Sunday, October 11, 2009


Blue Ensign of Training Ship Arethusa.Lord Shaftesbury (7th Earl) founded the National Refuge for Homeless and Destitute Children known as Shaftesbury Homes, and in 1866 persuaded the Admiralty to lend him a frigate, Chichester, so that some destitute children might be trained for employment at sea. Chichester was moored at Greenhithe on the south bank of the lower Thames. Additional accommodation was needed, and in 1874 another frigate, Arethusa, was acquired and moored astern of Chichester.

The Admiralty are said to have issued a warrant in 1877 for both ships to fly a Blue Ensign though it is not clear whether it was for a plain or a defaced ensign, and if defaced, what badge was used. Arethusa was said, in 1927, to have flown a plain Blue Ensign and Union Jack as jack since 1874. The Captain Superintendent claimed that King's Regulations entitled him to do so as he was a retired naval officer in the Reserve, and his staff included reservists in excess of the minimum qualification. This was not correct as a warrant was required even if the qualifications for a Blue Ensign were met. Demand for merchant seamen fell as steam ships replaced sailing ships, and Chichester was returned to the Admiralty in 1889.An Admiralty warrant dated 31 December 1927 was issued for Arethusa to fly a Blue Ensign with TS ARETHUSA in white. As with Worcester, the style and position of the letters was not recorded, so the appearance of the ensign is supposition. By 1933 Arethusa had deteriorated beyond repair and was replaced by the ex-German nitrate carrier Peking, which was converted and moored on the River Medway at Upnor in Kent. The ship was renamed Arethusa and a new warrant issued on 18 July 1933 for the same ensign to be flown on the replacement ship. In 1940 the ship was requisitioned by the Admiralty and reverted to her old name Peking. After the war the ship was returned to the Shaftesbury Society and reverted to the name Arethusa. The school was closed in 1974 and the ship bought by an American consortium that converted her into a museum ship. She is, I understand still afloat at the South Street Seaport Museum, New York, with her original name Peking.

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