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Aboard the Indefatigable 1883

All credits go to the Together Trust so that readers may approach the Trust with any enquiries about their other collections.

Aboard the Indefatigable, 1883   This was a training ship for ‘destitute lads of good character’. Boys would sign up for a three-year course to learn to be a seaman. The Christian Worker edition of 1887 gives a detailed account of a typical day aboard the ship, which would have been experienced by the boys on board:   The boys are divided into two watches, the port and the starboard. From 9am to 12 noon one set are engaged in ordinary school duties, going through a systematic course of reading, spelling, writing, geography, arithmetic, dictation and scripture. The other set are meanwhile pursuing a course of technical instruction at the opposite side of main deck.   The second set of lads are engaged in making clothes, learning to knot and splice, to make hammocks and mats and, when weather permits, are initiated into the practice of a sailor’s life. In the summer, they are accustomed to going aloft, to setting and reefing sails, sending up and down masts and yards, and generally, are taught as much practical navigation as can be imparted upon a training-ship in berth.   The ship was supported by voluntary contributions and was under the joint management at the time of Charles Bushell and Thomas Henry Ismay. Thomas was the Father of Joseph Bruce Ismay, the notorious managing director of the Titanic when the ship sunk in 1912. He had founded the White Star Line but also gave generously to many seafaring charities.   Training ships were not for the faint hearted, life on board could be extremely tough. As well as teaching the usual subjects like reading and arithmetic (education was compulsory after the Elementary Education Act 1880), the boys also learnt about practical seamanship, such as navigation, use of the compass and reefing and furling sails. They slept on board in hammocks, cleaned the ship themselves and washed and mended their own clothes.

Although the Refuge was sending boys to the Indefatigable as early as 1872, other ships were also used by the Committee to train the boys for a life at sea. One of these was the HMS Warspite, which was anchored off Woolwich, Kent. The Warspite had accommodation for 500 boys on board. A yacht was attached to the ship, and a shore establishment included swimming baths, hospital, laundry and storehouses.   However Birkenhead wasn’t the only destination for those with sea legs. In the early days many lads were also sent south to Woolwich to be taken aboard the Warspite. This ship had been owned by the Marine Society since 1862 and trained up to 200 lads for a life at sea.

Thomas, a Refuge boy who ended up on the charity’s training ship, the Indefatigable.   So why when the Refuge had so many homes of their own did they turn to the Indefatigable? Lets take the case of little Tommy as an example. At the age of 12 he appeared at the Refuge, a ragged waif, drifting towards a life of uselessness and crime. He was sent across to the Indefatigable and whilst there received the Silver Medal of the Liverpool Humane Society for “gallantly jumping into the river and rescuing a shipmate who had fallen from the fore chains, and was rendered insensible by striking against the anchor in his descent.” He went from a nobody to a hero – a sturdy lad in England’s first line of defence. The training ship provided a skill and a better life – that’s why   Thomas first came to the attention of the Manchester and Salford Refuge in 1896 when he turned up at midnight at the open-all-night shelter on Chatham Street, accompanied by a policeman. At the tender age of 12 years he had been sleeping on the streets of Manchester as he had nowhere else to go.   Whilst resident at the shelter his circumstances were investigated by the Committee.      

“I have made enquiries and find the boy has slept out on several occasions, that his mother is a very violent woman. All the children have been driven from home by the disreputable mother. Two sisters confirm this and say they would be thankful if anything could be done for Tom.”  

Tom was quickly admitted and transferred across to the Central Refuge on Francis Street. Here he mixed with older boys, continuing his education. On 3rd May 1897, he was admitted to the Indefatigable training ship as a cadet, which was moored in Birkenhead. The ship trained those disposed for a sea life and after two years training Tom sailed for South America in May 1899 on board the Oravia.       

“At a meeting of the Committee of the above at the Underwriter’s Room, April 27 1899, it was resolved unanimously that the thanks of the Committee be presented with a silver medal and 5/- to Thomas …… for gallantly jumping into the river from the training ship Indefatigable on April 20 1899, and rescuing a ship mate who had fallen from the forechains and was rendered insensible by striking against the anchor in his descent’”.  

Thomas eventually became a US citizen, married and moved to Baltimore.

Not bad for a boy from the Manchester streets.

All credits go to the Together Trust so that readers may approach the Trust with any enquiries about their other collections.

Indefatigable Old Boys Association (IOBA)
© www.indeoba.com 2020

Indefatigable Memorial Benches


OLD Indefatigable Memorial Bench at the National Memorial Arboretum (Alrewas, Staffordshire)

In 2019 the IOBA removed the old Indefatigable bench from the National Memorial Arboretum Alrewas, and placed it in the Memorial Garden at JSMTC Indefatigable (the Old School).

Names of those ‘connected to the Indefatigable Ships and School’ (who have passed away), may now have their names attached to the old bench (as on 2” brass plaques). Names so far included are, LT COL Simon Hall OBE, Spencer Bell 1958 (past IOBA Chairman) and now Mac McNeill 1941/42.  

It has been agreed to include named plaques of past ‘Indefatigable Connected’ Old Boys & Staff at the following cost of £40:00 each, paid by the requester, to be coordinated through the IOBA Committee. <https://www.ts-indefatigable-oba.org/contact-us/>  

If you would you like to purchase a named brass plaque please contact us <https://www.ts-indefatigable-oba.org/contact-us/>, once payment has been cleared, we will ensure named plaques will be attached to the Indefatigable Memorial Bench at JSMTC Indefatigable by the following IOBA Reunion.  



NEW Indefatigable Memorial Bench at the National Memorial Arboretum (Alrewas, Staffordshire)


NEW Indefatigable Memorial Bench at the National Memorial Arboretum (Alrewas, Staffordshire)

NEW Indefatigable Memorial Bench at the National Memorial Arboretum (Alrewas, Staffordshire)

NEW Indefatigable Memorial Bench at the National Memorial Arboretum (Alrewas, Staffordshire)

<http://www.thenma.org.uk/>  

The replacement Indefatigable bench has been placed in the Navy Review area at the National Memorial Arboretum.   Mapped location: Please note the bench’s mapped location is not at any of the NMA kiosks in the remembrance centre at this time (Jan 2020). So to find the Indefatigable Bench, please ensure you have a copy of this map (attached) and or bench reference B343. B343 is the bench behind the Indefatigable, B343 has been here for a while so will be on the kiosk maps.   

The National Memorial Arboretum is an evolving, maturing woodland landscape featuring 30,000 trees and a vast collection of memorials. The 150-acre site is a living, growing tribute to those who have served and continue to serve our country.  

Other than the Indefatigable Memorial Bench, we have another memorial called the TS Indefatigable Memorial. The NMA team of volunteers are always happy to help visitors locate memorials and individual dedications in their grounds. You can also use the computer terminals in the Remembrance Centre to search for individual dedications and their locations.  Memorial listing R-Z: TS Indefatigable Memorial <http://www.thenma.org.uk/whats-here/the-memorials/memorial-listing/>  

Dedication Ceremony 26th April 2001 took place at the National Memorial Arboretum: In memory of the ships and men of the Merchant Service who were lost in the Second World War, the National Memorial Arboretum was established near the village of Alrewas in Shropshire and was dedicated in October of 1998.  The Arboretum takes the form of 2,536 trees representing all British merchant ships and fishing vessels known to be lost in World War 11.  Certain shipping companies have adopted specific avenues of trees, each one of which is marked with the name of a ship lost.  In addition there are a variety of specific plaques, benches and other forms of memorial.

Steve Paris 76/78 standing next to the Indefatigable tree, of 2,536 trees representing all British merchant ships and fishing vessels known to be lost in World War Two 2004
The Indefatigable tree, of 2,536 trees representing all British merchant ships and fishing vessels known to be lost in World War Two 2019

The purpose of that dedication service was to dedicate plaques and avenues of trees for six shipping companies, Union Castle Mail SS Co., Clan Line Steamers, Scottish Shire Line, Houston Line, Bullard King & Co. and King Line, and plaques in memory of former cadets and staff of five training establishments, H.M.S.Conway, H.M.S.Worcester, the Nautical CollegePangbourne, S.A.T.S.General Botha, T.S.Indefatigable and T.S.Mercury.

Indefatigable Old Boys Association (IOBA)

© www.indeoba.com 2020

HMS Phaeton before being decommissioned in 1914> Indefatigable Sea School until 1941

Indefatigable 38th Annual Report Cover 1902

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