Conway & The Royal Indian Marine / Royal Indian Navy
(with thanks to Geoffrey Haskins (40-43) for the original idea and material)
Between 1867 and 1916 eighty-five Conways decided to follow a life of service to the British Raj by choosing to enter the Royal Indian Marine (RIM) on leaving the Ship or after serving their time at sea. The RIM provided a variety of maritime services to the Government of India from two principal bases: one in Bombay and the other in Calcutta: it was a combination of Navy, Coastguard, Fleet Auxiliary, Inland Waterways, and Marine Departments. Important sections were troop transport and the Coastal Survey of India in which many officers gained expertise in hydrographic surveying. The August 1910 edition of The Cadet reported that staff of the survey department “live on steamers with every comfort imaginable … we finish surveying at 4pm and go out shooting deer, tiger or even boar.”
By 1895 The Cadet observed that “…the service is very largely officered by Conway cadets” and that “preference is always given to young gentlemen from the Conway”. By 1912 things were somewhat more open “… the India Office prefer Conway and Worcester boys … very few others have been appointed within the last five years. At that time there were a Superintendant (always an RN appointee, 8 Commanders, 32 First Grade officers, 19 Second Grade and 13 Third Grade spread across 26 vessels. Circa 1920 the new rank of Cadet was infroduced.To be eligible for consideration applicants had to hold a 2nd Mate’s ticket and be no older than 22 years. RIN officers were exempted from these conditions but even in 1912 the RIN still preferred candidates who had some experience in sailing ships. In 1918 the requirement for a 2nd Mates Ticket was dropped providing applicants had at least four years at sea, or “a course in a training ship with subsequent service at sea”.
In 1899 Captain de Berry on behalf of the RIM’s Conway officers presented the annual “RIM Prize for Proficiency on Rule of the Road” - a fine pair of binoculars. This was funded by subscription paid over in cash each year, including every year throughout WW!. By 1930 sufficient funds had been collected to invest the capital and use only the interest to purchase the prize. The RIM Prize was therefore assured “in perpetuity”.
Given the adventurous nature of this service, it is no surprise that the names of Old Conway RIM officers crop up frequently on our Honours and Memorial Boards of both World Wars. A total of thirty-five honours were awarded to Old Conway RIM officers in the First War, most of them for transporting troops, guns, ammunition and stores to support estuarine and river-borne military ventures in Gallipoli, the Middle East and East Africa. Some were seconded to the Army (Royal Engineers), and others held temporary RN commissions, for instance in the Tigris and Euphrates Flotillas. Several OCs served in the Army‘s Inland Water Transport Directorate, or with the Navy, during the hard-fought campaign in Mesopotamia. A plethora of DSOs and DSCs reflects their wartime deeds.
Meanwhile, back in India, routine tasks were still being undertaken and the service was recognised by His Majesty for its good work by a surprisingly late gesture - in 1919 RIM officers were granted King’s commissions. Throughout the 1920 officers attended RN courses in the UK.
In 1934, the Royal Indian Navy (RIN) was established and RIM officers transferred en bloc. The RIN was as a separate force under its own Flag Officer, Rear Admiral A E F Bedford (on loan from the RN - perhaps the Home Government did not trust the “Colonials” to manage matters for themselves).
In the Second World War, many of the old RIM characters were still serving in senior positions in the RIN, and there are several names on our Honours Board as evidence of their success and dedication.
Upon independence in 1950 the RIN became the Indian Navy. It is not currently known how many OCs were still serving at his point, but there were at least two, Capt Stanley Johnstone Thompson (16-18) and Lt Cdr Arthur Vernon Baker (35-38). Similarly it is not known when the last OC retired from this service. Please email me if you have information.
The following OCs’ names have been discovered to date (Conway years in italics are approximate. Ranks are the most senior discovered for each individual):
|Page Last Modified (D/M/Y): 19/10/09|