First off, you may be somewhat surprised at the sub title above, and few ex Ganges boys are aware that in addition to the obvious NAVAL definition of HMS Ganges being a BTE [Boys Training Establishment], from 1st September 1951 onwards, Ganges was officially certified as an Establishment [today, in 2009, a College] of Further Education.  With that newly acquired knowledge, you should be either altering your CV, or your memoirs {even your autobiography} or all, to record for posterity this undeniable fact.

But wait !  The Inspection was conducted in Ganges in mid-June 1952 and the Certificate of Efficiency as an Establishment of Further Education was issued and back dated to 1st September 1951. This means that any Ganges boy who had joined and who had left boys training before mid-1952 had left formal education when aged 15, assuming of course that the school leaving age was 15 at his time of leaving.  Those who joined mid-1952 and thereafter straight from school, and were let's say communications boys staying at Ganges for 15 months, left formal education when aged 16½. Note, that the minimum age for joining was 15¼ at this time, so technically there was a break of three months between school proper and Ganges . This statistic takes no account of interim periods and joining-data of those who joined before mid-1952 i.e., those who were already at Ganges when the official recognition was given by the Ministry of Education. If this displeases you, and well it might, retrospective accounting is necessary if you were at Ganges between September 1951 and June 1952.

Confusing ? Not, not really, but if you are {confused} then this newly phrased sub title might help


I came across the following paper when researching the records trying to ascertain the numbers of Ganges boys who opted out of the navy at their first break-point, some after 12 years, most after 7 years [all measured from their 18th birthday] so respectively when aged 30 and 25 years of age, whilst others bought their freedom or were invalided out. The figures are not reliable or conclusive although they point to the fact that only a small amount of Ganges boys [perhaps 25% or so] made it to career naval pensions.  I repeat a joke I overheard that there are more man-years spent in the police and fire brigade forces in the Ganges Association than there are naval-years, and there are many ex Ganges boys drawing other than armed forces pensions, some with both. Their leaving the navy "prematurely" added to the massive attrition rate problem the navy fought with for many years, fuelling their desire to fill Training Establishments with as many new recruits as possible.  The rationale, certainly in Ganges, was 'quantity' rather than 'quality' and the modus operandi was geared towards "conveyor belt" fodder for the fleet.

As the post WW2 years dragged on, with all the privations manifest in a bankrupted economy necessarily "wasted" to secure our survival, man power became an ever increasing problem.  Whilst opportunities were being created and better wages offered, there were still more jobs on offer than man power available:  many will remember the early 1950 immigrants brought in to drive our buses etc.  This shortfall impacted upon the navy and depleted them of would-be recruits.

In the period 1945-1950, war per se and the armed forces in particular, were to be avoided like the plague. Those who had served were popular and of course national heroes, but few would consider a career in the post war forces.  Moreover, there was a taboo on boys joining as seamen which was shared by parents as well as by Educationalists.  Apprenticeships were in high demand and that is where ones son should start his adult life.  For this reason, boy intakes to HMS Fisgard for artificer training was never a problem to the Admiralty.  Sadly, this way of thinking covered the family norms [happy home with two loving parents] but it didn't cover orphanages, maritime boys' schools or unhappy homes with one parent, usually just a mother at home. Such boys were ideal candidates for BTE's.

By 1950, the navy were struggling to attract recruits, boys in particular. Ganges was not known as being a place for educating a boy other than into the skills and procedures required by a fighting service. Sending a boy there was viewed as counterproductive to the boys future by the general public and Ganges had to change that image at all cost.

So, in 1950 the navy set about getting the Ministry of Education to give it the credibility needed to convince parents and schools that by going to Ganges, a boys scholastic education would be continued, in addition to acquiring  a naval education.  This file/minute from the Director of Naval Recruiting states the case well!


Ganges involves the Schools.pdf

In the above file note page 1 [the minute] second minute sub para 3 where the navy thinks it a good idea to get the Ministry of Education to recognise Ganges and St Vincent.  Use the pdf zoomer to read the third minute with ease. The Director of Naval Education states that it was necessary for the R.M. School of Music to get the "blessing" of the Ministry of Education, but that it isn't required for Ganges or St Vincent until the school leaving age is raised to 16 which was as far away as 1972 [a staggering 22 years hence].  He continues to say that if an Inspection now helps recruitment, then he would give it his backing. It is rather sad that my page 3 has been spoiled over the years.  Nevertheless, most of it is still legible.  It is worth the struggle to read what is left of the letter because it is very interesting. Paragraph 3 is amazing because it is saying that from the boy seaman recruit, one third fail education/intelligence tests, one third the medical and only one third are accepted. Paragraph 4b is important.  In paragraph 4c, the last four lines read "....talks but if they were allowed to show films, benefits might accrue. It may be unscientific but a boy is attracted to the Forces by the glamour of the uniform and/or by the adventure offered.  In my opinion a woman, and specifically when....." Now move on to the next page which is not defaced. Clearly he doesn't like the idea of any woman advising boys about a career in the Forces.  Paragraphs 4d and 4e herald good things yet to come from civilian education authorities.  On the final page, note in particular the steep decline in numbers of applicants starting as a relative high with the euphoria of the recent war, ever lower as civilian opportunities become more attractive.

This liaison led to the full involvement of the Ministry of Education.

Ganges was Inspected first [report to follow] with St Vincent second in October 1952 - click below



It could be the case that Ganges were so keen to get the Inspection started that they overlooked  to officially apply for it.

Application not received.pdf

Ganges applies to the Admiralty, Admiralty returns the Syllabi and then applies to the Ministry of Education.

Application from the Admiralty for the Inspection.pdf
Criteria for Grading Qualification.pdf

Definition of Criteria.pdf

An all male Inspection Team ! Dates and Times

Pre Inspection Admin and Syllabuses.pdf

[File below is scanned into two parts for ease of handling - this one covers Pages 1 to 15]

Inspection Report my Part One.pdf [start to page 15]

Inspection Report my Part Two.pdf  [page 16 to finish]

 Number of Schoolies in Ganges and St Vincent.pdf

In part two above, if you look at Inspection pages 24 and 25, perhaps for the first times in your life you will see the total number of hours you spent doing, probably, what you hated most in life. For me [page 25 as a communicator] spending 50 x 50 minutes = 2500 minutes = 42 hours on Kits is mind blowing. Spending 522 hours [22 days] doesn't sound much after 15 months in that "Belson" for W/T communication training !   Total school hours are shown on Inspection page 24.

When the Ministry of Education Report arrived,  the navy were quite pleased, because notwithstanding what follows, they got what they wanted [and back dated], namely the stamp of efficiency which in effect gave them an official SECONDARY MODERN SCHOOL status which all in civilian life associated with.  From that, the bias against BTE's  was neutralised;  the stigma's of low academic attainments were lifted, and the criteria for Boy entrants to the Royal Navy became credible.

The overriding comment from all was that the report was too "civilian orientated" and too idealistic, suggesting improvements which the Admiralty would [or could] not fund.  Short Service Commission Instructor Officer were stimulated by a new appointment at least every two years and rating instructors were rotated also within two year cycles to balance their service career with a fair sea-shore ration and the opportunities for roster promotions.  Returning regularly to HMS Ganges was a better alternative than staying there for an extended period if they were "ideal" boys' instructors.

Comments regarding the fabric of the Establishment would be referred to the Admiralty but there was little hope that money would be forthcoming.  After all, there were many known sub standard buildings in UK schools, including grammar schools, and these, albeit undesirable,  were tolerated by local authorities: why then would the Admiralty want to spend money when bullets were much more important ?

The CMG [Central Main Galley] opened in June 1952,  had only been operational for a couple of weeks when the Inspection was carried out. It attracted much adverse criticism [unfairly in this case] and subsequent to this Inspection Report, the naval work study group  were called in to work-out satisfactory procedures to feed, on average, 1800 boys [and ships company junior rates] several times a day.

In the file below is the coveted certificate of efficiency which Ganges would have wall-hung !

The Director of Naval Education Service wonders whether permanent civilian school masters might be better than short term appointment Instructor Officers:  Sandhurst, Cranwell and Dartmouth benefit by having such masters.  Although he considered his officers comparable [and superior] to civilian teachers, if such a change benefited the boys he would not stand in the way of progress.

The overall answer is mildly interesting.  However, for W/T Boys  have a look at Ganges' Report paras 15 and 16. It tells of the increased speed for Morse typing from 22 WPM to 25 WPM, a speed I qualified at.

Ganges answer to the Inspection.pdf

A touch of humour ? Since we are dealing with 'education' have a look at page 2 of the file below.

Admiraltys thank you letter to Ministry of Education.pdf

HMS St Vincent gets her recognition as being an Establishment of further education

St Vincent gets her recognition.pdf with a little potted history attached A few words about HMS St Vincent.pdf

The Ministry of Education inspected both Ganges and St Vincent but with different teams of Inspectors.  The report on Ganges mentioned that the Captain was a super guy [my words] etc etc and so was his executive officer.  Neither Ganges, C-in-C Nore nor the Admiralty commented upon those officer appraisals.  However, in the file below, from St Vincent, in his paragraph 3, the Captain complains that he too has been written up as a super guy [my words]. What followed was really unbelievable.

St Vincents acknowledgement of receipt of Recognition.pdf

The Second Sea Lord picks this up and does "a wall of death" angry that these civilians had commented upon a naval officer in a public document for all to see, when officer reports should always be confidential and should never be seen by officers junior in rank to them.

Second Sea Lords Minute of 29.6.1953.pdf

His minute [directive] resulted in over 20 letters [and many minutes] being written to the Ministry of Education on the powers of the Ministry Inspectors when in a naval establishment, and all this, if you remember, after the navy had invited the inspectors to do a "full and thorough" search.  The writing of comments on senior members of staff [usually headmasters or form masters] when conducting an inspection, was written into the terms of reference for the Inspectors.

God alone knows what might have happened if the Captain had been a duffer ?

Then again, I cannot believe that adverse comments would be in anything except a confidential report !

Since the severe shortages of boys as recruits would have also affected the army and the air force, I decided to have a quick look at the other Forces to see how they coped with getting their share.  The RAF were obviously happy with their lot and continued without initiating any form of enquiry, least ways, not in the 1950's. The army went down a different route and in-house, set up its own Committee. You already know some of this, but by no means all, that the army have trades [just like boys in HMS Fisgard] and therefore they offer 'desirable careers' and moreover, implicitly have the the certificate of approval as a College of Further Education !  Matelot's are thick but not so Tommies ? The army [and also the RAF to a large degree] pay their men {boys} less but add trade pay, so that the net effect brings them into line with RN  non-tradesmen pay, which covers a vast part of the navy. A cook in the army is a tradesman !

This is the front cover of the War Office document

Click to enlarge

and this is an indication as to how the army organised its boys

Click to enlarge

There is no equivalent in the Royal Navy to items 1 to 7, but items 8 to 11 are directly comparable to all naval BTE's. This file explains the difference between the two types of Boys Training Army Definitions of Boys Training.pdf

Finally I have selected a few of the comments made by the Committee.  One was that each squadron [equivalent to our Divisions though fewer in number] should have its own rest/quiet room which should be warm and cosy - ARE YOU LISTENING HMS GANGES ?

Snippets from the War Office Committee Report on Boys.pdf

Judge for yourselves on these snippets, although I think that Ganges could have been more 'civilized' had some of these recommendations been applied at Shotley.

More stories soon.