Some twenty KEBC members were warned by our Chair that we were in for a fairly hard walk. In practice this seemed less arduous than keeping up with and absorbing the huge knowledge imparted by our guide Mike Pearce, whose enthusiasm and experience kept us going for nearly two and a half hours!
We started at the college entrance overlooking the parade ground and the Captain’s garden where a certain Elizabeth met a certain Philip (now the Lord High Admiral) for the first time in 1939.
The college arrived in Dartmouth from the Solent aboard two old wooden ships in the 1863, following two rejected mooring sites along the way. Life would have been quite tough for the youngsters, some only just into their teens. Shore based activities, parades and sports were on land at Sand Quay. This was made available by the Raleigh family (of Walter fame).
The College employs approximately 200 people and is the largest single employer in Dartmouth. Standing high on the hill overlooking the town and harbour, the college building was completed in 1905 on land compulsorily purchased from the Raleigh family for around £25,000. The whole site extends to well over 100 acres.
To this day college entrants bound for the UK Navy must pass Admiralty Board mental and physical tests. Even well into the 20th Century, fees would be paid by the entrants’ families.
The BRNC produces officers, not just for HM Naval forces but also, some Middle Eastern countries. France, and Germany (the only nationality who do NOT wear swords at the Lord High Admirals Divisions, the passing out parades).
Our tour continued into the Chapel with its magnificent roof beams, did you know that on 21st October (The anniversary of Trafalgar) at approximately 1615 in the afternoon a shaft of sunlight falls onto the right hand of the statue of Christ behind the altar, from a window high on the west wall of the Chapel.
The time being around the Death of Nelson and the realisation of Victory during the battle? This was discovered by accident and maybe a little puzzle left by the architect. There are many magnificent displays, pictures and paintings of naval history throughout the college, one example being HMS Hood, sunk in the Battle of Denmark Strait by the Bismark with enormous loss of life. More was to be found in the college museum, worth a visit on its own.
With thanks to Mike Pearce, we returned home, an afternoon well spent.
Report by Steve Arblaster