an O.D. chef and a mullet head
There’s only so long he can make them wait
For cocoa kye and Madeira cake.
Well the cook has a rage his face is red
And he orders all the Mobis off to bed
The seniors fume they were messed about
And they badger the sprogs well after lights out
The Reg staff plan for the next intake
As they clean up kye and Madeira cake.
                                                                J. O. White

Bakelite cup -   standard issue cup made of tough plastic.  Apprentices were given a cup as part of their kit.
Battle-dress -   clothing issued for wearing at night in winter (night dress). It consisted of heavy woolen black trousers and a waist jacket that could be buttoned to the trousers.  The jacket had two breast pockets and red Australia flashes on the shoulders.
Beret - naval apprentices wore a dark blue beret with a blue metal badge -  single anchor in a rope circle topped with the Queen’s crown.
Birdie - anybody belonging to the fleet air arm branch  -  aircraft apprentice.
Chippie  -  a shipwright.
Dhoby  -  to wash; dhoby block, bathroom.
Hook  - single anchor denoting the rank of Leading Seaman; picked up his hook -  got promoted to Leading Seaman.
Kye  -  a hot drink made from thick blocks of dark chocolate .
Mobi  -  name given to naval apprentices training in HMAS Nirimba  - used as an acronym for ‘Most Objectionable Bastards Imaginable’.
Mobi school - HMAS Nirimba  located at Quakers Hill, Sydney was the RAN’s apprentice training establishment from 1956 to 1988.
Mullet head  -  derogatory term for anybody of the seaman branch.
Nam - Viet Nam -  the Viet Nam war.
O.D.  -  derogatory term for anybody who is raw, inexperienced.
Poster  -  the person responsible for transferring personnel between ships and  establishments.
Reg chief / staff  -  regulating chief and staff responsible for administration.
Scran  -  food served up in naval ships and establishments  -  used as an acronym for ‘Shit Cooked by the Royal Australian Navy’.
Scran-bag  -  untidy.
Sprog  -  any apprentice in a lower term than oneself.



  1. Typo, "I’ve had 9’s and fines and D2’s" should be "I’ve had 9’s and fines and DQ’s" there is no such thing as D2's... but there are DQ's....Detention Quarters.

  2. I know I have been there

  3. Thanks, you are absolutely right - makes sense.

  4. Ha Ha, so good it brought back many memories.

  5. Googled RDP and came to your Blog "BZ" enjoyed the shep wooly song, he was my instructor for a small arms course at Excellent ;-)
    Ex RN Matelot ;-)

  6. Googled RDP and came to your Blog "BZ" enjoyed the shep wooly song, he was my instructor for a small arms course at Excellent ;-)
    Ex RN Matelot ;-)

  7. Hi Joe,I was in the same Intake as you,I have started a page on Facebook HMAS Nirimba January 1969 Intake ,You might find some old familiar faces.I saw your ditty on Nirimba and pasted it before I realised who you were,anyway Cheers Mate hope you are well and hope to see you on our site
    Ray Rodgers ��

  8. Hi Ray - I remember you well from those Nirimba days. I'm still actively working - too busy to attend to my blog. Now that I know, I will certainly check your facebook page. Thanks for remembering and making contact.