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Training ships on the River Thames

The Warspite
Thames Nautical Training College, HMS Worcester
President and Exmouth
Arethusa and Fame
Life on board 1
Life on board 2
Famous connections
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Life on board 1


Worcester training ship.
View full size imageWorcester training ship. © NMM

Boys were admitted into the Worcester from the ages of 12 to 15 and into the Warspite from 14 to 16.

The two schools had very different philosophies. The Warspite stipulated that the boys must come from a poor background, but be of good character, and that their parents must be unable to cover the cost of fitting them out for naval life.

Register of admissions into the Marine Society, 1886-99.
View full size imageRegister of admissions into the Marine Society, 1886-99. © NMM
The Worcester required an annual fee from the boys’ parents and gave preference to boys whose fathers were officers in the merchant service. However, both schools would only accept those who would go to sea at the end of their training, and both offered a similar education.


The school day

Marine Society cadets.
View full size imageMarine Society cadets in the classroom on HMS Warspite. © NMM

The cadets were given a basic education, similar to that in a normal school, but they also received lessons in:

  • seamanship
  • navigation
  • nautical astronomy
  • gunnery.

The day onboard the Worcester would begin at 6.30-7.00am with ablutions and inspection. After prayers and breakfast, general lessons would run from 9.00-12.00 and then seamanship lessons from 14.00-16.40.

Harbour logbook of  HMS 'Worcester', 1864.
View full size imageHarbour logbook of HMS Worcester, 1864. © NMM

On some evenings there would be lessons in seamanship, apart from in the summer when the boys would do swimming and games.

As the daily log of the Worcester shows, even Sundays were not rest days. On that day there was drill, divine service, prayer and bible class. The one evening off was Saturday, when lectures, sing-songs and dances, to which friends could be invited, were held.

One cadet would have to be on duty every day, from 7.00-21.00, performing the duties of officer of the watch, including keeping the log.

Sport and excercise

Cricket on the asphalt.
View full size imageCricket at the Royal Hospital School. © NMM
Apart from the twice-weekly PE lessons, there was little emphasis on sport, until the schools had gained shore bases and thus playing fields. The schools played most sports, including cricket, football, rugby, gymnastics, athletics and boxing. All boys had to learn to swim before they left.

HMS Worcester moored by playing fields.
View full size imageHMS Worcester moored by playing fields. © NMM

In addition, the cadets also learnt to row. The Worcester boys once a year, raced the cadets from the Conway, a training ship in Liverpool. This race was first rowed on 5 June 1890, with the winner receiving a shield, the TBF Davis Challenge Cup.

Challenge Shield for the 'Worcester' and 'Conway' boat race.
View full size imageChallenge Shield for the Worcester vs. Conway boat race. © NMM

The race would alternate between the Thames and the Mersey, giving the different crews home advantage.

Other training ships would also have competitions, often on their annual prize days, with crews competing between their different classes.

Find out more
StoriesThe Royal Hospital for Seamen, Greenwich: 'A Refuge for All'
The foundation of the Greenwich Hospital and the Greenwich Royal Hospital School
Related Resources
Related Images1 Images
National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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