Category Archive 'Royal Navy'

29 Jul 2019

“Rich in Highly Individual Commanders”

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Admiral William Packenham

James Morris, in Pax Brittanica (1968), described some British Naval Officers of the late Victorian Era.

Nothing in Nelson’s life appealed more to the British than his loyal disregard of orders, and in the 1890s the Royal Navy was rich in highly individual commanders. Algernon Charles Fiesché Heneage, ‘Pombo’ to the Navy, habitually carried a stock of 20 dozen piqué shirts in his ship, was alleged to break two eggs every morning to dress his hair, and took off his uniform code when he said his prayers, because for a uniformed British officer to fall on his knees would be unthinkable. ‘Prothero the Bad’, Reginald Charles Prothero, was one of the most alarming persons ever to command to warship, with a black beard down to his waist, flaming eyes, huge shoulders, an enormous hook nose and a habit of addressing everyone as ‘boy’, even sometimes his eminent superiors. Arthur Wilson, ‘Old ‘Ard ‘Art’, when he commanded the Channel Squadron, used ride out of Portsmouth Dockyard on a ratty old bicycle, gravely saluted by the sentries, and on June 6, 1884, laconically entered in his diary: ‘Docked ship. Received the V.C.’ Gerard Noel, greeted with a cheery good morning on the bridge of his ship in the small hours, turned with a snarl and replied: ‘This is no time for frivolous complements.’ Robert Arbuthnot was so absolute a martinet not that when, soon after he handed over a ship to his successor, a seagull defecated with the plop upon the quarter-deck, the Chief Bosun’s ate remarked without a smile: ‘That could never ‘ave ‘appened in Sir Robert’s day.’ William Packenham instructed his Turkish interpreter, when sent ashore to quell a rising in Asia Minor, and surrounded on all sides by angry brigands, ‘tell these ugly bastards that I am not going to tolerate any more of their bestial habits’: when an elderly lady at a civic luncheon asked him if he was married, he replied courteously: ‘No, Madame, no. I keep a loose woman in Edinburgh.’

22 Jun 2013

Royal Navy Gets a Dose of PC

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A naval toast in HMS Elephant the day before the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801.

The Daily Mail reports that the ancient customs of the Royal Navy are falling victim to political correctness.

Royal Navy sailors will never again make their traditional Saturday night toast and drink to ‘Our Wives and Sweethearts.’

The toast, which prompts the response, ‘May they never meet’, has been banned because there are so many women officers serving in the Navy.

The seafaring tradition – often made with a tot of rum – has stood for 200 years, but will now be changed so that servicemen and women toast ‘Our families’ instead.

The instruction was issued by the new Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral David Steel.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: ‘To reflect cultural changes and our modern and inclusive Navy, two of the naval toasts, used at mess dinners, have been updated.

‘The Royal Navy values the diversity and range of its personnel and it is only right that its traditional toasts should reflect the fact that women have been at sea for over 20 years.’

The other tradition which has changed is that the Tuesday night toast will be made to ‘Our Sailors’ rather than to ‘Our Men’.
Admiral Lord Boyce, a former Chief of the Defence Staff, blasted the rule change as ‘unnecessary’

The custom has been practised since Admiral Nelson’s era but after women first served in service vessels in 1990 it has become increasingly outdated. …

Other time-honoured toasts which follow the toasts to the Queen will remain unchanged.

On Mondays, a glass is raised to ‘Our ships at sea’, and on Wednesdays, sailors drink to ‘Ourselves (as no one else is likely to concern themselves with our welfare!)’.

On Thursdays they toast to ‘A bloody war or a sickly season’, referring to the better prospects of promotion in wartime in the 19th century and pestilence.

‘A willing enemy and sea room’ is toasted on Fridays, referring to the reluctance of other navies to face the British, and on Sundays they drink to ‘absent friends’.

The change to tradition was not well received by some former sailors.

Former Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Lord Boyce said: ‘In my view this is an unnecessary genuflection in the name of PC-manship and I have no intention of following it.

19 Jun 2012

Could This Have Worked on the Armada?

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The old-fashioned way of stopping enemy ships.


A Russian ship believed to be carrying helicopters and missiles for Syria has been effectively stopped in its tracks off the coast of Scotland after its insurance was cancelled at the behest of the British government.

The British marine insurer Standard Club said it had withdrawn cover from all the ships owned by Femco, a Russian cargo line, including the MV Alaed.

“We were made aware of the allegations that the Alaed was carrying munitions destined for Syria,” the company said in a statement. “We have already informed the ship owner that their insurance cover ceased automatically in view of the nature of the voyage.”

The Royal Navy blocked invasion of the British Isles by the Spanish Armada in 1588 with cannon-fire and cutlass. So formidable was the Royal Navy’s fighting superiority in 1805 that Admiral Jervis was able to quip: “I do not say that they [the French] cannot come — I only say they cannot come by sea.”

Where in days of yore, England maintained command of the seas with “hearts of oak,” clearly today Britain has succeeded in substituting hearts of ink.

One pictures Napoleon glaring in frustration as Marshall Bertrand reports that Lloyds’ has cancelled the invasion fleet’s insurance, so the fleet cannot embark.

14 Apr 2009

The Real Source of Naval Supremacy


Vice Admiral Sir Stephen Hope Carlill, KBE, CB, DSO.

A century ago, the Sultan of Morocco visited England and was given a tour of the Royal Navy’s latest battleship. The diplomat serving as his guide inquired what had most impressed the visiting monarch about the ship. Was it her 16-inch guns, the 8000 hp. engines, the torpedo boats she carried on board, or was it perhaps the new electrical control system?

No, what most impressed me was the captain’s face, replied the sultan.

04 Aug 2008

Royal Navy Sinking Junk Science

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The Telegraph reports that Britain’s historic Royal Navy, which so long successfully defended the island nation from Continental invasion, is proving centuries later also in retrospect an effective defense against junk science.

Scientists have uncovered a treasure trove of meteorological information contained in the detailed logs kept by those on board the vessels that established Britain’s great seafaring tradition including those on Nelsons’ Victory and Cook’s Endeavour.

Every Royal Naval ship kept a detailed record of climate including air pressure, wind strength, air and sea temperature and major meteorological disturbances.

A group of academics and Met Office scientists has unearthed the records dating from the 1600s and examined more than 6,000 logs, which have provided one of the world’s best sources for long-term weather data.

Their studies have raised questions about modern climate change theories. A paper by Dennis Wheeler, a geographer based at Sunderland University, recounts an increasing number of summer storms over Britain in the late 17th century.

Many scientists believe that storms are caused by global warming, but these were came during the so-called Little Ice Age that affected Europe from about 1600 to 1850.

The records also suggest that Europe saw a spell of rapid warming, similar to that experienced today, during the 1730s that must have been caused naturally.

Take my drum to England, hang et by the shore,
Strike et when your powder’s runnin’ low;
If the Dons sight Devon, I’ll quit the port o’ Heaven,
An’ drum them up the Channel as we drummed them long ago.

–Sir Francis Drake, according to Henry Newbolt.

15 Apr 2008

Did They Also Forbid Hanging Their Heads From the Bowsprit?

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How the Royal Navy Dealt with the Pirate Blackbeard

The London Times reports on the latest case of Pecksniffery from Britain’s Labour Government: Asylum for Pirates!

The Royal Navy, once the scourge of brigands on the high seas, has been told by the Foreign Office not to detain pirates because doing so may breach their human rights.

Warships patrolling pirate-infested waters, such as those off Somalia, have been warned that there is also a risk that captured pirates could claim asylum in Britain.

The Foreign Office has advised that pirates sent back to Somalia could have their human rights breached because, under Islamic law, they face beheading for murder or having a hand chopped off for theft.

Hat tip to Walter Olson (who reminded me of this one).

13 Apr 2008

Royal Navy Field Gun Competition 1993

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I’d a lot rather watch this form of competition than baseball or football.

Devonport (whatever that is) versus Portsmouth 5:49 video

Hat tip to Theo.

30 Sep 2007

Labour Plans to Cut Royal Navy in Half

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Britain’s Navy no longer rules the waves. Decades of defense cuts have reduced the once proud fleet which commanded all the world’s seas to a modest NATO auxiliary force specializing in anti-submarine warfare.

Now, the Telegraph reports that Labour intends to reduce the Navy by more than half.

Ministers have drawn up confidential proposals to slash the number of ships in the Royal Navy, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.

The Ministry of Defence has produced a plan to decommission five warships from next April, which would reduce the Navy’s capability to the level where it could carry out only “one small-scale operation”.

Separate documentation from inside the department suggests that the total number of ships in the Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary could fall from the present level of 103 to 76 in 2017 and only 50 in 2027 — a reduction of more than half. …

under the plan the Navy, once the pride of the Armed Forces, would be unable to provide anything like the 1982 Falklands task force.

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