Royal Merchant Navy School, Bearwood

Bearwood
13th October 2005, 13:13
I am an ex-pupil of RMNS (now known as Bearwood College) which since 1827 has educated children whose parent(s) died (or became incapacitated) whilst serving in the Merchant Navy. My father served in the BI as did my mother during the early days of World War II. Currently editor of the annual newsletter and very involved with organising reunions etc all over the country, I am always looking for news of ex-pupils and hope that by posting something on this website I might reach a wider audience. Most of the boys educated at the school went on to serve in the Merchant Navy (before it shrunk!) and I am often asked if I know what happened to people - the girls are better at keeping in touch. I also have connections with the The Royal Liverpool Seaman's Orphanage and the Royal Wanstead. If you have any news of people you know were educated at Bearwood, please let me know.

thunderd
13th October 2005, 23:45
Hello Bearwood a warm welcome to the site, there are a lot of old aquaintances renewed here so your quest might just succeed, in the meantime I hope you enjoy the site.

Geoff Garrett
5th May 2006, 02:50
Met a chap in a bar in Hong Kong, said he had been to the Royal Merchant Navy School and had then won a scholarship to the "Conway" (which I had attended). "Really enjoyed the Conway" he said, "they only used to flog us once a day!!" lol.

benjidog
6th May 2006, 00:03
Welcome to SN Sylvia.

I sincerely hope that your contact with SN will prove fruitful and enable you to unite old friends. Good luck with the Old Royals Association.

You might like to bring this site to the attention of your membership as there is a large Merchant Navy membership here (plus a lot of others people with a common interest in the sea).

Regards,

Brian

Bearwood
6th May 2006, 18:12
I'm tickled pink to have a reply from someone who actually met an 'Old Royal'. Certainly many boys who were at Bearwood in the 40s and 50s went on to the Conway, the Worcester and King Edward VII before actually going to sea. In fact boys were actively encouraged to follow in their fathers' footsteps whilst the girls were pointed towards nursing and secretarial work. We still have a thriving ex pupils association and I always mention the various MN sites when I send out my annual newsletter and actively encourage 'the old salts' to log on to them. Our website www.oldroyals.org.uk is at present being updated and will soon have links to your site, the MNA website and one or two others which I think our members will find interesting. I shall keeping logging on to Ships Nostalgia regularly - I find the chat fascinating.

Hugh MacLean
6th May 2006, 18:18
Welcome aboard, Bearwood. Enjoy the site.

Rgds

Bearwood
2nd April 2007, 23:48
I posted my first message on this site in May 2006 and have conscientiously logged on nearly every day since - I find the postings to the Forum fascinating. I just thought I'd bring my search for ex pupils of the Royal Merchant Navy School to the 'top of the pile' again - I've had a few contacts over the last year and some very interesting private messages.

barrypriddis
3rd April 2007, 00:47
Bearwood
When the Indefatigable closed in 1995 some of the boys went on to Bearwood, as did Malcolm Cheeseman the IT teacher. I think he is still there as a housemaster.

R.Philip Griffin
3rd April 2007, 02:01
Ahoy Bearwood
I know of your College as my sister lives in Wokingham. I also know that there is a great pub on the way to your College, where great food is served with a very presentable cold beer or two.
From your replies above I gather you have been in touch with this site for nearly a year. Good innit? Anyhow welcome once again.

Bearwood
3rd April 2007, 21:27
Bearwood
When the Indefatigable closed in 1995 some of the boys went on to Bearwood, as did Malcolm Cheeseman the IT teacher. I think he is still there as a housemaster.

Yes, Barry, Malcolm Cheeseman is still at Bearwood - in fact he is the Liaison officer between the College and the Old Royals Association. He has been in poor health recently but now seems to be 'in the pink' again.

Bearwood
3rd April 2007, 21:30
Ahoy Bearwood
I know of your College as my sister lives in Wokingham. I also know that there is a great pub on the way to your College, where great food is served with a very presentable cold beer or two.
From your replies above I gather you have been in touch with this site for nearly a year. Good innit? Anyhow welcome once again.

Thanks for your message - I can vouch for the food at the Walter's Arms - we often repair there after committee meetings. I think the SN site is very good indeed and log on every single day to see what is new.

barrypriddis
3rd April 2007, 22:04
Sylvia
When you next see Malcolm pass on my regards.
Barry

Bearwood
4th April 2007, 15:40
Sylvia
When you next see Malcolm pass on my regards.
Barry

Barry - will do - Sylvia

Indie Boy
6th June 2007, 15:27
I am an ex-pupil of RMNS (now known as Bearwood College) which since 1827 has educated children whose parent(s) died (or became incapacitated) whilst serving in the Merchant Navy. My father served in the BI as did my mother during the early days of World War II. Currently editor of the annual newsletter and very involved with organising reunions etc all over the country, I am always looking for news of ex-pupils and hope that by posting something on this website I might reach a wider audience. Most of the boys educated at the school went on to serve in the Merchant Navy (before it shrunk!) and I am often asked if I know what happened to people - the girls are better at keeping in touch. I also have connections with the The Royal Liverpool Seaman's Orphanage and the Royal Wanstead. If you have any news of people you know were educated at Bearwood, please let me know.

My eldest son attended the RMNS, back in the early 70'S. Now, at age 50, he is a P.O. in the R.N. About to start his 4th tour of duty in Iraq. I have never heard him speak ill of the old school.

Indie Boy
17th November 2007, 14:25
Hopefully, this will reach you.
Regards,
Mike Weller Snr.




I am an ex-pupil of RMNS (now known as Bearwood College) which since 1827 has educated children whose parent(s) died (or became incapacitated) whilst serving in the Merchant Navy. My father served in the BI as did my mother during the early days of World War II. Currently editor of the annual newsletter and very involved with organising reunions etc all over the country, I am always looking for news of ex-pupils and hope that by posting something on this website I might reach a wider audience. Most of the boys educated at the school went on to serve in the Merchant Navy (before it shrunk!) and I am often asked if I know what happened to people - the girls are better at keeping in touch. I also have connections with the The Royal Liverpool Seaman's Orphanage and the Royal Wanstead. If you have any news of people you know were educated at Bearwood, please let me know.

8553

Trot Sentry
19th November 2007, 18:35
Hi there. Is there more than one RMNS?!

My late cousin, Steven Owen, attended a school during the seventies, which I understood to be in the Kingston Upon Hull area. He went to the school preparing to follow in his father's footsteps.

His father, along with my own, started in the Merchant Navy in the fifties, but within a couple of years, his father joined the RAF before a long career in the Fire Service.

Bearwood
19th November 2007, 22:54
No, there is only one Royal Merchant Navy School (or rather 'was' as it is now known as Bearwood College, Nr Wokingham in Berkshire). The pupil age range is 11 through to 18 and certainly in the days when there really was a Merchant Navy, many boys from there did follow in their fathers' footsteps. In the 1970s, there were still sons of MN fathers there, but probably as fee payers, not because their fathers had died in the Service (as mine did). If you could give me an approximate date of birth for your late cousin and where his home was, I can check the records.

trotterdotpom
19th November 2007, 23:45
Hi there. Is there more than one RMNS?!

My late cousin, Steven Owen, attended a school during the seventies, which I understood to be in the Kingston Upon Hull area. He went to the school preparing to follow in his father's footsteps.

His father, along with my own, started in the Merchant Navy in the fifties, but within a couple of years, his father joined the RAF before a long career in the Fire Service.

Trot, I think you may be thinking of Hull Trinity House School which dates back to the late 18th century and is still going today. The boys used to be a familiar sight around the Old Town in their distinctive "Hornblower" Midshipman type uniforms. Not sure if they still wear them or not.

John T.

Trot Sentry
26th November 2007, 13:41
Trot, I think you may be thinking of Hull Trinity House School which dates back to the late 18th century and is still going today. The boys used to be a familiar sight around the Old Town in their distinctive "Hornblower" Midshipman type uniforms. Not sure if they still wear them or not.

John T.

That name sounds familiar. Thank you (Thumb)

wa002f0328
26th November 2007, 20:57
As an old "Royal" Sylvia, is quite correct. The Hornblower uniform sounds a bit like maybe it was a Royal Navy school, Good Sailing Bill

robandbarbara
26th November 2007, 21:29
I was for a year or so, in the mid 1960's, a flight commander with the Bearwood College detached flight of 2211 (Bracknell Squadron) Air Training Corps. I do remember that the cadets were very keen and smart - I think we were the nearest thing to having the Sea Cadets at the College. !! The ATC unit eventually became a Combined Cadet Force Unit. I dont know what happened to the flight after 1969 when I moved away.
Rob..

trotterdotpom
26th November 2007, 21:52
Hull Trinity House School was founded by the Board of Trinity House, Hull, made up of Master Mariners and Pilots, in the late 18th century. It was the first naval school in the world. While some of the pupils probably entered the Royal Navy, the school had no affiliation with the RN as far as I can see.

John T.

Peter Simmons
10th November 2015, 19:04
I was a pupil at the RMNS from 1940 to 1945 along with my brother Laurie. His number was 72 and mine 66. His nickname was Quacker and mine was ducky, we were good swimmers. He was in Drake house and I was in Grenville and then Frobisher.

signalman
10th November 2015, 20:22
Hallo Peter - I was in Grenville, then Raleigh 1946-50. There are still a few of us around. I've no doubt Sylvia Lambert will follow up your post. Ian (Lanky) Newson.

billyboy
11th November 2015, 00:29
A warm welcome aboard from the Philippines. Please enjoy all this great site has to offer

johncpugh
11th November 2015, 06:57
Always nice to hear from the RMNS, Still a few OR's around here in Australia in particular Jennifer Cornwell, Fiona Hamilton, Alison Merry(nee Grant) and Averil Swain. All have still maintained their nice lines and in good nick despite the years.
Any South Wales OR's out there never seem to hear from them.

Peter Simmons
21st November 2015, 17:41
No, there is only one Royal Merchant Navy School (or rather 'was' as it is now known as Bearwood College, Nr Wokingham in Berkshire). The pupil age range is 11 through to 18 and certainly in the days when there really was a Merchant Navy, many boys from there did follow in their fathers' footsteps. In the 1970s, there were still sons of MN fathers there, but probably as fee payers, not because their fathers had died in the Service (as mine did). If you could give me an approximate date of birth for your late cousin and where his home was, I can check the records.

The following is an article that I sent to the new school showing how it was to be a pupil during WW2.

It would seem that the major reason for the existence of the RMNS is all but forgotten having started as The Royal Merchant Seaman’s Orphanage in Snaresbrook and then moving to the Royal Merchant Navy School but still an Orphanage. Its sad but proud past seems to be lost.

I might add that from the point of view of some former, shall we say inmates; it was a tough life in what we referred to as STALAG B30. This referred to a German POW camp as a joke, this name was pasted on a sign at the entry to the basement washrooms from the North Court. It remained up to at least 1945 when I left the school.

The RMNS was a cold place, staffed with a few nasty people but in beautiful surroundings, thankfully with several kind and good teachers and an excellent Nurse.

I can provide a little early history based upon my personal experience and a few surviving photo’s. Feel free to use or dispose of this information as you see fit.

I doubt that there are many old timers left that can verify my story and some of the things that happened may blemish the reputation of some of those in charge but not that of the school. There were of course many good things that happened in spite of the cruelty of some Officer and Commodore boys and a couple of the teachers that were ex Tall Ship Captains or Sailors.

The two things that are undeniable are that the quality of education was extremely high and the physical regimen imparted a toughness that later served me well in the Royal Air Force as a PT Instructor.

Later in Canada when I returned to College to Study Electronics I was surprised to find that the math at the RMNS was well into the advanced courses that made up the 21 subjects for Senior Engineering Technologist in Ontario Canada.

ANY WAY ON WITH MY STORY AND FORGIVE MY ENGLISH

On November the 5th 1940 my brother and I after being evacuated to Devon due to the blitz, were setting of indoor fireworks that my Dad had left for us when he went to sea.

Ironically and at the sane time,
On November the 5th 1940 My Dads ship The HMS Jervis Bay an armed merchant ship in charge of a convoy of 38 ships was sunk in action with the 11 inch guns of the Admiral Scheer.

Admiral Scheer was a Deutschland-class heavy cruiser (often termed a pocket battleship) which served with the Kriegsmarine of Nazi Germany during World War II.

The Jervis Bay was featured in a film called the San Demetrio London. The San Demetrio of London is a British merchant ship in the Atlantic convoy in 1940 which was one of the ships saved by the Jervis bay action.

The result was that at the tender age of seven years along with my older brother we were sent to the RMNS. I was put in the charge of Miss Soden the head of the very young kids but my brother being two years older was sent right to Drake house. Very shortly just after our arrival, Grenville was formed and juniors were placed there with Mr. Board as the Head.

Upon arrival at the school, we were assigned a number, mine was 66 and my brother was 72. All our kit or clothing was marked with this number and from then on we were called by this number rather than our names.

We were then kitted out with the school uniform consisting of underpants, vest, Grey shirt and dark blue short pants, socks and Shoes.
See attached Photo

Later when winter arrived we were issued with a long sleeve jersey. Even later when the Bursar was arrested for embezzling the school funds, we all got issued with blue reefer jackets for the winter. It was nice to be warm and things in general became easier for the kids.


It is also worth noting that at about the same time and on rare occasions, some very kind and thoughtful Royal and Merchant Navy personnel delivered small quantities of special food specially brought over for the Orphans as treats, such as oranges and Bananas that were never seen in public during the war.

After our Mom left, we were introduced to our dorm room a huge wood paneled area being the first large room on the left and located on the south side of the assembly hall.

The bed consisted of a rectangular wooden frame or truckle bed, the legs folded so it laid flat on the floor with a two inch thick stuffed Palliasse for a mattress plus two sheets a pillow and a blanket. It was very uncomfortable.

Being flat on the floor was a precaution against the blitz, anticipating the panic that could ensue for little kids trying to navigate around beds in the dark to get to the shelters located in the basement.

As the war progressed and the risk of bombing decreased, we were given real bunk beds as shown in the attached picture and later we were all moved to the third floor while the girls remained on the second floor.

The days followed the same old routine breakfast, school work, dinner, school work, Tea, a break, supper and to bed.

At 6: am we were aroused by Reveille the first bugle call and made our way down to the cold stone floored basement to wash and get dressed. Soap was a scarce commodity and toothpaste non existent. The washing area was lined upon one wall with sink after sink and nearby was the bath house with row upon row of bath tubs. We were then marched to the mess hall.

Breakfast was Porridge with bread and Marge and a cup of tea. In later years we were allowed to bring in our own things like Marmite, Beetox, Paste and other spreads. These had to be left in the mess hall and were all located at one end near the entrance on a corner shelf.

After breakfast the second bugle call sounded divisions. We were then marched to the main assembly hall, put on parade said prayers, were dismissed and then went to the classrooms.

Later in time, they built outside classrooms, since the quantity of orphans was increasing due to the war and additional space was needed for dormitories.

The outside classrooms were actually warmer than the main building since they had a coal burning stove. We of course used to roast chestnuts on the top which the teachers allowed since they also enjoyed the feast.



Dinner consisted of what we called GLOP which was a stew with bread and marge. The stew tasted ok but the size of the bones was almost too large for the ladles, Tea time was merely tea and toast and sometimes a dough cake.

We were always hungry and the Tuck Shop which should have been a resource was only opened once per year on prize day, since candy and sweets were non existent during the war. We did visit Syndlesham and were able to purchase some cakes and coco powder and saccharine tablets which we made into a past hoping it would go hard and form chocolate. It ended up with sticking your finger in the past and sucking on your finger.

In the evenings we spent time playing outside in the area just north of the boathouse where an enormous Oak tree used to be. We all played conquers when the horse chestnuts were ready and attempted to build huts in the trees. We also used to climb through the tops of the rhododendron vines and sucked the honey out of the blooms. When we were called in, we went for Supper consisting of hot chocolate or a rare glass of milk and sometimes a biscuit or cake. We then retired to our dorms. The final bugle call was Lights out and we slept.

At the beginning of the term, in the dorms at night the Officer boys would organize fist fights to rank each kid to find who the best fighter was. The more fights you could win provided you with protection from being bullied by stronger kids. Very early I found my best protection was with a big stick.

I was not the best fighter but I did quite well, but a notable fight pitted me against a boy named Tobin who tried to boss me around. The officer boys noted this and set up a fight between us down in the basement washrooms.

The noise of the crowd of boys watching and shouting attracted one of the masters who stopped the fight but found Tobin so badly injured that he was sent to the Hospital in what we called Boadicea’s Chariot. This was a very old three wheeled invalid’s chair used to transport kids to the San when they were sick.

The powers that be decided that my crime was so serious that I was sent to stand on the headmasters landing to be punished by the headmaster. I was very frightened and I could hardly believe that my punishment was merely a talking too, having the dangers of fighting explained and told not to do it again.

Sports and gymnastics were part and parcel of the school curriculum and we were all damn good at it and played on school days and week ends. On occasion, we played soccer and cricket with boys from the Dartmouth Royal Naval College and the girls did very well in hockey, playing such places as the Luckley School for Young Ladies.




Much later, I learnt about Luckley from my wife also an orphan with a rich relative Dame Hermione Badderly who sent her to attend this school. She said what nice girls were at the RMNS. When I told her I attended the RMNS and what it was like, she was very surprised, mind you the girls fared better than us boys.

Though we had daily chores to clean our dorms and common rooms, make our beds with hospital corners etc. The big event was Saturdays CLEAN SHIP where all the floor bumpers, Ronuck floor polish, and all kinds of cleaning materials were issued.

In addition to all the bath tubs, sinks, taps and toilets, we had to polish all the floors in the entire building to a brilliant shine, these were then inspected and if passed we had the rest of the week end off.

Swimming was perhaps the best part of our free time either in the upper lake or the pool where we all aspired to earning the various awards. This started with the Elementary and, Intermediate certificates, leading to the Bronze and finally the award of merit.

My brother was an early swimmer at the age of two and was much admired and was given the nick name Quacker. I was taught to swim at the school like most of the kids in the usual way by being tossed into the deep area of the pool. I also became quite proficient and earned the name Ducky. These names stuck for the entire time we were at the RMNS.

Discipline was rarely administered by the Head Master or real teachers, however the Old Sailors who also took classes such as seamanship and geography were very strict and would use the ropes end on your bottom, and this was a rope with a Turks head or knot on the end.

I clearly remember how I learned to box the compass and read the lead line by the time I was 8 years old. Failure would result in what we called birdie whacks from OLD BEZZY who we were told was a retired Captain of a sailing ship. His left arm was severely injured and misshaped from an accident at sea and he would flick you behind your ear when your answer was incorrect.

In actual fact every day discipline was seconded to the older senior boys of the Houses and they were called Commodore boys. Their assistants were called Officer Boys.

Both were sometimes extremely cruel and brutal not short of using their fists. We were warned by the Officer and Commodore boys not to tell our parents or get beaten up. Later when several kids ran away from the school and reported the reason to the police the rough treatment was reduced but never left completely.

Punishments for any crime by a teacher would often be scrubbing floors and the stair cases. But Mr. Board, who ran Grenville, used a variety of rubber and leather straps. One rubber strap had the word Dunlop carved backwards and left a red welt with the word clearly visible on your backside.

Mr. Board was eventually reported to be interfering with some of the boys was arrested by the Police and we never saw him again.

We had three holidays per year Easter was two weeks, summer was six weeks and Christmas was two weeks. Leading up to the holidays was a most exiting time. We all had to assemble in the Gym for Stations. On the floor in coloured chalk, were marked off the names of the railroad stations with large areas lined with chalk where we had to assemble with our luggage so we would know the rout we would take. E.g. Winnersh Halt to Waterloo then Fenchurch St to Leigh- on-Sea.

On one occasion, the Royal Family King George the 6th the Queen Mary and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret made the awards on prize day. On that occasion, we were all issued our full dress uniform. See picture.


One of the nicer things that happened was the time that an American bomber air base put on a Christmas party for the kids. We were all bundled into army trucks and driven to an air base where they had set up huge long tables spread with food that we had never seen.

We had ice cream and coca cola and all kinds of candy and each child was given a gift. Many were miniature chess sets that folded up and kept in your pocket but I was given this strange musical instrument that you blow. I was told it was a sweet potato but its real name was an Ocarina.

On the way through to the party area we saw something we did not understand, we noted big old comfortable armchairs strewn all over the place with men sitting reading, smoking and many just asleep. Later in life I came to realize that these men were resting in between bomber missions, yet they had sacrificed their home comforts, candy etc, for the sake of us kids.

Another nice thing that happened was the selection of some kids as pen pals with people in the United States. I was lucky and had two, one being a sailor in the U,S,Navy who sent me parcels of candy. The other was non other than Eleanor Roosevelt the First Lady of the United States who wrote to me. I was given her letters to read and to reply but the letters were then taken back and kept by the school. They may still exist in the School archives. It would be interesting to see them again.

I could go on for many more pages but it is probably boring so I will stop now. At least you can get the flavor of what it was like to be an orphan at the Royal Merchant Navy School 1n 1945. I myself wonder what it must have been like for those attending years before me, when it was no doubt even tougher.

Peter John Simmons

Number 66 Frobisher 1945.

Varley
21st November 2015, 18:16
Thank you for that very interesting post, Peter.

Peter Simmons
22nd November 2015, 19:19
Thank you for your comment and I am glad you found it interesting. I just felt that someone had to tell a little bit of the history of the RMNS before it was forgotten.
The RMNS was a very tough place to be, especially after the traumatic event that caused one to be placed in such an institution. However it was also the only solution so many merchant navy widows had since the pensions at that time were so small as to make it impossible for them to exist, let alone raise their children. The only saving grace was the quality of the education which was way ahead of public schools.
Though I started an apprenticeship with Green and Silley Weir Ltd the ship builders in Blackwall yard in Poplar I left to find a different path in life joining the RAF where I became a physical training instructor. An accident in the Ceylon jungle put an end to that career and eventually I moved to Canada where I started an electronics business that ended up in Hong Kong .

signalman
22nd November 2015, 19:56
Hi Peter. I remember Tobin - would you believe it, he became a Prefect (in Raleigh). Leigh-on-Sea ! I live in Rayleigh.

Peter Simmons
25th November 2015, 19:03
I am very surprised that any one would know anything about Tobin, I even surprise myself at even remembering his name it was so long ago.

When were you at the RMNS? Tobin would have been about the same age as me about 10 and both of us in Grenville at the time of the fight. This would have been in 1943.

signalman
25th November 2015, 19:48
My post #24.

Peter Simmons
26th November 2015, 22:32
I see that you were at the RMNS a year after I had left and I hope that things were a little better at that time. We lived in Leigh-on Sea so I knew your area quite well. I am not surprised that Tobin became a prefect, he was a strong willed kid and I expect he went on to greater things in life. Tobin and I became good friends after the fight. Did my recollections of life at the RMNS fit your experience?

Cisco
27th November 2015, 08:01
My paternal grandmother was placed in the Royal Merchant Seamen's Orphanage after her father was lost at sea.... probably between 1880/1890ish as she was married in Southampton in the late 1890's.

Didn't seem to do her any harm.

signalman
27th November 2015, 13:30
Hello again Peter. Your description of life at RMNS in the early Forties certainly rang a few bells for me. I was there for a few short months in 1941/42, but then returned home before being evacuated to relatives in Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire. I then re-entered RMNS in 1946. I well remember the dorms on the ground floor during the air raids, when I was bullied unmercifully. The early War winters were really bitter. Things had certainly improved in 1946-1950. The regime was much less harsh - The cane was administered by the Headmaster when necessary, (Robert (Joe) Davy was the Housemaster of Grenville - he did administer slippering on a few occasions. The grub was not bad, except for the bread and butter, both had had a good life before they were served up to us, the bread stale, and the butter tasting rancid. I used to put pepper and salt on to take the taste away(just thought - I was echoing Tudor times). Cleaning Ship on Saturday mornings - I think the Royal Merchant Navy Foundation must have had shares in the Ronuk manufacturing company...... However, my time at RMNS stood me in good stead when I was called up for National Service (I did three years as a Regular). I had no problems with being away from home, making beds, cleaning (Bull), drill, and probably most important of all - Discipline. Some poor lads had a miserable time on all those counts.

Peter Simmons
30th November 2015, 20:35
I assume that the first time you went to the RMNS was that you lost one of your parents but after that first experience I wonder why you would return? Did you have any choice?
I went back to the school just for a visit when I was 17 and in talking to the kids found that things were a lot better with a few new staff of a higher quality in terms of being concerned about the welfare of the students.
I also signed on for the 3 years instead of national service if only to get the trade I wanted as a PTI as well as the extra pay as a regular along with the extra leave etc.,
The students that now attend the RMNS have no idea of its history but one things for sure it was a tough place to be and even tougher than square bashing in the military.