Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: April 01, 2016
Webpage updated: May 30, 2019

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The Royal Naval Engine Room Artificers' Training School at Torpoint, Cornwall, had its origins in the early years of the Twentieth Century, when First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir John Fisher, worried over the technical expertise of the Imperial German Navy, introduced a scheme for training Boy Artificers.  The former battleship, HMS "Bellerophon" was the first of the hulks to be commissioned as a part of the new Engine Room Artificer's Training establishment and she was placed at Devonport with HMS "Temeraire" and HMS "Indus".  Collectively they operated as HMS "Indus".

HMS "Bellerophon" arrived in the Sound early on the morning of Friday April 1st 1904, in the tow of the cruiser, HMS "Undaunted", under Captain F A Warden.  She had been converted into a training vessel at the shipyard of Messrs Palmers of Jarrow-on-Tyne, whose yard they had left the the previous Tuesday.  The conversion was done under the watchful eye of Engineer-Captain G A Haddy, RN, in consultation with the officers of the Fleet Reserve.  He was assisted by Mr Richardson, who became ill in consequence of exposure, Mr Marshall, his replacement, Mr Twaddel, shipyard manager, and Mr Reed, works manager.  

She was now capable of housing 200 lads between the ages of fourteen and sixteen along with the 160 crew and 40 instructors.  Work had started back in January 1904 with the removal of four of the boilers, leaving three in the forward stokehold, and much of the machinery.  The heavier parts of the engines were left intact to act as ballast.  Then new structures had to be erected and new machinery, floors, lighting, forty-eight steam radiators and furniture fitted.  It was a mammoth task, the length of steam piping alone amounting to some two thousand feet.

A huge corrugated-iron workshop was erected on the main deck, extending from side to side.  It was 200 feet long, 50 feet broad and 21 feet high.  This was fitted with all manner of machinery for the instruction of the boys, supplied by companies such as Messrs Archdall of Birmingham; Messrs Smith and Coventry of Manchester; Sir W G Arnstrong, Whitworth and Company, of Elswick; Messrs Churchill and Company of Newcastle; and many others.  All the machinery was driven by belts from shafting, rotated by electrical power. 

Also within the workshop were a handsomely fitted drawing office, a model room, and a gymnasium.  On the main deck a class-room had been fitted out for 100 students and the mess deck had been refurnished as a mess for the boys, with tables and lockers.  There were also a recreation room, a drying room heated by steam, and a pattern-maker's shop.  In order to maintain discipline, the boys' and men's quarters were completely separate.

The lower deck had been equipped with a bath room, with hot and cold water, the chest room, to hold the boys' belongings, and a hammock room.   The old stokehold from which the boilers had been removed had been converted into a smithy, fitted with 21 furnaces, anvils and a two and a half hundredweight hammer driven by pneumatic power and electricity.  As the smithy was low down in the ship, near the keel, it was necessary to come up with an ingenious system to carry away the fumes.   A funnel ran along from each of the fires, the draught for which was supplied by means of an electric fan.  All the funnels converged in a central shaft rising above roof level, in which there was an exhaust fan.

One of the most difficult tasks was to pierce through the vessel's eight inches of armour plate, ten inches of hard oak backing and two inches of iron, in order to make a large square hole from which a baggage stage could be erected on the outside of the ship.  This was achieved by drilling a multitude of holes, like the perforations of a postage stamp, and even then the outside plate could only be moved with the aid of a battering-ram.  The shipwrights who performed that task worked for five days and nights, under the direction of Mr Albert Jenkins.

HMS "Temeraire" was the second vessel to be commissioned and she was placed in the centre of the three vessels ("Indus", "Temeraire", "Bellerophon"), to supply electricity to the other two ships, to which she was connected by gangways.  Her conversion, carried out at the same shipyard, was every bit as complicated.  The removal of her engines was the first problem, as they were riveted to the side of the ship.  The deck was opened out to allow them to be removed.  The engines were declared obsolete and scrapped.   All the brass and copper fittings and anything else of value were removed and sold.  She was fitted with two dynamos, each of 100 kilowatts, supplied by the Thames Iron Works Company.  This powered 1,200 lamps and seven motors, ranging from 7 to 20 horse-power.  The motors were supplied by Messrs Peter Brotherhood and Company of Westminster.  They were closed engines, coupled direct to the dynamos, and running at 450 revolutions. 

Where the ship's engine used to be was turned in to a carpenter's shop.  Store rooms were provided to hold all the items required in the care and maintenance of ships in the Reserve Fleet.  The boilers that supplied the steam heating were the original ones but as they worked at only 60 lbs per square inch pressure it was necessary to design engines that would work with that lower pressure.  Messrs Brotherhood did this work well within the eight weeks allowed.  The work of converting these two vessels was carried out in less than ten weeks and cost over 30,000.

The "Temeraire" had formerly been the Fleet Reserve Depot ship at Devonport and the "Bellerophon" had been her tender.  With the introduction of boy artificers to the Navy both ships were sent to Jarrow to be reconstructed for their new roles.  The "Bellerophon" was the first to arrive back at Devonport at the beginning of April 1904 and she was due to be followed by the "Temeraire".  Under the tow of HMS "Immortalite", the journey was started on April 5th but the weather was so bad and the "Temeraire" now so light in weight, that while she was being brought out into the English Channel she rammed her escort and made a large hole in her side.  Tugs brought them under control and took them back to port.  After temporary repairs, the two vessels set off again on Thursday April 14th 1904 and  the "Temeraire" was safely anchored inside the Plymouth Breakwater on Saturday the 16th.  HMS "Temeraire" will become the "Indus II".

HMS "Indus" was the flagship of Rea-Admiral W H Henderson, Admiral-Superintendent of the Royal Dockyard.

On Sunday December 31st 1905 HMS "Indus" was paid off and the boy artificers were transferred to HMS "Fisgard"  at Portsmouth or HMS "Tenedos" at Chatham.  The first batch of boys were set to leave Devonport on Wednesday January 3rd 1906 although some would have to remain at the port until  March because of the lack of accommodation at Portsmouth.  At the same ceremony, the "Indus" was re-commissioned by Commander E H Edwards as a training ship for "mechanicians".

During 1910 HMS "Ganges", at that time known as "Tenedos III" and part of HMS "Tenedos at Chatham, was brought to Devonport to be converted by naval ratings to join HMS "Indus" as "Indus V".  Her upper deck had been converted into a dining-room to accommodate over 350 lads at one sitting, being over 90 feet in length and the full width of the ship.  The roof of the dining-room formed the floor of the gymnasium, which was also a temporary church.  The pantry, cooking ranges, linen closet, and waiting-room were also on this deck, with lavatories in the bows.  The main deck provided the sleeping accommodation for the boys, with cabins aft for the supervising officers.  Over 70 students at a time could be accommodated in the well-lit reading and study room.  In the forward section of the starboard side was the roomy and comfortable sick bay.  The power deck was used for the stowage of the boys personal belongings and at the forward end there were two bathing trays, each holding 12 tons of either sea water or fresh water.  There were also several hundred wash basins and smaller baths.  The orlop deck was used for the safe stowage of macintosh coats, portmanteaus, and general baggage.  There was also accommodation for the pensioners who were acting as ship=keepers.  She was towed into position on Tuesday May 17th 1910.

The  final vessel to join the HMS "Indus" group was the former HMS "Flora", a twin-funnelled light cruiser of 4,360 tons.  She became HMS  "Indus II" in October 1915.  Although she was said to have been put up for sale in 1918, she remained as part of HMS "Indus" until its closure in 1922.  She was sold for breaking on December 12th 1922.

The former light cruiser  HMS "Flora" heads the line of ships that formed HMS "Indus" in these two photographs.
She was HMS "Indus II".
From a postcard by Abrahams of Devonport.

Behind the "Indus II" came HMS "Indus III", formerly HMS "Bellerophon" and finally
HMS "Indus V", formerly HMS "Tenedos III" and before that HMS "Ganges".
From a postcard by Abrahams of Devonport.

HMS "Indus" was paid off on Tuesday August 15th 1922 when all future training was transferred to HMS "Fisgard" in Portsmouth.