IN HIS INTERESTING ARTICLE in the November 2012 edition of Sea Breezes, James Duncan admitted to not knowing the difference between Merchant Navy cadets and apprentices. As one of those rare people who sailed as both let me explain.
Until the 1970s most deck officer trainees were indentured apprentices who were legally bound to a ship-owner for a period of four years. If they had remissions of sea time due to pre-sea training then the indentures were reduced to three or three and a half years. Cadets on the other hand did not sign indentures and in common with the rest of ships’ crews were only bound by a ship’s crew agreement. In 1959 I was in the Pacific when my three-year apprenticeship with Trinder Anderson expired and I signed on as a cadet on AB’s wages for the rest of the voyage. However, liner companies in particular liked to call their trainee officers cadets, or even midshipmen in the case of Blue Funnel, when legally most were indentured apprentices.
These pretentions were a manifestation of a lingering class system that was supported by superintendents and deck officers who received their pre-sea training in minor public schools. The Merchant Navy was probably the only industry that included companies that had a problem with calling their trainees, apprentices.
13 Lapwing Grove, Guildford
Surrey, GU4 7DZ