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PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2017 7:54 pm 
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Surrounded by a persistant air of myth and colorful stories this institution which in translation could be called the Ship Boy Corps - or alternatively the Cabin Boy Corps - was an integral and essential component of the Swedish Navy for an impressive 254 years.

Although like in most navies cabin boys had been a feature aboard ships since the 16th century it was in 1685 that it was decided that the system would be properly organized and structured so as to provide the navy with a steady supply of competent seamen. So two companies at the new naval base in Karlskrona was formed and began enrollment.
Initially the lowest entry age was set at 8 although exceptions could be made for orphaned sons of enlisted men and see them entered into the rolls as young as age 3.
These boys were usually from families with very limited means, often the sons of navy sailors but also of others who had difficulty in providing for them.
The Corps offered both an opportunity of basic schooling as they were taught to read and write from 1692, something highly unusual for poor children at the time, and it offered them a career with advancement opportunities as non-commissioned officers, or even officers for the brightest among them. Add to that the chance to learn foreign languages such as English and a chance to see at least a part of the world and to some it must have seemed like a dream to come true.

During these early years they started their service aboard regular warships or sometimes merchant ships before coming of age and becoming full seamen with a minimum enlistment period as adults of four years.
Gradually however dedicated training ships started to be introduced and before long the Corps in effect made up a navy within the navy, drilling hard aboard the ships and mastering sailing and seamanship.

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Skeppsgosse PV Cedergren, joined in 1832

From that point on the Corps experienced little change until 1902, with the exception that the minimum age was raised to 13 in 1848 - apart from musicians which could still be 8 - before finally landing at 15 in 1899.
At this point the contract for enlistment was fixed at 9 years in total, 3 in the Corps followed by 6 as a regular navy sailor.

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Skeppsgossar cirka 1900

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Skeppsgosse Brigantines Gladan, Falken, Skirner and Snappopp, around 1900.

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Working the Royal.

Although many positive aspects can be ascribed to the Corps it should also be noted that it had a dark side.
Discipline was harsh and a system of pennalism existed wherein the older boys would administer punishment to younger ones, deservedly or not.
A common tool in this was a stump of thick rope which was employed as a whip. A misplaced clothing item from your sea bag would for instance earn you one good lash.
Nevertheless it can be said that this was a product of its time and a reflection of society in general, overall an improvement over what the boys might have otherwised faced.

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Skeppsgossar hosting midsummer dance aboard HMS Najaden

Just before the dawn of the 20th Century came the transition time between the sailing navies of the old and their new steam powered successors, so it was realized that changes would be necessary or the Corps might lose its relevance. Since this also coincided with the introduction of general conscription in 1901 and with it the abandoning of the allotment system which provided reservist sailors for the navy two steps were taken.

The first was that the Corps was expanded in size from 400 to 600 billets to cover the anticipated shortfall in trained sailors and with it an additional training garrison at Marstrand on the west coast opened.

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Summer quarters for the boys at Marstrand, the former sail frigate/corvette Norrköping.

The second was an attempt to introduce specialized training towards the end of the boys’ three years.
For instance a boy could be selected as a gunner and trained in that which would ease the transition into the regular warships, reducing the need for additional training.

Although the expansion proved successful, there was never any problems recruiting sufficient numbers, the specialized training was difficult in an institution weighed down by tradition and which remained focused on what was viewed as real seamanship, climbing the rig of a tall ship, splicing ropes and everything else that had been taught since the origins in 1685.
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Everyday life aboard.

Add to that the complication that sailors were also recruited directly to the navy without having spent time in the Corps resulting in the boys turned men serving alongside others with the same rating but with much less experience.
This was aggravated by the minimum standard for the ratings were set so that the direct recruits could achieve them, leaving the superior seamanship of the former Ship Boys as something good to have but hardly rewarded.

By the 1930’s the politicians had started to view the Corps as an archaic institution, although they admitted that the humanitarian side of it which saved many a poor child from a worse fate it was increasingly questioned if it was providing relevant experience for the modern navy.
The navy itself was somewhat split in its opinions but overall attempted to argue that it had a role in providing seamanship training in a more abstract sense and that the Corps should remain, but to no avail. Over several years the Corps was dismantled and finally disbanded by 1939.

It was perhaps the last sigh of the great sailing fleets of the past, a fully drilled squadron of sail ships that did everything just like it had always been done.
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Fullriggers Najaden and Jarramas with brigantine Falken in 1935, three of the last ships the Corps utilized. Sverige in the background.

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Jarramas at her best.

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Jarramas' crew.

But while the Corps itself went away its former members continued to serve in the navy, many until the 1970’s and to this day their reputation among the current sailors is one of outstanding seamanship.

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Monument in their memory by their former barracks in Karlskrona.

Following the Corps dissolution an association for former members was established and for many years promoted its memory and seamanship in general. Its members expertly aided in the reconstruction of the rig of the Wasa once it had been raised, again demonstrating how deep the extent of sailship knowledge that was passed down through the Corps was.
In 2004 the last remaining members decided that it was time to lower the flag and say a final goodbye while they were still able to stand as they put it, and so the association was dissolved in a ceremony aboard their once training ship Af Chapman 319 years after it all began.

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Af Chapman back in the day.

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The final ceremony aboard Af Chapman, now in service as a hostel in Stockholm.

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Bror Klippfors taking one last turn at the helm.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2017 9:01 pm 
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This strikes me as one of those institutions that had a value difficult to express in currency. Perhaps getting rid of it was more costly then realized at the time. How valuable is a maritime tradition? It hard to maintain, only a handful of countries seem to be able to do that in periods of peacetime, and I'm reluctantly coming to the conclusion that the USN is not one of them. Great article and story Micael.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2017 11:06 pm 
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Re: "Discipline was harsh and a system of pennalism existed wherein the older boys would administer punishment to younger ones, deservedly or not."
---Hardly unique: these were features of many, many educational institutions. Having older boys discipline younger (and tolerating the abuses this system allowed) was the root of the "fagging" system of English "public schools," and parents paid to subject their sons to it!
--
(Linguistic questions. "Skepps" is roughly "ships' "? "Kåren" sounds like "corps" (with postposed article): is it? And "goose" for "boy" sounds familiar from both sides of the English Channel: "garçon" is "boy" in French, and "gossoon" an old word in Ireland (& England?) for… not quite a soldier, but a boy attached to a military unit. If the apparent cognates are all real, this is one of the Swedish words which is fairly transparent in English!)


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2017 8:06 am 
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Nathan45 wrote:
This strikes me as one of those institutions that had a value difficult to express in currency. Perhaps getting rid of it was more costly then realized at the time. How valuable is a maritime tradition? It hard to maintain, only a handful of countries seem to be able to do that in periods of peacetime, and I'm reluctantly coming to the conclusion that the USN is not one of them. Great article and story Micael.

I agree, there was something lost when it went away.

People in the navy who realized this managed to get sail training reintroduced for naval cadets however and two new schooners were built to replace the older ships. These has been able to provide economical yet thorough sail training for the navy ever since.
Even though they today sail for periods with youth cadets, others with officer cadets it's not quite the same thing as having a multi-year program with a third of the crews being replaced annually.

Thank you for reading!

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2017 8:22 am 
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Allen Hazen wrote:
Re: "Discipline was harsh and a system of pennalism existed wherein the older boys would administer punishment to younger ones, deservedly or not."
---Hardly unique: these were features of many, many educational institutions. Having older boys discipline younger (and tolerating the abuses this system allowed) was the root of the "fagging" system of English "public schools," and parents paid to subject their sons to it!
--
(Linguistic questions. "Skepps" is roughly "ships' "? "Kåren" sounds like "corps" (with postposed article): is it? And "goose" for "boy" sounds familiar from both sides of the English Channel: "garçon" is "boy" in French, and "gossoon" an old word in Ireland (& England?) for… not quite a soldier, but a boy attached to a military unit. If the apparent cognates are all real, this is one of the Swedish words which is fairly transparent in English!)

Indeed, this was the norm at the time. One of the last former boys noted a number of years ago that although the punishments could be harsh what he remembered most was the cameraderie which to me suggest that the corps had good morale.

As for the linguistics, you are absolutely correct about both skepps and kåren including the postponed article (it was originally spelled corpsen in Swedish as well when the word was loaned but most words are eventually phoneticized).
The etymology of gosse is debated, one proposal is garçon. Another is that it originates from a germanic gorr(e) which could apparantly describe multiple things including (small?) male pigs.
Since gossoon appears to have come from garçon one might suspect that this explanation is the most likely for gosse as well.

So in other words, yes I'd agree that it is fairly transparant in English.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:33 am 
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To tie into the other thread...

It seems to me (who has no saltwater sailing experience, only on small lakes) that one might get a better OOD out of a sailing vessel than a motor vessel, as one has to learn to pay attention to a lot more data streams. You're not just paying attention to all the other traffic out there, you have to pay attention to the wind, tides and waves. Not that you don't pay attention to them when you're driving a powered vessel, but since its not your primary means of propulsion, you're going to be a little more attuned to it.

Once you remove the need to use sails, the training that was done to teach the brain to pay attention to X input items now has X-y input items.

But, having never served and never sailed saltwater, I am probably missing quite a lot. Can someone explain why my premise might be wrong?

Thanks

Belushi TD


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2017 10:01 am 
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You are quite right. There's simply a feel for the water and wind that you get from a sail boat that is lacking in a motorboat.

I dare say that any Navy Ensign should spend at least a week learning how to sail in a small boat, something like a (470. Preferably two weeks to a month, either in a chunk for 90 day wonders or over a semester at the Canoe Club. They should then spend at least a week on a catamaran, something like the Formula 18 or the Nacra 17.

By getting close to the water, and moving at the slower sailing speeds, there is simply a feel for the wind and water. The catamarans require much faster thinking, multitasking, and go much faster than the 470s. Also, by putting boats in relatively close proximity, the ensigns can start to recognize relative motion by eye.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2017 10:49 am 
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In the Royal Norwegian Navy, the cadets at the Naval Academy spend a semester aboard the barque Statsraad Lehmkuhl, crewing her and sailing her from Norway down Europe to Madeira, then over the Atlantic to the US before returning to Norway. In total, four or five months spent aboard crewing her and learning seamanship while sailing around the North Atlantic. Also, the Naval Academy has two small sailing boats that the cadets take out regularly to learn and master seamanship during the normal semesters, in addition to the two training patrol boats.

Until 2015, three of the six months of the Royal Norwegian Navy Petty Officer's School was spent crewing the Christian Radich and learning seamanship and leadership the old way. Sadly, this was discontinued due to financial reasons.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2017 6:44 pm 
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And it looks likely, sadly, that the Naval Academy training cruises with Statsraad Lemkuhl also may be severely cut, or dropped - financial reasons, at least indirectly, as they intend to save money by compress the training at the Naval Academy from four to three years, leaving less room for training at sea. Apparently this is considered to be efficient. By someone.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2017 12:18 pm 
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A pity that you're scaling back the sailship training.
I hope it'll work out and that you can keep going.

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