Steve Smedley


I'm a bit bemused. I transferred from The Training Ship "Mercury" (which had closed down) to The Merchant Navy College in September, 1968. HMS "Worcester" was no more - we were not considered to be Worcesters, nor are we now Old Worcesters..

Captain E.K. Ballard was in charge; we wore the ILEA cap badge, instead of the RN badge formerly worn by the Worcesters.

Deck Cadets from various companies (Esso and BP leap in to mind) were also in attendance then (or in early 1969). In fact, I was sufficiently impressed by Cadet Stuart Cummings' account of life at sea with Esso that I subsequently joined them.

All this is to say that I am perplexed by your web-site's assertion that the Merchant Navy College was established in 1975.

Clarification, please.

Steve Smedley
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Regina, Saskatchewan.

Steve Smedley


[At this point I wrote back to him pointing out my error and asking for more information about the transition from Worcester to MN College buildings - Ed.]

Thanks, Paul, for your prompt response.

Gee, my memories of those days is pretty fuzzy but I do recall a few odds-and-ends.

TS "Mercury" was a pre-sea training ship at Hamble, near Southampton, Hampshire. You can get the full low-down on her by visiting the website at Mercury and the various links.

When 'Mercury" closed we dispersed nation-wide. Some went to TS Conway, in north Wales, and six of us moved to The MNC.

We were, it turned out, the first MNC students. HMS "Worcester" had been taken over by the ILEA that summer and the ship's company re-badged.

However, the change-over was mostly cosmetic. The establishment continued to be run, for that first term, in much the same way as it had operated before and we ex-Mercurys were considered by some ex-Worcesters to be interlopers. Our integration was difficult at first but we gained acceptance as time wore on.

In the New Year, 1969, I was promoted to cadet Captain in charge of a Division; this was a large and bitter pill for the ex-Mercurys to swallow but it went a long awy to changing the way some of them thought.

Also at the ship were a number of lads who had already been to sea for at least six months. I particularly remember Ewen John Gillies Cameron (who could forget such a moniker?) of Forres, Scotland, and BP Tankers, and my pal Stuart Cummings of Esso Marine Division.

It was, above all else, their presence at the MNC that brought home to the ex-Worcesters that the college was under new management. For all their minor-public-school swagger and their petty arrogance, the Worcesters couldn't compete with the lads who had actually sailed on ocean-going ships!

By the spring of '69, we were all getting along. The ship was still the centre of activity and I don't remember coming ashore to the Abbey very often. It was largely an administrative building, as I recall, but there were occasions when one would go there to sit an examination. Otherwise, we did all the sorts of things that you'd expect. Lots of sports, rowing, sailing, etc.

There was, I think, a sort of dual-track programme in place. We, the pre-sea students, followed one curriculum, while the "seasoned" sailors were on another. They were there, after all, for a sort of consolidation course befroe they returned to their ships.

At "Mercury" our nautical studies were limited to Navigation "O" level, seamanship (including signals) and the sort of day-to-day activities that contributed to a sort of naval training by familiarity.

At the MNC, we discovered Meteorology, Ship Construction, Navigation, Seamanship and, I'm sure, other subjects that contributed to a more formal, rounded nautical education. There was even an auxiliary vessel ( a tug? I'm not sure) that was used to take us out into the North Sea for a day or two to give us our sea-legs.

I'm sure that whatever now has replaced the Inner London Education Authority must have some records on the MNC's genesis. I'm afraid my memory isn't much to rely upon.

I left Esso after one trip (July - Dec, '69 as a Deck Cadet, mostly in the Mediterranean, and joined the Surrey Constabulary in April, 1970.

I moved to the Bermuda Police in 1975 and to Canada in 1977. I'm now a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, instructing at the Training Academy in Regina.

I hope this has helped you in some small way.

Whatever happened to the Worcester? I heard a rumour that she'd been towed out to sea and used as target practice by the Royal navy. True?



Email via Deck 1968-70

1   2