Posted by: Didapper PJ11 SEP 2013
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s London headquarters is miles from the open sea, and yet it has two close neighbours that are dedicated to maritime issues.
Just round the corner, on the Albert Embankment, is the headquarters of the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations agency responsible for safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.
But perhaps of more interest, a short way along Lambeth Road, is the Marine Society, founded in 1756 and the world’s first charity dedicated to seafarers.
This 250-year-old organisation was started by a trader, Jonas Hanway, who feared that the onset of war would see the crews of his ships poached to fight in the king’s navy. His solution — both philanthropic and pragmatic — was to recruit boys from poor backgrounds, give them some basic naval training, and send them to the king’s navy so that his business interests could continue unhindered.
The scheme exceeded all expectations, leading Admiral Boscawen to write: “No scheme for manning the navy, within my knowledge, has ever had the success as the Marine Society.”
By 1763, 10,000 men had been recruited. Each was given a basic education and equipped with a clean suit of clothes. In 1772, the society was incorporated in an Act of Parliament.
By the time of the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar a significant proportion of Britain’s navy had been recruited, trained and equipped by the Marine Society. As volunteers, they were far more effective than pressed men.
Lord Nelson recognised that these motivated, disciplined, skilled and well equipped men gave him an advantage that no other nation had at the time.
Hanway pioneered the concept of practical sea training for mariners, and his society is still a leader in facilitating and championing lifelong learning and personal and professional development for seafarers.