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PostSubject: History of the Royal Navy   6th March 2008, 1:44 am


The British Royal Navy started out as a motley assortment of "King's ships" during the Middle Ages, assembled only as needed and then disbanded but it began to take shape as a standing navy during the 16th century, and became a regular establishment during the 17th century. The Navy grew considerably during the global struggle with France that started in 1690 and grew in the Napoleonic Wars, a time when the practice of fighting under sail was developed to its highest point. The ensuing century of general peace saw considerable technological development, with sail yielding to steam and cannon supplanted by large shell-firing guns, and ending with the race to construct bigger and better battleships. That race, however, was ultimately a dead end, as aircraft carriers and submarines came to the fore, and after the successes of World War II, the Royal Navy yielded its formerly-preeminent place to the United States Navy, but today the Royal Navy is considered to be the second largest and most powerful naval force in the world.

King's ships cira 1500
Saxon

Alfred the Great has traditionally been recognized as the "founder of the navy"; in 897 he had a number of ships built, of at least 60 oars each, to counter Danish Viking raids along the south coast of England. In this role they gained a significant victory at the battle of Stourmouth, Kent (now silted up in Romney Marsh and inland).

But it soon fell into disrepair, however, to be revived by King Athelstan and, at the time of his victory at the Battle of Brunanburh in 937, the English navy had a strength of approximately 400 ships. Although there is evidence of subsequent attempts to fund a national naval force, there was no opposition to the landings of Sweyn Forkbeard from 1003 on, nor to the takeover by Cnut in 1016. Harold Godwinson did have some ships cruising off the Isle of Wight in the summer of 1066, but they ended their vigil in early September, three weeks before the invasion.
Norman and Medieval, to 1485
The Norman kings had a regular need for cross-Channel transport and started a naval force in 1155, with the Cinque Ports required to provide a total of 57 ships crewed by 21 sailors apiece. However, with the loss of Normandy by King John (who even so had a fleet of 500 sail in an attempt to regain it), this had to become a force capable of preventing invasion (eg the 1215-1217 French invasion of England) and protecting traffic to and from Gascony. In the first years of the 13th century William de Wrotham appears in the records as the clerk of a force of galleys to be used against Philip Augustus of France. The fleet also started to have an offensive capabaility, as in 1213 when ships commanded by the Earl of Salisbury, raided Damme in Flanders, where they burned many ships of the French fleet.

An infrastructure was also developing - by 1212 a base existed at Portsmouth, supporting at least ten ships, including a flagship Dieulabeni and a horse transport Portjoy. Later in the 13th century ships begin to be mentioned regularly as support for various campaigns, most notably in Luke de Tony's capture of Anglesey in 1282. Edward II of England attempted to blockade Scotland, but ineffectively. Naval expenses were considerable, with 20 120-oared galleys being ordered in 1294.

The Hundred Years' War included a number of cross-Channel raids both ways, mostly unopposed due to lack of effective communications. The Battle of Sluys in 1340 was a significant English victory, with Edward III of England's 160 ships (mostly hired merchant vessels) assaulting a French force in the Zwyn estuary and capturing 180 French ships in hand-to-hand combat. Les Espagnols sur Mer, fought in the Channel off Winchelsea in 1350, is possibly the first English sea battle; the English captured 14 Spanish ships. The 14th century also saw the creation of the post of Clerk of the King's Ships, who appears from 1344 on as in charge of some 34 royal vessels. In the mid-fourteenth century Edward III's navy overall had some 700 ships.

English fortunes declined in the 1370s, with merchants objecting to the continual borrowing of their ships and the taxation to man the king's ships, and by the end of the reign of Richard II of England only four were left, and by 1409 only two. Henry V of England revived the navy, building a number of balingers and "great ships", including the 1,400-ton Grace Dieu (which still exists, buried in the Hamble estuary), and won victories in the Channel, reaching a high point in 1417. But this was short-lived, and significant new construction did not occur until the 1480s, by which time ships mounted guns regularly; the Regent of 1487 had 225 serpentines, an early type of cannon.

The beginnings of an organised navy, 1500–1642 is credited to the Tudors
around 1500 to 1601

Sir Francis DrakeThe first reformation and major expansion of the Navy Royal, as it was then known, occurred in the 16th century during the reign of Henry VIII, whose ships Henri Grâce a Dieu ("Great Harry") and Mary Rose engaged the French navy in the battle of the Solent in 1545. By the time of Henry's death in 1547 his fleet had grown to 58 vessels.

In 1588 the Spanish Empire, at the time Europe's superpower and the leading naval power of the 16th century, threatened England with invasion and the Spanish Armada set sail to enforce Spain's dominance over the English Channel and transport troops from the Spanish Netherlands to England. The Spanish plan failed due to maladministration, logistical errors, English harrying, blocking actions by the Dutch, and bad weather. However, the bungled Drake-Norris Expedition of 1589 saw the tide of war turn against the Royal Navy. Under the reign of Elizabeth I England raided Spain's ports and Spanish ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean, but suffered a series of defeats to a reformed Spanish navy.
1601-1642
After 1601 the efficiency of the Navy declined gradually, while corruption grew until brought under control in an inquiry of 1618. Notable construction in the early 17th century included the 1,200-ton Prince Royal, the first three-decker, and Sovereign of the Seas in 1637, designed by Phineas Pett. Operations under James I did not go well, with expeditions against Algerian pirates, Cadiz, and La Rochelle being expensive failures.
The formation of a fighting force, 1642–1689
A permanent Naval Service did not exist until the mid 17th century, when the Fleet Royal was taken under Parliamentary control following the defeat of Charles I in the English Civil War. At the beginning of the English Civil War, the navy, then consisting of 35 vessels, sided with Parliament. The execution of Charles I forced the rapid expansion of the navy, by multiplying England's actual and potential enemies, and many vessels were constructed from the 1650s on. This second reformation of the navy was carried out under 'General-at-Sea' (equivalent to Admiral) Robert Blake during Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth. (Unlike the Royal Navy, the land forces are descended from a variety of different sources, including both royalist and Parliamentary forces.) At the start of the Restoration Parliament listed forty ships of the Royal Navy, (not of the Summer's Guard) with a complement of 3,695 sailors.[1] The administration of the navy was greatly improved by Sir William Coventry and Samuel Pepys, both of whom began their service in 1660 with the Restoration. While it was Pepys' diary that made him the most famous of all naval bureaucrats, his nearly thirty years of administration were crucial in replacing the ad hoc processes of years past with regular programs of supply, construction, pay, and so forth.

Operations of the time were dominated by the first three Anglo-Dutch Wars, which stretched from 1652 to 1674. Triggered by seemingly trivial incidents, but motivated by economic competition, they were notable as purely naval wars fought in the English Channel and the North Sea. Strategically, England profited little by the wars, but the experience of large-scale battle was instructive to the Navy; the Articles of War regularizing the conduct of officers and seaman, and the Fighting Instructions establishing the line of battle both date from this period. After defeats in the second and third Anglo-Dutch wars the Royal Navy gradually developed into the strongest navy in the world. From 1692 the Dutch navy was placed under the command of the Royal Navy's admirals (though not incorporated into it) by order of William III following the Glorious Revolution.


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PostSubject: History of the Royal Navy   6th March 2008, 1:58 am

Napoleonic Wars

HMS Victory The Napoleonic Wars saw the Royal Navy reach a peak of efficiency, dominating the navies of all Britain's adversaries. Initially Britain did not involve itself in the French Revolution, but in 1793 France declared war, leading to the Glorious First of June battle in the following year, followed by the capture of French colonies in the Caribbean. Further action came in 1797 and 1798, with the battles of Cape St Vincent and the Nile, which brought Admiral Horatio Nelson to the public's attention. The Peace of Amiens in 1802 proved to be but a brief interruption in the years of warfare, and the Navy was soon blockading Napoleon's France. The height of the Navy's achievements came on 21 October 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar where a numerically smaller but more experienced British fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson decisively defeated a combined French and Spanish fleet. The victory at Trafalgar consolidated the United Kingdom's advantage over other European maritime powers.

By concentrating its military resources in the navy it could both defend itself and project its power across the oceans as well as threaten rivals' ocean trading routes. Britain therefore needed to maintain only a relatively small, highly mobile, professional army that sailed to where it was needed, and was supported by the navy with bombardment, movement, supplies and reinforcement. The Navy could cut off enemies' sea-borne supplies, as with Napoleon's army in Egypt. Other major European powers had to divide their resources between large navies, large armies, and fortifications to defend their land frontiers. The domination of the sea therefore allowed Britain to rapidly build its empire after the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) and throughout the 19th century, giving it enormous military, political and commercial advantages.

Unlike the navy of pre-revolutionary France, the highest commands of the Royal Navy were open to all within its ranks showing talent. This greatly increased the number of talented men available, although there was always a bias towards the upper class. The French revolution's anti-aristocratic purges caused the loss of most of the French navy's experienced commanders, increasing the Royal Navy's advantage over France. During wartime, ships were often manned by means of Impressments, where experienced seamen could be required to move from merchant ships to naval vessels, and (from 1795) by the Quota System, where each county was required to supply a certain number of volunteers.

The conditions of service for ordinary seamen, while poor by modern standards, were better than many other kinds of work at the time. However, inflation during the late 18th century eroded the real value of seamen's pay, while at the same time, the war caused an increase in pay for merchant ships. Naval pay also often ran years in arrears, and shore leave decreased as ships needed to spend less time in port with better provisioning and health care, and copper bottoms (which delayed fouling). Discontent over these issues eventually resulted in serious mutinies in 1797 when the crews of the Spit head and Nora fleets refused to obey their officers and some captains were sent ashore. This resulted in the short-lived "Floating Republic" which at Spit head was quelled by promising improvements in conditions, but at the Nore resulted in the hanging of 29 mutineers. It is worth noting that neither of the mutinies included flogging or impressments in their list of grievances, and in fact, the mutineers continued the practice of flogging themselves to preserve discipline.


Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1758–1805Napoleon acted to counter Britain's maritime supremacy and economic power, closing European ports to British trade. He also authorized many privateers, operating from French territories in the West Indies, placing great pressure on British mercantile shipping in the western hemisphere. The Royal Navy was too hard-pressed in European waters to release significant forces to combat the privateers, and its large ships of the line were not very effective at seeking out and running down fast and maneuverable privateers which operated as widely spread single ships or small groups. The Royal Navy reacted by commissioning small warships, of traditional Bermuda design. The first three ordered from Bermudian builders, HMS Dasher, HMS Driver and HMS Hunter, were sloops of 200 tons, armed with twelve 24-pounder guns. A great many more ships of this type were ordered, or bought from trade, primarily for use as couriers. The most notable was HMS Pickle, the former Bermudian merchantman that carried news of victory back from Trafalgar.

In the years following the battle of Trafalgar there was increasing tension at sea between the Britain and the United States. American traders took advantage of their country's neutrality to trade with both the French-controlled parts of Europe and Britain. Both France and Britain tried to prevent each other's trade, but only the Royal Navy was in a position to enforce a blockade. Another irritant was the suspected presence of British deserters aboard US merchant and naval vessels. Royal Navy ships often attempted to recover these deserters. In one notorious instance in 1807, otherwise known as the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair, HMS Leopard fired on USS Chesapeake causing significant casualties before boarding and seizing suspected British deserters.

Although brief in retrospect, the years of the Napoleonic wars came to be remembered as the apotheosis of "fighting sail", and stories of the Royal Navy at this period have been told and retold regularly since then, most famously in the Horatio Hornblower series of C. S. Forrester, but also by Patrick O'Brian, Dudley Pope and many other writers.
American War of 1812–1815
In 1812, while the Napoleonic wars continued, the United States declared war on the United Kingdom and invaded Canada. At sea, the American War of 1812 was characterized by single-ship actions between small ships, and disruption of merchant shipping. The Royal Navy struggled to build as many ships as it could, generally sacrificing on the size and armament of vessels, and struggled harder to find adequate personnel, trained or barely-trained to crew them. Royal Naval vessels were often under-manned, without sufficient men to fire a full broadside. Many of the men crewing Royal Naval vessels were rated only as landsmen, and many of those rated as seamen were impressed (conscripted), with resulting poor morale. The US Navy couldn't begin to equal the Royal Navy in number of vessels, and had concentrated in building a handful of better-designed frigates. These were larger, heavier and better-armed both in terms of number of guns, and in the range to which the guns could fire than their British counterparts, and were handled well by larger volunteer crews (where the Royal Navy was hindered by a relative shortage of trained seamen, the US Navy was not large enough to make full use of the large number of American merchant seamen put out of work, even before the war, by the Embargo Act). As a result, a number of British ships were defeated and, mid-way through the war, the Admiralty issued the order not to engage American frigates individually. There were also significant losses of merchant shipping to American privateers, a total of 1,300 vessels; however, the Royal Navy, operating from its new base and dockyard, off the US Atlantic Seaboard in Bermuda, gradually reinforced the blockade of the American coast, virtually halting all trade by sea, capturing many merchant ships, and forcing the US navy frigates to stay in harbor or risk being captured. Despite successful American claims for damage having been pressed in British courts against British privateers several years before, the War was probably the last occasion on which the Royal Navy made considerable reliance on privateers to boost Britain's maritime power. In Bermuda, privateering had thrived until the build-up of the regular Royal Naval establishment, which began in 1795, reduced the Admiralty's reliance on privateers in the Western Atlantic. During the American War of 1812, however, Bermudian privateers captured 298 enemy ships the total captures by all British naval and privateer vessels between the Great Lakes and the West Indies was 1,593 vessels.


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PostSubject: History of the Royal Navy   6th March 2008, 2:03 am

By this time, the Royal Navy had begun building a naval base and dockyard in Bermuda, which replaced Newfoundland as the winter location of the Admiralty. The Royal Navy had begun development after American independence had deprived it of bases on most of the North American seaboard. In time Bermuda became the headquarters for Royal Naval operations in the waters of southern North America and the West Indies. During the War of 1812 the Royal Navy's blockade of the US Atlantic ports was coordinated from Bermuda and Halifax, Nova Scotia. The blockade kept most of the American navy trapped in port. The Royal Navy also occupied coastal islands, encouraging American slaves to defect. Units of Royal Marines were raised from these freed slaves. After British victory in the Peninsular War, part of Wellington's Light Division was released for service in North America. This 2,500-man force, composed of detachments from the 4, 21, 44, and 85 Regiments with some elements of artillery and sappers and commanded by Major-General Ross, arrived in Bermuda in 1814 aboard a fleet composed of the 74-gun HMS Royal Oak, three frigates, three sloops and ten other vessels. The combined force was to launch raids on the coastlines of Maryland and Virginia, with the aim of drawing US forces away from the Canadian border. In response to American actions at Lake Erie, however, Sir George Prevost requested a punitive expedition which would 'deter the enemy from a repetition of such outrages'. The British force arrived at the Patuxent on 17 August and landed the soldiers within 36 miles of Washington DC. Led by Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn, the British force drove the US government out of Washington, DC. Ross shied from the idea of burning the City, but Cockburn and others set it alight. Buildings burned included the US Capitol and the US President's Mansion.

Between 1793 and 1815 the Royal Navy lost 344 vessels due to non-combat causes: 75 by foundering, 254 shipwrecked and 15 from accidental burnings or explosions. In the same period it lost 103,660 seamen: 84,440 by disease and accidents, 12,680 by shipwreck or foundering, and 6,540 by enemy action.

Britannica, 1815–1895
At this time, 80% of merchant steamships were built in British shipyards.[4] At this time, the rate of French construction was low, and construction times were stretched out. For instance, the final of the three French 1872-programme battleships was not completed until October 1886.[5] Many of these long delayed ships were completed in the second half of the 1880s, and this was misrepresented as the French having more new battleships than the Royal Navy in various publications including the famous 1884 articles in the Liberal magazine Pall Mall Gazette, which alarmed the public just before the General Election, and helped create an increased market for books on naval matters such as the Naval Annual, which was first published in 1887.

This age of naval dominance at low cost (the Dark Ages of the Victorian Navy) was ended by the Naval Defense Act of 1889, which authorized ten new battleships, 38 cruisers, and additional vessels. Alfred Thayer Mahan's books and his visit to Europe in the 1890s heightened interest further. When Prime Minister William Gladstone held out against another large program of naval construction in 1894, he found himself alone, and resigned.

The Napoleonic Wars left Great Britain the most powerful naval country in the world, with no meaningful rivals. The country's economic and strategic strength was buttressed by the fleet; localized military action was a staple of the not-entirely-peaceful "Pax Britannica". In addition, the threat of naval force was a significant factor in diplomacy. The navy was not idle, however; the 19th century witnessed a series of transformations that turned the old wooden sailing navy into one of steam and steel.
Operations
The first action of the period was the bombardment of Algiers under Lord Exmouth conducted in 1816. During the Greek War of Independence, the Battle of Navarino was fought in 1827. This was the last major action between fleets of sailing ships. Ottoman involvement continued, with the bombardment of Acre in 1840, and additional Mediterranean crises during the rest of the decade, coming to a head with the Crimean War of the 1850s. The Crimean War became known as a testing ground for the new technologies of steam and shells. Where two Anglo-French campaigns against Russia. In the Black Sea, gave success at Sevastopol and was paralleled by operations in the Baltic including the bombardments of Bomarsund and Sveaborg.

The Chinese Government placed unilateral restraints on British trade with China. In 1839 a Chinese official impounded opium from India, but the British insisted on the British Empire being allowed to export to China, and instituted a blockade of Canton, beginning the First Anglo-Chinese War 1839-42. There was a Second Anglo-Chinese War from 1856 to 1860. In 1857 the British captured Canton and threatened Beijing, thrown back by the Chinese in 1859 and succeeding the following year. During the Russo-Turkish War 1877–1878 the British sent a fleet of battleships under Geoffrey Phipps Hornby to intimidate Russia from entering Constantinople. Over the next thirty years, only a bombardment of Alexandria in 1882 brought the fleet into action.

Technology
Steam power was of interest from the beginning of the 19th century, since it neatly solved the difficult and dangerous sailing problems encountered in estuaries and other inshore areas. It was first adopted in the Comet of 1821, and in 1824 Lightning accompanied the expedition to Algiers. Steam vessels appeared in greater numbers through the 1830s and 1840s, all using side-mounted paddlewheels; screw propellers were introduced in the 1830s, and after some reluctance, were adopted in the mid-1840s the famous tug-of-war between the screw-propelled Rattlesnake and the paddle wheeled Alecto was entertaining, but records show the Admiralty had already decided on and ordered screw ships. Screw battleships and frigates, both conversions and new constructions, were built in large numbers in the 1850s. These ships retained a full capacity for sail as steam engines were not yet efficient enough to permit long ocean voyages under power. Steam power was intended only for use during battle and to allow ships to go to sea at will instead of being held in port by adverse winds.

Iron in ship construction was first used for diagonal-cross-bracing in major warships. The adoption of iron hulls for ocean-going ships had to wait until after Admiralty experiments had solved the problem of an iron-hull's effect on compass deviation. Because iron hulls were much thinner than wooden hulls, they appeared to be more vulnerable to damage when ships ran aground. Although Brunel had adopted iron in the Great Britain, the Admiralty was also concerned about the vulnerability of iron in combat, and experiments with iron in the 1840s seemed to indicate that iron would shatter under impact.

In 1858 France built the first seagoing ironclad, Gloire, and Britain responded with Warrior of 1860, the first of an intensive program of construction that eclipsed French efforts by 1870.

When armored ships were first introduced, in service guns had very little ability to penetrate their armor. However, starting in 1867, guns started to be introduced into service capable of penetrating the armor of the first generation iron-clads, albeit at favorable angles and at short range. This had already been anticipated, and armour thicknesses grew; resulting in turn in a gun calibre-race, as larger guns gave better penetration.

In parallel with this there was a debate over how guns should be mounted on ship. Captain Cowper Coles had developed a turret design in the late-1850s as a result of experience in the Crimean War. Initial designs, published in Blackwood's Magazine in 1859 were for a ship with far more than 10 turrets. Consequently a range of coastal-service turret-ships were built in parallel with the sea-going iron-clads. Because of agitation from Captain Coles and his supporters, the issue of turret-ships became deeply political, and resulted in the ordering of Captain an unsatisfactory private design by Lairds and Captain Coles. The rival Admiralty design,Monarch, had a long and successful career. However the need to combine high-free-board at the bow with sails meant that both these ships had very poor end-on fire. The Admiralty's next sea-going turret-ship design Devastation solved these problems by having very large coal bunkers, and put the turrets on a breastwork.

At this time, 80% of merchant steamships were built in British shipyards. At this time, the rate of French construction was low, and construction times were stretched out. For instance, the final of the three French 1872-programme battleships was not completed until October 1886. Many of these long delayed ships were completed in the second half of the 1880s, and this was misrepresented as the French having more new battleships than the Royal Navy in various publications including the famous 1884 articles in the Liberal magazine Pall Mall Gazette, which alarmed the public just before the General Election, and helped create an increased market for books on naval matters such as the Naval Annual, which was first published in 1887.

This age of naval dominance at low cost nicknamed the Dark Ages of the Victorian Navy was ended by the Naval Defense Act of 1889, which authorized ten new battleships, 38 cruisers, and additional vessels. Alfred Thayer Mahan's books and his visit to Europe in the 1890s heightened interest further. When Prime Minister William Gladstone held out against another large program of naval construction in 1894, he found himself alone, and resigned.

Age of the battleship, 1895–1919
The strategic situation changed rapidly in the mid-1890s; between a Russian-French alliance, an ambitious program of German naval construction, and both the United States and Japan expanding their spheres, Britain found herself isolated and insecure.

Both naval construction and naval strategizing became intense, prompted by the development of torpedoes and submarines, which challenged traditional ideas about the power of battleships. At the same time the Dreadnought committed to the "big gun" concept and caused a shift in thinking around the world, giving Britain the undisputed lead. Another innovative (though ultimately unsuccessful) concept was the battle cruiser, fast and light but still hard-hitting. At the same time, there was much dispute within the Admiralty about how to operate the modern navy, with Winston Churchill advocating various changes.

Some countries from within the Empire started developing their own navies. In 1911 the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy came into being. In 1941 the New Zealand Division became the Royal New Zealand Navy.

First World War
During the two World Wars the Royal Navy played a vital role in keeping the United Kingdom supplied with food, arms and raw materials and in defeating the German campaigns of unrestricted submarine warfare in the first and second battles of the Atlantic.

The accumulated tensions in international relations finally broke out into the hostilities of World War I. From the naval point of view, it was time for the massed fleets to prove themselves, but caution and maneuvering resulted in only a few minor engagements at sea. During the First World War the majority of the Royal Navy's strength was deployed at home in the Grand Fleet in an effort to blockade Germany and to draw the Hochseeflotte (the German "High Seas Fleet") in to an engagement where a decisive victory could be gained. Although there was no decisive battle, the Royal Navy and the Kaiserliche Marine fought many engagements: the Battle of Heligoland Bight, the Battle of Coronel, the Battle of the Falkland Islands, the Battle of Dogger Bank and the Battle of Jutland. This last was the best-known battle. The Royal Navy suffered heavier losses, but succeeded in its strategic goal: the Hocheseeflotte never again put to sea.

The Royal Navy was also heavily committed in the Dardanelles Campaign against the Ottoman Empire. During the war, the Navy contributed the Royal Naval Division to the land forces of the New Army.

Between the Wars
In the inter-war period the Royal Navy was stripped of much of its power. The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 imposed limits on individual ship tonnage and gun caliber, as well as total tonnage of the navy. The treaty, together with the deplorable financial conditions during the immediate post-war period and the Great Depression, forced the Admiralty to scrap all capital ships from the Great War with a gun caliber under 15 inches and to cancel plans for new construction. Three planned units of the G3 Hood class of battle cruiser and the N3 class of 16-inch battle cruisers and 18-inch battleships were cancelled. Also under the treaty, three "large light cruisers"—Glorious, Courageous and Furious—were converted to aircraft carriers. New additions to the fleet were therefore minimal during the 1920s, the only major new vessels being two Nelson class battleships and fifteen County and York class heavy cruisers.

The London Naval Treaty of 1930 deferred new capital ship construction until 1937 and reiterated construction limits on cruisers, destroyers and submarines. As international tensions increased in the mid-1930s the Second London Naval Treaty of 1935 failed to halt the development of a naval arms race and by 1938 treaty limits were effectively ignored. The Navy made a show of force against Mussolini's war in Abyssinia, and operated in China to evacuate British citizens from cities under Japanese attack. The re-armament of the Royal Navy was well under way by this point however, with the 1936 King George V class of 1936, limited to 35,000 tons and 14-inch armament, the aircraft carrier Ark Royal, and the Illustrious class carriers, the Town and Crown Colony classes of light cruiser and the Tribal class destroyers. In addition to new construction, several existing old battleships, battle cruisers and heavy cruisers were reconstructed, and anti-aircraft weaponry reinforced.

Second World War
As a result of the earlier changes the Royal Navy entered the Second World War as a heterogeneous force of World War I veterans, inter-war ships limited by close adherence to treaty restrictions and later unrestricted designs. It remained a powerful force, though smaller and relatively older than it was during World War I.


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PostSubject: Re: History of the Royal Navy   6th March 2008, 2:21 am

At the start of World War II, Britain's global commitments were reflected in the Navy's deployment. Its first task remained the protection of trade, since Britain was heavily dependent upon imports of food and raw materials, and the global Empire was also interdependent. The navy's assets were allocated between various Fleets and Station

During the early phases of World War II, the Royal Navy provided critical, if depressing, cover during British evacuations from Dunkirk and Crete. In the latter operation Admiral Cunningham ran great risks to extract the Army, and saved many men to fight another day. The prestige of the Navy suffered severe blows when the battlecruiser Hood was sunk by the German battleship Bismarck, and the Repulse and Prince of Wales were sunk by Japanese air attack. The Bismarck was sunk a few days later, though public pride in the Royal Navy was severely damaged as a result of the loss of mighty Hood.

The Royal Navy was also vital in guarding the sea lanes that enabled British forces to fight in remote parts of the world such as North Africa, the Mediterranean and the Far East. From 1942, responsibility for the protection of Atlantic convoys was divided between the various allied navies: the Royal Navy being responsible for much of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. Suppression of the U-boat threat was an essential requirement for the invasion of northern Europe: the necessary armies could not otherwise be transported and resupplied. During this period the Royal Navy acquired many relatively cheap and quickly-built escort vessels.

Landing craft convoy crossing the English Channel in 1944Naval supremacy was vital to the amphibious operations carried out, such as the invasions of Northwest Africa, Sicily, Italy, and Normandy. During the war however, it became clear that aircraft carriers were the new capital ship of naval warfare, and that Britain's former naval superiority in terms of battleships had become irrelevant. Britain was an early innovator in aircraft carrier design, in place of the now obsolete and vulnerable battleship, although the Royal Navy was now dwarfed by its ally, the United States Navy.

The successful invasion of Europe reduced the European role of the navy to escorting convoys and providing fire support for troops near the coast as at Walcheren, during the battle of the Scheldt. Despite opposition from the U.S. naval chief, Admiral Ernest King, the Royal Navy sent a large task force to the Pacific (British Pacific Fleet). This required the use of wholly different techniques, requiring a substantial fleet support train, resupply at sea and an emphasis on naval air power and defence. It remains the largest foreign deployment of the Royal Navy.

Post-War period 1946 and onward
After World War II, the decline of the British Empire and the economic hardships in Britain at the time forced the reduction in the size and capability of the Royal Navy. Navy planners expected to maintain unrealistically-high force levels, and were eventually constrained to be a "medium power", relying on the Americans to be the primary defence against Soviet threats. The increasingly powerful U.S. Navy took on the former role of the Royal Navy as a means of keeping peace around the world. Although the late 1940s were generally quiet, the mining of the Saumarez and Volage off Albania in 1946, attempts to control illegal immigration to Palestine in 1947, and the Yangtse Incident of 1949 were reminders that the world was not entirely at peace. A half-dozen warships, including an aircraft carrier, were routinely on station throughout the Korean War. The Navy also landed troops during the Suez crisis of 1956. However, the threat of the Soviet Union and British commitments throughout the world created a new role for the Navy.

Nuclear weapons
The role of the Navy continued to be debated, and in 1957 the Defence White Paper of Duncan Sandys emphasised reliance on nuclear weapons while leaving the Navy's future uncertain. Lord Mountbatten of Burma nevertheless continued with development, and by 1962 a new Dreadnought became Britain's first nuclear-powered submarine and in 1968 the first ballistic missile submarine Resolution was commissioned, armed with the Polaris missile. The Royal Navy later became wholly responsible for the maintenance of the UK's nuclear deterrent. Even so, the Labour government announced in 1966 that Britain would not mount major operations without the help of allies, and that the existing carrier force would be maintained into the 1970s; Christopher Mayhew and Sir David Luce resigned in protest, but to no avail. In 1968, further cuts eliminated Britain's "East of Suez" policy.
In the meantime, the fleet was regularly involved in crises; to deter an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1962, in Tanganyika in 1964, and in Indonesia from 1964 to 1966. The Beira Patrol blocking oil supplies to Rhodesia began in 1965. In the Atlantic, the "Cod War" with Iceland, and manoeuvres with Spain over Gibraltar were civilised affairs.

1970s planning envisioned still further cuts to the Navy, with the focus being on "contributing to NATO" rather than operating independently. In 1981, another Minister, Keith Speed, resigned in protest over plans to retain just two carriers and overall manpower at its lowest in over a century.

Falklands War
HMS Invincible, one of the Royal Navy's flagships during the Falklands WarThe most important operation conducted predominantly by the Royal Navy after the Second World War was the defeat in 1982 of Argentina in the Falkland Islands War. Despite losing four naval ships and other civilian and RFA ships the Royal Navy proved it was still able to fight a battle 8,345 miles (12,800 km) from Great Britain. HMS Conqueror is the only nuclear-powered submarine to have engaged an enemy ship with torpedoes, sinking the Argentine cruiser ARA General Belgrano. The war also underlined the importance of aircraft carriers and submarines and exposed the service's late 20th century dependence on chartered merchant vessels. The Falklands were a reminder of the hazards of reducing the Navy further, and resulted in a stabilisation of force levels, as well as technical improvements due to lessons learned from the war.

Operations after 1982
In the latter stages of the Cold War, the Royal Navy was reconfigured with three anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft carriers and a force of small frigates and destroyers. Its purpose was to search for and destroy Soviet submarines in the North Atlantic. As the Cold War ended, the Royal Navy fought in the Gulf War against Iraq, with Sea Skua missiles sinking a large proportion of the country's navy. However, the end of the Soviet threat brought about a very large reduction in the strength of the Navy. All its diesel submarines were decommissioned and more surface combatants left the fleet.

The 1990s saw blockade operations against Bosnia and involvement in the Kosovo War. The Strategic Defence Review of 1998 and the follow-on Delivering Security in a Changing World White Paper of 2004 promises a somewhat brighter long-term future for the Navy, putting in place the largest naval procurement programme since the end of the Second World War in order to enhance and rebuild the fleet, with a view to bringing the Navy's capabilities into the 21st century, and restructuring the fleet from a North Atlantic-based, large Anti-Submarine force into a true Blue water navy once more. Whilst several smaller vessels were to be withdrawn from service, it was confirmed that two new large aircraft carriers would be constructed. The Strategic Defence Review assumed that the highest tasking levels placed on the Navy would be either one full scale operation or two concurrent Medium scale operations, based on these assumptions it recommended that the following fleet levels were required. In the past decade the UK government view has moved away from the recommendations of the SDR, this is usually explained by the changing perceived threat following 9/11 and 7/7, fleet levels are now significantly lower than the SDR recommended.

The Navy took part in the Afghanistan Campaign and the 2003 Iraq War which saw RN warships bombard positions in support of the Al Faw Peninsula landings by Royal Marines. Also during that war, HM submarines Splendid and Turbulent launched a number of Tomahawk cruise missiles at targets in Iraq.

In August 2005 the Royal Navy rescued seven Russians stranded in a submarine off the Kamchatka peninsula. Using its Scorpio 45, a remote-controlled mini-sub, the submarine was freed from the fishing nets and cables that had held the Russian submarine for three days. The Royal Navy has deployed a number of Naval Task Groups to the Far East including "NTG 03" in 2003, HM ships Exeter, Echo, RFAs Diligence and Grey Rover in 2004 and HMS Liverpool and RFA Grey Rover in 2005.

Royal Navy timeline and battles

1340 Battle of Sluys
1350 Battle of Les Espagnols sur Mer
1372 Battle of La Rochelle
1588 The Spanish Armada
1589 The English Armada
1652 Battle of Dungeness
1690 Battle of Beachy Head
1692 Battle of La Hougue
1692 Battle of Plaisance (Placentia)
1759 Battle of Quiberon Bay and Battle of Lagos
1762 Battle of Signal Hill
1780 Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1780)
1781 Battle of the Chesapeake and Battle of Dogger Bank (1781)
1782 Battle of St. Kitts and Battle of the Saintes
1794 The Glorious First of June
1797 Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1797)
1798 Battle of the Nile
1801 Battle of Copenhagen
1805 Battle of Trafalgar
1808–1814 Peninsular war
1812–1814 War of 1812
1821 First steam paddle ships for auxiliary use
1827 The Battle of Navarino is the last fleet action between wooden sailing ships.
1839-1842 Opium War First Anglo-Chinese war.
1840 First screw driven Steamship, Rattler
1853–1856 Crimean War
1860 First Iron-hulled armoured battleship, Warrior
1902 First Royal Navy submarine, Holland 1
1905 First steam turbine-powered "all big-gun" battleship, Dreadnought
1914–1918 First Battle of the Atlantic
1914 Battle of Heligoland Bight, Battle of Coronel, Battle of the Falkland Islands
1915 Battle of Dogger Bank (1915) and Dardanelles Campaign
1916 Battle of Jutland
1918 First true aircraft carrier, Argus.
1919 Russian Civil War
1931 Invergordon Mutiny
1939–1945 Second Battle of the Atlantic
1939 Battle of the River Plate
1940 Operation Dynamo (Dunkirk)
1941 Battle of Cape Matapan
1941 Sinking of HMS Hood and the German battleship Bismarck
1943 Battle of North Cape is the last action between battleships in European waters.
1944 Operation Tungsten
1944 Operation Neptune (Normandy)
1946 Mining of Saumarez and Volage in the Corfu Channel Incident
1949 Amethyst incident on the Yangtze River
1950 Korean War begins
1956 Operation Musketeer - Suez campaign
1959 The last battleship, Vanguard, is decommissioned.
1962 Indonesian Konfrontasi begins in Borneo
1963 First British nuclear submarine, Dreadnought
1965 Beira Patrol against Rhodesia begins
1980 Armilla Patrol in the Persian Gulf begins
1982 Falklands War
1991 First Gulf War
1999 Operation Allied Force - Kosovo conflict
2000 Operation Palliser
2001 Operation Veritas - Afghanistan Campaign
2003 Operation Telic - Invasion




Acuracy is deemed correct according to the Imperial War Musem and history of the Royal Navy by Admiral Jelicoe
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