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

© Alfie Windsor 1998
HMS Conway - Click here to return to the menu

Slop Chest


Crests & Badges

Deck Plans


List of Technical & Academic Prizes (opens a pdf)

Longest Serving Cadets


New Chums


Petty Officers / Cadet Captains

Quarter Boys




Top & Cadet Numbering System



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 Over time HMS Conway had three different ensigns. The first was the house flag of Conway's owners, the Mercantile Marine Services Association (MMSA) of Liverpool. It is on the left below. In 1896 the Admiralty sanctioned use of the blue ensign defaced with a yellow castle shown below right. In 1927 the shape of the castle evolved from the original rather stumpy design to the more curvaceous shape shown at the bottom of the page and used on the ensign to this day. This shape of castle was copied from the MMSA’s original coat of arms (see 1859 overleaf) but, strangely, was never used on any subsequent coat of arms, crests or badges.

There are strict rules about the ensign’s use governed by the Admiralty. Old Conways (OC) in command at sea, and members of the Conway Club Cruising Association are permitted by the Admiralty to wear the ensign in place of the red ensign, subject to certain conditions being met. Thee are set out here.



Crests & Badges

1  HMS Conway Coat of Arms

What Old Conways often refer to as the crest is correctly a coat of arms. The official coat of arms of HMS Conway and its various legal incarnations centred around a three towered castle over a scroll bearing the motto ‘Quit Ye Like Men Be Strong’. Between the castle and the scroll was a stylised representation of waves, and from 1940 the whole was surmounted by the Royal Navy (RN) crown. The first version introduced in 1859 had the MMSA ensign over the castle. But by 1913 the coat of arms had simplified down to the core format used to this day. It evolved over the intervening years and the main versions are shown below. In each case the date accompanying the image is simply the first reference I have found to its use, not necessarily when it was first introduced. The main evolution was in the form of the scroll and shape of the castle. The colour (correctly the tincture) of the coat of arms also varied widely and multiple versions were often used at the same time e.g. in 1964 the ‘1940 version’ was used as the ship’s stationery letterhead, the ‘1962 version’ was used on the cover of sports programmes and term calendars, while the ‘1963 version’ was carved above the entrance to the New Block. The 1919 version was drawn by marine artist Kenneth Shoesmith (06-08).

Conway paid off in 1974 but did not formally cease to exist, i.e. the premises closed and training ceased but the legal entity owning Conway remained in being. In 1974 that legal ownership transferred to the British Shipping Federation and through them now resides with the Conway Merchant Navy Trust (CMNT). In 1980 the CMNT adopted an updated version of the coat of arms; the naval crown and the honorific HMS could no longer be used and the motto was dropped. It is still used to this day.

2  The ‘Strap & Buckle’ Badges

Another set of emblems was in use at the same time as the ‘castle’ coat of arms. I have called them ‘Strap & Buckle’ badges because they were all enclosed in a belt and buckle or similar style device, and the heraldic term ‘badge’ seems to fit them best. These seem to have been used most often as the official letterhead and on other documents like fee receipts.  Once again, the date accompanying each badge is simply the first reference I have found to its use. The 1880 and 1917 versions are very similar. Note the use of the term ‘school ship’ from the outset.


  3  Ships’ Crest


In April 1920 a monochrome crest was introduced showing the ship (seen from the port quarter) surrounded by a laurel wreath, surmounted by a red castle and with the motto handwritten in a scroll below. Its purpose is not clear. It was first used in the April 1920 The Cadet and was intermittently used thereafter on Cadet Record Books, Passing Out Certificates, Merit Certificates and the Prospectus. It was not used on official stationery and it never fully replaced the ‘castle’ coat of arms but it remains the most recognisable Conway symbol for OCs.

4  Conway Club’s Coat Of Arms

From 1907 OCs began wearing a blazer badge shown below as version 2, comprising the castle motif from Conway’s coat of arms over a shield bearing the letters OC. The designer is not known. The club was formed in 1910 but did not adopt a coat of arms for some years so OCs continued to wear the 1907 version. Eventually version 1 below became the Club’s first  coat of arms with OC changed to CC, i.e., Conway Club. The designer is believed to have been Lt Cdr W P Thompson OBE RNR (1869-70). Late in 1925 version 2 was formally reintroduceSEamanb ship  Later the Club adopted the Ship’s Crest above as its coat of arms. The first known example, version 3 above dates from 1953. It had virtually no rigging and a very distorted stern, the wreath and motto were red and the scroll white. The artist is not known. At some point it was changed to version 4, the Ship’s hull was still poorly drawn, it had a better yet still odd looking stern and the framing red badge shape became more curvaceous. Version 5, the current version, was much more accurately and finely drawn, the shield outline was dropped, the encircling wreath and motto became gold coloured, the rigging was more comprehensive and the hull was much more realistic although the stern is still rather simplified. Versions 4 and 5 were drawn by John Southwood (55-57).



Deck Plans

In 1953 in preparation for the planned refit., drauhmsten from Alfred Holt & Co produced incredibly detailed plans of every deck of the Ship. The originals are held by the Friends Of HMS Conway but copies are reproduced below.

Conway Hold

Conway Lower Deck

Conway Orlop Deck

Conway Main Deck

Conway Upper Deck

Conway Cross Section


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Longest Serving Cadets

Cadets served for two or three years (24 or 36 months) but some stayed longer. The longest serving cadets were:
-    Lt Patrick Stratton Campbell (Apr 06 - Jul 11) a cadet for 64 months.
-    Brian Friend (Jan 54 - Dec 57) RN a cadet for 48 months.

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1945 QBs were allowed to use hammock stretchers which apparently made them much more comfortable!

1948. The order 'Lash up and stow' prompted a headlong helter-skelter down the hatch ladders in a race to reach your hammock into which you hastily stowed your bedding and lashed it up with (as I recall) seven equally spaced half-hitches which you laid back on with all your weight before rushing it off to fall in line with the rest of your Top to present your handiwork for inspection. The last one in the line immediately got three over the backside (somebody had to be last!). The inspecting CC then bent your hammock double to loosen the lashings, and then vigorously tugged at the canvas in the six spaces between the lashings to see if he could expose any bedding. You got one over the 'Butt' for each space where bedding could be exposed, and it follows that if bedding could be exposed in one space the canvass could be pulled through to expose it in the other five! And that was just the start of yet another day for your long-suffering 'Butt'! Happy Days!...

1949. The general opinion was that they were comfortable to sleep in, but I slept in one for 2.5 years and I disagree. I adjusted to nettles, and even brought a small pillow from home and smuggled it onboard, but I could never get as comfortable as a half decent bed. Furthermore some miscreant could let you down in the night just for fun, and then there was the awful moment in the Summer when you had to put the whole kit and kaboodle on your shoulders and carry it ashore for scrubbing. At 13 years of age an about 130lbs ringing wet to carry it complete with contents down or up steep ladders and into a cutter jammed in with as many as possible and then up the pier to the scrubbing area was not a happy time. If memory serves the half hitches were actually supposed to be marline hitches and there was a difference in that to make the hitch the rope went over the standing part not under. The punishment for such infractions was you had to take your hammock ashore and double around the parade ground with it. Some of the tough kids would keep going for several hours but eventually collapse face down in the dirt and not moving, and the Seamanship Officer and Ex Heavy Weight Champion of the Navy would just stand there in the rain staring into the middle distance.

1952. Another shipboard memory concerns sleeping in a hammock. Some New Chums, myself included, had difficulty in lashing-up and stowing properly in the mornings. The ideal was to fold bedding and pyjamas into the canvas such a way the hammock could be tightly lashed in a series of looped rope, and end up by being relatively firm. It could then be hoisted onto one's shoulder and carried down to the hold where hammocks were stowed in the daytime. As you can imagine, a floppy hammock was not only difficult to wield, but could easily become undone to the acute embarrassment of the cadet concerned.

On my first night aboard, I wondered whether it would be possible to sleep on my right side, as I habitually did. It was!

Some apparently helpful seniors would "assist" New Chums to attach their hammocks, but use a slip-knot, so that the hapless cadet would crash to the deck when he got into his hammock. Of course, this was potentially very dangerous, as serious injury could have resulted had a New Chum landed sharply on his head.

Once hammocks we were safely slung, and we were comfortably settled for the night, a bugler would sound the Last Post. If this was expertly played, it could be a very moving moment. Sleep, like death, should ideally involve a trusting surrender, and there was something strangely humbling and comforting in this knowledge, underlined as it was by the evocative notes of bugler.

1968. Whilst sleeping in hammocks ended with the loss of the ship, even in 1968 cadets were still sleeping on hammocks as they were by then used as a liner between bed mattresses and bed springs.

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The ship's motto was "Quit Ye Like Men Be Strong". This was taken from 1 Corinthians Chapter 16 verse 13 in the King James's Bible. The newer version of the bible translates it somewhat differently: "be men of courage; be strong".

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New Chums

Life onboard was very strict with many rules and regulations. When new cadets arrived they were called New Chums and given a period of grace to learn the ship's customs and patterns. After that all too short period, punishment - usually with a ropes end called a 'teaser' and delivered by one of the senior cadets, was sure to follow any breach. These arrangements were still in place over 100 years after the ship first opened.

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Numbers  (of cadets)

1859  Aug 1st   17 rising to 50 (104 in total for the first year)
1859 Dec 20th  20
1860 Feb          102
1860 Jun 30th   79

1860 Aug 1st     114

1861 Dec           62
1862 Jun 30th   107
1862 Dec          120
1863                  117
1864                  126
1865                  117
1866                  108
1867 Jun           94 (dropped to 89 later in the year)
1868 Jun           95 rising to 123
1869                 122
1870                 125 dropping to 115
1871                 Average for the year 113, max 123
1873                 Average for the year 127

1873 Feb 1st    The 1000th cadet joined
1874                 Average for the year 114
1876                 Average for the year 123, max 163
1878 Jan          175
1879                 Average for the year 178
1880                 Average for the year 158
1881                 162
1882-3              Average for the period 172
1884                 Average for the year 176
1885 Feb 1st    The 2000th cadet joined
1888                 Average for the year 153
1889                 Average for the year 154, max 210 in October.
1891                 Average for the year 199

1893 Apr 17th  160
1896 Apr          The 3000th cadet joined

1898                3,170 cadets had joined by the end of the year of which 2,310 joined the MN, 68 the RN, 260 the RNR and 29 the Bengal Pilot Service

1900                Average numbers pa since 1880 was 163 with an average of 60 joining the MN pa
1906                Average age of cadets joining was 14 and a half but boys as young as 12 were aboard
1907 Sep         The 4000th cadet joined

1911 Jun          200
1916 Apr          The 5000th cadet joined
1917                Average for the year 220. Over 100 joined the RN
1928                The 6000th cadet joined
1933                The smallest intake ever, only 7 cadets joined
1934 Summer  106
1934 Jul           130
1939                180

1940                250
1941                221

1942                242
1945                250
1947                260

1948                260
1949                275
1950                270 rising to "near 300" by the end of the year

1964                Average for the year 307
1970               180
1972               182
1974 Jul 10th  Paying Off day 85

Cadet Numbering System

Every Conway cadet had a unique number although few understood how these were allocated. It was all down to your first entry in the ship's registers. The registers are very large tomes (about 4 inches thick) and they had numbered pages and as each individual joined up his details were entered on the next free double page spread and that page number became a boy's cadet number. For instance, Volume 13/36 (MMM numbering) showed   - Webber page 225 - Woodger   page 226 - Bissell page 227 - Hayter page 228 - and Allen page 229. This volume went up to page 300 - then the next volume (MMM 13/37) went from 301 to 599. Over the years numbers were reused many times.

The left hand page was for personal/family contact details and itemised fees paid (or not in some cases) The right-hand page generally had course performance details including physical measurements, exam results, sports colours, promotions etc., as well as shipping company joined. the registers are in the archives of the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

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Petty Officers / Cadet Captains & Punishments

From the outset in 1859, a small number of senior boys were promoted as Petty Officers responsible for the good and orderly day to day operation of the ship. Each PO was given a specific area of responsibility, either for part of the ship e.g. Library,  Armoury or Canteen, or for a body of cadets e.g. Port Fore and Stbd Main. The head boy was called the Chief Petty Officer (CPO). POs had very considerable power including laying on casual corporal punishment with a rope's end called a Teaser. In the RN they were called Starters - because a quick stoke would get slower sailors promptly started on an order. Later a formal Gun Room system was instigated whereby POs had to charge a miscreant with a misdemeanor which was then examined and punishments awarded. Punishment Books recorded all reports and outcomes. The majority are now in the Conway Archive at the Meseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool. The punishments still included corporal punishment but also (in the eyes of many cadets) far worse things like an early heave out.

In Oct 1893 the CPO's title changed to Senior PO but in March 1904 he reverted to being called the CPO again, and the POs were renamed First Class POs but given the title Captain (eg Capt of Stbd Fore).

On 1st November 1908 Captain Broadbent announced that the system of Petty Officers was to stop forthwith and be replaced by a new title of Cadet Captain, with the head boy called the Chief Cadet Captain (CCC but more commonly still called the CPO) and the heads of Top Watches designated SCCs. No explanation for the change was given. The term CPO continued to be used colloquially as an alternative to CCC well into the late 60’s

A rank of SCC Shore Establishment was introduced in Jan 50 to coincide with the creation of the House and in Jan 1951 a completely new rank of Deputy CC was introduced with one “Ashore” (later “Shore”) and one “Afloat” (later “Ship”). Thos DCCs were also colloquially referred to as DCPO. The term Rate was also used to indicate any CC.

In Jan 1965 the term Captain was reintroduced to lead specific sports teams but those individuals were not rated specifically for the job.

Promotions were awarded at the end of each term. 'Ranks' were indicated by gold braid on No 1 dress uniforms and by small collar badges for normal working kit. Punishment evolved to include early heave outs with additional morning exercises, stone picking (with a marlin spike on hands and knees in the playing fields), extra duties and loss of shore leave. As before many cadets preferred  the Teaser - it was over an done with quickly - no one wanted to get up early and do exercises or stand watches during the minuscule amount of free time allowed. The Teaser stopped in 1968 on the change from the MMSA with a Captain Superintendent to normal school with a Headmaster in command.

A list of all known names is here.
Photos of POs/SCCs are here.

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Quarter Boys

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 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.

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Business Clothworkers
Charities Leverhulme
Education authorities Anglesey
  West Sussex
Others Marchwood
Personal James Knott (for boys from Tyneside)
  Captain Bruce Thompson
  Captain F J Walker
Shipping Companies Blue Star
  Canadian Pacific
  Indo China Steam Navigation Co (in memory of Lt Thomas Wilkinson VC RNR)
  P & O
Shipping Organisations Lloyds Register
  Merchant Navy Fund South Africa
  Marine Society
  Old Boys Naval Prize Fund


Conways developed a whole language of their own in addition to normal naval terminology.

This Glossary serves two purposes. It provides a very short explanation of standard naval terminology/abbreviations used in the text, and it decodes the Conway specific slang words/terminology in everyday use in the Ship. The meaning of some slang terms changed over the years.


Abaft                                    Behind.

Aft                                        1. The back or stern end of a ship.

   2. Towards the back of anything.

Andes                                  One of the list of ships’ names adopted for one of the dormitories at the House.

Band Shag                           Member of the band and/or ‘free thinker’.

Bertha                                 One of the seats in a rowing gig or cutter.

Big Stink                             The large motorboat.           

Bilge Cod                            Fish.

Bishop                                A derisory term meaning out of date or old fashioned.

Bitts                                      Short, heavy oaken ‘crucifixes’ round which the various cordage controlling the movement of the mainsail would be secured.

Blu Flu                                  Alfred Holt’s Blue Funnel Line.

Boris                                     An unclean cadet.

Boris Box                              In the New Block each cadet had a chest of drawers for their belongings so the old sea chests were superfluous. Rather than throw them away, they were cut down in size, placed at the foot of each bunk and used to store dirty laundry until wash day. The term Boris meant an unclean cadet so the boxes were soon nicknamed Boris Boxes.

Bows                                    The very front of a vessel.

Bright Work                          Any polished metal

Bright Work Juice                 Brasso.

BSF                                      British Shipping Federation.

Bug Juice                             Hair oil.

Bulkhead                              Wall.

Cab                                      The second gig.

Cadet Captain                      Conway’s naval equivalent of a school prefect.

Carry On                              A two note bugle call in the Ship to indicate that the previous ‘Still’ and order were complete, and that normal activity could be resumed: Tuh, tuuuuuuu

CCC                                     Chief Cadet Captain, interchangeable with CPO.

Cdr                                       Commander.

Cheese Crap                        Cheese and potatoes.

Chum                                   A friend. Hence a new chum was a newly joined cadet.

Climb Zion                           To rush up to the Focsle chased by senior cadets.

Clout(S)                               Pieces of threadbare bedcovers or cloth, which cadets would slide around on to improve the shine of their section of deck and to avoid damage to it.

Colours                               1. The act of raising the ensign in the morning.

                                            2. Badge awarded for notable prowess in a sport.

Condenny                           See Conny.

Conny                                 Condensed milk.

Cossack                              One of the list of ships’ names used from 1943 to 1949 to group cadets for sporting competitions.

Covered Wagon                  Fruit tart.

Cow Juice                           Milk.

CPO                                   Chief Cadet Captain. Interchangeable with CCC.

Cuts                                   Being struck over the backside with the Teaser.

Cutter                                 A 10 or 12 oared pulling boat that could also be rigged for sailing.

DCCC                                Deputy Chief Cadet Captain, interchangeable with DCPO.

DCPO                                Deputy Chief Cadet Captain, interchangeable with DCCC.

Dead Man’s Leg                Jam roly poly.

Dead Man’s Tool                Long suet pudding with sultanas.

Deadeyes For Square?      Shall I pass inspection at Divisions?

“Deck!”                                A request to pass over a part of the ship ‘owned’ by a Top other than the requester’s own.

Deck                                   Floor.

Deckhead                           Ceiling.

Ditching The Gash             Throwing out the rubbish.

Division                               A grouping of cadets, originally by size but later for sporting and other competitive purposes.   Interchangeable with Top.

Divisions                             Parade and inspection of all cadets.

DMT                                   Abbreviation for Dead Man’s Tool

Fife                                     One of two Fife designed sailing boats.

First Spare!                         Request for any uneaten food.

Focsle                                 Pronounced ‘folk-sul’

  1. Abbreviation of forecastle, the area in the bows of a ship.

  2. One of the Divisions.

Forrad                                 Forward or towards the front.

Foretop                               One of the Divisions.

Fresh Juice                         Water.

Frig About                           To fool around.

G                                         The special bugle note sounded five minutes before Division in the Ship. It was also used in series with other calls e.g. with the ‘Cutters Away’ call to indicate which cutter was required.

Gaff                                     A small fore and aft yard angled upwards from the mizzen mast.

Galley                                  Kitchen.

Galley Trogs                        Welsh kitchen staff.

Gangway                             1. A passageway.

                                            2. Mind your backs! "Gangway please" when addressing seniors.

Gash                                   Rubbish.

Gig                                      A six oared pulling boat.

Glyn Garth                          The Anglesey landing stage near the Ship’s Bangor moorings.

Grease                                Butter.

Grit                                      Sugar.

Groyse, To                           To spit.

Hawse Pipes                        Two openings in the bows of a ship through which the anchor cable passes.

Heads                                  Toilets.

Heave Round                       1. Proceed vigorously.

                                             2. Cleaning ship

HMS                                     His/Her Majesty’s Ship.

Holy Joe                               One who is good at Scripture.

The House                           The north end of the Marquis of Anglesey’s home (Plas Newydd) used by cadets. Officially called the Nelson Block.

Howe                                   One of the list of ships’ names used from 1943 to 1949 to group cadets for sporting competitions.

JCC(s)                                 Junior Cadet Captain(s)

Jervis Bay                           One of the list of ships’ names adopted for one of the dormitories at the House.

Juice Barge                         Special boat used every day to collect water for the Ship.

Kelvin Block                        The converted stable block at Plas Newydd.

King Of The Woods            The most powerful QB, later the QB most other cadets thought should have been a cadet captain.

Knacker/Knackering           To borrow something with little intention of returning it. Quiet different to stealing, which was an unforgivable thing.

Ladder                                Stairs

Lambie                                Mizzentopman.

Light Oh!                            Request for more light called to anyone who blocks the light.

Lt.                                       Lieutenant.

Lt. Cdr.                               Lieutenant Commander.

Lt Col.                                Lieutenant Colonel

Mauritania                          One of the list of ships’ names adopted for one of the dormitories at the House.

Meat Crap                          Meat and potatoes.

Mess Clout                        The weekly duster supplied to each mess.

Mess Deck                        Restaurant; ok, in deference to Old Conways now clutching their sides with laughter, the place where meals were served.

MN                                    Merchant Navy.

MMSA                               Mercantile Marine Services Association.

MMSS                               Mercantile Marine School Ship

Mooch                               Walking around (the deck) in company but with no real purpose.

MSOD                               Menai Strait One Design sailing dinghy.

Murphy                              Half a baked potato.

Muster                               To line up / queue for any purpose.

Nelson Block                     See the House.

Nervey                              Impertinent.

Nestor                               One of the list of ships’ names adopted for one of the dormitories at the House.

New Block                        The new purpose built shore establishment opened in 1964.

new chum                         New cadet just joined the ship.

Niffle                                 To smoke.

Nix A Buff                          Look out - someone has broken wind!

Nix Oh!                             1. A warning that someone in authority is approaching!

2. Mind your back!

No 1 / Number 1               One of the three motorboats.

No 2 / Number 2               One of the three motorboats.

Nursery                             Area of the Ship reserved for new chums.

Old Conway                      Old Conway.

Ohio                                  One of the list of ships’ names used from 1943 to group cadets for sporting competitions. In 1949 the system was abandoned and this name was adopted for one of the dormitories at the House.

Orontes                             One of the list of ships’ names adopted for one of the dormitories at the House.

PD                                     Port Dinorwic        

Pinnace                             The largest of the three motorboats.

Pipe Down                         Keep quiet.

Piss-Quicks                       Cadets who sadly wet their hammocks and so were required to sling in a row near the night heads in the Ship.

Pleb(S)                               New Chums and other junior cadets in their first couple of terms.

Poop (Deck)                       The upper most deck at the stern of a vessel.

Port                                     1. The left side of a vessel, building etc., looking forward.

  2. An opening in the side of the Ship.

Pretty Spare Chum            Bullshit.

QB                                     Quarter Boy or cadet in his last term whose Conway course has gained him one year’s remission of his four year apprenticeship at sea.

Rangitiki                            One of the list of ships’ names adopted for one of the dormitories at the House.

Rate                                  A cadet captain of any rank.

Rawlpindi                          One of the list of ships’ names used from 1943 to group cadets for sporting competitions. In     1949 the system was abandoned and this name was adopted for one of the dormitories at the House.

RCN                                  Royal Canadian Navy.

RD                                     Reserve Decoration, awarded for service in the RNR.

REAN                                Royal East African Navy.

Reefers                             Best RNR uniforms.

Returning Gash!               The Yak tub was emptied over the side. If anything was blown back towards the ship the cry “Returning Gash!” was used to warn others.

Rig                                    Appropriate/required clothing for an activity.

Rigging                             The complex system of ropes and blocks, which kept masts and yards in place and, which allowed masts and sails to be to be manoeuvred for sailing.

RIN                                   Royal Indian Navy.

RN                                    Royal Navy.

RNR                                  Royal Naval Reserve.

Ronuk                               1. Floor polish.

2. Floor polishing machine.

SCC(s)                              Senior Cadet Captain(s).

Scouse                              Irish stew (obvious really).

Sea Lion                           One of the list of ships’ names used from 1943 to 1949 to group cadets for sporting competitions.

Senior Hand                      Senior cadet.

Shag                                 1. The shape a cadet bent his cap into, the more independently minded the individual - the  greater the shag in his cap.

 2. A cadet one would expect to have a massive shag in his cap!

Shit On A Raft                   Kidneys or liver on toast.

Sick Bay                            That portion of the Ship, right aft on the lower deck, where Sister ministered to sick cadets.
 Later this was moved ashore into the Nelson Block.

Skilley                                Tea (any hot drink in earlier years).

Slack Party                        A group of cadets performing a punishment activity.

Slash Creek                      Secluded inlet on the Anglesey side of the strait between Plas Newydd and Port Dinorwic.

Sling                                  To rig a hammock ready for the night.

Slippery Hitch                    So hitching a hammock that the owner falls to the deck when he gets into his hammock.

Small Stink                        The small motorboat.

Soduk/Soddack/Sawduk   Bread.

Soduk For A Spread         Usually heard right after the bread load came aboard the old ship.

Spell                                  Period of time usually of work.

Spello                                A rest from work.

Spooky                              Lt. Cdr. (previously Lt) John Brooke Smith aka Brookie.

Spread                              Jam

Squeaker                          A small, noisy cadet.

Squit                                 A small cadet.

Starboard                         The right side of a vessel, building etc., looking forward.

Stars Out                          1. To go red in the face.

2. To express incredulity.

Stay                                  A large tarred rope angled down from a mast to the deck, which helped keep the mast in place.

Stern                                The very back of a vessel.

Still                                   The special bugle call in the Ship instructing everyone to be quiet and listen to the following order. It was four notes, a G plus three ascending notes: Tum, tu-tu-tuuuu.

Stow /Stowed                   1. To Put something into storage.

2. To stop doing something.

Suction                             Suction was the equivalent of modern brown-nosing. When anybody obtained an unusual favour it was always put down to suction, often accompanied by horrible sucking noises, rather like a pump running dry.

Sweep                              An area of the ship that a cadet was responsible for cleaning and maintaining, every cadet had one.

(To) Sweep                       To clean.

Tarted Out                        A poor specimen.

Teaser                              A ropes end used to inflict corporal punishment.

Tesco                               Whitewash.

The Huts                          The temporary wooden huts built on the site of the Marquis of Anglesey’s old dairy farm to accommodate cadets while the New Block was built, they lasted from 1953 to 1963.

The Ship                          The wooden wall sailing ship of the line ex HMS Nile used as the floating home for Conway until she was lost in 1953


The Tents                        The temporary camp site erected for the summer term of 1953 after the loss of the Ship.

Toe Nail Pie                     A stodgy pudding with bits in.

“Top Please!”                   A request to pass through a part of the ship owned by a Top other than the requester’s own.

Top                                  1. The platform where two sections of mast joined and from which where marines could fire   down on sailors in enemy ships.

2. A part of the Ship.

3. A grouping of cadets, originally by size but later for organisational, sporting and other  competitive purposes. Interchangeable with Division.

Train Crash                    Tinned tomatoes on toast.

Truck                              The small wooden plate in the very top of each mast.

Vulch, To                         See Vulture.

Vulture                            A Cadet eying your plate in the hope you might have left something worth eating.

Water Lilly                       Cadet who wets the hammock.

Whales                            Sardines.

Yack / Yak                       Rubbish or dirt.

Yack Tub                         Old barrel ends fitted with rope handles on either side, and used as rubbish containers.

Yard                                 A wooden beam attached to a mast from which sails were originally hung.

Yuck                                Pilchards in tomato sauce.

Zion’s Hill                              The old Focsle head (pre1938).

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The 'Teaser' probably derived its name from the rope ‘Starters’ used historically in the RN; short lengths of rope used to strike, encourage or "start" any crewman who did not respond promptly to an order. The Teaser was a vicious little weapon made from 3/8" tarred hemp maybe 18" overall with an eye-splice at one end, and a 6" back splice at the business end. The back splice thickened and strengthened the rope. The back splice was also "whipped" using a very thin twin to give it further strength and make it less flexible. It was stored in a bottle of salt water which gave it the consistency of a metal bar. Sometimes there was metalwork in the whipping. This rope was then used to beat cadets as a punishment. In the early years it was wielded liberally by anybody with the slightest pretence to petty authority. Over time it was used far less and in more controlled circumstances. It was an extremely painful punishment which very few Conway cadets avoided.

1943-45. Concerning the teaser in my time it was not used all that much. I think the first 2 or 3 weeks as new chums we were let off but as soon as it was over we were liable and I got 3 on the first day. It was from my Chief Cadet Captain he gave me an order and I asked "Why" I never questioned an order again but I did not get it much after that save under the bell, when according to Bossy I was in a disgusting condition at Sunday divisions. The Skipper Wah said he had seen a spot on my collar.

There was once a semi public flogging. Wah went into a pub near the Bangor pier and found 2 Cadets drinking. At Divisions the nest day before marching off the lower deck, the 2 Cadets were fallen in front of the Skipper and told that on account of their offence they would be flogged. "Mr Phelps please take these Cadets to the Orlop deck." Bossy turned up with a cane under his arm. "The Cadets under punishment follow me to the Orlop Deck" They did and we heard the thrashing taking place , 4 or 6. When finished they were marched back before the Skipper and Bossy reported "The Punishment carried out Sir" The Cadets were then told to fall in with their divisions and we marched away.

Another Cadet got 3 under the Bell on one occasion and when they had finished he did not get up and was told that he should turn in. "But I thought I was going to be thrashed Sir"

The thought of the teaser kept me from being caught out - I seem to remember was it not called being bummed?

1945/46 was a period when the teaser was used unmercifully. I well recall the lashing up of hammocks, and anything more than two minutes after your first day on the ship incurred the immediate wrath of a teaser wielding JCC. The lining up and bending the hammocks was done all the time, and one over the bum for every bit of bedding in sight. Also one if it was considered that you did not employ enough energy in bending the hammock over. Never really enjoyed the hammock, except as a QB when we had the seniority to use hammock stretchers. The last term was the only time that this little luxury was permitted. The teaser was used indiscriminately on anyone for any dreamt up excuse. Failure to ask to ask for "top" when moving around the deck was a cardinal sin. I went to the Conway a wimp, but when I eventually left and went to sea, it was a life of luxury in comparison and the hard knocks were easy to take. A great pity that we are unable to knock the young blokes into shape today. In the long run they will be the losers.

1947-49. Any CC or JCC could legitimately carry a teaser to administer "justice" for any breach of rules, spoken or unspoken, any breach of cadet etiquette, or any other reason that offended the sensibilities of a CC. Official Justice was done under the ship's bell at lights-out, usually by a CC under the watchful eye of an officer, and usually limited to "six of the best"!! As JCC and cox'n of the pinnace, I had the "honour" of carrying a teaser, which I am pleased now to say that was used VERY infrequently and only for genuine transgressions.

1949 saw a very dramatic reduction in teaser use on the appointment of Captain Hewitt. Prior to that year teaser punishment was not an after-lights-out-washroom job for genuine misconduct, but was the on the spot immediate consequence mostly for minor infringements of Conway rites and practices; failure to ask permission before crossing the deck or going up a ladder for example, being the last to fall-in to a bugle call, you could get six for a poorly lashed-up hammock, and so on. As a result teaser were much in evidence everywhere and it seemed to me that more than just CC's carried teasers. The widespread daily teaser wielding which needed little excuse was a constant fact of shipboard life. I doubt if any from those days can remember how many 'cuts' they had and certainly not tell you any of the petty reasons why. From 1949 its use was severely limited and infinitely more regulated. Certainly the ever present threat of the teaser as we had known it was no longer there after 1949. Misconduct was an entirely different matter. For offences of this nature there was either the much preferred immediate Gun-room job, or more serious offenders were dealt with by the Duty Warrant Officer under the bell after lights-out. (Presumably so sighted at the through decks hatch so that just like the bell, the whacks could be heard the length of the ship by us all as we lay (thoughtfully!) in our hammocks.)

1954. The funny thing is that I can't remember this beastly rope's end being called a teaser. Although I do definitely remember cuts. Cuts weren't too bad really although they couldn't half raise a welt if the administering CC put his mind to the job at hand. I think I must have been the only cadet ever to have been caned by the Murph, the six-gun toting Shurff of Beaumaris. I've no recollection of how I aroused his ire, but I remember going round to the camp staff room (not far from the Hold huts) and finding Murph reading Sea Breezes. He asked me why I had come and I reminded him he wanted to cane me. He looked at me rather doubtfully and told me to bend down, which I duly did. Seemingly with great effort and a considerable amount of panting he applied the cane to my backside with four of the gentlest taps you can imagine. That was it. So we shook hands and I sloped off.

1954-56. The teaser was still fully employed and as Deputy Chief my allowance officially was up to 3 cuts, Senior Cadet Captains 2, and Juniors was one cut. This was matched by an equal number of Extra Watches or for a delightful variation Slack Party.

1955-58. I can remember many a visit to the washroom for cuts. You were expected to shake hands afterwards too, I usually did but not to xxxxxxx!

1958-60. I can definitely and personally verify the existence of teasers and subsequent "cuts" in 58-60. I managed to qualify to experience them both in the first term at the House and later at the Camp. As I recall, firstly for hiding in my locker to avoid the early morning pre-breakfast run which qualified for a couple of cuts. Too many of us chose to hide on the same day and the large absence must have been rather noticeable as we were all exposed in a snap locker inspection. To receive the cuts, the drill was to appear in pyjamas in the bathroom just before lights out for the rounds to report to the JCC administering them. It was then obligatory to return to the dormitory and display them to all and sundry to see how good (accurate) the JCC was. There was some admiration, not from the recipient, when consecutive cuts had been administered all in one place. I managed at least one set of six cuts from an officer for suspicion of smoking when at the camp. Apparently when returning from shore leave the nicotine fingers and somewhat smoky uniform were a bit of a giveaway.

My QB book has a centre double page for the 'Gun-Room' signatures. Varoious JCCs are listed surrounded by my own scribed border of well known phrases or sayings of the time. "I'll turn you in" "Did you get a substitute?", "That's no excuse", "Do you agree with the punishment?" (that really was a good one), " Three cuts", "Days Slack", "Early Heave Out", "Shake hands" (no hard feelings afterwards!!), "Extra watch". I think I experienced all of them more than once. They were after all my formative years. But no grudges held, I know I deserved all I got. It was just that once bent-over there was a pre-strike tightening and smoothing of the seat of ones trousers by the CC which I rather resented, a bit of slack might have eased the pain a bit.

1959. Cuts came in groups of one to 12! Down at the house I remember having six because a parcel of food from home had £1 included.

1961. It is amazing to think how many cuts were given for smoking. It never seemed to deter most people. Most of the Officers smoked - in fact I believe Hewitt smoked - and never thought for a minuite about the double standard. As someone who has had to motivate people to excellence in my live after Conway, I look back on the use of the Teaser (which was, as noted, used all through my time) and wonder what on earth the people in charge were thinking! My lasting memory of the teaser was having to get an extra cut because I refused to say Thank You and shake hands with the cadet captain who delivered the cuts!

1964. I recall falling out bigtime in my first term with the DCPO House my Divison JCC. Think I ended up with 24 "cuts" that term, the last 3 on the last day of term for coming second in a fight! My mother saw the damage a few days later and was more concerned at the bruises on my buttocks than the stitches in my mouth!

1967. "Teaser" salt water soaking was definitely still on in '67 and I can remember being told that saying the phrase "May the Lord harden my heart and strengthen my arm to administer justice to this culprit!" was just long enough to let the sting of the first cut really take home! Still I always preferred the instant justice of cuts to being forced to run up and down the dock road holding stones in outstretched arms until you lost all feeling, had involuntary tears rolling down your cheeks and still had some sadistic b...d screaming at you at the top of his lungs, threatening you with another early heave out!

1968. The Teaser was still in use although in a very limited and controlled way. It’s appearance was little changed although it no longer had an eye splice at one end. It was kept in a milk bottle full of salt water which had the effect of stiffening it so it was more like a solid metal rod than a length of rope. Any offence or misdemeanour was liable to result in the cadet being put on a charge by the JCC or Senior Cadet Captain. JCCs could also be put on a charge by an SCC. Offenders would have to line up outside the Gun Room – generally with some trepidation as cuts were very painful. They always caused bruising and often drew blood, recipients sometimes went straight from the Gun Room to sick bay! Not all cadets could stand the pain and had to return for their allocated number of cuts to be completed. Offenders were marched into the Gun Room, accompanied by their accuser. The CCC or his deputy (standing behind a desk with the SCCs standing around him) would read out the charge, give the offender an opportunity to explain himself before some (if any) punishment was awarded. More often than not this was a Slack Party or extra watches (both of which deprived the person of what little free time they had), an early heave out (and we got up early enough as it was) or a number of cuts from the teaser. The CCC could deliver 6, other cadet captains lesser numbers depending on rank. Any cadet who was promoted to Cadet Captain and who had never received any cuts would have to receive some before they were allowed to deliver them as punishement to other cadets. All punishments were recorded in the Punishment Book and reviewed by Captain Hewitt. (Ed: Punishment Books are all held by the Club and are not in the Conway Archive).

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Top System

1859 Cadets were organised into Port And Starboard Watches. During the day one watch would be below at school, the other on deck for nautical training.
1891 The part of ship allotted to each top differed over the years. In Masefield's time the Foretops had the Orlop Deck and the Focslemen the Lower Deck. In our time the decks were as follows: Foretops - Upper Deck,    Maintops -Main Deck,   Mizentops - Lower Deck,   Focsles - Orlop Deck.
1915 The Top System was revised so that new entries were together in one top. New Chums joined as Fo'c's'lemen and then moved to Maintop (the biggest boys), the smallest to Mizentop and the rest to Foretop.
1937 New chums at the end of first term went either to Port or Starboard mizzen (if small or skinny) until their final term, whilst the jocks went in succession through the other tops from Port main to Port Fore, to Starboard Fore and finally Starboard Main as QB's unless they became CC's or Band.
1939-41 At this time new entries were placed in either Port or Starboard Focsle for their 1st term on board. In their 2nd term they were moved to either Starboard Foretop, Mizzentop, Quarterdeck (Band) or Hold. In their 3rd term they moved to Port Maintop and in their 4th term they moved to Port Foretop. In their 5th and 6th terms they moved to Starboard Maintop apart from those who had been made Senior or Junior Cadet Captains.
1943 In addition to the existing Top arrangements, a systems of 'Ships' was introduced (by the Cadet Captains) to encourage sporting competition: Cossack wore black
Howe wore gray
Nestor wore blue
Ohio wore yellow
Rawlpindi wore red
Sea lion wore green.

Many of these ships were re-incarnated as dormitories when shore based accommodation was introduced.


New Chums were in Fo'c's'le
2nd term: starboard maintop
3rd term: starboard foretop
4th term: port maintop
5th term: port foretop
6th term: Hold
No Mizentop!



In our time, joining September 1948, the organization was as follows: New chums went into the focsles. In their second term (minus the smaller   cadets who went into the Mizentops, and a few who went into the Hold Division)   they went en bloc into what had been the Senior Top of the previous term. Thus in the Easter term of 1949 we (who had been Port and Starboard Focsles) went en bloc into Starboard Fore (less those who went to the Mizentops or Hold). Our part of ship was the starboard upper deck.The scheme was that we would then have stayed together for the rest of our time in the ship, being depleted by promotions to CCs.

The situation of having a Top composed of all one seniority did not lend itself to internal competitive sport,   so there were six "Ships" (Howe, Cossack, Sealion, Rawalpindi, Nestor, Ohio) -   akin to Houses - composed of a cross section of all seniorities. which competed in various sports for the Pledger Cup.



The new chums always went into the two focsles. Exceptionally, when there was a large entry, the occasional overflow probably went into the Mizzentops.In the Easter term of 1949 the Quarterdeck division was formed of   surplus new chums - Mike Llewellyn was SCC. His new chums won the Hobson Cup, not a very frequent occurrence. The Quarterdeck Division sometimes housed the Band.

In the days when sail drill was still regularly exercised (right into the 1890s) it seems likely that, after a term in one of the focsles, a cadet would proceed to a Top in accordance with his size - and in accordance with the size of the gear on the mast belonging to the Top. When and if he grew he would proceed into other Tops. The Maintopmen seem to have always had the reputation of  being hefty laddies, which accords with this supposition. Tops would then consist of different members of Terms, which seems to accord with what Masefield writes. At some time (probably after the demise of sail drill) the practice became that the Focslemen (minus the small ones destined for the Mizentops) after their first term term moved into a Top, but in their third and subsequent  terms moved progressively into other Tops, still remaining together as a Term (with the exception of those who had gone to make up numbers in the Hold Division or had become CCs of other Tops or Supernumerary CCs). This method would ring the changes as to working on different decks/parts of ship. The Hold Division was composed of a mixture of different terms. Each Focsle and each Top had a Senior and a Junior Cadet Captain. (e.g. there was a Senior and a Junior for Starboard Fore and a Senior and a Junior for Port Fore). The exception being the Hold Division (and when it existed the Quarterdeck Division) which had one SCC and one JCC. Supernumerary CCs (Boat CCs, Mailmaster, Rec Room CC, Bathroom CC, Pulling & Sailing Boats CC, etc) were not attached to a Top. They were spread among the messes for meals.

This system seems to have prevailed into the 1940s, but sometime in that decade there was then another change.


Sept 1949

At the end of the Summer term 1949 the Ship moved from Bangor to Plas Newydd. The Christmas term 1949 saw the opening of the Shore Base and for the first time new chums did not join the Ship, but spent their first term in the Nelson Block at Plas Newydd. Some spent their second term ashore also. Each Top (or strictly speaking Division) on board now had one SCC and two Junior CCs. Ashore there was a SCC (Deputy CCC) in overall charge and five JCCs, one for each Division. The unwieldy system of "Ships" for sport was now unnecessary and was abolished.


By the mid 60s (certainly from 64) New Chums were placed directly into one of the Tops/ Divisions (Focsle, Fore, Main and Mizzen) where they remained for the duration.

The system of allocation is not absolutely clear but it seems to have been in blocks of 3-5 cadet numbers. The Christmas 64 Watch Bill shows e.g. 41- 43 in Fxl (Andes dorm), 55-59 in Fxl (Nestor), 110-112 in Foretop (Rawlpindi) and 66-70 in Mizzen (Jervis Bay).

Hold by then was not a division but an "overflow" dorm (Mauretania) in the Nelson Block. Cadets there were allocated either individually or in pairs of cadet numbers. It held cadets from all 4 tops. For some reason there are odd gaps in the numbering sequence eg no 73, 101 or 113. Oddly my number was 72 but when I was still in the house with most of my term, 73-76 were also my term and Fxl but in the New Block.

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1859 The uniform was of fine blue cloth with gilt anchor buttons The jacket had an upright collar with gold braid on the front of the collar. Caps bore the badge of the Liverpool Mercantile Marine Association.
1865 Cadets wore jumpers and round hats on board and for going ashore at Rock Ferry. On Sundays and for going ashore in Liverpool uniform with half boots were worn (the later were reported very useful for secreting tobacco.
1866 Cadets wore a "...neat sailor like uniform of blue jacket and waistcoat with white trousers..." (Illustrated London News 30 June).
1880 Captain Miller decide that from henceforth all uniforms were to be purchased from the Liverpool Sailors' Home in Paradise Road, overlooking the Victoria Dock. It is long since demolished and is now waste ground. This arrangement was to continue until closure.
1880 1880 A Glengarry was the working cap worn on board on weekdays by all who were not Petty Officers. It was never worn off the ship. It was rather like the hat still worn today by French seamen. It was dark blue with a mottling of white at the edge. There was a dark blue pom pom on top and long black silk ribbons. It was common for the older cadets to tear these off New Chums' Glengarries. Reportedly it had two merits: it never blew off and it was excellent for polishing brass! 'Crimean' blue flannel shirts were worn. The colour came out until they had been washed many many times. A coarse blue serge shirt was worn on seamanship days

Uniform caps had a square flat peak and not turned down. It was bright green underneath. The cloth body was considered to be too tall at the crown. Cadets would remove the lining and reduce the height of the crown.

1882-4 The Petty Officers were re-titled Cadet Captains a tile that remained until closure nearly 100 years later. At this time their status was denoted by gold lace sleeve stripes. A broad one for Junior Cadet Captains, a narrow one for the Seniors.
1895 A new cap was introduced with a rounded peak. This as a result of much open dissent by cadets about the 'Cheese Cutter' cap. It was disliked by the POs because it caused less pain when used to swipe laggardly cadets!
1902 The 'Conway' uniform was worn. It was considered very smart.

The cap badge was the based on Royal Navy one except with a red shield and no crown. On weekdays on-board a plain peaked cap was worn with a pennant bearing the word Conway instead of the badge. The cadets attempted to wear the smallest possible cap, and to perch it on the back of the head. Once a reasonable distance form the ship it wa the vogue to wear the black strap and gold chin stays over the crown of the cap.

An eight button reefer jacket was worn. The buttons had anchor and the word Conway on them. On Sundays the 'short' jacket was worn.

Canvas deck shoes were worn.

QBs in their last term would convert their trousers into bell bottoms by sewing a V shaped piece of cloth into the bottom of the leg.

Dec 1917 Cadets were 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.
1933 The practice of removing the grommet from the otherwise very stiff and flat cap, soaking it in salt water until it became a shapeless mass was discouraged by the Captain.
1934 White flannels were still worn with uniform jackets.
1939-41 During the winter term Cadets wore SB's (navy blue single breasted jackets similar to battle dress tops) and dark blue trousers with no pockets (!), blue collarless shirts with white soft collars, black tie and white lanyard. The senior cadets wore their top buttons undone as sign of their superiority. In summer the dress was navy blue shorts, blue knee length socks and blue shirts without ties. Sleeves are rolled up very neatly and precisely. Reefers were worn on Sundays, holidays ands other special occasions.Caps had the RN cap badge. For morning divisions double breasted jackets were worn with blue cord on each lapel (Cadet RNR). During the summer term blue shorts or long navy blue trousers were worn. Cricket teams wore double breasted jackets or blazers, with white trousers.
1946 Only Cadet Captains and QBs were allowed pockets in their trousers.
1950 Caps had detachable white covers as in winter it was "Blue"rig. The covers were a pain as the had to be washed. As for the hat badge I seem to remember that the ones from the Sailors Home were a smaller version of the RN issue, so an "east of suez" version was purchased for your QB term. We also had the blue twist on the lapels, I believe the white one came in about 53 with buttons that had RNR on them.
Sep 1964

The full RN uniform was worn. Cadets held the rank Cadet RNR. A white cord was embroidered on each lapel (the same as Midshipmen wear today but without the white backing . For Sunday Divisions and for wearing with reefers black shoes were worn. These were spit and polished until the to caps resembled mirrors.

A white lanyard was worn around the neck. The knot of this was supposed to reswt just below the lapel cross over so the lanyard formed a neat V shape (see above). As cadets became more senior the knot tended to creep higher and higher. QBs were ruthless in ensuring that they and only they wore their knot so high the lanyard no longer formed a V but rather was a horizontal band from collar to collar. A running game of cat and mouse developed with officers demanding that the regulation V shape be adopted by QBs, the knot was always adjusted as soon as the officer moved on!

Cadet Captains now wore a gold device on the sleeve. Juniors a small one, Seniors one large one and the Chief Cadet Captain wore one on each sleeve. For everyday working rig collar barges were worn. Interestingly the prefects of the Prince Of Wales School, Nairobi, Kenya wore the same distinctive flash on their blazers.

1972 After agitation by cadets they were allowed to go ashore in civilian clothes providing these passed muster.
1974 Cadets were allowed to wear civilian clothes rather than uniform. The end was nigh.

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