“Worcester” – the Incorporated Thames Nautical Training College

New CrestAfter school at Ovingdean Hall, Reggie joined the ‘Worcester’ – officially called the Incorporated Thames Nautical Training College, HMS Worcester (ITNC) and affectionately by the cadets as “the Ship”, which was a training academy for young officer cadets bound for the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy.

The training academy was situated on board the former warship named HMS Worcester, hence the name of the academy, which was moored on the River Thames at Greenhithe, just east of London, between Dartford and Gravesend. It was the second of three ships of that name to house the college so is often referred to as Worcester II in pictures of the vessel.

There are two photos of Reggie in the uniform of ‘Worcester’ but only one is dated – 1897. Reggie would have been fourteen at the time.

GTG photo album - p.27

There are a number of excellent photos and paintings of the ‘Worcester’ and the cadets around the time that Reggie would have been there on the excellent website http://www.hms-worcester.me.uk:

‘Worcester’ Rugby Team – circa 1880-1892
Cadets on Deck

The academy had been founded in 1862 by a group of London shipowners, marine insurance underwriters and merchants who felt the need for pre-sea training for potential officers in the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy.  The Admiralty provided the two decker, 1473 ton, 50 gun frigate HMS Worcester. The ship was located at a number of places before being moored at Greenhithe were it remained but the school did not have any permanent shore facilities there until 1920 when the Ingress Abbey estate was purchased.

‘Worcester’ started with just 18 cadets but the numbers grew rapidly and there was soon a waiting list for entry. By the mid-1870s the first Worcester was too small and in 1877 ‘Worcester I’ was replaced by the much larger ‘Worcester II’ – the two decked battleship HMS Frederick William (4,725 tons, 214 feet long,  86 guns and screw propulsion) which was renamed the HMS Worcester on arrival at Greenhithe – and which could accommodate over 150 cadets. When Reggie was there in 1897 there were 155 cadets.

The following information comes from an article appearing in Boys Own Paper of 1893:

Thames Nautical Training College, H.M.S. “Worcester”

   We give with this brief article a portrait group of the racing crew of the Worcester, which ship carried off the Challenge Cup on the Thames in 1892, and on the Mersey in 1893. Captain D. Wilson, Barker, who started as a cadet on the Worcester, is now commander of this well-known training-ship, a few particulars about which can hardly fail to interest our readers.

About five hours of the day, it seems, are devoted to schooling; the rest to technical training in all the practical duties of seamanship. The recreations and amusements of the boys have been carefully studied.  In the summer a swimming-bath is moored to the side of the ship, in which the boys are professionally taught. On the shore, at Greenhithe, a field of two and a-half acres has been secured for cricket, football, and tennis. To all these aids to muscle development must, of course, be added that of rowing, which is enjoyed ad libitum.

The boys are generally received between the ages of eleven and sixteen, and remain from two to four years, according to their position in the school on joining.   After a course of two years on board, a boy is entitled to a Board of Trade certificate, should he then be in one of the nautical classes; and a Worcester certificate is recognised by the Board of Trade as equivalent to one year’s service at sea. A great advantage that the cadets possess on leaving is the arrangement between the Secretary of State for India in Council and the committee of this training ship, whereby appointments as leadsmen apprentices in the Bengal pilot service are placed at the disposal of the latter. These appointments are very lucrative, the higher grades reaching £1,200 per annum. When accepted, a free passage to Calcutta is given to each cadet, and £20 towards an outfit. Considerable encouragement is given to Worcester boys to qualify for cadetships in the Navy.

The Queen awards a prize of a binocular glass, and the sum of £35 towards the expense of the outfit, to the fortunate young man who is nominated by the committee to the naval cadetship annually granted to the ship by the Admiralty. The conditions for this are that the boy nominated shall have been two years on board the Worcester, be of good character, and in the first class in school work, and first section in seamanship. He must, moreover, be under sixteen and a half years of age on July 15 following the competitive examination, must be able to swim, and his parents must give the usual guarantee as to outfit and private allowance. The two years served on board count as if served on H.M.S. Britannia, and an extra year is allowed for good conduct and high attainments in examinations. Again, in the Royal Naval Reserve the Admiralty annually present several midshipmen’s commissions to the Worcester cadets, on the following conditions: That each cadet is a British subject, and possesses a first-class certificate from that training-ship; that a written notification of concurrence in the appointment be given by the parents or guardians; that the candidates approved of by the committee shall be under eighteen years of age, have been two years on board, be of good health of firm and steady behaviour, smart on duty, and of good address and manners. There are three terms in the year – Lent, Easter, and Michaelmas, commencing January, May, and September – and the payments for each term are £17 10s. for cadets in the upper school, and £15 15s. for those in the lower school, a charge of ten guineas per annum being made for uniform, etc. This consists of best blue jacket, waistcoat, trousers, cap, and badge; also one pair second quality blue cloth trousers and cap, and two uniform serge shirts. Pocket-money is permitted in weekly instalments, but the introduction of wine, spirits, or tobacco on board is rigidly prohibited.

Dressed overall for Prize Day

Manning the Yards

Manning the Yards

‘Worcester’ was London’s answer to HMS Conway which was the first training ship for cadets and had been established on the River Mersey just two years previously in 1859 for Liverpool’s burgeoning merchant fleet. Throughout their history ‘Worcester’ and ‘Conway’ were fierce competitors, and the two met regularly on playing fields and in boats in keen sporting rivalry.

Overlooking the rugby fields circa 1930

‘CONWAY v WORCESTER Boat Race Challenge Shield PRESENTED by few old boys in the east 1897’

In 1867 Queen Victoria instituted a Gold Medal presented annually to the best cadet.

”    Her Majesty has also been pleased to grant for competition a gold medal. to be annually awarded to the boy who shows the qualities likely to make the finest sailor ; these consist of cheerful submission to superiors, self respect and independence of character, kindness and protection to the weak, readiness to forgive offence, and above all fearless devotion to duty .and unflinching truthfulness. The medal will be open to boys who have been one year on board the ship, and have received not less than half the total marks at the previous quarterly examination. The commander, after conferring with the headmaster, shall select not less than three or more than five of the boys whom he considers to possess the qualities for which the prize is given. He shall submit these names to the boys who have been assembled for the purpose in the school, and each boy who has been on board six months previously to the time of distribution shall then and there vote for one of the boys so selected. The boy who obtains the highest number of votes shall receive the medal…..
”    The Trinity House and the P. & O. Company each give a valuable prize every year, and there are heaps of others-many of them valuable nautical instruments.”
(source: prospectus of the Worcester quoted in The Boy’s Own Paper 1897)

The famous Admiral Togo of Japan was a Worcester cadet in 1873, graduating second in his class, and Joseph Conrad, the famous Polish-born English author and merchant mariner sent his son to ‘Worcester’ in 1911. The eponymous character in his great novel Lord Jim (first published in 1899) was trained at just such an academy:

“but Jim was one of five sons, and when after a course of light holiday literature his vocation for the sea had declared itself, he was sent at once to a ‘training-ship for officers of the mercantile marine.’
He learned there a little trigonometry and how to cross top-gallant yards. He was generally liked. He had the third place in navigation and pulled stroke in the first cutter. Having a steady head with an excellent physique, he was very smart aloft. His station was in the fore-top, and often from there he looked down, with the contempt of a man destined to shine in the midst of dangers, at the peaceful multitude of roofs cut in two by the brown tide of the stream, while scattered on the outskirts of the surrounding plain the factory chimneys rose perpendicular against a grimy sky, each slender like a pencil, and belching out smoke like a volcano. He could see the big ships departing, the broad-beamed ferries constantly on the move, the little boats floating far below his feet, with the hazy splendour of the sea in the distance, and the hope of a stirring life in the world of adventure.
On the lower deck in the babel of two hundred voices he would forget himself, and beforehand live in his mind the sea-life of light literature. He saw himself saving people from sinking ships, cutting away masts in a hurricane, swimming through a surf with a line; or as a lonely castaway, barefooted and half naked, walking on uncovered reefs in search of shellfish to stave off starvation. He confronted savages on tropical shores, quelled mutinies on the high seas, and in a small boat upon the ocean kept up the hearts of despairing men—always an example of devotion to duty, and as unflinching as a hero in a book.
…After two years of training he went to sea, and entering the regions so well known to his imagination,…”

Finally, there is an excellent account of the large number of medals and honours awarded to Reggie’s OW colleagues (‘Old Worcesters‘) during the Great War in “WORCESTER’S WENT TO WAR” by Tony Maskell OW:

Although the Armistice was signed on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the armed forces of Great Britain continued to fight in the Baltic, this time the Bolsheviks, the “wash up” after WWI, concerning honours and awards continued right up to 1921.

In that period from 1914 to 1921, ex Worcester cadets were granted many gallantry awards, starting with two Victoria Crosses to Charles Henry Cowley, and Gordon Charles Steele, who many of us remember. Captain George Parker Bevan (1894) Albert Medal (AM), DSO, CMG. Our one and only Albert Medal (quite rare). It was for the action that Captain Bevan took to save the life of a Chief Officer trapped on a burning ship alongside the wharf at Murmansk, instituted by Queen Victoria’s consort Prince Albert for saving life at sea and not often awarded.

There were 51 Distinguished Service Orders (DSO) and 52 Distinguished Service Crosses (DSC); 9 Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFC), 46 Military Crosses (MC); 3 Air Force Crosses (AFC); 5 Distinguished Service Medals (DSM); one Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and 1 Military Medal (MM); the last three awards were for the other ranks, as well as 86 Mentioned in Despatches (MiD); and 87 Foreign awards, many of these were multiple awards to a single person.

Eventually 5 of these OW’s were knighted, 3 Admirals, and two Air Chief Marshals, one of those twice!; at the other end of the spectrum a LEUT Joseph Mair (1888) won a DSM as a sailor then a DSC as an officer. Two other DSM’s were awarded to LDGSMN William Albert Bennett (1866) at the age of 68, while serving on a minesweeping trawler, the other to LDGSMN Charles Henry Holmes (1866) also 68 and under similar circumstances.

Flight Captain John William George Price (1915) DSC*, DFC* Croix de Guerre RFC deserves a mention for receiving two DSC’s and two DFC’s and the Order of Leopold, he was very active in flying over France and Belgium, being shot down on a number of times, on one occasion, landing in the Furness-Ypres canal, by the end of the war, the medical records showed he had had 32 bullets in his body over the war.

There were a number of honours – as opposed to awards for gallantry – given to OW’s in the course of WWI. These were given to men whose efforts were away from the immediate battlefield or face to face action with the enemy.

There were 8 Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (CB); 9 Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG); 17 Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) – both Military and Civilian – 4 Commander of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) – given to Indian Army and Royal Indian Marine Officers. 35 Officers of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE); and 9 Members of the Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). All that does not take into account of the Foreign decorations given by a raft of countries, France, Belgium, Italy, Russia (pre Bolshevik), Norway, Greece, Portugal, Spain, the USA and Japan. As previously mentioned these amounted to 87, mainly gazetted after Armistice Day.”




3 thoughts on ““Worcester” – the Incorporated Thames Nautical Training College

    • I am the new archivist for HMS Worcester and have recently come across your web site. I can give you all the details we hold on R H Gill together with a copy of his page in the ships register completed at the time of his entry to the ship, scholastic records and leaving certificate. This information might fill in a few gaps. best regards Martin

      • Martin,
        Fantastic news. Thank you for you getting on contact. I would love to see whatever details you have.I will send you an email separately.
        Kind regards,

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