In 1944 His Majesty King George VI, Permanent Master of the Shipwrights’ Company, instituted a Silver Medal to be awarded to the Shipyard Apprentice of the Year
Kenneth Wood was the first winner of the medal and the Company was charged with the administration of the competition. This it has been doing ever since, and in 1978 it added a Bronze Medal for the runner-up, and in 1998 another Medal for the best craftsman, in memory of the late Derek Kimber OBE, Prime Warden, and a noted shipbuilder with a particular interest in apprentice training.
Today the scheme is run each year by calling for nominations from every known yard in the United Kingdom. The best are then selected by the Company to undertake a week’s course and evaluation at Hawkhirst on Kielder Water in Northumberland in September. The Shipwrights select six candidates to attend an interview in early December, at the end of which the winners are announced.
The winners, with their families, are invited to attend a meeting of the Court of the Company in January for the ceremonial presentation of their medals. In 1995, the 50th anniversary of the competition, the medal winners and their families were invited to Buckingham Palace to receive their awards from H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh, Permanent Master. This privilege was enhanced by the presence of Mr. Kenneth Wood, the first King’s Silver Medal winner, who had become President of his own shipyard in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In 2012 the Prime Warden, H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, presented the medals to the winners and their families, in the presence of a large gathering of the Livery, at St. James’ Palace.
Every year the Company receives applications form a large number of candidates who apply for places on the Phipps Leadership and Development Course which is named after a Freeman and generous benefactor of the Company, and eighteen are selected to attend. Detailed reports on the outstanding contenders for medals are made by the course directors to the Shipwrights’ Queen’s Silver Medal Sub-Committee whose members then conduct interviews before selecting the winners of the Queen’s Silver Medal, The Bronze Medal and Derek Kimber medal. In 2018 a new award was introduced for the candidate displaying the most improvement throughout the Phipps Leadership and Development Course at Kielder.
I was honored to have been presented with the Queens’ Silver Medal for Shipwright Apprentice of the year in 2007. After attending the tough and challenging course in Northumberland, and then a successful interview with the Shipwrights’ interview panel my family and I were privileged to have been invited to the Ironmonger’s Hall in London for the presentation of the Award. It was a truly enjoyable experience, be it one of the toughest things I have put myself through.