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44 NAVY NEWS, JANUARY 2010
● The second TS Warspite, formerly HMS Conqueror ● The third TS Warspite, former cruiser HMS Hermione ● The third TS Warspite dressed overall
Spirit of Warspite lives on
SEA Cadets are familiar
with the concept of training
ships – each unit, after all,
is identified by its location
and by the name of its TS.
The TS prefix harks back
to the days of the ‘wooden
walls’, when the hulls of worn-
out warships were moored
in sheltered waters, harbours
and rivers, to provide floating
schools for boys.
And although the Marine
Society, parent organisation
of the Sea Cadets, ran such
establishments as long ago as the
18th century, there are still those
who form a living link with the era
of training ships.
The Marine Society was ship at permanent moorings off
The end of the line for Training
established in 1756 to support Greenhithe on the Thames.
Ship Warspite came in 1940;
the Royal Navy and the merchant Wear and tear meant that the
the old cruiser was moored in
fleet by training destitute young old ship had to be replaced in
a danger zone so she had to be
boys for a career at sea. the mid-1870s by the converted
abandoned.
That requirement continued steam-powered two-decker
She lay idle for a year, then was
well into the 19th Century, and Conqueror, formerly the 120-
broken up to help the war effort.
in 1856 the Society established gun HMS Waterloo, which was
So Warspite still exists in living
a school in the former 3rd Rate renamed Warspite in 1876.
memory – and a group of former
HMS Warspite, built at Chatham That ship was destroyed by
students met up as recently as last
in 1807 as a 74-gun ship. fire in 1918 and the school was
summer to reminisce.
In 1840 she was refitted as re-established in an old Astraea-
Philip Okill, aged 88 (Warspite
a 4th rate 50-gun frigate, and class cruiser Hermione, renamed
1936-37), Brian Clowes, aged 94
within a couple of decades she Warspite in 1922 – which was
(1931-32), Joe Ashbolt, aged 85
● A closer look at the third TS Warspite on the Thames off Greenhithe
had been turned into a training moored off Grays in Essex.
(1940) and Lt Cdr Douglas Clark,
aged 89 (1935-36), with family
and set themselves up as seamen. reputation of being for orphans were not a problem,” said Philip.
and friends, travelled to London
Warspite could support around (officer cadets were trained on the “I was lucky enough to hit the
to enjoy one of the famous HQS
300 boys at any one time, each Worcester, also on the Thames). ship’s bully hard enough in the
Wellington curry lunches.
having signed an indenture which Young Philip and his colleagues boxing ring to wind him and he
Although it was thought it might
essentially handed them over to
were turfed out of their hammocks never afterwards picked on me
be the last such get-together, their
the care of the charity and saw
every morning at 5.30am for a while it made me popular with the
time in Warspite obviously did
them committed to joining one of
cold shower, and could take little other boys.
them no harm as the quartet were
the maritime services.
comfort from breakfast (or any “Of course, we were all in
of the opinion ‘never say never’.
Fundraising was mainly in
other meal, for that matter). uniform and all lived under the
The men would have recalled
the form of annual dinners and
Philip described the food as same regime, so there were no
the sparse regime on board such
inspections, usually held at the
“adequate, but monotonous” and differences.
training ships, as well as the
Greenwich tavern, to which in
recalled one of the hazards of “This produced good
mix of backgrounds of the boys
1862 interested parties paid a
working with one of the ship’s cooks, camaraderie and we learned to
themselves.
guinea for admission.
who was considered eccentric. stand up for ourselves and while
Warspite Boys may have been
Between 1862 and 1907 the
“If one was assigned duty to things were tough, there was never
sash-line makers or rope spinners,
Marine Society contributed 3,689
help in the galley one had to be any cruelty and for the most part
French polishers, butchers’ errand
boys to the Royal Navy and 9,928
aware of his frequent outbursts everyone was very decent.”
boys, maybe even hawkers’s
to the merchant service.
of temper which might result in a The name Warspite still lives on
assistants.
A typical daily routine for a
large pot of soup being hurled to in the Sea Cadet Corps today.
Some came to Warspite from
Warspite Boy would begin at
the deck, only to be cleaned up by Besides the training ship of
schools, and a few had been
5.30am, and the day would be split
the cook’s boy.” Newton-le-Willows unit, the
apprenticed, but if they had a
between traditional schoolwork
Activities for the boys included Marine Society continues to fund
● (Above) TS Warspite’s drum and fi fe band pictured around1900 –
trade they were only loosely
and seamanship, the emphasis in
notice the bare feet, a common situation at the time
swimming, boxing, cross-country a mini Warspite at the London
connected with it.
the latter being on keeping the
running and boat-work (Warspite Nautical College, and pays the
The Marine Society offered
ship clean and the boys fit.
teams were regular participants in running costs for a boat used by
● (Below) Former Warspite Boys gather on board HMS Lord Nelson
them the chance to learn a trade
They enjoyed a half-holiday on
in Constantinople in 1919 Friday afternoons, but Saturday
local regattas), while there were pupils and Sea Cadets alike.
was generally spent scrubbing
plenty of parades and inspections. It is based at the Sea Cadet boat
the whole ship, while drill was
And apart from nautical skills, station at Royal Victoria Docks,
practised every Tuesday and
which included knots and splices close to the ExCeL centre, though
Wednesday.
and basic navigation techniques, the craft belongs to the school.
A church service was observed
the general education provided This Warspite is useful in a
every Sunday morning.
was up to matriculation standard. number of roles; she was race
On arrival at Warspite every
Life on board was tough but not control boat for the London Youth
boy received an outfit of two blue
unpleasant, in Mr Okill’s eyes. Games, is used for adult instructor
serge jerkins, a guernsey, two pairs
“I got on well with the other lads courses and as a tug and general
of trousers, cotton shirts, worsted
and our dissimilar backgrounds support boat during training.
socks, boots, a silk handkerchief,
three caps, and a towel, all of
which was stowed in a painted
canvas sack.
They also got a hammock,
toothbrush, clothes brush and
mending materials to keep their
kit neat and tidy.
The only real qualification for
entry was to be of good character
(especially honest), and after six
months training they could be
discharged for service at any time.
Some were sent to cookery
school at the London School of
Nautical Cookery.
Even in its final years life in
Warspite was spartan.
Philip Okill chose to leave school
and join Warspite, not knowing
that the training ship had the
● Warspite Boys training on the deck of their ship around 1900
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