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Tom Crean signs up to join the Royal Navy

Tom Crean was almost 16 and a half years-old when he joined the Navy. Previous accounts of his life have given rise to the belief he was 15-years-old yet his baptismal and birth records prove this to be false. The assumption that he was 15 yrs old, was born out of an incorrect birthdate being added on his Naval record.
Tom travelled to the pebbled beach of Minard near his home and signed up to join the Royal Navy at the Coastguard Station that saw many other young Kerrymen do the same .

HMS Impregnable, the depot ship to which he was first assigned, was a training ship based in Devonport where Crean was one of over 1,500 boys living in a cramped environment below deck. Conditions onboard drew such cause for concern over the health and wellbeing of the boy recruits that questions were being raised in the British parliament. Concerns were heightened when the death toll aboard Impregnable had reached alarming rates in comparison to other training establishments.

Life as a boy recruit in the Royal Navy was only for the hardiest and discipline was extreme. Boys would rise at 5am, carry their hammocks to the upper decks for storage before they would thoroughly scrub the decks, polish the ships brasses and the utensils in the mess decks
until they were shining spotlessly. Punishments were severe and were carried out without compunction for even the most minor of offences. If, during the daily inspection call, a boy was seen to have a button missing or his uniform was not spotlessly clean, his instructor would note it and, should it recur, he would receive six swipes of the cane. A harsher and more public punishment awaited those who were caught smoking or those arriving back late from shore-leave. All crew would assemble on the quarterdecks, the offender would then be brought midships where he was tied arms and legs to a wooden horse before the ship’s corporal dished out twelve strokes of a stout cane, each end covered with wax-string and reversed every four strokes. The most severe punishment was meted out to those who had been insolent to an instructor or had been caught stealing. Again, the offender would be tied to the wooden horse and twenty-four lashes of the birch would strike his bare-skinned body. The horrific spectacle would have served as a warning, not only to the poor victim but to the boys who witnessed it.

Training for boys in the Royal Navy presented a harsh environment and dreams of a better life must have been as distant as ever for young Tom Crean. It would be safe to assume that he would have had regrets about his decision to join up.

Read Tom Crean’s full story. You can buy the book at the following link.

Biography of Tom Crean – Crean – The Extraordinary Life of an Irish Hero


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