Reply To: Apprentices early 20th Century

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Frank Scott

    In the British Merchant Service (as it was then known) an apprentice who wished to make a career at sea needed to pass their Second Mate’s certificate once they had achieved the required seatime. How they were treated during their apprenticeship, and what they learned onboard, was entirely down to Company Policy as interpreted by the individual Master & his officers. An apprentice who signed on with a good company, and served his time under a conscientious master, would be well prepared for the future. By contrast many others were treated as no more than cheap labour, and apart from learning basic seamanship by osmosis they would enjoy no instruction, thus would have to rely almost entirely on a shore crammer to get them through their examinations.
    There are many memoirs available (mostly from those who started in sail), but the best overall treatment is:
    David Thomas., The right kind of boy: A portrait of the British Sea Apprentice 1830-1980, (Ystradowen, 2004)