** boys in the military: British Royal Navy training ship era ages

Royal Navy Training Ship Era: Ages

Figure 1.--We do not yet have precice details as to the ages of the boys accepted into the Royal Navy, beginning with the the training of ratings on taining ships. We still see pre-teen boys in the early-20th century. This photograph shows a group of trainees on the 'HMS Mount Edgcumbe' moored at Plymouth. The photograph is undated, but looks like the early-20th century before World War I.

Very young boys since the days of Drake and the Spanish Armada served on naval ships. We are not sure when the Royal Navy first issued regulations on the ages of boys joining the service, but it almost certainly was during the 19th century after the Napoleonic Wars. Britain at the same time that training ships were adopted to train boys had begun constructing a public school system. Changing societal values, including opposition to child labor all acted against allowing small boys to join the Royal Navy. We are not yet sure how the boys coming out of the training program were used on Royal Navy ships. Many were still younger teenagers. We still see quite young boys on the training ships before World war I. We are not sure when the Royal Navy stopped accepting pre-teen boys, but it was apparently in the early-20th century--perhaps just before or during World War I. You might think that some mikitary historian would have researched this is in detail, but we have not yet fojund any detailed presentation on Royal Navy age regulations. After World War I the youngest boys seem to have been younger teens. We know that it was 15 years of age with prental permission during the 1930s. I recall a TV documentary interviewing Ted Briggs (1923- ), one of the three HMS Hood survivors. He mentions how he was awe strick when he first saw Hood at age 12 years. He wanted to enlist right away, but was told to come back when he was 15 years old. He did just this one week after his 15th birthday with his parents permission. He trained on the HMS Ganges at Shotley Gate in Ipswich. After his training he was surprised and delighted to join the Hood. t the time, most boys (especially working-class boys) did not go on to secondary schools after they finished their primary education at about age 14 years. Thus 15 years was a kind of natural progression after boys finished school.


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Created: 5:35 PM 10/14/2011
Last updated: 5:35 PM 10/14/2011