Royal Naval College, Osborne

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The Royal Naval College, Osborne, located in the grounds of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, served as the junior training establishment for the training of naval cadets of the Military Branch of the Royal Navy from 1903 to 1921. Cadets spent two years under study there before transferring for two years' further study at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.

The Service Records of Royal Navy personnel educated under this new scheme bear the unromantic entry of "Training Establishment" in lieu of their predecessors, whose records indicate appoints to Britannia, training ship.


Under the Selborne Scheme of officer education in the Royal Navy, it was decided that the first two years, or six terms, of training would take place at a location other than the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, which at any rate would not be ready until 1905.[1]

Accordingly, on 4 August, 1903 the college at Osborne was opened by King Edward VII on a site of sixty acres surrounding his former Osborne House estate on the Isle of Wight.[2] The first entry of seventy-five cadets of 279 candidates interviewed was made in September.[3]

In requesting an increase of £400,000 in Vote 10 of the 1903-1904 Navy Estimates, the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, Ernest G. Pretyman, told the House of Commons:

Under the new scheme for the entry and the training of naval officers, it was decided to establish another training college, because one college would not be sufficient. Just before that decision His Majesty had signified his intention, without knowing that it would at once be put to such good use, of presenting Osborne House and grounds to the country. It was always a matter of great difficulty to acquire eligible sites for any kind of naval establishment, but here, thanks to His Majesty, they had a most admirable site, in a situation second to none. There were also ready to hand such things as a water supply, a drainage system, and so forth, which ordinarily would have taken a long time to provide, and, in addition to the land, a large block of buildings, hitherto used as stables, which at comparatively little cost would become available for classrooms, offices, and other necessary premises. A short distance away was the Medina, suitable for boating purposes, and an excellent site had been found on the shore for an engineering school in which the cadets would be taught that branch of their profession. Cadets who entered under the present system, which would continue for another two or three years, would still enter the old "Britannia" ship. About the middle or end of next year it was hoped the new Britannia College would be available for new entrants, who in the meantime would be provided for at Osborne. Eventually the entrants would fill both the Britannia College and Osborne, but at present the accommodation at Osborne would be necessary only to meet requirements until the new Britannia College was ready. When that college was full, which would be in about two years, they would have to come back to Osborne, and the two establishments together would meet the entire wants of the service.
It was hoped the buildings at Osborne would be ready for the accommodation of cadets in or about August next. The buildings, which were not to be of a high architectural character, would be in the nature of bungalows, constructed of a sanitary, and durable, material called Euralite—no wood would be used; the flooring would be of concrete with a paving; and the heating arrangement would be by steam from a separate boiler house. A large gymnasium and recreation hall were also being provided. The total number of cadets provided 592 for in the two establishments would be between 700 and 800. Changes in the naval service were very frequent, so that it was desirable to be able to vary the accommodation as required, without having to alter existing buildings to any great extent. This end would be secured by the system being adopted at Osborne. The class-rooms, gymnasium, and so forth were separate, and could be added to without difficulty when occasion arose. Each bungalow would accommodate about thirty cadets, and about 200 would be provided for at Osborne, that being the accommodation required pending the completion of Britannia College. As to the £40,000 for the purchase of land, the Admiralty had had compulsorily to take land at Deal for a rifle range, but there was no really large item involved, the sum covering all the purchases proposed for the year.[4]

In the Navy Estimates for 1914-1915, it was estimated that the average number of Naval Cadets in the college that year would be 468, an increase on 446 the year before. The number of staff budgeted for was 341, from the Captain down to civilian servants for the Naval Cadets.[5]

During the war, the naval staff was comprised mostly of retired officers.


S. Brian de Courcy-Ireland (entered January, 1913): "Everything was routine. Discipline was pretty strict, and you just did what you were told and you wouldn't ask any questions." Of the food he recalled, "I suppose it was all right. Yes. Northing really wonderful, but adequate."[6]

Frederick R. Parham (entered September 1913):

It was a fairly taut routine. You moved swiftly at the double. You never put your hands in your trouser pockets. In fact you couldn't because there weren't any pockets in your trousers. And, er, things I remember in the dormitories particularly were organised entirely by ringing gongs. There was a gong for you to say your prayers, and a gong for you to get undressed, and a final gong—no, a semi-final gong—to brush your teeth, and finally a gong to which you would hop into bed.
It was a fairly good, I think, general education, though time had to be found, above the ordinary line of education for seamanship, boats, engineering, et cetera. But it was not true to say that we only learned naval history.[7]

William J. Lamb (entered September, 1920) recalled that "the discipline was strict, as I expected".[8]


Fees at the Royal Naval College were £75 per annum, not including pocket money, travelling expenses or the cost of clothing. For sons of Army and Navy officers and civil officers under the Board of Admiralty in straitened circumstances the fee could be reduced to £40 per annum after considering the merits of the case. However, of the 588 cadets who had entered Osborne up to and including January, 1906, only 33 cadets had been entered at the reduced rate.


The college formally closed on 20 May, 1921.[9]

Captains of the College

Dates of appointment given:


  1. Partridge. pp. 18-19.
  2. "Naval Cadetships." The Times (London, England), Friday, Dec 31, 1920; pg. 13; Issue 42606.
  3. Report of the Director of Naval Education for the Year 1904, 4. The National Archives. ADM 7/936. Selection of Candidates for Nomination as Naval Cadets, 5.
  4. Hansard. HC Deb 30 March 1903 vol 120 cc590-592.
  5. Navy Estimates for the Year 1914–1915. p. 68.
  6. IWM SOUND 12243.
  7. IWM SOUND 14128.
  8. IWM SOUND 10723.
  9. Partridge. The Royal Naval College Osborne. p. 150.
  10. Wester Wemyss Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 223.
  11. Wemyss Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 223.
  12. Alexander-Sinclair Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 361.
  13. Christian Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 142.
  14. Christian Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 142.
  15. Hood Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 114.
  16. Hood Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 114.
  17. Bentinck Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 47.
  18. Bentinck Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 47.
  19. The Navy List. (December, 1914). p. 376.
  20. Talbot Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43/421. f. 421.
  21. The Navy List. (August, 1919). p. 856.
  22. Talbot Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43/421. f. 223.
  23. Marten Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/90/85. f. 85.
  24. The Navy List. (December, 1920). p. 818.
  25. Marten Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/90/85. f. 85.
  26. Royds Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 290.


  • Partridge, Michael (1999). The Royal Naval College Osborne: A History, 1903–1921. London: Sutton Publishing Limited. ISBN 0750919698.

Term Intakes into Royal Naval College, Osborne
Before 1905, new Naval Cadets went to H.M.S. Britannia
Sep, 1903 | Jan, 1904 | May, 1904 | Sep, 1904 | Jan, 1905 | May, 1905 | Sep, 1905 | Jan, 1906 | May, 1906 | Sep, 1906
Jan, 1907 | May, 1907 | Sep, 1907 | Jan, 1908 | May, 1908 | Sep, 1908 | Jan, 1909 | May, 1909 | Sep, 1909
Jan, 1910 | May, 1910 | Sep, 1910 | Jan, 1911 | May, 1911 | Sep, 1911 | Jan, 1912 | May, 1912 | Sep, 1912
Jan, 1913 | May, 1913 | Sep, 1913 | Jan, 1914 | May, 1914 | Sep, 1914
Jan, 1915 | May, 1915 | Sep, 1915 | Jan, 1916 | May, 1916 | Sep, 1916 | Jan, 1917 | May, 1917 | Sep, 1917
Jan, 1918 | May, 1918 | Sep, 1918 | Jan, 1919 | May, 1919 | Sep, 1919
This is generally the end of our Scope