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Osborne House, East Cowes: Boys at War School

Cadets trained from the age of 12 and some were mobilised at the age of just 15

When war broke out, the Royal Navy deployed thousands of new recruits. Among them were teenagers who had recently graduated from an exclusive military school on the Isle of Wight.

From the age of twelve they trained at the Royal Naval College, Osborne, before completing their studies at Dartmouth. Some were just fifteen when they were mobilised in 1914.

When Queen Victoria died the Royal Family had no use for her favourite Osborne House near East Cowes. The Royal Navy was allowed to open a Cadet School on the estate in 1903. It allowed the Navy to implement a new plan for the training of cadets – the Selborne-Fisher scheme – that gave the boys a more comprehensive grounding in seamanship, including intensive engineering training at workshops on the River Medina. The college also instilled the importance of character “…to make England strong, to keep her honour pure and high.”

Location: The Royal Navy College, Osborne PO32 6JX (closed in 1921)
Image: Cadets roller-skating at the Naval College in Osborne, courtesy of IWM

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