ALFRED HOLT AND COMPANY –
THE BLUE FUNNEL LINE
A study of the history
of Alfred Holt and Company suggests that apprentices were not carried
on Blue Funnel ships until the early part of the twentieth century
when a shortage of trained deck officers prompted Lawrence Holt
to propose that the Company should establish its own training facility.
As a result, a Midshipmen’s Department was established in
1916. The Company also established a hostel in Liverpool in 1922
where midshipmen were expected to stay during periods ashore. In
1963, the Company opened a new training and residential establishment
for both midshipmen and engineer cadets. The new building, which
actually adjoined the original hostel, comprised a purpose built
chartroom, seamanship room, lecture theatre, library, general classroom
and dormitory accommodation – the whole complex being named
Aulis. Following the merger in 1965, Elder Dempster’s adjacent
cadet training establishment – River House – was incorporated
with Aulis into Ocean Fleets Training Establishment, which, with
the addition in 1975 of a new wing of accommodation in single rooms,
brought the total residential accommodation to 280 berths. As a
result of the dramatic decline in the Blue Funnel fleet, all the
buildings that comprised Ocean Fleets Training Establishment, with
the exception of the original hostel, were leased to Liverpool City
Council in 1981. The Company’s much depleted training facility
then moved back into the hostel next door, where it remained until
it was disbanded on the 31st December 1986.
Whilst, from 1916, an increasing number of the Company’s ships
carried several midshipmen, it was not until 1947 that the training
scheme was enlarged to include a designated training ship in which
the normal deck crew were replaced almost entirely by midshipmen.
The first of the Company’s 2 designated training ships was
the Calchas, and she was replaced in 1956 by the Diomed. However,
the number of midshipmen under training was such that no more than
half of them would ever spend time under indenture on the Calchas
or Diomed. Irrespective of whether or not a midshipman served on
the Calchas or Diomed, it was Company policy to ensure that his
training encompassed as wide a variety of the Company’s ships
and trading routes as possible so as to maximise the breadth and
depth of his experience.
A typical training scenario for a midshipman would start with the
new recruit being sent on a short period of outward-bound training.
This would normally be followed by several voyages, each on a different
Blue Funnel ship and usually in the company of 3 other midshipmen.
Then, during his second or third years of training, he would, if
a berth was available, complete 2 consecutive voyages on the training
ship. The remainder of his sea-based training would then be spent
on a variety of other Blue Funnel and Glen Line ships, again in
the company of several other midshipmen and probably as the senior
midshipman responsible for the halfdeck.
This site will focus on the 2 ships designated by Alfred Holt and
Company to operate as training ships: the Calchas
and the Diomed.