Training ships on the River Thames
The Marine Society
The Marine Society was founded by Joseph Hanway at the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War (1756) in response to the shortage of volunteers for the Navy. As an incentive to volunteering, the Society provided the men with a complete sea uniform.
A new training ship
After the war, the Society focused its work on boys. An Act of Parliament in 1772 allowed it to apprentice poor boys to the royal and merchant services. In 1786 the Society commissioned the first pre-sea training ship in the world, the Beatty, to provide a regular supply of trained boys.
This was a small ex-merchant vessel moored off Deptford. The boys were educated while living on board. The 30 new recruits were supervized by a superintendent, mate, schoolmaster, boatswain and cook.
After several years, the Admiralty lent the Society a new vessel. In 1862, the Society was lent the first of a number of vessels named Warspite.
In 1901, Warspite was moved down the Thames to Greenhithe, ending Deptford and Woolwich's long association with the training ships.
By 1940 the Warspite could accommodate up to 200 boys each year and had trained and equipped more than 35,000 boys for the navy and almost that number for the merchant service. The Warspite was decommissioned in 1940, as it was a potential target for enemy bombers.
The Society in later years
The Society continued its work with young people, offering:
It merged with a number of other seafarers’ charities in 1976 and continues its work promoting seafaring careers today.
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