FURTHER TO THE RECENT CORRESPONDENCE ON HMS CONWAY.
During 1953/54 I attended the Indefatigable and National Sea Training School for Boys, then situated at Llanfair P G Anglesey overlooking the Menai Straits. An austere experience, but I survived to serve many years in the Merchant Navy.
Apart from early morning vigorous PT routines to the ‘Cuckoo Waltz’ over the tannoy, another ‘character building’ exercise was to be detailed off to crew one of two ex-RN whalers - if tide and weather permitted - take oars and pull off as far as Stevenson's original Britannia Railway Bridge, then back to our ship's jetty. I must add that our day rig was navy blue shorts, boots and stockings, RN white front or crewneck dark blue jersey. Life jackets or other safety equipment were non-existent.
On one memorable occasion, when HMS Conway must have recently gone aground, our officers decided to enhance our boat handling skills and visit and board her. My hands are healed now!
If my recollections are correct, she was hard aground down by the stern on the mainland side of the Menai Straits between Telford's Menai suspension bridge and the Britannia Railway Bridge. We must have spent about an hour aboard her and I do recall how her lower decks were flooded, but her upper 'tween deck clear and dry, also how low the deck heads were. What her fate was afterwards is unknown to me. No doubt her timbers were put to good use around the area. We took for granted how hard life was in her active days, but it occurs to me, as I write, that we experienced as boys an affinity with that Spartan life.
Health and Safety was an unknown phrase in the 1950s. If made aware, we probably would resign ourselves to another PT routine to be mastered, or thought perhaps it referred to an obscure tramp shipping company we were destined to serve if failing our exams.
CHRISTOPHER J HOPKINSON
For more letters, see the latest edition of Sea Breezes Magazine