Question: Who were the Dreadnought Boys?
Answer: Systematic youth migration to Australia began in the early years of the 20th century and continued for over seventy years, involving approximately 30,000 school-aged immigrants under a number of schemes. One such program was known as the Dreadnought Scheme which commenced when the Trustees of the Dreadnought Fund entered into an agreement with the NSW Government to bring out British boys between the ages of 16 and 19.
A training farm was purchased in Pitt Town, Sydney; the arrangement stipulated that boys brought out needed to be “of good character and physique” and that the Fund pay the Government £5 for each of the lads sent to the training farm. The aim was to offer practical training to young British men in the ways of Australian farming techniques and to assist in the development and encouragement of British immigration to Australia.
The first twelve "Dreadnought boys" arrived on 21 April 1911 into Hobart on the SS Tainui, then changed to the SS Paloona for the trip from Hobart to Sydney. The boys required two references and a medical certificate to make the journey. They were followed by 27 others in June of the same year. The scheme ran on and off for the next 28 years. It was halted by the First World War, recommenced in 1921, then ceased again during the Great Depression for a period of six years. In February 1915, 2,557 boys had arrived; when the last group arrived in September 1939, the total number of Dreadnought boys had reached 5,595.
Today, the training farm and migrant accommodation centre at Scheyville near Pitt Town is part of the Scheyville National Park, and a visitor centre is overseen by the New South Wales Migration Heritage Centre. A plaque located in Sydney’s historic Rocks area honours those who came to Australia under the scheme. This plaque, paid for by “The Boys” themselves, commemorates the lives of the several thousands of Dreadnought Boys who arrived in Sydney between 1911 and 1939.
Alan Gill. Likely Lads and Lasses: Youth Migration to Australia 1911-1983. Marrickville: BBM Ltd, 2005.
Hi John - As the Dreadnought Scheme was a government-assisted migrant scheme you may be able to find more information about migrants that were involved in the scheme via the National Archives of Australia. James’ Jupp’s ‘The Australian People’ contains more general information about assisted migration in the early twentieth century and the section ‘Settlement 1881-1914’, pp. 49-53, may also be of interest to you.
Clare, the National Archives of Australia have several correspondence files regarding the Dreadnought Scheme. Descriptions of these can be found along with a general introduction to the scheme at this website. You should contact the NAA for further information about this material.
On March 4th 2011 the Dreadnought Association will be celebrating 100 years since the first boys sailed from England. They have also passed on information to some of your enquiries;
They can be contacted by writing to;
Hon. Secretary, Dreadnought Association Inc., 7 Elliot Avenue, Alstonville NSW 2477.
Hello Samantha, as the Dreadnought Scheme was a government-assisted migrant scheme you may be able to find more information about migrants that were involved in the scheme via the National Archives of Australia.
The National Archives of Australia have several correspondence files regarding the Dreadnought Scheme. Descriptions of these can be found along with a general introduction to the scheme at this website. You should contact the NAA for further information about this material in particular with regards to individual records of children involved in the scheme at that time.
Hi Melissa, we have sent you an email with some further information and useful links for your family history research.
Hi Allen - we do not hold records ourselves, but there are several places you might like to try for any correspondence or records specific to your relative. The State Records Office of NSW holds all the records of immigration and arrivals for that time period. Additionally, the National Archives of Australia has an online guide to the records available for the Dreadnought scheme. You may find the book listed above, Likely Lads and Lasses, to be of more general interest.
Unfortunately Museum Victoria does not have any records for the Dreadnought Scheme. If you do a search for ‘dreadnought’ on the National Archives of Australia’s RecordSearch page it brings up two records of interest: Dreadnought boys, 1929 – 1943 and Immigration encouragement. New South Wales Dreadnought boys, 1921 – 1945. Although these are outside the range of your grandfather’s time, they might provide some leads in your search.
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