It is 70 years since the death of King George VI, (Albert), who spent the first two years of his formal education here on the Isle of Wight in East Cowes.

He attended the Osborne Royal Naval College from January 1909 until December 1910. This was the start of his training to become a naval officer.

Albert then went on to Britannia College, Dartmouth. His violin teacher also moved on to Dartmouth to continue with Albert’s violin lessons!

While in East Cowes, young Albert had not only a general public school education, with a focus on mathematics, but also regular lessons in engineering and seamanship.

Osborne Royal Naval College had been set up quickly in 1903 before Britannia College was built.

The aim was to introduce engineering to every aspiring young naval officer, whether they wanted to be engineering officers or not.

The Royal Navy had finally woken up to the fact that the days of sail were past, and the engineers were a very important part of the modern navy.

Modern engineering works were constructed beside the River Medina at Kingston, on the present Cowes Harbour Commission site beside the power station.

Here the boys learned all about engines and boilers, turning metal on lathes, working in the foundry and other exciting tasks. Laboratories were also built there, three of which still exist.

Cadets’ Walk was the route of their march to the works from the college.

A first-hand account stated that the boys looked very neat and tidy on the way to the works, but rather messy as they returned back to college!

Another comment, from one of the boys, was that the overalls they were provided with were rather on the large size, but the college laundry soon corrected that!

The Osborne stable block was converted into classrooms. Libraries were built over what had been the stables.

The carriage house was converted into the dining room. Twelve dormitories were constructed, each home to 36 cadets.

These covered the area of the present Osborne visitors’ car park. Three more dormitories were built at the start of the First World War as the number of cadets rose dramatically.

Sports were popular. Rowing and sailing took place on the Medina, where the college had their own Navy vessel, HMS Racer.

All cadets were taken in small groups on short cruises in their first term, to give them a taste of Navy life, and see if they were seasick!

Albert had one term at the college with his brother David, before the future King Edward VIII moved to Britannia, the senior college.

The princes would often have tea at Osborne Cottage on a Sunday with their Great Aunt Beatrice.

King George VI was one of almost 4,000 young naval officers to attend Osborne Royal Naval College before it closed in 1921.

Those boys became the Captains and Admirals of the First World War, and Albert led the country as king.

The Isle of Wight played a strong role in the king’s formative years.

Like reading stories about the Isle of Wight in bygone years? Click here to visit our Looking Back section.