Royal Naval Engineering College

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Coordinates: 50°23′06″N 4°10′59″W / 50.385°N 4.183°W / 50.385; -4.183

Royal Naval Engineering College
Active 1880–1995
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  Royal Navy
Type Training
Role Engineering
Garrison/HQ Plymouth

The Royal Naval Engineering College was a specialist establishment for the training of Royal Navy engineers. It was founded as Keyham College in 1880, new buildings were opened in Manadon in 1940 and the old college site at Keyham closed in 1958. The college was renamed HMS Thunderer in 1946, and closed in 1995.

Keyham College[edit]

Construction of Keyham College on the dockside in the Keyham suburb of Plymouth started in February 1879, at a cost of £30,000 and opened in July 1880 as Training Schools for Engineer Students, replacing the hulk of HMS Marlborough which had been used as accommodation for engineering students since 1877. Students spent five years living at the college, and undergoing training in workshops around the dockyard, before spending a further two years at Greenwich college and then assigned to ships as Assistant Engineers.

The college originally only contained accommodation, replacing that provided by Marlborough, but an additional building was later constructed containing lecture theatres, a laboratory and a gymnasium which was subsequently converted to a test engineering shop. The two buildings were connected by a bridge. Later further workshops were added, as was a covered parade ground. An extension to provide accommodation for an additional 50 students was built in 1895-1897.

The Selborne-Fisher scheme of 1903 meant that engineering and deck officers received the same basic training and led the closure of the college in 1910. However it reopened in July 1913 and on the outbreak of the First World War the following year the students were sent off to serve on warships and the college turned over to special entry cadet training. After the war, the college reverted to engineer training.

RNEC Manadon[edit]

Plans were announced in 1937 to move the college to Manadon, and the new college opened in May 1940 at the manor house, expanding rapidly during the Second World War. By 1945 there were several new permanent and temporary buildings on the site, and the original manor house was being used for staff accommodation.

In December 1946 the RNEC Manadon had been renamed HMS Thunderer. Further permanent building work took place following the end of the war, with a recreation block completed in 1947, and the instructional block, boiler house and factory workshop completed in 1951.

The old Keyham College closed in 1958 and was converted to the Dockyard Technical College, reopening in November 1959. The buildings were demolished in 1985.

HMS Thunderer produced around 150 RN engineer officers each year. In addition, a small number of seaman branch officers read for undergraduate arts degrees at the college. This continued until 1995 with the final Manadon students completing their 3rd year of BEng or BA degrees at Plymouth University in 1996. In parallel, in-service first degree education transferred to the University of Southampton from 1994. Postgraduate application training that had previously been conducted at RNEC Manadon transferred to HMS Sultan (marine and air engineering) and HMS Collingwood (weapon engineering). Various artifacts from the instructional blocks and Wardroom at RNEC Manadon are on display at these two establishments.

The site of the former RNEC at Manadon, Plymouth was sold off and has now been transformed into housing.

Notable commanding officers[edit]


  1. ^ MALIM, Nigel Hugh (b 1919), Rear Admiral at (Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives), accessed 3 July 2013