Commander L.C.King. RD RNR.

Capt, Superintendant.


Russell Cotes Nautical School - Parkstone Sea Training School

   Captain Superintendant: Leigh Chapman King RD RNR 

            Russell Coates Nautical School: 1939-1949


1897 - 1932

Commander Leigh Chapman King RD RNR.

Born: 2nd November 1897 in Hull, Yorkshire, the 2nd son of Captain Joseph King RD. RNR, Master Mariner.    Died: 1979,  Poole, Dorset . Age 81

Awards  and Decorations: Commander King was awarded the decoration for Officers of the RNR, the RD (the Reserve Decoration). The medal was instituted in 1908.


Merchant Marine - 1913

Entered Merchant Navy.

As a young Merchant Navy Cadet he joined the Royal Mail Steamship Packet (RMSP) Company and sailed on the ‘Aragon’ (9,588tons) from Apr 1913 to Feb 1914





His next ship was the Carnarvonshire (9,406tons), Feb. to May 1914.




Royal Navy Reserve and World War 1


Leigh King joined the Royal Navy Reserve (RNR)  as a Midshipman 3rd January.

1912, He was then mobilized in November 1914. and joined HMS PEMBROKE for training, and awaiting an appointment.


1914 Mobilisation.

Upon his call up he arrived on 24th November 1914 at HMS PEMBROKE for initial training as a Midshipman.


Armed Merchant Cruiser – RMSP  OROTAVA,

At Chatham on 17th Dec 1914, Midshipman King was appointed to the RMSP OROTAVA which was under conversion to an Armed Merchant Cruiser. He remained with OROTAVA until  7th July 1916



HM Armed Merchant Cruiser OROTAVA

Built: 1889, Barrow Shipbuilding Co. for P&OSN, later transferred to Royal Mail Lines

Displacement: 5,980 Reg. tons

Armament: 5 X 6inch  - Crew: 230 (includes 22 Marines)


Gallipoli:  Apr 1915 – Jan 1916 - June 1915:  Gunfire action with U-Boat

10th Cruiser Squadron, blockade of German Ports

1916-1917 West Africa & South Atlantic.


July 1916. 

HMS WOOLWICH – Destroyer Depot Ship for HMS PALADIN.

HMS WOOLWICH , as Depot Ship for Destroyer Squadrons was based at Rosyth, Fife, Scotland. (1915-1918)  On 9th July 1916 Midshipman King was posted to HMS WOOLWICH, with attachments for Training: to HMS PALADIN






Midshipman L.C. King RNR attached to HMS PALADIN for Training.




Destroyer: Admiralty M Class

Built: Completed May 1916 by Scotts of Greenock

Displacement 1,125 tons

Armament: 3 x 4inch

Speed; 34 knots

Complement: 90



Midshipman King remained with HMS WOOLWICH and was then attached to:



Destroyer: Admiralty M Class

Built: 1916  by John Brown, Clydebank.

Displacement 994 tons

Armament: 3 x 4inch

Speed; 34 knots

Complement: 80/95 


General Note:

On 12th Jan 1918 HMS NARBOROUGH & HMS OPAL were tragically lost at sea in a violent gale off Orkney, with a large loss of life. Of the 95 crew on HMS NARABOROUGH there was only …..  1 survivor.



Midshipman King remained with HMS WOOLWICH, In Oct /Nov 1917 he was then attached to HMS ULSTER and on 5th December was promoted to Acting Sub Lieutenant.





Destroyer: Admiralty modified R Class

Built: 1917  by William Beardmore , Dalmuir.

Displacement 975 tons

Armament: 3 x 4inch

Speed; 34 knots

Complement: 80 


After World War I,   Sub Lieutenant King was demobilized on 27th January 1919.

Leigh King then re-joined Royal Mail Lines and was posted as 3rd Officer, to the Quilpue, a 3,669 ton steamship built in 1907 by W. Beardmore & Co., Glasgow for the Pacific Steam Navigation Company. Quilpue and her sister ship  Quillota, were designed for the Valparaiso run and the rounding of Cape Horn. Both Quilpue and Quillota were acquired by the Royal Mail Lines. Leigh King saw service on the South America run and the West Indies.





The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company.

The Company was founded in London by a Scotsman James McQueen and the Company gained its Royal Charter 26th September 1839.


The carriage of Mail started with routes to the Caribbean and then to Brazil and the River Plate in 1851.  By the 1860’s Mail runs to the West Indies were proving successful. These early days were not all success with 3 ships being lost to a great storm in the Caribbean during 1867. The loss, included the Fleets Flagship the ‘Rhone’. 

The start up of  Mail to Australia via the Mediterranean and Suez was not successful and heavy losses were incurred.


By the turn of the Century, many of the original Company Directors had left the Board and new blood, under Owen Phillips, (later Lord Kylsant) took over as Chairman. Little known in shipping circles, he turned the ailing company around and by 1931 profitability had returned and expansion plans, with new Cargo Ships and large Mail Liners, carrying passengers, in 1st class accommodation proved enormously successful. The larger ships carried large amounts of refrigerated cargo and the combination with  high fare paying passengers contributed greatly to RMSP Company profits.

In 1927, the RSMP Co. acquired ‘White Star Line’,  becoming the World’s largest shipping group.

Events took a dramatic turn in 1931, when after the great depression, Lord Kylsant was charged and convicted of misleading shareholders over the Financial State of the Company. The High Court ordered the unraveling of the Company and a ‘Scheme of Arrangement’ was agreed for a continuation of Operations. The Royal Mail Lines (RML) was formed in 1932 taking over all of the RMSP Co. Ships. The concentration was now the Americas and the Caribbean. Post WW2 the RML continued with Mail and Cruising. Finally in 1965 it was acquired by Furness Withy Group.




His next posting was as 2nd Officer to the Chaleur on the West Indies run. The Chaleur of 4,745 tons, was built in 1893 as the ‘Gaul’ for the Union Steamship Co., then transferred to the Union-Castle Mail SS Co. in 1900, before being purchased Royal Mail Steam Packet Co and renamed ‘Sabor’ in 1906. Renamed the Chaleur for the Canada - West Indies service 1913; she was scrapped in 1927.



The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company’s  - Sabour. built by Harland & Wolff, Belfast, later renamed Chaleur.




During 1922 Leigh King completed a number of Royal Navy Courses in Gunnery, Torpedoes and Signals at HMS VIVID, HMS VICTORY & HMS DEFIANCE, on completion he was promoted to Lieutenant RNR.



The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company’s Chignecto was Leigh King’s next ship, he joined as 2nd Officer. The Chignecto, was 4,750 tons, originally built as the 

‘Greek’ in 1893 for the Union Steamship Company by Harland & Wolff, Belfast. She was renamed ‘Segura’ when the Union Steamship Company merged with Castle Packet Company, to form the Union Castle Mail Steamship Company in 1900. She was then sold to the RMSP Co. and named ‘Segura’ in 1906, before finally being renamed Chignecto for the Company’s Canada & West Indies service.



Leigh King’s next appointment was to the ‘Orca’ as 2nd Officer. Built in 1917, she was modified to become a Passenger Liner, and was used on the Southampton to New York run.


Orca, built by Harland & Wolff, Belfast. 16,063 tons.



Continuing he career with RMSP Co., Leigh King joined the ‘Demerara’ on 3 March 1928. Demerara was a 11,484 ton refrigerated meat carrier with accommodation for 933 passengers.



RMSP Co. Demerara


World War I Note.

The Demerara was fitted with 1 x 4.7inch during WW1. Off the coast of Africa, 31st May 1915 a periscope was sighted, the U-boat surfaced and opened fire.

The Demerara at full speed (11knots) returned fire and chased the U-Boat, which then broke off the action and dived.


His next appointment in June 1928 was to the ‘Almanzora’ as 2nd Officer for the Southampton to River Plate run. She was 16,034 ton, triple screw of 17knots and was launched in 1914.

She carried; 400 1st class, 230 2nd class and 760 in steerage.



‘Almanzora’  pictured above was a Troopship throughout WW2.



Leigh King continued with his RNR Training being posted to HM Destroyers and 

Small Craft. He joined HMS BROKE (D83), a Shakespeare Class  Destroyer for training.

He was promoted Lieutenant Commander with a seniority of  2 November 1929.

He next joined RMSP ‘Alcantara’ as 2nd Officer, on the run from Southampton to the East Coast of South America.


RMSP Alcantara


Alcantara was built in 1926/27 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast. She had a speed of 18+ knots. She was a Passenger Liner of 22,209 tons, with  a capacity of 1,400 passengers. She plied the route; Southampton, Cherbourg, Coruna, Lisbon, Maderia, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Montevideo and to Buenos Aires.


In 1939 she was acquired by the Admiralty and converted to an Armed Merchant Cruiser, HMS ALCANTARA  (F88). She was fitted with 8 x  6 inch guns and several 3 pounders.

She was to spend  1940 to 1943 in the familiar waters of  the South Atlantic, and later off West Africa. In July of 1940 she encountered the German  Cruiser Thor.

In the action Thor scored several hits on HMS ALCANTARA, her engine flooded, forced her to reduce speed allowing the Thor to escape.



HMS ALCANTARA (F88) in her wartime Colours. Note the single funnel, the forward funnel was removed in her conversion.



Leigh King was based at Kingston, Jamaica from 1931 as Master of the Steel Hulled Schooner ‘Arno’, She was of 344 tons, built by; Gebrs Bodewes, Martenshoek, Holland.

Leigh was to remain on the Arno until 1933 when he retired from the Royal Mail Lines.



Commander Leigh King was appointed as Captain Superintendant to the Gravesend Sea School  (GSS); 1st July 1934. 

The appointment announced in ‘Lloyds’ on 1st June 1934 …reported:


‘At a meeting of the Governing Committee of the Gravesend Sea School held at the offices of the Board of Trade, Lt. Commander L.C. King R.D. RNR was appointed Captain-Superintendent of the Gravesend Sea School, to succeed Captain O. Lewis, who is retiring at the end of June. Lieutenant Commander King apart from his war service has been employed during the whole of his sea-going career in the vessels of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company and the Royal Mail Lines Ltd.



The School, originally a Seaman’s Hostel,  was opened on 19th September 1918 to train boys (16 to 17yrs) for the Merchant Martine, there was a great need to replace the losses of the Great War. At one time there were over 150 boys at GSS, being trained as ‘deck hands’ and ‘firemen’.  In the first 16 years over 11,500 boys passed through the School.

The Training Course was free but boys were expected to assist with costs of their ‘kitting out’.

The course taught boys; knots and splicing,, boat handling, rowing, swimming, heaving the lead, knowledge of the compass, steering, cleaning brass,, scrubbing, preparing and serving the Mess plus practical  duties connected to employment on deck or in the stokehold.

The Gravesend Sea School was evacuated in 1939. The ‘Vindicatrix’ loaded essential stores and equipment from the School. The Vindicatrix was then towed to Sharpness in June of that year, the boys  and staff travelled by Lorry and a Charabanc at the beginning of September.

Toward the end of WW2 in 1944, the school reopened as the London Sea School.

Note: Charabancs were early motorized coaches, popular in the  1920’s and 30’s, they were usually open topped and frequently used for ‘school or works excursions’.


1937 - 1938

Lt Commander Leigh King continued his Naval Training with a number of Courses at HMS DRAKE, Anti-Submarine Warfare, and the Executive Officers Administration Course for appointment as Acting Commander.



On 28 September 1938 Leigh King retired from the Gravesend Sea  School  to take up an appointment with the Russell Coates Nautical School.



On the 2 February 1939 Lt Cdr. Leigh King was appointment Captain Superintendant  of the Russell Cotes Nautical School, Parkstone, Poole, Dorset.





In 1949 Leigh King retired as Captain Superintendent of the Russell Cotes Nautical School. His service with the Royal Navy Reserve came to an end and he was placed on the retired list with Rank of Commander.

A remarkable service of some 37 years as an Officer of the Royal Navy Reserve, two World Wars, a full life at Sea from the early days of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company from early Steamers to Passenger Liners and Refrigerated Cargo Ships.

This was followed by a change in direction to Command two of the major Sea Schools to train boys in the Seamanship Skills they required for service in both the Merchant Marine and the Royal Navy.




1. The Navy List, various;  1914 to 1945, Admiralty, HMSO.

2. Royal Navy Ships Dispositions (various), Home Waters. 1940-1945 

3. Ships of the Royal Navy; The Complete Record of All Fighting Ships, JJ Colledge 

    and Ben Warlow, Casemate, 17 Cheap St., Newbury, RG14 5DD, 2010. 

4. The London Gazette – various editions; 1912-1945 – Promotion to Lieutenant,

     November 1922


Sources: (continued):


5. Jane’s Fighting Ships, various editions, 1922 to 1945, Sampson, Low, Marston & 

     Co. Ltd. London. 

6. Ancestry, FMP, Origins & LDS Indexes

7. National Archives, London, ADM 171/91, Naval Officer Medal Rolls.

8. Grateful acknowledgement to Roy Derham MBE, Life President, TS Vindicatrix 

    Association. Author of  ‘School for Seaman’, Roy provided valuable Information for 

    this Memorial article. (See:

9. Naval History - WW1 at Sea, Apr-Jun 1915. Naval-History.Net

10.  PSTS Memories – Jimmy Green   PSTS May 1946-50  Cdr King was Capt Supt .

      & Commander Freeman the Commander

11. RCNS 1927 Onwards by JW Glazbrook (RCNS 1927-1940s)   June 1996

      The Captain-Superintendent was in charge of the school and lived in the

       'Captains House'. Commander King was in charge for most of the wartime but

       he was a rather remote figure and tended to concentrate on cultivating contacts

       with a view to supporting fund raising and had little involvement in the mundane

      day to day running of the school.

      The Chief Officer lived in a house near the main entrance and seemed to be 

      responsible for the day to day running of the school.  He was a uniformed officer

      (two stripes) and I think took his turn as duty officer.