the Virago from Devonport to the Mersey.
on her mooring in the
Mersey. This was off Rock Ferry Pier (between Rock Ferry and New
Ferry). The pier and landing stage at Rock Ferry
was built in 1899 and in the same year Birkenhead Corporation
operated the ferry service at Rock Ferry and New Ferry. The
ferry service at Rock Ferry closed in 1939.
first cadet to join the ship was Captain Howard Campbell. He was
cadet number 8, but actually arrived on board before cadet number
1: Captain Berkeley Collins.
opening of the HMS Conway school ship, interestingly the band
of HMS Nile played at the opening ceremony as the Nile was in
Liverpool at the time on a recruiting visit.
ship was fitted to accommodate 120 cadets but opened with just
were limited to 50 for the first six months. Average numbers of
cadets built up to around a hundred. Initially many cadets stayed
for only a couple of terms - getting the feel of naval life.
It was quickly
realized that the ship was too small for the numbers eventually
planned. The Admiralty was petitioned again and offered to replace
the first HMS Conway with a new vessel - HMS Winchester.
decided to loan HMS Winchester to the Liverpool MMSA as a replacement
for the original ship which was not large enough to accommodate
the cadets. The two ships exchanged names so HMS Winchester became
the second HMS Conway.
||In the 1850s,
in order to qualify as a merchant navy officer a four year apprenticeship
had to be served at sea. The Liverpool shipping company of Jones,
Palmer & Co and others had, at the opening of the school, announced
that two or three years on the Conway would be accepted by them
as the equivalent of one year at sea, reducing their apprenticeship
time. In 1861 the Board Of Trade decided formally that two years
spent training at Conway would count as one year served as a cadet
at sea. Thus Conway cadets only had to complete three years training
at sea instead of the four required for anyone going straight to
sea. For this reason Cadets in their last term were called Quarter
Boys or QBs. This practice continued for over 100 years until closure
in 1974. Cadets received a Conway Passing Out Certificate of Exemption
when they left Conway.
announces the award of annual prizes to cadets to the value of £50,
and the instigation of a Queen's Gold Medal.
Duke Of Edinburgh presented the prizes.
second ship (ex Winchester) also proved too small and so
the Admiralty were approached and they offerred a third ship -
HMS Nile as a replacement. The date of her arrival in the Mersey
is not clear. Conway 2 (ex Winchester) was taken away to Devonport early
in July retaining the HMS Conway name for the time being . The officers and cadets relocated to the
was eventually granted for the name change from HMS Nile to HMS
Conway and on 24th July 1876 Nile
was moved to the Great Float (the West Float) Liverpool and formally
exchanged names with the second HMS Conway - the school ship's
third vessel to bear the name.
the ceremony she returned to her mooring off Rock Ferry Pier,
Cadets lived onboard but used sports facilities ashore. Rock
Ferry playing fields were on Knowlsey Road off New Chester Road.
They have now been built over.
ranges from the Great Eastern, Brunel's famous ship which had
been broken up nearby, were installed in the Conway.
the yards when the Shah Of Persia sailed up the Mersey to visit
a guard of honour for HRH the Prince Of Wales , his wife, Princess
Alexandra and their children on their visit to Liverpool to open
the new Alexandra Dock
of vessels were moored in line astern in the Sloyne: HMS Defence
the Liverpool guardship, HMS Conway, the Akbar (Protestant reformatory
ship), Indefatigable and the Clarence (Roman Catholic reformatory
ship burnt twice by her boys and replaced!).
formed a guard of honour for the visit of Queen Victoria to the
of The Cadet magazine produced.
was lost overboard, the first since opening.
was frozen from shore to shore.
was docked in Bilston Graving Dock for an overhaul. All her copper
was removed. She was scraped, recaulked, refelted and recoppered.
Ten tons of copper were used. She was repainted.
to her mooring.
York, later King George V attends and presents the King's Gold medal
to Cadet Jackson. This was presented to and displayed in Sydney
Cathedral, Australia but was stolen in 2000. The King encouraged
the cadets to "truthfulness, obedience and zeal".
- Worcester boat race. They won.
||Mr H B Steel,
Lancashire County Cricket player began to coach the cricket team.
formed a guard of honour at Liverpool Town Hall for the visit of
King Edward VII to lay the foundation stone for Liverpool Cathedral.
The King presented the King's Gold Medal in person.
of grounds were bought for playing fields.
saved a man from attempted suicide in the River Mersey.
two 10 oared cutters were found to be beyond repair and were cremated
in the ship's furnace. Two new 12 oared cutters made of teak in
Bombay Dockyard were provided.
- Worcester boat race was discontinued.
dragged her moorings and collided with the ship, breaking upper
gangway and smashing a cutter to bits.
left after serving 5 years - the longest stay on record!
was formed when the piping of orders was replaced by more audible
Association formed and renamed the Conway Club on December 13th.
introduced two evenings a week, with cadet captains taking charge.
||HM the King
whilst visiting Liverpool went aboard the Mauretania (the wood paneling
from her first class dining room is in a wine bar at the foot of
Park Street in Bristol). 100 cadets formed a guard of honour on
board the liner. The King presented the Gold Medal in person.
was opened as a sick bay on the eastern end of the playing fields.
was almost completely frozen over. The cadets could get out of the
Pinnace in the middle of the river and walk about. An instructor
fell overboard and died.
granted permission to enroll as Cadets RNR and wear regulation Naval
uniform. The same privilege was accorded to Worcester and Pangbourne
cadets. The traditional uniform was given up with some regret.
a bust of Lord Horatio Nelson was carried away by the SS Bhamo in
a collision with the ship that also carried away the jib-boom. A
shortened jib-boom was installed but the figurehead was not replaced
for another twenty years.
||HM the King
presented the King's Gold Medal in person at the Town Hall.
'Bombay' cutters were replaced by a pair of matched fifteen hundredweight,
27 feet ten oared cutters specially built for the ship.
||Miss K Mayo
and Miss M Moyca Newell, the founders of the New York Apprentices
Club visited the ship.
were inspected by HM the King at Liverpool Town Hall. The King presented
the King's Gold Medal in person.
Of Wales (later King Edward VIII) visited the ship and presented
the King's Gold Medal. Cadets formed a Guard Of Honour on the pier
when the Prince re-embarked for Liverpool.
V visited Liverpool to open the new road tunnel. He presented the
King's Gold Medal to Cadet H Kirby and spoke to Commander M G Douglas.
Acting Captain at the time. The King and Queen then went on to open
Birkenhead Library where the majority of the cadets paraded. Finally
The King and Queen left from Rock Ferry Station where a guard of
30 cadets was posted.
was appointed as Headmaster as a result of the ship’s first Board
Of Education inspection. There had not been a head for some years
and his mission from the Management Committee was to raise academic
standards. This was not to prove easy as many cadets considered
'school’ behind them and had little inclination to academic studies.
He stayed for 30 years and made a huge impact. He established a
small scince lab on the upper deck, a Library, a gym in the hold,
re-arranged the timetable and introduced prep twice a week. The
times they were a’changin.
was introduced with the theory of flight, airmanship taught on board
and 15 hours flying at Hooton Aerodrome. This was sufficient for
Cadets to obtain their 'A' private pilot's licence. By the end of
the summer term the first cadets had obtained their pilot's licences!
was a common entrance exam in 1937.
1937 it was decided that the ship should have a new figurehead
to replace the original one (a bust of Lord Horatio Nelson) which
had been carried away on 4 June 1918 by the SS Bhamo. A design
consisting of a full figure of Lord Horatio Nelson was chosen.
The design and construction were undertaken by Mr. Carter Pearson.
He took great pains to ensure authenticity, studying Nelson's
actual uniform to match colours and various portraits, including
Nelson's death mask, to obtain a true likeness. The figurehead
was made from teak as this was considered a more long lasting
wood than the yellow pine normally used for ships' figureheads.
A sound decision as the figurehead still survives although now
at HMS Nelson in Porstmouth (the RN's Courts Martial Centre!).
It was not possible to obtain a single block of wood large enough
so 3 inch planks were used. It weighs 3.5 tons and stands 13.5
Click image to enlarge
and hot water was provided from a coal fired boiler. Hot water
was limited to the galley and a weekly bath. If you were a senior
it was hot. Coaling party (punishment) had to be second or third
user of bath by then usually tepid. New chums cleaned the grime
line in the baths. The heating pipes never seemed to be more than
warm. Heads were really primitive until the 1938 refit. The galley
was also improved in this refit and converted to coke fired. Food
was also greatly improved. Teaser was freely wielded. What the
politically correct would think now I leave to your imagination.
ship was moved to Cammell Lairds shipyard, Liverpool for a refit
under the sponsorship of Mr L Holt and Alfred Holt & Co. The work
was undertaken by Mr Dickie. The total cost was £20,000.
Liverpool Pierhead Landing Stage for the masting of the new figurehead
by John Masefield OM the Poet Laureate.
used the Chart House for seamanship lessons, but not frequently.
A cadet whilst descending to the deck via the backstay fell on
the roof, and was fatally injured some time in the early war years
I believe. It was said a broken wire strand pierced his hand and
he lost his hold.
my time there was no nursery table for new chums or any tables
on that deck and the Port and Starboard fo'csles had their hammocks
stowed in their parts of ship in what from memory we called hammock
nettings. No hammocks were stowed in the hold, but there was a
stowage in the hold for our gladstone bags and fresh laundry
bags were used for pillows viewing cinema in the hold.
dinner was held at Liverpool Town Hall, hosted by the Lord Mayor.
World War 2
race took place in London's Royal Docks between Conway, Worcester
and General Boths crews. Much to the surprise of the South African
organizer it was won by Worcester who still hold the trophy because
it was never raced for again.
cadets came aboard during the summer holidays. They painted out
the ships white gun strakes, painted the upper deck battleship
gray, fitted concrete bomb protectors to all hatches and skylights,
covered the upper deck with sand bags and fitted black out screens
to all 130 windows.
The 12 oared
cutter, also called the heavy weather cutter was used when the
Mersey was too rough for the motor boats.
damage was caused to the ship by the SS Hektoria, a 13,000 ton
whaling factory ship which had dragged her moorings. Conway was
moved into Vittoria Dock, Birkenhead for repairs where, at start
of the next term, the cadets all rejoined ship.
were, at this time, 250 cadets and problems arose. The Conway’s
sewage disposal was direct from the ship into the river, or dock,
where she was moored. To discharge sewage into a fast tidal river
was one thing but to discharge the effluent from 250+ people into
a dock with no tidal flow is another. Cadets were sent home early!
It has been said that there was no heating
in the ship but there was a primitive form of piped hot water
central heating. Indeed, such was my executive promise that in
my 6th term I became the Working Hand in charge of the Boiler;
a position of great power with possibilities for profit. Apart
from stoking the thing I could toast (bake, actually) slices of
bread by resting them on the inside of the fire door, closing
it for a moment, and then opening again - to reveal a golden brown
piece of toast (usually smudged with coal dust, but no matter)
I charged one old penny per slice! It sys much for the system
that I progressed quite rapidly to the higher echelons after that
the Liverpool blitz the situation became extremely unsafe, particularly
when the Germans began dropping parachute mines into the Mersey.
Small incendiary bombs landed on the ship most nights - the cadets
scooped them up with shovels and tossed them into the river! Bombing
became more intense and one night a mine was thought to have settled
under the ship. The cadets were evacuated ashore and spent the
night in Conway House (Sick Bay), the Royal Mersey Yacht Club
and Royal Rock Hotel. They then spent two nights at the Mostyn
School before being sent home.
nights later two mines narrowly missed the ship, one exploded
under and sank a nearby vessel, the S.S. Tacoma City. The only
people on board the ship were Capt. Goddard, Lt John Brooke Smith,
No.1 motor boat's crew, and a steward. Lt Brooke Smith took away
No.1 motor boat (Jim Thompson was bowman) and they picked up everyone
from the Tacoma City (45 survivors in total). They then proceeded
down the river where larger craft which had come off from shore
took the survivors off them. The second magnetic mine drifted
well up river where it was exploded by a minesweeper after the
ship had been completely evacuated.
It was decided
to move the ship to a safer anchorage on the Menai Straits.
left Vittoria Dock and, on 9 March, returned to her mooring in the
Sloyne by 0945 hours.
21 / 22 1941
tow by the Langworth and Dongarth) to Glyn Garth Mooring on the
Menai Straits, Anglesey.