William Isaac Thorndale

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Naval Training

WIT and Charlie Jordan travelled to London by train in late 1875, and made their way to the recruiting centre at Trafalgar Square. After a series of tests and medical checks, they were accepted, signed up for ten years service on attainment of age 18, and were soon on their way to their first training ship, HMS Fisgard. [Originally a 38 gun, 5th rate frigate, but converted eventually and re-rated to a 42 gun. Completed at Pembroke Dockyard 1819, broken up at Chatham 1879.].

During their time on this vessel, the boys were introduced to the various parts of a ship and the regime on board. They started their initial sail training on a specially made small mast head set up some 6 feet above the deck so that any falls were painful rather than fatal. Eventually, they travelled to Portsmouth to join their first sea-going training ship, HMS Implacable under Captain Carr. [Originally the French vessel Le Douguay-Trouin launched in 1800 at Rochefort, taken a prize in Sir Richard John Strachan's action a fortnight after Trafalgar which captured 4 ships to really rub old Boney's nose in it. She was kept as a training ship until 1911. A plan to preserve her in 1949 failed, and she was scuttled in the channel, but part of her ornate stern was preserved and resides at the National Maritime Museum in London.]

HMS Fisgard HMS Charybdis

Early 1877 saw WIT take his first sea trip in HMS Liberty [A Racer class, flush-decked brig of 16 guns, completed 1861, sold 1905 ultimate fate unknown.], a sailing brig attached to Implacable. WIT's first taste of the open sea was a rough and uncomfortable one, possibly deliberately chosen by the master to test the boys out. WIT spent most of his time feeding the fish, but doesn't seem to have been put off the career.

After a short spell in HMS Lion, WIT was to join HMS Charybdis presently on the China station, and to get there was told off for HMS Iron Duke. [An Audacious class, central-battery-ironclad built at Pembroke Dockyard and completed 1871. Around 6,000 tons, this was a powerful warship which was eventually broken up in 1906.] This was his first serving ship, with the rating First Class Boy. In September 1878, WIT left the shores of England on his first voyage for the Royal Navy, bound for China. His friend, Charlie Jordan, had joined HMS Danae heading for South America, and so far as I know, the two boys would never meet again.

Iron Duke made passage through the Mediterranean, the newly opened Suez Canal, down the Red Sea to Hong Kong, at which port WIT took passage on the gunboat HMS Lapwing for Shanghai, there in February 1879 to join HMS Charybdis under Captain Charles F. Hotham. [Charybdis was the third vessel of this name, a Pearl class, first class corvette of 21 guns. Completed 1860, sold in Canada in 1884.] On this ship, WIT was finally rated a man when he reached his 18th birthday. During his time on this ship, he was rated Ordinary Seaman.

The ship's travels encompassed China, Russia, Japan and Korea, before heading home in April 1880 arriving in Plymouth in October.