The training ship TS Arethusa and what great memories I have of those days. Some years ago, when I was 13 years of age and attending the Sea Cadets at Luton Hoo, in Bedfordshire. I came across a brochure for the Training ship TS Arethusa. It was my dream at the time to join the Royal navy but I was only 13 years of age. So it became my passion with a love of boats and the sea that. Made me convince my parents, to let me go live on the TS Arethusa. My intention was to join the Royal Navy at 16 yrs of age.
This was back in 1969 when Bridge over troubled water by Simon and Garfunkel was in the charts. I was NO 79 on the TS Arethusa. I remember we scrubbed the decks, bare footed in freezing cold weather, and climbed the masts at weekends and special events. The schooling was similar to my land based school with subjects like Maths, English, Geography and German as a second language. But we also did many seafaring subjects and went out on the whalers (boats). We also did, drill training and marching, fired 22 rifles (got my crossed rifles qualification on the TS Arethusa).
One of the things I didn’t like was the cross country runs but I excelled in Signals and Communications. I soon became one of the top students in morse code. Because of this, I was picked to go on a live radio roadshow with Emperor Roscoe a top Radio DJ of the times. Unfortunately, I was unable to go because my parents could not be contacted in time (for permission to go in a helicopter). So another trainee took my place and told us on his return to the boat the next day. All about how he went up in the helicopter whilst doing the radio show and being chased down the runway in an open topped jeep. By loads of screaming girl fans of the DJ. A missed opportunity for sure and one I will always remember.
Life on the TS Arethusa was strict and not easy at first as all new trainees are subjected to various tricks and rituals by the older boys. I remember being a “nosser” (new boy) and being stripped off in the showers and having boot polish rubbed all over my body. Dinner was at long tables either side of the mess hall. And being a nosser, you were seated at the end of the table and about 10 other boys had first pickings of the food. We nosser’s, had to eat whatever was left, when the trays of food eventually reached us at the end of the table.
We slept in hammocks every evening and in the mornings, we had to roll them up and take them to the store till the evening. According to my mother, that year and a half I spent on the Training ship, totally changed me. From being a typical messy kid and picky eater to a very tidy and disciplined young man who did not waste food. I became a totally different person. We wore the typical sailor’s uniform and it was in virtually every way, like being in the Royal Navy. Except that, we were all between 12 and 16 yrs of age on the boat.
The tall ship Arethusa was a majestic and beautiful vessel and we maintained it by scrubbing decks and cleaning and polishing all the brass. Climbing the rigging was scary at first but once you got to the first yard arm and looked down, the sense of achievement was incredible. There were 4 big masts and 4 tiers of yard arms.
The ship started out as a commercial vessel named – PEKING and was launched in Hamburg, Germany in 1911.
Peking was made famous by Irving Johnson, a sail training pioneer of whom filmed a passage around Cape Horn in 1929. Of which, shocked the experienced Cape Horn veterans and landlubbers alike at the very extreme conditions Peking experienced. The PEKING made this trip around Cape Horn to Chile 34 times.
It was in 1932 that the ship was sold for £6250 to Shaftesbury Homes (a children’s charity organisation). It was then renamed TS Arethusa. She was then taken to her permanent moorings at Lower Upnor, near Strood, Rochester, Kent on the River Medway. This is where she served as a Boys children’s home and training school.
I can always remember an officer called Farringday, he was a fair but strict old school ex Royal Navy officer. He used to teach us signals and morse code as well as various other seamanship subjects. I have not seen much about TS Arethusa in the news over the years and I feel there must still be. Many other trainees (like myself) that have fond memories of life on the beautiful old sailing ship TS Arethusa.
If anyone else was on the ship during 1968 – 1970 send me an email and we may remember each other. I still remember a few names like Freshwater and Tibbles… Do you remember No 79 Bone from Luton, Bedfordshire? That’s me. Carlo Bone. If you do, send me a message.
I have always loved boats and had many experiences over my lifetime to do with boats, running websites like this one www.Livingonaboat.net.
The TS Arethusa was retired in 1974 and sold to Jack Aron. She was renamed PEKING and became a museum ship and towed to the USA. The South Street Seaport Museum. She remained in New York, USA for the next 40 years but they were planning to send her to the scrapyard. The reason being was the massive amount of money needed to maintain her. In 2012 they offered her to Hamburg where she was originally built, as a gift from the city of New York so she could be preserved.
Then in November 2015 the ship was purchased for $100 by the Maritim Foundation. She is intended to become part of the (Deutsches Hafenmuseum) German Port Museum in Hamburg. Of which $120 million of funds is supposed to be provided for her restoration. She was transported, at a cost of some €1 million. By the Heavy Lift ship, Combi Dock 111 from New York to Hamburg in 2017. She is now at Peters Werft at Wewelsfleth in Germany for a 3 year refurbishment. The cost is estimated to be some 26 million Euros.
Here are a couple of links with many pictures and also a list of comments from many Trainees of various years. Interesting reading, especially if you’re an ex Arethusa boy.
Great video on here of TS Arethusa / Peking’s return to Hamburg in Germany in 2017
Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TsArethusaPekingSupport/