HMS Conway - Click here to return to the menu HMS Conway 1859 - 1974

© Alfie Windsor 1998
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Staff - Headmasters

I have found reference to a Mr Brady and Mr Aklers as Headmaster but without any years being specified. There are no gaps in the appointments listed below so I have recorded their names here until I can obtain clarification. Mr Akers was a Master, but there is no other mentuion of Mr Brady.

2nd Aug1859 -30th Jun1863

Thomas DOBSON BA (1814-1885)

A Wrangler of Cambridge ie achieved a First Class Honours degree.

Previously Headmaster of Greenwich High School.

Taught navigation, maths and the use of nautical instruments.

In 1863 he moved to be Head of Hexham High School.


1st Jul 1863 - 31 Aug 1892

Charles BARTON (Bummy)

Served in th ship from 1859 to being appointed as headmaster
Mgt Committee established a two year scholarship in his name


Brief profile from 1939

1 Sep 1892 - 31 Jul 1898

Joseph Charles. LIGHT (Charlie)

Previously a Maths and Navigation master.

1 Sept 1898 - 1 Mar 1911


Extremely well regarded by the Managment Committee and by the cadets

Married 4th Jan1905 to Miss Julia Schilling in Nottingham. Presneted a range of gifts including some by individual cadets.

Son born approx Jun 1907


1 Apr 1911 - 31 July 1923


Retiured due to ill health


1 Aug 1923 - 31 Jan 1935


1899, - 1934 Dec
Taught Navigation

1923 was appointed a Senior Master.

1923 Aug appointed Headmaster

Joined as an Assistant Master in 1898

Gave 35 years service to the ship.

Also taught the Navy Class.

He trained at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich and then trained some 3,000 cadets before retiring to a "well earned rest".

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Obituary 1941

1 Feb 1935 - 31 Aug 1939

Thomas Ethelred Wilby BROWNE MA MSc. (Spitfire, Tom, TEWB)

Wing Commander (N), RAF

MA BSc (Oxon), MSc (Wales), ARIC (Hertford College, Oxford)

Actually started on staff in Sep 1934, presumeably to inderstudy Mr Marchant.

Joined from Oakham School where he had been 6th Form Physics Master

Educated at University Colleg, Bangor and Hertford College, Oxford.

Called "Spitfire" in the 1940s as he was ex RAF although he also spent soem time in the RN. More generally know as "Tube" because of his initials.

Letter to The Cadet 1940.

Ditto from him in the RAF

As headmaster, he also taught Physics. Wore a gown and mortar-board. When perplexed he had the habit of scratching his stern and then vigorously rubbing his nose, saying “Most extraordinary! Most extraordinary!” Liked by everybody.

He served in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and Royal Naval Air Service and flew as a Handley Page pilot during the Great War, narrowly averted death when he crash landed returning from a long range bombing raid to Frankfurt, 21 August 1918. He later published his memoirs The Skyline Is A Promise, which cover his Great War and Second War service, and chronicle his time as Headmaster of Conway, see Bibliography

He was born at 26 York Street, Heigham, Norwich, in October 1899 and educated at the City of Norwich School.

After school he was commissioned as aProbationary Flight Officer, Royal Naval Air Service, in September 1917. After an initial posting to the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, Browne was posted to the Flying Training School at R.N.A.S. Chingford. He flew his first solo in a D.H.6 in February 1918, and carried out further training in 504K Avros at Fairlop. Browne was posted to Cranwell in March 1918, and after some preliminary training on B.E.’s he was posted to Scout Flight for fighter training. This did not last long, as he was subsequently posted to the Handley Page flight. After attending courses at the Bombing and Gunnery School, Eastchurch, and on Night Flying and Navigation at Stonehenge, Browne was posted as pilot for operational service with 16 (Naval) Squadron (Handley Pages), Ochey, France, in June 1918. Operating as part of Trenchard’s Independent Force in France, the Squadron was engaged on long range bombing operations over Germany until the Armistice.

Browne describes one of these long range raids in his autobiography:

‘My observer for my longest raid, on the railway yards at Frankfurt on August 21st, 1918, was a young Canadian, J W Adams.... he was a good navigator and he laid our course faultlessly on that moonlight night to take us over to the Rhine Valley and then down the faint silver ribbon of the river winding northwards to our target. To the jet pilot of today we would have looked uncomfortably primitive sitting side by side in the open cockpit hauled through the night by our two Rolls Royce engines at a mere seventy miles per hour. But for us there was more than a tinge of pride in taking the biggest aircraft then known carrying the heaviest load over the longest distance into enemy territory. For the actual bombing run Adams had to crawl through a very small opening into the front cockpit the sides of which were barely waist high, lean over the open bomb sight, and direct me over the target by waving his arms. There was during all this a considerable concentration of searchlight beams, red flashes, dull woofs, and a few unpleasantly loud cracks. At last the run was over and I could make a steep diving sideslip to take us out of the beams and the barrage as quickly as possible.... From our base to Frankfurt and back would be hardly an hour’s run for a modern jet, but we had been flying for nearly six when we picked up the light which told us we were only about fifteen miles from home.... We were only about 500 feet above the ground when there was a hesitant cough from the starboard engine and it died. I opened up the port engine to full revs and began to make a turn to get over the thick woods into the open field below, but half way through the turn that engine too spluttered to a stop.... I decided to attempt a landing on the near side of the wood where there was a limited stretch of flat ground rather than try to stretch my glide and run the risk of stalling in an attempt to reach the field on the far side. Hauling on the wheel I tilted the eighty foot wing span into a ponderous sideslip and touched down about a hundred yards from the trees. The most powerful brakes could not have stopped several tons of aeroplane in that distance. We had no brakes. I pictured the nose meeting the first large tree trunk and driving the edges of the cockpit together like the blades of a pair of shears with both of us being messily decapitated, so I shouted to Adams to get down behind the bullet proof seat. He slipped back and I followed as soon as I felt sure that we would not get airborne again. The four big wheels hit the bank at the edge of the wood, bounded up for their last brief take off, and plunged into the trees. The silence after the first splintering crashes subsided seemed almost unreal. We crept out of our refuge and saw that the nose had thrust itself up between two large trees with the cockpit still open and undamaged... a shout from Adams sent me out pretty damn quick. ‘Get out, Brownie. The damn thing’s on fire.’ In seconds a great tower of flame roared up into the sky and we had to run hard to escape the searing heat, having stopped just long enough to collect the rear gunner... as we persuaded him to jump clear the ammunition drums caught the fierce heat of the fire and brilliant flashes streaked round us as the tracer cartridges exploded.’

Despite rumours to the contrary, his diaries and autobiograpahy make it clear he was not the first man to land on an aircraft carrier in WWI, he never landed on a carrier.

After the war, Browne was posted to 167 Squadron at the Long Distance Experimental Establishment at Bircham Newton. He was placed on the Unemployed List in February 1919, and returned to education studying at Bangor University. In 1922 he embarked on a career as a schoolmaster, and taught at Bourne Secondary School, Lincolnshire, Lucton School, Herefordshire and Magdalen College School, Brackley. When the Reserve of Air Force Officers was formed in 1923, he applied and was appointed Pilot Officer on probation. Browne undertook a refresher course at the De Havilland civilian flying training school at Hendon, and was confirmed as a Pilot Officer in October 1923.

Browne returned to education once again, and read Chemistry at Oxford from 1928. He advanced to Flight Lieutenant in July 1930, and to Squadron Leader in November 1937. After Oxford he taught at Oakham School, until appointed Headmaster of the Cadet School Ship H.M.S. Conway at Rockferry in 1934. Browne re-engaged for service with the outbreak of the Second War, and was posted as Officer Commanding Flying at the Bombing and Gunnery School at Jurby, Isle of Man. The posting was brief, and in November 1939, he was posted as Group Liaison Officer, No. 25 (Armaments) Group, Flying Training Command. Subsequent postings included to the Specialist Navigation School in May 1941 - this being transferred from St. Athan to Canada and re-designated No. 31 Advanced Navigation School, Port Albert.

Having qualified as a Specialist Navigator, Browne was appointed staff officer in command of Navigation, No. 1 Training Command, Toronto. The latter appointment meaning a secondment to the Royal Canadian Air Force, and stay of two years in Canada. Browne advanced to Wing Commander in January 1943, and navigated his own return to the UK in a Martin Marina Flying Boat in October of the same year. He was posted as Chief Instructor, No. 6 Advanced Flying Unit, Staverton, in 1943 (awarded Air Efficiency Award in the same year). The following year Browne took up his last wartime appointment, on the staff of No. 29 Group, Dumfries, before being demobilised in June 1945. His medals from WWI and WWII are below.

Post-war Browne returned as Headmaster of H.M.S. Conway, in which capacity he continued to be employed until his retirement in 1964. In the latter year he oversaw the opening of the new buildings by Prince Philip. His daily diaries show him to have been very forward thinking and he had firm views about how Conway training needed to be updated and to evolve. These brought him into frequent high conflct with Captain Superintendent Hewitt who had less progressive views on nautical training. TEWB's inability to get his ideas adopted undoubtedly contributed to Conway's eventual demise as her training did not adapt to modern shipping company needs. When politcal pressures threatened Conway's future the shipping companies did not rally round her; she was not producing the sort of cadets they neeeded so they had started training their own boys. At the very momemt Conway most need their support they no longer relied on her as the main source of their recruits. Browne had seen the writing on the wall, the Captain Superintendent had not.

He orgainsed the Snowdon Scout Group for may years. He was Assistant Commissioner for North Wales Scouts Training, leader of the UK contingent to the Jamboree at Niagara on the Lake, Canada, in 1955. He was also a Sea Scout Commissioner for a time. In retirement he continued his association with the Scouts being Assistant Commissioner in North Wales. In recognition of his service with the Scouts Association he was awarded the Silver Wolf in 1965. See

Browne died at his home ‘Kelvin’, Old Quay Lane, Neston, Wirral, in June 1973.

1 Sep 1939 - 30 Nov 1945

Robert H. CARTER BA.

(Spogsh, Bog-Brush because of his crew cut)

Senior Master calculus, also taught navigation.

Acting Headmaster during the war while Tube was on active service.

Perfectly ambidextrous.

“Once he set a Maths exam which was so difficult nobody could do it (average was about 2%) and they had to re-scale all the results. I was quite good at Maths but I only got about 15% I think.”

"He was quite an inoffensive, gentle character.  At divisions he would appear from his office wearing purple socks and half-mast trousers, mortarboard and gown.  For some unknown reason there would be a low hissing sound from the cadets whenever he appeared.  I recall it even when he was present in class when Admiral Percy Noble visited  (may have the wrong Admiral – he was in command of the Western Approaches in Liverpool.)

1 Dec 1945 - 31 Jul 1964


Returned from war time service in the RAF.

See entry above


1 Aug 1964 - 17 Jul 1974

Basil LORD MA (Oxon) A Inst P

(Basil aka Foxey aka Lordy)

Headmaster 1964-74.

Joined from the Armys' College.

Handed the, by then, impossible task of saving Conway from closure. He did his absolute best with plans to realign training with the industry's needs by becoming a sixth form college and openeing a major engineering centre.

Became head of Conway on Captain Hewitt's retiremet , forced by Cheshire Council, who  insisted the ship had to run by qualified academic staff. Some wanted his title to be Headmaster Superintendent as a link with the past but that was not approved so Conway became ship without a captain.

Photo post retirement

An Honours Boards made from the Ship's timbers listing the 9 Headmasters (Tom Browne served twice) hangs in the Conway Chapel at Birkenhead Priory, paid for from donations to the Captain Hewitt Memorial Fund.

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