Do You Want To Go Blind? Sex Education at the Royal Navy’s Dartmouth Naval Academy in the1930s

RN Academy Dartmouth

Royal Navy Academy at Dartmouth

official Royal Navy photograph

“Keep it for that wonderful day.

Don’t ‘touch’ yourselves. You might go blind.”


The above from the parson of the Royal Navy Academy at Dartmouth to a group of fifteen year old naval cadets. In that era, one started one’s education as a Royal Navy officer at age 13.

“As we had been touching ourselves for at least two years and our eyesight was still perfect we didn’t believe a word of it. Looking back, it all seems incredible and I don’t know why the powers that be thought that fifteen year olds were all really going to pay any attention to such nonsense.”

Recounted in an outstanding memoir of World War Two: Sunk by Stukas, Survived at Salerno: The Memoirs of Captain Tony McCrum, RN

This memoir by Captain Tony McCrum is amusing, thoughtful and unstinting in its description of the horror of war. His self deprecation is typically British. Of his final year at Dartmouth he writes,  “…I still wasn’t selected for any position of responsibility (‘poor officer-like qualities, McCrum’), not even milk monitor.”

“Many years later when I was first in my term (class) to be promoted to Captain RN I remembered my term officer’s dire forecast of my abilities…”