Thames Nautical Training College
The Thames Nautical Training College, as it is now called, was, for over a hundred years, situated aboard ships named HMS Worcester.
London shipowners, marine insurance underwriters and merchants subscribed to its founding as an institution which would provide trained officers for a seagoing career. The British Admiralty loaned the 50-gun, 1,500-ton frigate HMS Worcester for the scheme, and in 1862 the Thames Marine Officer Training School was opened. She was to find her eventual home off Greenhithe, in the Thames, in 1871, after temporary berths at Blackwall, Erith and Southend.
The college expanded and the Admiralty provided the college with HMS Frederick William (originally laid down as Royal Frederick), a line-of-battle ship of 86 guns with screw propulsion. She was renamed Worcester and refitted in the Victoria Docks before being brought to Greenhithe in 1876. About this time the name of the school was changed to the Incorporated Thames Nautical Training College, HMS Worcester (ITNTC).
In 1938, the clipper Cutty Sark was acquired by the college and berthed alongside Worcester and during the Second World War some seamanship classes were held in the ship. In 1954 the Cutty Sark left Greenhithe to be docked permanently at Greenwich, where she is now a Museum ship.
With the onset of war in 1939, Worcester cadets moved to Foots Cray Place near Sidcup, and the ship was handed back to the Admiralty. The third Worcester (formerly HMS Exmouth) arrived at Greenhithe in January 1946. She had previously been used as an accommodation ship at Scapa Flow. The ship, built in 1905, was the Royal Navy's first specially commissioned training ship.
In 1968 the ITNTC became part of the Merchant Navy College at Greenhithe. The ship Worcester became redundant and was sold to be broken up in Belgium in 1978.
Worcester cadets, who automatically became Cadets of the Royal Naval Reserve during their time in the ship, entered the Royal Navy and British merchant navy on leaving Worcester and many rose to the highest ranks of their profession, including those who became commodores of leading merchant fleets. In the period up to 1946, two Victoria Crosses and one George Cross were awarded to former Worcester cadets. In 1876 Queen Victoria confirmed her interest in the ship by establishing the award of an annual Gold Medal to the cadet who, in the opinion of his shipmates, was most likely to make the best officer.
HMS Worcester was the London maritime interests' answer to HMS Conway which had been established in 1859 on the River Mersey as a training ship for Liverpool's burgeoning merchant fleet. Throughout their history Worcester and Conway were competitors, and the two met regularly on playing fields and in boats in keen sporting rivalry.