The TS (Training Ship) Indefatigable was for many years a place where young men could train for a life at sea. Anyone from Anglesey will have fond memories of seeing the young trainee sailors in their neatly pressed navy uniforms in and around the village of Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll. Many will have been familiar with the sight of them hitchhiking home along the A5 road to Liverpool or even further away, their uniform a sure promise of being given a lift.
There are many still living on Anglesey who has benefited from the training and discipline once taught at this highly respected establishment. Sadly the `Inde` closed in 1995, and as this website is dedicated to recording Anglesey’s history, it would not be complete without their story.
T.S. Indefatigable History.
The TS Indefatigable was founded in 1864 by one John Clint, who set up a committee to raise funds to offer naval training to poor and destitute boys, and the sons and orphans of sailors. Financial assistance was rendered by James Bibby, of Bibby Line Shipping, whose family helped support the `Inde` for many years to follow. At that time the trainees actually lived on the ship, which was moored off Rock Ferry, on the Birkenhead side of the Mersey. The ship was an ex-Royal Navy wooden frigate, and the gun deck was converted to accommodate 200 boys in hammocks.
The original ship lasted through to 1914, when it was scrapped and replaced by a masted cruiser named H.M.S Phaeton, subsequently renamed Indefatigable.
On 31st December 1927, an Admiral Warrant for a blue ensign defaced with a Liver Bird was issued. It was described as a Liver Bird, with an ivy leaf in its beak, standing on a red and white torse’.
The T.S. Indefatigable moves to Anglesey.
In 1941 the T.S. Indefatigable and another training ship – T.S. Conway – for lads from more well off families – were ordered evacuated due to the severe bombing that Liverpool had been forced to endure. It was decided by the committee that it was safer to find a shore base, and initially, they moved to Clawdd Newydd in Ruthin, North Wales -a disused holiday camp.
By 1944 the TS Indefatigable was relocated to a country home named Plas Llanfair in Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll, on Anglesey, where it would remain for the next 51 years. The choice of Plas Llanfair was perhaps very apt as it was once the home of Admiral Lord Clarence Paget – commander in chief of the Mediterranean fleet. Admiral Paget was the fourth son of the 1st Marquess of Anglesey, whose column towers above the site. He was also the person who had the statue of Nelson erected in 1873 on the banks of the Menai Straits as an aid to navigation.
Many new buildings were erected to house classrooms etc, and of course, there was a parade ground. Near to Plas Llanfair, there is a rock called Nozzers Rock. It measures something like 40 feet wide and 30 feet high. Many an Inde lad will remember clambering to the top and spending some moments pondering their lot. New entrants were called `Nozzers` to show they were the juniors.
Training generally took part from the age of 14 to the age of 16 years of age. The ‘Inde’ was split into four divisions, named Drake, Hood, Raleigh, and Rodney. Each division had about 30 lads, with 3 eventually being promoted to Leading Hands, and one to Petty Officer. A Chief Petty Officer boy held overall responsibility for discipline amongst the boys, in much the same way as a Head Boy might.
The ‘Inde’ still had its own boats, including big Whalers, and Cutters –one per division – for pulling oars. Life was hard for the lads, but with no exceptions amongst those that have helped with my research, each has a strong belief that the Inde stood them in good stead and would do so for the rest of their lives. Most that I have spoken to have done well and a surprising number rose to the rank of Master, surely a tribute in itself to this amazing establishment. John Farley – 1959/60 – put it really well when he stated that he considered TS Indefatigable his spiritual home.
Since the closure of the Inde the ships bell was bought by the Marine Engineers Guild and returned to Plas Llanfair, where I believe it is on loan to the present MOD establishment JSMTC – Joint Services Mountain Training Centre. It also operates as a place where members of the forces can take a low cost holiday.
As I researched more into the history of the TS Indefatigable, I realised that many ex Inde lads would have paid the supreme sacrifice serving in the Royal Navy or the Merchant Navy, indeed all of the Armed Services. They would have given their lives during the Great Wars War and in later conflicts such as the Falklands, where the Royal Navy took some heavy casualties. God Bless them and remember them.
A Snippet. Henry Schreiber No 47 Raleigh. 1955-6 Henry A. Schreiber, Number 47 of Raleigh Division. On my “Apprentice’s Indenture (Dated January 17th 1955) I was marked as 14 years 11 months. I served one year and was discharged on the 24th of January 1956. As my birthday is on January 30th I would have been aged 16. I spent the next 10 years in the British Merchant Navy and came to Calgary Alberta Canada on December 19th 1966 and I am still here.
The Indefatigable Old Boys Association
An association exists, named the Indefatigable Old Boys Association. Their secretary – Steve Humphries – has provided me with the following information.
From a very fortunate meeting two years ago, I first met Canon Bob Evans and Chaplin Roy Paul – Mersey Mission to Seaman – Liverpool, at an Indefatigable Old Boys reunion promoting one of Bob’s books – ‘The Training Ships of Liverpool’. Although Indefatigable had been previously included in the ‘Training Ships’ book, I knew we had to have Bob write the much fuller account of our story and history and most of all about us the Trainees. As a boy I had no doubt that I wanted to go to sea, from Sea Cadets in North London (TS Barossa) to Anglesey THE INDEFATIGABLE, which was the making of me, and now although the School has subsequently closed, I have always considered it to be my spiritual home which I’ve since discovered holds the same meaning to so many others! Many of the Boys who attended this School gave up their lives defending the UK as members of the Merchant Navy and Armed Services and this book is dedicated to all the trainees and staff of ‘THE INDE’. Bob Evans takes us back on-board the ‘Inde’, and he has woven a story of personal experiences to meet the boys of old and the masters who steered us through tough discipline but with the utmost respect, and taught us to identify and help others who were not so fortunate. The book is written by and on behalf of those who were at the Indefatigable, and Bob Evans quotes, “This is one hell of a story”. This book is about the boys and their successors, it’s their story, and there has never been a book exclusively on the Training Ship Indefatigable and School. This is a unique occasion and a memorable event that many have participated in. The Indefatigable Old Boys Association is proud of what Bob Evans has unlocked. I know you will enjoy our story. Forever the Inde! Steve Humphries 1975 – 1976 T.S. Indefatigable Old Boys Association: Secretary.
Reunion Indefatigable Old Boys Association Reunion 2005
Each year the Indefatigable Old Boys Association hold reunions for the ex trainees and staff. On the 4th June 2005, a reunion was held on Anglesey. The initial contact was at the Carreg y Bran Hotel just yards from what was the Indefatigable Training School.
The reunion was attended by over 120, 80 of which were ex Inde boys. Everyone appeared to have enjoyed the day. After booking in with the O.B.A. officials – Steve and Spencer – we were issued with our identity tags and at 11:30 am we made our way to the Indefatigable site. After booking in individually with the guardroom – this is after all still MOD property – we were shown into the Plas Llanfair building, and met in the cinema by Lt Col Hodgson – Officer in charge JSMTC (Joint Services Mountain Training Centre). He began by telling us that Plas Llanfair was probably built circa 1673. It was owned in the 18th century by the Earl of Uxbridge and remained in the Paget family for some 150 years. In the 1930`s it became a hotel, and during WWII this was commandeered by the War Office until D Day.
In 1944 it became the TS Indefatigable, which it remained until 1995. It was then bought by the MOD for the sum of £732,000 and a further sum of 4.2 million was spent on its upgrade. It opened in its present function on the 4th April 1999. After going through this induction – where the function of the site now was further explained – we were taken on a tour of the site.
Most interesting for me was meeting a wide variety of characters aged between 25 and 85. It was a pleasure to meet Derek E.K. Evans, who attended the Inde when it was at Clawdd Newydd near Ruthin between 1941-42. I was further pleased to have met Bill Smith, who attended the Inde whilst it was still aboard ship in Liverpool. He was there 1936-38!! He told me that his brother had attended the Inde in 1922.
It was a great surprise to the Inde Class of 1965-6, when no less than 8 from that year turned up for the reunion, with ex Holyhead lad Frank Lawlor and his wife Valerie travelling all the way from Australia. The others were Gary Gray, Peter Cook, Mark Chatham, Ken Tatlock, Will Williams, Will Gyte, and Robin Tonks.
Following the visit to the Indefatigable we returned to the Carreg y Bran hotel and enjoyed a light lunch and a pint, which was followed by the AGM and a reunion evening at the hotel.