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Plymouth students get insight into Scott's school-days

5 July 2016
Students from Plymouth have been given a glimpse of Robert Falcon Scott’s original school records from his days under training on board HMS Britannia in the 1880s.

The group of 12 from Stoke Damerel Community College were shown the document and other artefacts relating to the history of Royal Navy Officer training during a visit to Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth.   

Stoke Damerel Community College has a strong link with Scott.  A bust of the renowned Antarctic explorer stands as a centrepiece in the entrance of the college. Scott’s name has also been chosen for a new studio school, which the college is sponsoring.  

Scott, a Plymouth-born Naval Officer, started his education on board HMS Britannia, a wooden hulk moored in the River Dart in 1881, aged just 13.  At the time the ship was used as a training ship for young cadets who came from affluent families.  The families’ ambition was for their sons to become Royal Navy Officers.

Cadets, like Scott, were taught by Naval instructors and civilian teachers, learning traditional academic subjects and also seamanship and navigation.  They slept in hammocks and wore Naval uniform, but didn’t officially join the Service until their schooling on Britannia was complete.

Scott passed-out as a Midshipman in 1883, seventh overall in a class of 26.   His record shows that principally he was a model pupil, assessed as satisfactory and above satisfactory in most of his subjects. It does however give details of some minor misdemeanours such as entering an orchard without permission and not being attentive in lessons. 

The students chosen to take part in the visit were those who it was felt would benefit the most, including some who are interested in a career in the Armed Forces. Kaliah Burley, aged 14, is a member of the Sea Cadets and hopes to study at BRNC one day to fulfil her ambition to become a Royal Navy Warfare Officer.  

She said:  “I enjoyed looking around the museum and learning about Scott.  I knew Scott was born in Devonport and some of the other things about him from visits to Plymouth museum, but I didn’t realise he was only 13 when he came here.  My ambition is to be the first female Admiral.  I’ve got high aspirations.  A lot of my family are in the Forces and I’ve been brought up around the Services.”

The students were shown around Britannia Royal Naval College by the archivist, Doctor Jane Harrold.  They were also shown the stained-glass window in the College Chapel dedicated to Scott and the other members of his team who lost their lives in the Antarctica in 1912.  Their visit culminated with the chance to meet some of today’s Officer Cadets and question them about their career choice and their training so far.

Student Dan Kay, who is also aged 14, said:  “It would be interesting to see first-hand the conditions that Scott lived in on board Britannia.   I found the antiques and the big paintings of the former Admirals a bit of surprise.  I didn’t expect to see such a big collection.  I’d like to be a pilot in the Royal Air Force so I thought it would be interesting to come here because of the Armed Forces link.  It was useful to hear from the Cadets what they did before they joined, the qualifications they’d gained, and the tips they gave about not coming in straight from College or Uni.”

The new ‘Scott Medical and Health College’ is due to open in September 2017 and will offer places to young people in Years 9 to 13 to allow them to develop highly-valued vocational skills for the wider healthcare sector.

Martyn Cox, head teacher of Scott College said: “It was really exciting to see the inside of the College and an amazing opportunity for our students to see the level of physical activity and academic excellence demanded there.  It was fascinating to see Scott’s record which demonstrated his academic progress and excellent leadership skills and to see the quality of vocational training and academic success.  The whole visit reinforced why we are so proud that Scott College bears his name.”

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