HMS Ganges at Shotley


A history of the Royal Navy Training Establishment HMS Ganges.
Researched and compiled by A. S. Grimmer (Solent Division) who sadly crossed the bar 6th January 2007.
This page is dedicated to the memory of Tony whose commitment to the Royal Navy 
and especially HMS Ganges was unlimited.


1902 Royal Naval Sick Quarters built, being the first building of R.N.T.E. Shotley
1903 HMS Ganges transfers moorings from Harwich to Shotley.
Sum of £20,000 to be used to build accommodation onshore for boys. A further £80,000 put to one side to cover future expansion of establishment.
1904 February. Building of 20 messes commenced. (Ex Minotaur, ex Boscawen II) arrives from Portland and renamed HMS Ganges.
1905 4th October. New Shore Establishment created and commissioned as R.N.T. E. Shotley. Also including HMS Ganges, HMS Caroline (afloat ships).
First boys into R.N.T. E. Shotley and General Messing introduced.
Capstan, Bitts & Figurehead transferred to R.N.T.E. Shotley (Other figureheads moved to the establishment at the same time.
October, Building of messes completed to hold 50 boys per mess, Instructors to sleep and eat (at separate tables) in these messes.
November. (Ex. HMS Agincourt) HMS Boscawen III arrives from Portland to joint afloat ships.
1906 Boys from HMS Boscawen, HMS St. Vincent (299) and HMS Caledonia (166) join R.N.T.E. ashore.
Old Seamanship Block opened. Ex Minotaur, ex Boscawen renamed HMS Ganges.
Dental Surgery opened (Commanders office later occupied the site).
Shotley Medal awarded for the first time (Boy Keene).
April. Shooting battery moves ashore from HMS Boscawen II (once at the head of gunnery in the training service). Only heavy gun drill and stripping courses will continue to be done in HMS Boscawen II.
21st June. Admiralty order for old HMS Ganges to be renamed HMS Tenedos III and to become part of the Boy Artificers Establishment at Chatham. (Ex HMS Agincourt, ex Boscawen III) renamed HMS Ganges II Headquarters for training. (Decommissioned and became C.109 Coal Hulk 1908, broken up in 1960).
5th July. Old HMS Ganges as HMS Tenedos III sails out of Harwich bound for Chatham to become part of the HMS Tenedos training establishment.
1907 First gymnasium ready for use. Mast erected using the foremast of HMS Cordelia 1881 "Steam Corvette", broken up 1904. 
The dining hall (later to become the Recreation Room/Theatre) built. 
St. Georges Chapel erected.
Laundry opened at the end of this year.
1908 April. Ex HMS Minotaur (1861) ex HMS Boscawen II, ex HMS Ganges renamed HMS Ganges II (The Twicer). Sold for scrap 30th January 1922.
First swimming bath built on foreshore (later to become the Catholic Chapel) and filled with sea water. Previous swimming test taken in baths aboard HMS Caroline whilst in harbour.
Additions to the Hospital built.
Ex. HMS Caroline renamed HMS Ganges.
1909 Signal School created for flag signalling, using upper part of Seamanship Block & 25 mess. Lt. R F Eyre arrives to take charge.
A bakery established in the barracks. Boys in quarantine due to an outbreak of Mumps and Scarlet Fever. The Officers sleeping quarters enlarged. 3 more boy's messes built. 3 signal masts erected.
October. Ship's Dog 'Old Zeke' died of pneumonia. He had served in HMS Minotaur, HMS Boscawen III, the old HMS Ganges as well as R.N.T. E. Shotley.
Rat Catcher employed from Chatham Dockyard in an effort to cut down the rat population.
1912 Ganges II used as overflow ship due to the increased number of boys under training. Impregnable at Devonport, along with the Britannia, former training ship for naval cadets, also to be used as overflow ship. Floating dock, moored in harbour for the use of destroyers and submarines. Visit by Commander Samson in his naval hydroplane. 16th February, a church service in memory of Capt. Scott and those that perished with him in the Antartic takes place. 
Use of swimming bath discontinued at the orders of PT Officer, Lieut. Burnett because of the risk of infection. 
New messes finished bring the complement of boys upto 1,350.
Outbreak of Diptheria & German Measles causes several deaths.
33, 34, & 35 messes built.
Upper storeys of Wardroom, CPO's mess & Main Gate Guardroom added.
No.2 & 3 Gymnasiums built.
HMS Ganges II moved closer inshore, between the piers (bows facing downstream).
1913 Signal School developed with equal emphasis on wireless telegraphy and visual signalling.
8th October. HMS Ganges II becomes an independent command. The Captain of R.N.T.E. Shotley to fly his pennant in her.
Ex HMS Caroline, ex HMS Ganges renamed HMS Powerful III and left for Devonport.
1914 Gunnery and ammunition training previously held in HMS Ganges II moves ashore into R.N.T.E. Complement now 1,800 boys.
Kite Balloon Station built (to be used as the Annexe in future years) 
NB: Between 300 - 400 boys were always accommodated in HMS Ganges II afloat.
Outbreak of 1st World War.
August. HMS Ganges II put all boys ashore into Shotley and was then used as Naval Operations Ship, Harwich.
5th August. HMS Amphion hits two mines returning to Harwich from patrol. Casualties landed at Shotley. The first of many to be landed here during the war.
1916 Establishment bombed by German Zepplin airship. One bomb hit the parade ground, one between 19 & 21 messes, one alongside the old swimming pool and one on the foreshore.
1917 Rations become scarce as shipping losses increased. At Shotley the reduction of the bread ration produced something of a mutiny. A loaf previously shared between eight boys now had to feed ten. The boys mustered on the quarterdeck demanding to see the Captain after the bread store had been broken into. A signal was flashed to the ships in the harbour and landing parties were warned to standby in case they were needed. It was to their credit that the boys listened to the Captain's explanation for the economy measures and responded by dismissing peacefully.
1914/18 Womens Royal Naval Service contingent (WRNS) set up.
HMS Ganges II becomes a trawler base.
R.N.S.Q. becomes hospital for Harwich force.
600 miles of anti-submarine nets completed by boys and staff.
1918 Influenza and Diptheria swept through Shotley. Boys even dispersed to civilian hospitals.
11th November. End of World War 1. Armistice Day was heralded by a spectacular display of mast manning when every boy in the establishment decided to go aloft. This resulted in some of the stanchions holding up the safety net giving way injuring several boys.
1919 A/C Huts put up after the war as an overflow for the School House.
1920 Old kite balloon station outside the establishment first used as an Annexe. 
Annexe fields added to New Entry complex.
30, 31 & 32 messes used as Instructors messes.
The old wooden Canteen built. Dining Hall changed into Recreation Hall and Library when general messing was introduced and boys ate in their messes
So many boys entered Ganges that many had to be sent onto a training battleship to finish their training. Ships concerned were HMS Monarch, HMS Courageous and HMS Conquerer anchored at Portsmouth. A.C.Boys had the privilege of always finishing their training at HMS Ganges.
  Nov 1918 until 1922 HMS Ganges II put in the hands of Shipkeepers.
1921 3rd Aug. HMS Tring (1st role as a Minesweeper, 2nd role as a Hunt Class). Commissioned as Tender to HMS Ganges. In command Lt. Cdr. M J. Palmer. Approximately 7,000 boys had their first experience of Man-o-War routine and very nearly the same number first experienced that distressing malady peculiar to the sea. 11th April 1922 change command to Lt. Cdr. B.O. Bell-Salter. 8th April 1924 another change of command to Lt. Cdr. R. Langstone-Jones DSO. Owing to the need for economy, HMS Tring was ordered to pay off into reserve and left HMS Ganges 20th October 1925. She was sold and B/U November 1927.
1922 Dutch Tug Swartezee tows HMS Ganges II (ex HMS Minotaur) away for breaking up at Cardiff. Boys leave of 2 x 3 weeks per year changed to three terms per year with two weeks leave between terms.
NB: Shore establishments were not at this period entitled to bear names. That was a privilege reserved for active ships afloat.
HMS Ganges, Harbour Launch No. 50, replaced by Harbour Launch No. 40 to become the HMS Ganges Depot Ship.
1925 15th November. Squash Court opened. Quote by the Commander "the principle upon which I have worked is that our job here is to turn out a disciplined young man who will keep his eyes and ears open when he gets to sea and above all, will obey. The technical instruction and the school work I regard as merely filling in time."
1926 15th March. Admiraly decides to issue a linen bag for clean underclothing in the kit of boys in all training establishments.
22nd September. Record number of Boys in the Establishment (2,216). Boys divided into Port and Starboard watches to simulate a sea-going atmosphere.
  General Strike. Ganges trainees helped out at different locations i.e. Coalmines, Waterworks.
1927 January. Amiralty decreed that R.N.T.E. Shotley should bear the name of the original training ship HMS Ganges. RNTE Shotley, recommissioned as HMS Ganges Shotley without a Depot Ship.
9th - 16th January. Special Quarantine routine in force, reason unknown. A Nozzer was heard to say on sitting down for his first meal "I will always remember my first pussers scran - a lump of cheese coated with OK Sauce in company with a steaming hot greasy cup of cocoa."
1st June. 450 boys from HMS Ganges sent to open up a new shore establishment at Gosport, Hampshire, to be called HMS St. Vincent under the command of Captain P L H Noble
Boys training squadron which had disbanded in 1914 was re-formed from HMS Marlborough, HMS Emperor of India and HMS Iron Duke, three coal burning battleships. This squadron disbanded on the outbreak of the 2nd W.W.
1928 Dental Department built
October - Cinema started by the Rev. Evans and Surg. Lt. (D) Ford.
1928/35 Chiefs and Petty Officers messes built.
1930 June. Edward, Prince of Wales visits. Arriving by road, leaving by air.
A number of messes were grouped together to form a division. Each of 8 divisions being named after an Admiral. These and a host of internal administrative reforms combined to produce a system finely geared to producing a high quality product for the fleet in a specified number of weeks.
Said to have been overheard by one boy commenting that "the discipline at HMS Ganges would have made the french Foreign Legion like a Sunday school".
Original HMS Ganges broken up at Fish Stand Quay, Devonport.
1932 Annexe, old Kite Balloon Station pulled down
1933 South Wing of School built.
1935 PO's mess built.
1937 Coronation Day of George VI. Boys were permitted for the first time to march through the streets of Ipswich with bayonets fixed, being led by their own band.
Annexe re-built.
Boys moved into the 'Green Mansions' (101/2 Classes, Hawke Division).
July/August. New swimming pool opened.
1938 New School built. (Martin Block), completed and opened.
June.  The official opening of St. Andrews, 1st Church of Scotland and Free Church. Church built on the site of the old swimming bath.
Attache cases issued, Ditty Boxes phased out along with blue bundle handkerchiefs.
Reg Fisk wins contract to become the first official photographer at HMS Ganges. Reg all too soon to be called up in 1940 to serve as a photographer in the R.A.F. A girl assistant on his Ipswich staff carries on for the duration of War and just after.
1946 Reg returns as photographer until HMS Ganges closes in 1976. He was offered a job at HMS Raleigh, Cornwall, at the time the only RN New Entry Establishment. He declined and stayed in Suffolk, retiring in 1978. He was made an Hon. Vice President on the formation of the Ganges Association in 1983. Sadly, Reg died July 1985, taking with him a name, never to be forgotten.
1939 Drill shed with armoury and boys canteen built.
Sports Pavilion and changing rooms built on old site of boy's canteen.
Central heating installed in Messes, instead of coke fires which had been in use since 1905.
Outbreak of 2nd World War.
Gas masks issued.
September. New Library opened.
First WRNS units at Ganges and Parkstone for duration of War.
1940 Easter. Admiralty decided to close HMS Ganges as a Boys Training Establishment.
April. 264 Hostilities Only ratings arrive to be alongside the 1,500 boys.
16th May. 600 boys left for HMS St. George, an ex holiday camp on the Isle of Man where they joined forces with their opposite numbers from HMS St. Vincent and HMS Caledonia, who had arrived there earlier in the war and had brought into being a new combined boy's training establishment.
17th May. Remaining boys left for Establishments at Devonport and Liverpool.
Summer. Signal School moved to Highnam Court, near Gloucester, under canvas.
October. First batch of H.O. W/T trainees returned from Highnam Court.
1941 "Ganges" Spitfire Fund set up by Commander Harvey to become so successful that is name was changed to the "Ganges" War Charities Fund which helped seriously blitzed cities, including Valletta, Malta.
February. Admiralty orders that Highnam Court whould be re-opened as soon as weather permits and should continue as a training establishment for W/T ratings.
12th March. Captain attends conference at the Admiralty re Highnam Court. Informed:-
  1. Camp is to have accommodaton for 3,000 in case of need.
  2. All Ganges V/S and W/T ratings (17,000) are to be sent to Highnam Court and
  3. Accommodation in Ganges thus rendered vacant to be filled by the entry of 17,000 seamen ratings, (in addition to the ordinary entry of V/S & W/T ratings)

28th April. Highnam Court commissioned as tender to HMS Ganges.
21st June. Ewarton Hall reopens as the official residence of the Captain after having been closed 18 months for economy reasons.
1st October. H.R.H. The Duchess of Kent visits to inspect the detachments of Ganges and bunting,(?) also the quarters at Broadwater Gardens. Tea in the YMCA Canteen.

1942 4th February. Commander of Highnam Court transfers from Ganges to Captain E W Money of HMS Cabbala.
1943 Beginning of May. Outbreak of scarlet fever. Annexe used as isolation centre. Nozzers moved over to main establishment.
End of May. No new cases of scarlet fever. Main establishment reverts back to normal.
8th June. Numbers borne on books in Ganges 5,193, six nursing sisters and 152 civilians.
12th October. Visit by H.R.H. Duke of Gloucester.
1944 H.O. killed falling from the mast.
H.O. drowned in Swimming Pool.
1940/45 From Easter 1940 until October 1945 60,968 H.O. ratings passed through the gates of Ganges, including 689 Newfoundlanders, 545 New Zealanders and 13 Falkland Islanders.
1945 October. Ganges back to Boys Training Establishment. 152 boys enter Amnnexe.
1946 Early Jauary. 1,423 boys who had gone on Christmas leave from HMS St. George, reported for duty in HMS Ganges.
Drill shed to be named Nelson Hall with Museum(Old armoury) at one end and will depict the Royal navy from Nelson to present time (1946). Figurehead of Nelson to be moved from quarterdeck into hall.
1947 Last duck suit issued.
May. One class of boys sent to set up HMS Bruce, Crail, Fifeshire.
NB: HMS Bruce was the last boys training establishment to be set up.
Thick bed mattresses issued for iron beds instead of thin hammock mattresses.
1948 Central Messing galley (CMG) building started but held up by lack of cement, shortage of glass and workers.
1949 No.8s introduced.
Boy fell from the Mast, head first. His head slipping straight through the netting which took all the skin off his neck.
1950 Ganges figurehead (Indian Prince) moved from north end of quarter deck into Nelson Hall.
1952 CMG finished. Eating in messes comes to a stop.
1953 February.  East coast floods, Ganges boys used locally repairing sea defences. 
July. St. Andrew's Chapel was re-dedicated by the Rev. O. Roebuck OBE, Q.H.Ch., RN, Senior Chaplain, Church of Scotland, and Free Churches. (It had just been re-furbished because of flood damage).
Road to the Annexe was made up for the first time.
Only the second time it had rained on the Sovereigns Birthday in 28 years.
1954 19th May. Pig Farm started (pigs sold to Harris Bacon Factory, Ipswich.)
1956 22nd February. First use of Cinemascope Screen in main Gym.
Visit by H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh.
June. Boy Rate was changed to Junior Rate. 
During the summer the film 'Yangtse Incident', produced by Herbert Wilcox was filmed on the river Orwell. Many Ganges personnel and boys involved as extras.
First recruitment of Junior Engineering Mechanics and Junior Naval Airmen join.
NB: Blue caps, cap tins, long gaiters, phased out. Zip-up jumpers, trousers with zips and plastic caps introduced. The old monkey jumper and flap type trousers phased out.
1957 September. Asian Flu epidemic in the Establishment. At its peak 732 personnel were affected.
1959 Laboratory added to School.
1960 Visit by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Carrington.
Opening of the new Bowling Alley by Miss Natalie Steward, Olympic swimmer.
1961 January 1961 first class of Junior Assistant Cooks commenced training.
21st July. H.M. Queen Elizabeth II visits Shotley.
1962 Junior Sick Berth Attendants training started.
December. Outbreak of food poisoning - cause unknown.
1963 Enright Block & Hangar built.
Old Seamanship Block becomes the Radar School.
1966 First junior electrical mechanics arrived.
1968 HMS Flintham plus Dittisham, inshore Mine Sweepers become attached to Ganges.




27th July, Awarded "Freedom of Entry" to the County Borough of Ipswich, Suffolk.


School leaving age raised from 15 to 16 years.(September)

1973 16th January. 41 recruitment last boy entrant recruitment.
4th June. Marked the end of Boys being trained as Juniors.
H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh witnessed the parade and mast-manning.

Ganges becomes a basic new entry training establishment for all specialisations with an upper age limit for entry of 32 years. Training lasted six weeks only, after which trainees went onto "Part II" training at their specialised training establishments.
6th June. Last ceremonial Mast manning at Ganges (Parents Day)
1975 HMS Ganges opened to the public for the first time. Guest of Honour Admiral of the Fleet, Earl Mountbatten of Burma.
1976 6th June. HMS Ganges closes, transferring training to HMS Raleigh, Torpoint, Cornwall.
28th October. White Ensign lowered for the last time. HMS Ganges figurehead (Indian Prince) given to Royal Hospital School, Holbrook.


1905 - 1976
150,000 Recruits passed through the gates of HMS Ganges.