This is page FOURTEEN

The training ships had originally been placed in ports/harbours where it was expected that moderate to large amount of boys would come rushing in begging for a place in the ship.  Whilst it was said that the navy attracted more men than did the army, and boys {the army did not recruit boys at this time}, the rush was hardly frenetic and at times darn right disappointing. These training ships [as we are about to see] were very expensive to run and maintain and it was as important to have a return on the expenditure as it was to have boys trained and available for the Fleet. An enthusiastic boy in the Scottish highlands might get to see a reservist at a Coastguard Station but he was less likely to travel down to the south coast of England to actually join the service. Lessons were learned, some obvious and some less so, and here I point to two extremes which caused much discussion. The training ship Boscawen, a small vessel, had been placed in Southampton.  Whilst it did receive recruits from the western parts of Hampshire and the eastern parts of Dorset, it was a poor geographical choice given that Southampton was one of our premier commercial ports, and shipping companies were far better recruiters simply because they wanted seamen and the money was available to pay them. It made much more sense to move it West, and this they did: they moved it to Portland. It caused a major outcry both locally in Southampton and in Parliament.  Those who were complaining were not angry that they had lost Admiralty business [although some must have supplied stores and victuals for the boys] but angry that the Admiralty had not provided a new ship for Portland enhancing recruitment.  In the event, the ship at Portland was a great success whilst training was done on hulks, and the Boscawen was relieved by a much larger ship [HMS Trafalgar].  Trafalgar was renamed Boscawen and later on she was joined by a Boscawen II and a III. HMS Ganges was sent to St Just Pool at Roselands near Falmouth.  Cornwall has a small population compared to many other parts of England and that reflected on the number of boys in those western parts who wanted to join the navy. At first, we see that the numbers were buoyant, but eventually they declined.  One of the reasons appears to be that education levels were poor and boys failed in their droves to pass the necessary entrance exam, and also, probably something to do with the tin in the mines and earth and the unnaturally high level of nuclear radiation found in some parts of Cornwall, many failed their medical examination. 'News travels fast' in backwaters and within local isolated communities and it was no secret that life was not exactly 'sweet' aboard this old hulk [built 1821] and woe betide those who got too close. Here in remote Cornwall, unlike the Hampshire people of Southampton, the local community economy would be damaged were the Ganges to be relocated, and moreover, the very presence of the navy in their waters added much to the liveliness of a hitherto quiet and dull place. Why was it not possible to keep Ganges where she had been for over thirty years and commission another hulk in Harwich, the sometimes rumoured  alternative venue. The Admiralty's argument was that the Harwich areas [not Harwich itself]  had a greater population than did Falmouth, and that being accessible to London and to the Chatham areas would bring advantages not readily available in the West country.  The training facilities per se at Devonport, but in particular those for boys, were, by comparison to St Just Pool, hugely superior and the largest in England which helped to keep the dockyard busy.  Here was an opportunity to increase the work load of the Sheerness yard. The Admiralty's apparent meanness of purse leading to the planned relocation, could have been given a better PR job had they bothered to tell the truth and reveal the naval financial estimates - the money the navy would have to spend to keep it viable and efficient - into the public domain. Instead, they prevaricated, and mislead the navy, the nation, but most of all, the local Cornishmen in the greater Falmouth areas. That Ganges was relocated is a fact of history, but given its incredibly short time in Harwich before its glory was snatched by bricks and mortar ashore, no lasting or true comparison can be ascertained or be made with Ganges in St Just Pool vis-a-vis Ganges at Harwich. As a ship [a hulk] Harwich scores low and St Just Pool a near 100%, and the legend we have adopted and then encouraged, belongs almost totally to the end of the Shotley peninsular, specifically to Shotley Gate, and to HMS Ganges the terra firma establishment. Incidentally this was not first called RNTE Shotley as is often said, but HMTE Shotley meaning His Majesty's Training Establishment.  It therefore has nothing whatsoever to do with ships [hulks] or the sea, except that from the grounds of the establishment one can see the sea.  If the sea has anything to do with it, and by that I mean a Ganges afloat as opposed to the Ganges ashore which we are all au fait with, look again above to Phase Four when we see the original 1821 hulk of Ganges taking part [as an integral unit of HMS Impregnable - Impregnable III] in the final scene of training boys in training ships.  I wonder how many of those 400 boys said their goodbyes to HMS IMPREGNABLE III and not merely to the HMS Impregnable as an entity? As a name, if nothing else, it is so sad to imagine her last night in a late November near winter evening, when all is quiet, cold and miserable, she watches the thousands of ghosts who have cried, laughed, sweated over her spacious decks and holds. That she left St Just Pool to bolster recruiting figures in an area of so called 'richer pickings' is a myth and a front for the real reason which was money. The nearby old naval base of Mylor which had a makeshift hospital for the boys built into the loft of an old boat shed needed to be replaced, and it, plus other 'need to be fixed item' was to cost the Admiralty £20,000.  That Cornish recruiting figures had dropped to on average just 30 recruits per year and that the vast majority of her boys were from the east of England, Scotland and Ireland is true as I will show you, and equally that as a ratio there were more sick boys in the Ganges than in any other comparable training ship is not in doubt, the prime motivating reasons was to save money.

Other training ships and their venues were affected in adverse ways. HMS St Vincent, based in Portsmouth harbour trained boys before HMS Ganges at St Just Pool did, from 1862 onwards. It came as a great shock when she was closed down and all her boys were transferred to Shotley Barracks not long after it opened in 1905. HMS Caledonia went to Rosyth in 1896 but ten short years later she had gone. The Boscawen also had left Portland and was for a short time was at Harwich - she closed in 1906. The Irish had long argued that they should have a training ship in Queenstown, Cork, near to which the navy had had a naval dockyard for many a long year.  The navy capitulated and gave them HMS Black Prince in 1896, which, renamed the Emerald, lasted for only fourteen years closing in 1910. Britannia was at Dartmouth training officer cadets.  Other training ships were mooted and then cancelled.

Next page is FIFTEEN

- 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17