Put another way, ask a navy man whether he would rather be on terra firma or at sea and there is little doubt as to what his answer would be.  We could change the probability of the answer by stating that the sea appointment is in the Far East and that we are a private ship with no exercises ahead, but lots of jollies to come and the alternative is cold, dark, damp winter UK in some far away base in heathen Scotland. We could also say that the ship we intend for you is old, overcrowded, cold wet and smelly but the onshore offer is brand new although we cannot as yet vouch for its comfort, other than it will not be overcrowded. OK then, let's do just that, ask the question above in the graphic with the latter parameters as the criteria.

Answer:  pretty obvious !

Putting 'meat on the bones', the ship is HMS Impregnable anchored in the Homoaze in Devonport, and the shore establishment is the RNTE [Royal Naval Training Establishment at Shotley Gate, Suffolk:  the year is 1905. RNTE Shotley later became known as HMS Ganges.

But, remember that you are a navy man {or in this case a navy boy} and YOU WILL NOT GET THE CHOICE.

So,  some of you will go to RNTE Shotley and some to HMS Impregnable but who ?

Well of course history has already given us the answer but most of you will only know part of the answer which is that generally, the boys who were afloat off Shotley came ashore into the brand new RNTE, and the status quo was maintained in the West Country for other boys. 

The story of the RNTE/HMS Ganges is now part of naval folk law, and the West Country boys eventually became a part of it, so we are not going to talk about them,  but about why some boys were trained afloat [post 1905] in an old redundant hulk whose name had been HMS Howe, changed to HMS Impregnable 1885-1911 and to HMS Impregnable II 1911-1919.

It was common practice to have a group of old afloat hulks chained or moored together interconnected by gangways, to form A ship or AN Establishment and a classic case of this was HMS Vernon, a multi-ship training establishment.  Impregnable was really no different with HMS Inconstant becoming the second Impregnable II  relieved by HMS Andromeda as the third;  HMS Black Prince became Impregnable III; HMS Ganges became Impregnable IV followed in 1922 by HMS Caroline - there of course together.  As HMS Ganges {Shotley RNTE} trained all types of HO's during WW2, HMS Impregnable trained only Communicator HO's.  It closed in 1948.

With very few differences, HMS Ganges took boys to train as SEAMEN and as VISUAL SIGNALLING ratings only,  from 1905 to 1913.  Boys for training as WIRELESS TELEGRAPHIST went to HMS Impregnable

There was a rationale for doing this.  HMS Vernon trained officers and ratings [but not boys] in Wireless Telegraphy and HMS Impregnable trained mature ratings and boys in Wireless Telegraphy. HMS Vernon was the official experimental establishment for Wireless Telegraphy trials and experiments, while down in Devonport, as the Captain of HMS Defiance moored not too far distant from HMS Impregnable,  was Captain Jackson R.N., a founder father of the Wireless Telegraphy Branch who went on to be an Admiral of the Fleet and was in overall charge of the navy at the time of Jutland.  He carried out many innovative experiments on the quarter deck of his ship, and was known to solve problems considered unsolvable by HMS Vernon.

The Wireless Telegraphy Branch is just 100 years old.  It was formed because captains and admirals were frustrated by having part time amateurs manning radio installations  with the resultant embarrassments caused by much misunderstanding of orders, both tactically and strategically, making a farce of fleet manoeuvres.  This most interesting file tells one of the embryonic details. 1906 two.pdf and this one, tells the Fleet of the new Branch 1907 one.pdf [look at page 2 and the third paragraph starting "A new Branch..."].

Being desperate for Telegraphists at the start, any sailor could transfer into the Branch, including Visual Signallers.  When the Branch was up to strength those transfers were stopped - see 1913 ORDERS AFFECTING WIRELESS TELEGRAPHY.pdf [look at page 2, 1912, under entry 641 N13918] but also at the other entries if you have time because they are historically interesting.

Anyway, back to our boys. How they were recruited is of the great possible interest.

W/T Operators - Entry and Training of W/T operators into the Royal Navy.
Operators will be entered as boys and this will be an Average Telegraphists Career.
Boys between the ages of 15¾ and 16¼ will join their training ship - HMS Impregnable - as follows.


There were several boys training ships, Ganges and Impregnable already mentioned, but others of fame included the Lion and the Formidable.

Half the boys would come from Post Office sources and the other half from boys who, assuming they had been diligent scholars, had been left school for nearly two years and had had some form of meaningful employment.  Boys in my time came straight from school when aged 15¼. 11 months training and Boy 1st class after 6 months. Boys go to sea having been examined in Morse at speeds from 15 to 20 wpm as Boy Telegraphists for 7d per day [2.92p]. Failure at these speeds meant reversion to Boy or to Signal Boy. At 18 advanced to Ordinary Telegraphist @ 1s 3d [6.25p].  After 6 months at sea examined for AB [Able] Telegraphist.  When a TM [trained man = able bodied, an age qualification of 18½] advanced to AB Telegraphist, pay, 1s 1d [9.17p]. Failures in the exam for AB set the man back several months before retakes. Qualification for Leading Telegraphist was 25 wpm [of interest we left HMS Ganges at aged 16 with that same qualification]. Could be rated Acting Ldg. Tel by C-in-C if two years sea time. HMS Vernon and the ratings Depot [drafting authority; many of them at that time] maintained list for confirmation as a full Ldg. Tel.  Pay, acting or confirmed, 2s 1d [10.42p], 2s 3d [11.25p] after 3 years, 2s 5d [12.08p] after 6 years service. Two years sea service as Ldg.Tel or Acting Ldg.Tel and having passed the Naval Educational Test, opened the door to HMS Vernon and the 80-day Petty Officer [PO] Telegraphist course/examination. Ldg. Tel with 3 years experience and a pass in the PO. Tels course was rated by their Depot, but a C-in-C could rate Acting PO.Tels on a station or into his Fleet. Pay, 3s 6d [17.5p] on rating, 3s 9d [18.75p] after 3 and [20p] after 6 years service.
3 courses per year for PO.Tel.  Mandatory re-qualification exams for PO.Tel to be conducted not later than every four years after qualifying.
Chief Petty Officer [CPO].Tel after 4 years at sea as PO.Tel. Pay 4s 4d [21.7p] on rating, 4s 8d [23.3p] after 3 and 5s [25p] after 6 years.
PO.Tel with C.W. Papers raised [Commissioned and Warrant Officer] for potential promotion after 1 year service in that rate, underwent a course lasting 110 days for Warrant Officer [WO] Telegraphist at HMS Vernon.  1 course per year with a maximum of six students. Examination should be STRICT.  "The object of a Warrant Officer is to obtain the brains of the Branch.  It should not be possible for a man of only average brains to rise to the rank of Warrant Officer.
Promotion to the Warrant Rank by Admiralty when names come to the top of the list.  One years Acting time before confirmation.  Two Lieutenants Commissions to be open to the WO.Tel. 
W/T operators are not electricians, but when not in the W/T office they should be employed with electrical parties.

By 1913, Boy Telegraphist training had stopped in Impregnable and had shifted to HMS Ganges at Shotley Gate.

Therefore, however argued,  BOY TELEGRAPHISTS were, as far as boys training is concerned, the last group to be trained afloat, with seamen and flag-waggers inboard eight years before their [Communications Branch] JUNIOR PARTNER.

No one really knew that WW1 would start in 1914 and so the Admiralty were not making plans for it when shifting Impregnable boys to Ganges.  There is no recorded reason as to why the shift, so in the absence of such a document I will offer my own reason.

Its is simple really.  Communicators have always been the "cream" of the lower deck, Telegraphists more so than Signalmen, so it was Their Lordships intention to bring some QUALITY,  some FINESSE,  to Shotley to shore-up a flagging lack lustre performance, the difference I would say [comparing Tel's with Sig's and Seamen] as comparing the Royal Marines Band with the Ganges Bluejacket Band !

One can get anyway with anything when one owns ones own website.

However if you know different for OTHER BRANCHES, then remember this is relevant to seamen, W/T and V/S boys. Older Branches, like Stokers for example who were in the fleet by 1860 manning the stoke-holes of the Ironclads [HMS Warrior for example] there is good reason to believe that their boys [or youngsters] did on-job training afloat.