HMS King Alfred
1939 - 1946
HMS King Alfred was a shore establishment for training officers of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. It was located in what was to have been Hove's new municipal swimming baths and leisure centre. This had been requisitioned by the Admiralty under the Naval Mobilisation Act of 1938. It provided the space that they thought would be needed, and was near to the base of the local RNR battery. It gained the name HMS King Alfred after the name of the motor launch, ML 1649, also attached to the Hove RNR unit.
Royal Navy Volunteer (Supplementary) Reserve
Initially it trained officers of the Royal Navy Volunteer (Supplementary) Reserve. This branch of the RNVR was formed in 1936 for experienced amateur or retired professional seamen over the age of 25. These men already had most of the knowlege and 'officer like qualities' that they would need and so were fast tracked through the course ith an average stay of just 10 days. After they had passed out from HMS King Alfred they went on to the Royal Naval College at Greenwich as Temporary Acting Probationary Sub-Lieutenants. By May 1940 1,700 men had passed through the base and the navy was running out of men from the RNV(S)R to send to it as this force had only numbered 2000 before the war.
HMS King Alfred also trained men from the lower decks who showed officer potential. These Cadet Ratings where either men selected by their commanding officers, called the The Commission and Warrant (CW) scheme. Or they came via the 'Y' scheme where educationally qualified young men that were considered ëpotential officer materialí were recruited at school, and then completed basic new entrant training as naval ratings.
The first thing that happened to these ratings when they arrived at HMS King Alfred was that they were given a medical. After this they were sent to the Admiralty Selection Board which operated from the school library. If they passed both then they were accepted onto the course and were given the white cap band that designated them as Cadet Ratings.
Cadet Ratings wore the traditional Square Rig uniform, but with a white band around their caps rather than a tally. They wore this uniform until the end of the course, although only during the last two weeks they given the title 'officers under training'. Only once they had sucessfully completed the course and passed out did they become officers and start to wear officer's uniform. The rank that they gained as officers depended on their age. Cadet Ratings under 19.5 became a midshipmen, and those over 19.5 became sub-lieutenants.
They were taught everything that a cadet at Dartmouth would have learned, including been sent back to square bashing, with an emphasis on navigation. However the instructors were also looking for 'officer like qualities'. A Cadet Rating that displayed a lower deck attitude (LDA) could be failed and returned to his unit.
Due to the longer courses and greater numbers of cadets the establishment outgrew its original building, so the navy requisitioned some more. The first was Mowden School. This was taken over in 1940 to become known as HMS King Alfred II, or HMS King Alfred (M). With demands still rising Lancing College was also taken over in 1941. This was known as MS King Alfred III or HMS King Alfred (L). The first two weeks at HMS King Alfred II, then six weeks at HMS King Alfred III and the final four weeks at Hove, with the unlucky Cadet Ratings (normally those from the CW scheme) being billetted in large dormitories in what would have been an underground carpark. The luckier Cadet Ratings were billetted in local hotels and houses, as were the staff. Two large houses at San Remo, on the Kingsway became the 'Wrennery' for housing the WRNS personnel.
HMS King Alfred II had closed in October 1945. Its name was transfered to the Hove site with the main HMS King Alfred moving to Exbury near Southampton. HMS King Alfred III closed a month later in December 1945. The Hove site was finally given back to civillian use in June 1946, and the Exbury site was renamed HMS Hawke in August of that year.
The first commanding officer of HMS King Alfred was Captain John Pelly he served there until June 6th 1945 when he died suddenly aged 57. He was given a full military funeral attended by senior officers from the Army, Navy and Air Force establishments from the local area. The coffin was carried on a gun carriage along the Kingsway to the former Hove Marina followed by the funeral procession made up of contingents from the WRNS, King Alfred staff and Cadet Ratings. After the service the coffin was taken to All Saints Church, Witham in Essex to be buried.
HMS King Alfred Today
1994 - Present
In 1994 the name HMS King Alfred was taken by the RNR unit set up to take over from HMS†Sussex, Brighton and Hove's last commissioned naval establishment, and HMS†Wessex. It is located at HMS†Excellent on Whale Island in Portsmouth.
The Hove and Aldur Sea Cadet unit took the name T.S. King Alfred having shared accommodation with the Sussex Division RNVR/RNR from 1946.