A study of the history
of Elder Dempster shows that, as early as 1904, the Company had
produced a memorandum "For the Guidance of Parents or Guardians
of Midshipmen desirous of entering the Elder Dempster Line".
This memorandum begins by stating that:
"The Company carries midshipmen – that is, apprentices
being trained to become officers – aboard of its vessels except
those in the West African coast trade. Boys who have served one
of two years on a sailing ship or two years on the training ships
Conway or Worcester are the most suitable, but all well educated
boys of sufficient physique who are willing to work hard are eligible."
Almost fifty years would pass from the date of that memorandum
before Elder Dempster chose to embrace the concept of a dedicated
training ship, in which the apprentices, in effect, took over the
role of a normal deck crew.
The first of the Company's dedicated cadet ships was the Obuasi,
and, although she was not specifically designed for this role, she
was adapted to fulfil it from the beginning of her second voyage
Obuasi was replaced in 1961 by the Fourah Bay – a vessel
specifically designed to operate as a cadet training ship –
and she continued in this role for a period of eight years. During
that period it became evident that, as a result of changes in the
way that apprentices were being trained, a decreasing proportion
of Elder Dempster's cadets, as they were called from 1967, were
guaranteed to serve on Fourah Bay; the Company's management therefore
decided that she should no longer operate in the role of a cadet
training ship, and she was returned to normal manning arrangements
in the summer of 1969. Although the Onitsha was then modified to
provide accommodation for twelve cadets taking part in their first
or second voyage, and cadets were also carried on many of the other
vessels comprising the Company's deep-sea fleet, the Company would
never again operate a dedicated cadet training ship.
This site will focus on the two ships operated by Elder Dempster
as cadet training ships: the Obuasi and
the Fourah Bay.