Royal Naval College, Osborne
|Royal Naval College, Osborne|
The Stable Block at Osborne House, main building of the former College
|Active||1903 – 1921|
|Country||United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland|
|Role||Junior cadet training|
|Garrison/HQ||Isle of Wight, England|
Boys were admitted at about the age of thirteen to follow a course lasting for six academic terms before proceeding to the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.
Following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, Osborne House, overlooking the River Medina, where she had spent her final years, was surplus to the requirements of the new king, her son Edward VII. He passed the property over to the government, apart from a few rooms in the main house which he kept as a private royal museum of the later life of Queen Victoria. In 1903, part of the estate, including the Osborne Stable Block, was converted into a naval training college, while the main house became a military hospital.
Acting upon the Selborne-Fisher scheme (or New Scheme) for officer education, the Admiralty decided that the first two years, or six terms, of officer training should take place somewhere other than the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty, Ernest Pretyman, asked the House of Commons for an increase of £400,000 in Vote 10 of the Navy Estimates for 1903–1904. He said that King Edward had indicated that he wished to present Osborne House and its grounds to the nation, thus providing "a most admirable site, in a situation second to none" for a naval establishment.
Pretyman went on to explain that several new buildings were needed, and he hoped they would be ready by August. There would be a large gymnasium and recreation hall, plus single-storey class-rooms and bungalow dormitories built of Euralite, with concrete floors, heated by steam from a boiler house. Each bungalow would have accommodation for about thirty cadets, and the Admiralty's present plans were for a total of about two hundred cadets. Land had been bought at Deal for a rifle range.
During the first half of 1903, Admiral Fisher chaired an education committee which had the task of establishing the college, to be controlled by the Admiralty. It duly opened in the summer of 1903.
Two appointments were made long before the new college opened its doors. Captain Rosslyn E. Wemyss was appointed Captain of HMS Racer and Commandant of the Royal Naval College, Osborne, under the New Scheme, on 25 November 1902, and with effect from 12 March 1903 Commander William G. E. Ruck-Keene was appointed as Executive Officer of HMS Racer.
Before admission as naval cadets at about the age of thirteen, boys had to pass an entrance examination, in which they were tested in English, history and geography (with special reference to the British Empire), arithmetic, algebra, geometry (practical and theoretical); French or German, with written and oral examinations; and Latin, with set translations and simple grammatical questions. A boy who passed the entrance examination was then appointed as a cadet, the appointment reading "To HMS Racer for the Royal Naval College, Osborne."
Boys at the college wore naval uniform and generally stayed for two years of initial training, divided into six terms, then from about the age of fifteen they continued their studies at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. HMS Racer, a ship dating from 1884, was given to the college at Osborne as a tender. All cadets were educated in mathematics, foreign languages, natural sciences, sailing, navigation, seamanship, and naval history, the science and technology to give non-engineering officers a better understanding of their future ships, while those who became engineers would be better equipped for command. Physical education and the usual school sports were also part of the curriculum, both for the benefit of the cadets and so that they could train their future ships' crews and produce sports teams to play friendly matches while on good-will visits in overseas ports. At the end of their four years at Osborne and Dartmouth, cadets were posted to training ships, to gain practical experience at sea, before being posted into real-life naval service, as newly commissioned officers. A final examination after four years decided the seniority and postings of the new junior officers and also had a big impact on their chances of early promotion.
The college was funded very like other boarding schools, charging fees of £75 a year for each boy, not including clothes and travelling expenses, but with no compulsory extras; so the cost of educating a boy at Osborne was rather less than at a traditional public school. Fathers who were Army and Navy officers or civilian officers working for the Board of Admiralty could plead straitened circumstances, in which event the fees could be reduced to £40 a year, if the merits of the case were accepted.
The College closed in 1921, with the last students leaving on 9 April 1921, after the Admiralty had taken the decision to bring the whole of the four-year course to Dartmouth. Almost all Osborne boys progressed to Dartmouth at the beginning of the following term.
Captains and Commandants of the CollegeEdit
The following served as Captain and Commandant of the College:
|Order||Officeholder||Title||Term began||Term end||Time in office||Notes|
|1||Captain Rosslyn Erskine Wemyss||Captain of HMS Racer and Commandant of the Royal Naval College, Osborne||1 August 1903||1 September 1905||2 years, 31 days|
|2||Captain Edwyn Alexander-Sinclair||1 May 1905|
|3||Captain Richard Stapleton-Cotton||1906|
|4||Captain Arthur Henry Christian||16 July 1908||5 October 1910||2 years, 81 days|
|5||Captain the Hon. Horace Lambert Alexander Hood||5 October 1910||16 January 1913||2 years, 103 days|
|6||Captain Rudolph Walter Bentinck||16 January 1913||31 July 1914||1 year, 196 days|
|7||Captain Herbert Edward Holmes à Court||1 August 1914|
|8||Captain Henry FitzRoy George Talbot||15 December 1918||5 May 1920||1 year, 142 days|
|9||Captain Francis Arthur Marten||5 May 1920||1 February 1921||272 days|
|10||Captain Charles William Rawson Royds||2 February 1921||3 May 1921||90 days|
|11||Commander Charles Frederic Roy Cowan (acting Captain)||3 May 1921||20 May 1921||18 days|
Notable teaching staffEdit
In 1907 George Dyson was appointed as the college's director of music, on the recommendation of Sir Hubert Parry. He moved on to Marlborough College in 1911 and was succeeded by Reginald Thatcher. Paul Boissier was another member of the staff and went on to become the headmaster of Harrow School. R. P. Keigwin, a first-class cricketer and languages master, moved on to teach at Clifton College in 1919.
The schoolmasters who in 1921 were left without teaching posts when the college closed were offered employment at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. In this way, Charles Godfrey became the head of Mathematics at Greenwich, with the title of Professor, having been headmaster at Osborne, while Michael Lewis and Geoffrey Callender, two other masters from Osborne, also became heads of departments at Greenwich. William Mansfield Poole, the head of modern languages at Osborne, proceeded with his boys to the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, and continued to teach there.
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- Edmund Anstice (1899–1979), later Vice Admiral Sir Edmund Anstice KCB
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