Ancestry UK

Sea School / National Sea Training School, Gravesend, Kent,

The Gravesend Sea School was established in 1918 by the Shipping Federation to provide training for boys aged 16 to 18 years who wished to pursue a career in Britain's Merchant Navy. The School occupied premises at the west side of what is now Commercial Place, Gravesend. The building had originally been the Wates Hotel (renamed the Commercial Hotel in 1865) which by 1882 had been converted to a hostel for sailors between voyages, or who were destitute or shipwrecked.

Gravesend Sea School site, c.1937.

Gravesend Sea School, from the north, 1930s. © Peter Higginbotham

Gravesend Sea School, from the south, 1920s. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1921, a three-masted square-rigged sailing ship that began life in 1893 as the Arranmore was acquired by the School and became the TS Vindicatrix.

Training Ship Vindicatrix.

During the Second World War, the Gravesend site was taken over by the Admiralty for use as an adult Merchant Navy training establishment, successively known as HMS Gamebird, HMS Gordon and HMS General Gordon. During this period, the School and the Vindicatrix relocated to Sharpness, Gloucestershire.

After the war, the Gravesend and Sharpness site both continued in operation under the name the National Sea Training Schools, renamed the National Sea Training Trust in 1963. In 1967, both establishments were replaced by the purpose-built National Sea Training College at Eastcourt Marshes, near Chalk. The old Gravesend building was demolished in 1975.

A fall in demand for training places led to the College's closure in 1996. In 2003, the site became home to the Metropolitan Police Specialist Training Centre.


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  • None identfied at present — any information welcome.


  • Derham, Roy Vindicatrix: The Story of a Ship and a Training School (1993, Quotes Ltd.)
  • Derham, Roy Vindi Boys: Day to Day Life with T.S. Vindicatrix 1939-1966 (1995, Quotes Ltd.)
  • None identified at present.