Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)


The Royal Naval Training Establishment H.M.S. Ganges derived its name from a sailing ship launched in Bombay in 1821.  After nearly eighty years of active service - during which time she became the last "Wooden Wall" to wear an Admiral's Flag - she was converted into a training ship and stationed at Shotley pier.


In 1905 the boys were transferred ashore to an establishment on the Shotley Peninsula and the old ship was towed away.  From that time until the establishment closed in 1976, thousands of boys passed through HMS Ganges where they trained to become the backbone of the Seaman and Communications Branches of the Royal Navy.  Sometimes they went from the establishment to a Training Squadron for a short period, but frequently went direct to take their place in ships of the Fleet as trained Seaman and Communication Boys.

Boys entered the Royal Navy between the ages of 15½ and 16½ years of age spending in the region of 18 months at Ganges receiving a thorough training in seamanship, gunnery, communications and other practical applications.  The boys also received school instruction as part of their general education.

Joining up

It was a motley crew of in-disciplined boys that left on the night train from Glasgow Central to London then on to Ipswich and Shotley. As we entered the Annexe to identify ourselves, I remember the first words ever spoken to me in the Navy by the Instructor Boy, himself only a couple of years older --"You call everyone sir here!"

Thus commenced a period of rigorous training and character forming that stood me in good stead and about which many of us I'm sure remain grateful.

Of course, 5.30 a.m. backward swimming in winter mornings was not something that I relished, but I learned in two weeks swallowing a large proportion of Ganges swimming pool in the process!

Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If‘ was painted on the end wall of the Ganges gymnasium and it was our constant companion during our 18th month’s training.  Many of us committed the words to memory that influenced us all life through

Here then are some of my photographic memories, some taken by official Navy photographers, but many just my own snapshots of those memorable days over 50 years ago.

Background & History