Portsmouth Royal Dockyard Upper School

IVth Year Reunion on 16th July 2010

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The News, Portsmouth 22 July 2010

In 1955, they were the top of their class, graduating after four tough years at the prestigious Royal Dockyard School with the world at their feet. Fifty-five years later, the class of 1955 were reunited in Portsmouth to reminisce about those glorious days that stood them in good stead for the rest of their careers. Eighteen of the 39 school leavers and their wives travelled from across the country to meet up at Royal Naval Club & Royal Albert Yacht Club on Pembroke Road, Southsea.

Among them was Bob Dowdell, of Court Mead, Drayton, who was a shipwright apprentice at the school. He said: "It was fantastic to see the guys again, we were reminiscing and chatting about times gone by, wondering where the last 55 years have gone." The 75-year-old added: "It was very strange meeting everybody; it feels almost as if it was yesterday when we graduated. It's interesting to see how everyone went in different ways. Some went in to industry, some went in to the services and some remained with the MOD. To get through four years at the Royal Dockyard School was quite an achievement." Mr. Dowdell said: "Every year we had to sit examinations and they would choose the people who came at the top to carry on in to the next year. It was quite tough. If you completed four years, it was considered quite a high level of education. When you started the apprenticeship aged 16 you had to go to school two days a week that was compulsory. There were three main trades: electricians, engine fitters and shipwrights."

The reunion was organised by Keith Hart who now lives in Plymouth. He organised a similar meeting last year just for the shipwright apprentices. He said: "In 1952 the government changed the name to the Royal Dockyard Technical College. Hence our year was the last to pass out under the old scheme. The latest reunion was the first time in five years all the class of '55 had met up."

Mr. Dowdell said: "It's great that it has become a regular thing. It was marvelous to see everyone and catch up. It's nice to see how everyone looks, we're all in our 70s so it appears life hasn't been too bad for most of us. We had our last reunion five years ago. Then, because it had been so long, Keith made everyone names badges because otherwise no-one would have recognized each other. This time, though, we didn't need any name badges- we're all firm friends."