HMS Conway connections at Plas Newydd

HMS Conway, where many cadets learned about life at sea © Friends of HMS Conway

HMS Conway, where many cadets learned about life at sea

Plas Newydd has been a family home for generations, and home to hundreds of young boys learning and preparing for a life at sea.

Schooling took place aboard the ship. High demand for places meant searching to secure a shore base for at least 100 cadets.

The Conway had been moored at Liverpool docks, and moved to Bangor to keep her safe during the Second World War. In the late 1940s they were looking for a shore base in the area local to Bangor.

Plas Newydd leant itself to the task wonderfully. The Conway and her cadets moved in to the house in 1949 and took more than half the rooms.

Life as a Conway boy

Life onboard the ship or in the shore-base as a Conway boy was a hard but memorable life. 13-year-old boys were given two weeks to work out what to do, where to be and work out what phrases such as 'cooks to the galley', 'heave round' and 'lash up and stow your hammocks' meant.

Preparing for life at sea

Conway boys were trained to be ready for a life at sea, lessons included seamanship as well as some of your more traditional subjects. The daily routine involved getting up at 6:30am, doing some exercise before breakfast at 7:30am, which consisted of  three slices of 'sodduck' with 'grease' washed down with a cup of 'skilly'.

The boys had their own words for many things to do with the school. Can you guess what they actually ate for breakfast?

Sports

Saturday was the day they all dedicated to sports, a very popular weekly highlight. They had rugby, cricket and hockey teams competing against local teams and other similar schools.

Conway cadets were set other sporting challenges such as hill walking. A group would be taken into the depths of Snowdonia and ask to navigate their way back home, completing other challenges, all set to a time and against the clock.

One of the annual highlights would be the cross-strait swim where all the cadets would be expected to swim from one side of the Menai to the other, no matter how cold the water or how many jellyfish were swimming around you.

Happy memories?

Many of the 14,000 Conway cadets come back to visit Plas Newydd and share their memories of their time as a Conway boy:

  • 'The start of my life and I loved it'
  • 'Remembered as two happy years making lifetime friends'
  • 'Wonderful training for a local boy before spending 38 years at sea'

For more information about the HMS Conway visit the website of the Friends of HMS Conway.