A study of the history of the British India Steam Navigation Company reveals that the Company started to recruit apprentice deck officers in 1906, although it was not until 1916 that the concept of formal cadet ship based training was introduced. As a consequence, the quality of the training over those first 10 years was far from uniform.


The Company’s first cadet training ship was the Berbera. Built in 1905, she was refitted in 1916 to carry 25 cadets. Why the Company should chose to operate its first cadet training ship in the middle of the First World War remains a mystery, but the decision certainly turned out to have tragic consequences, as, on 25th March 1917, while on her way from Bombay to Marseille, the Berbera was torpedoed, and she sank with the loss of 3 cadets. Somewhat surprisingly, the Company then decided to operate 2 cadet training ships, and, in the same year as the loss of the Berbera, the Waipara and the Carpentaria were refitted to carry 32 and 28 cadets respectively. One cadet was killed when the Waipara was torpedoed and abandoned on 4th August 1918.


It is interesting to note that the Company stopped operating cadet training ships at the beginning of the Second World War, and, furthermore, it did not start to operate them again until 1950.


Between 1916 and 1971, the Company designated a total of 13 different ships to act as cadet training ships. Cadets serving in these ships took over the role of the deck crew whilst, at the same time, receiving a structured programme of training, which included classroom work under the guidance of a dedicated instructional officer.


With the exception of the period that encompassed the Second World War and the years following it up to the arrival of the brand new Chindwara on the 24th January 1950, there were usually 2 cadet training ships in service at any one time, and, up until 1966, cadets could normally expect to spend their entire apprenticeship on a cadet training ship. Changes in training policy, designed to focus more on the development of management and leadership skills, then dictated that cadets would spend only a part of their apprenticeship on cadet training ships, and finally, in 1971, the principle of designated cadet training ships was abolished altogether.


This site will focus on the last 2 of the Company’s cadet training ships: the Chindwara and the Chantala.


A summary of the British India Steam Navigation Company’s history is available for download as a pdf. It includes a tabulated list of all the Company’s ships as well as a bibliography.


John Coulthard has kindly provided a 52 page colour prospectus, circa 1961, for “a Career at sea” with B.I., and this has been digitally recompiled so that it can be downloaded as a pdf.


During its distinguished history, the British India Steam Navigation Company was to name 3 of its ships Chindwara. An article on The First Chindwara is available for download as a pdf.


Hugh Ferguson has written a most interesting article - "The Sole Survivor" - based upon the tragic loss of the Gairsoppa during the Second World War, and it is available for download as a pdf here.


Captain Henry Severs could reasonably be described as an iconic figure within the ranks of those responsible for the training and development of countless British India apprentices. It is entirely fitting that a Tribute to Henry Severs, comprising memories and anecdotes recorded by some of the many who knew and respected him, is available for download as a pdf here.






  The First Chindwara


  The Sole Survivor

  Henry Severs