corner graphic   Hi,    
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to

Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica


Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

NAVY and Navies. The navy of a country was in, its original meaning the total body of its shipping, whether used for war, for oversea and coasting traffic, or for fishing - the total in fact of its ships (Lat. naves). By custom, however, the word has come to be used only of that part of the whole which is set aside for purposes of war and police. Every navy consists of a material part (see Ship), i.e. the vessels, with their means of propulsion and their armament, and of a human organization, namely the crews of all ranks, by which the vessels are handled. Ships and men are combined in divisions, and are ruled by an organ of the government to which they belong (see A dmiralty A dministration ).

1 Personnel

2 History of Navies

2.1 The British Navy.

2.2 The French Navy.

2.3 Spanish Navy.

2.4 Dutch Navy.

2.5 The United States.

2.6 The Balance of Navies in History.

2.6.1 Conclusion.

2.7 Bibliography.

2.7.1 Ancient and General:

2.7.2 Medieval:

2.7.3 Great Britain

2.7.4 France

2.7.5 Miscellaneous

3 Naval Strategy and Tactics

3.1 Historical Evolution

3.2 Modern Times

3.3 Bibliography


The personnel of the British navy is composed of two different bodies of men, the seamen and the marines, each of which has its appropriate officers. The marines are the subject of a separate article.

The officers of the navy are classed as follows in the order of their rank: flag-officers (see Admiral ), commodores, captains, staff captains, commanders, staff commanders, lieutenants, navigating lieutenants, sub-lieutenants, chief gunners, chief boatswains, chief carpenters, gunners, boatswains, carpenters, midshipmen, naval cadets.

Flag-officers are divided into three ranks, viz. rear-admiral, vice admiral, admiral. There is also the rank of " admiral of the fleet ": such an officer, if in command, would carry the union flag at the main.

All flag-officers, commanders-in-chief, are considered as responsible for the conduct of the fleet or squadron under their command. They are bound to keep them in perfect condition for service; to exercise them frequently in forming orders of sailing and lines of battle, and in performing all such evolutions as may occur in the presence of an enemy; to direct the commanders of squadrons and divisions to inspect the state of each ship under their command; to see that the established rules for good order, discipline and cleanliness are observed; and occasionally to inquire into these and other matters themselves. They are required to correspond with the secfetary of the admiralty, and report to him all their proceedings.

Every flag-officer serving in a fleet, but not commanding it, is required to superintend all the ships of the squadron or division placed under his orders - to see that their crews are properly disciplined, that all orders are punctually attended to, that the stores, provisions and water are kept as complete as circumstances will admit, that the seamen and marines are frequently exercised, and that every precaution is taken for preserving the health of their crews. When at sea, he is to take care that every ship in his division preserves her station, in whatever line or order of sailing the fleet may be formed; and in battle he is to observe attentively the conduct of every ship near him, whether of the squadron or division under his immediate command or not; and at the end of the battle he is to report it to the commander-in-chief, in order that commendation or censure may be passed, as the case may appear to merit; and he is empowered to send an officer to supersede any captain who may misbehave in battle, or whose ship is evidently avoiding the engagement. If any flag-officer be killed in battle his flag is to be kept flying, and signals to be repeated, in the same manner as if he were still alive, until the battle shall be ended; but the death of a flagofficer, or his being rendered incapable of attending to his duty, is to be conveyed as expeditiously as possible to the commander-in-chief.

The captain of the fleet is a temporary rank, where a commanderin-chief has ten or more ships of the line under his command; it may be compared with that of adjutant-general in the army. He may either be a flag-officer or one of the senior captains; in the former case, he takes his rank with the flag-officers of the fleet; in the latter, he ranks next to the junior rear-admiral, and is entitled to the pay and allowance of a rear-admiral. All orders of the commander-inchief are issued through him, all returns of the fleet are made through him to the commander-in-chief, and he keeps a journal of the proceedings of the fleet, which he transmits to the admiralty. He is appointed and can be removed from this situation only by the lords commissioners of the admiralty.

A commodore is a temporary rank, and of two kinds - the one having a captain under him in the same ship, and the other without a captain. The former has the rank, pay and allowances of a rearadmiral, the latter the pay and allowances of a captain and special allowance as the lords of the admiralty may direct. They both carry distinguishing pennants.

When a captain is appointed to command a ship of war he commissions the ship by hoisting his pennant; and if fresh out of the dock, and from the hands of the dockyard officers, he proceeds immediately to prepare her for sea, by demanding her stores, provisions, guns and ammunition from the respective departments, according to her establishment. He enters such petty officers, leading seamen, able seamen, ordinary seamen, artificers, stokers, firemen and boys as may be sent to him from the flag or receiving ship. If he be appointed to succeed the captain of a ship already in commission, he passes a receipt to the said captain for the ship's books, papers and stores, and becomes responsible for the whole of the remaining stores and provisions.

The duty of the captain of a ship, with regard to the several books and accounts, pay-books, entry, musters, discharges, &c., is regulated by various acts of parliament; but the state of the internal discipline, the order, regularity, cleanliness and the health of the crews will depend mainly on himself and his officers. In all these respects the general printed orders for his guidance contained in the King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions are particularly precise and minute. And, for the information of the ship's company, he is directed to cause the articles of war, and abstracts of all acts of parliament for the encouragement of seamen, and all such orders and regulations for discipline as may be established, to be hung up in some public part of the ship, to which the men may at all times have access. He is also to direct that they be read to the ship's company, all the officers being present, once at least in every month. He is desired to be particularly careful that the chaplain have shown to him the attention and respect due to his sacred office by all the officers and men, and that divine service be performed every Sunday. He is not authorized to inflict summary punishment on any commissioned or warrant-officer, but he may place them under arrest, and suspend any officer who shall misbehave, until an opportunity shall offer of trying such officer by a court-martial. He is enjoined to be very careful not to suffer the inferior officers or men to be treated with cruelty and oppression by their superiors. He is the authority who can order punishment to be inflicted, which he is never to do without sufficient cause, nor ever with greater severity than the offence may really deserve, nor until twenty-four hours after the crime has been committed which must be specified in the warrant ordering the punishment. Ile may delegate this authority to a limited extent to certain officers. All the officers and the whole ship's company are to be present at every punishment, which must be inserted in the log-book, and an abstract sent to the admiralty every quarter.

The commander has the chief command in small vessels. In larger vessels he is chief of the staff to the captain and assists him in maintaining discipline, and in sailing and fighting the ship.

The lieutenants take the watch by turns, and are at such times entrusted, in the absence of the captain, with the command of the ship. The one on duty is to inform the captain of all important occurrences which take place during his watch. He is to see that the whole of the duties of the ship are carried on with the same punctuality as if the captain himself were present. In the absence of the captain, the commander or senior executive officer is responsible for everything done on board.

The navigating officer receives his orders from the captain or the senior executive officer. He is entrusted, under the command of the captain, with the charge of navigating the ship, bringing her to anchor, ascertaining the latitude and longitude of her place at sea, surveying harbours, and making such nautical remarks and observations as may be useful to navigation in general.

The warrant-officers of the navy may be compared with the noncommissioned officers of the army. They take rank as follows, viz. gunner, boatswain, carpenter; and, compared with other officers, they take rank after sub-lieutenants and before midshipmen.

The midshipmen are the principal subordinate officers, but have no specific duties assigned to them. In the smaller vessels some of the senior ones are entrusted with the watch; they attend parties of men sent on shore, pass the word of command on board, and see that the orders of their superiors are carried into effect; in short, they are exercised in all the duties of their profession, so as, after five years' service as cadets and midshipmen, to qualify them to become lieutenants, and are then rated sub-lieutenants provided they have passed the requisite examination.

The duties and relative positions of these officers remain practically unaffected by recent changes; but a profound modification was made in the constitution of the corps of officers at the close of 1902. Up to the end of that year, officers who belonged to the " executive " branch, i.e. from midshipmen to admiral, to the marines and the engineers, had entered at different ages, had been trained in separate schools, and had formed three co-operating but independent lines. For reasons set forth in a memorandum by Lord Selborne (December 16, 1902) - from the desire to give a more scientific character to naval education, and to achieve complete unity among all classes of officers - it was decided to replace the triple by a single system of entry, and to coalesce all classes of officers, apart from the purely civil lines - surgeons and paymasters (formerly " pursers ") - into one. Lads were in future to be entered together, and at one training establishment at Osborne in the Isle of Wight, on the distinct understanding that it was to be at the discretion of the admiralty to assign them to executive, marine or engineer duties at a later period. After two years' training at Osborne, and at the Naval College at Dartmouth, all alike were to go through the rank of midshipman and to pass the same examination for lieutenant. When in the intermediate position of sub-lieutenant, they were to be assigned to their respective branches as executive officer, marine or engineer. The engineers under this new system were to cease to be a civil branch, as they had been before, and become known as lieutenant, commander, captain or rear-admiral E. (Engineer).

The crew of a ship of war consists of leading seamen, able seamen, ordinary seamen, engine-room artificers, other artificers, leading stokers, stokers, coal-trimmers, boys and marines. The artificers and stokers and the marines are always entered voluntarily, the latter in the same manner as soldiers, by enlisting into the corps, the former at some rendezvous or on board particular ships. The supply of boys for the navy, from whom the seamen class of men and petty officers is recruited, is also obtained by voluntary entry.

Merchant seamen are admitted into the royal naval reserve, receive an annual payment by way of retainer, perform drill on board His Majesty's ships, and are engaged to serve in the navy in case of war or emergency.

There are two schemes for forming reserves. The Royal Naval Reserve scheme draws men from the mercantile marine and fishing population of the United Kingdom. The Royal Fleet Reserve scheme, introduced in 1901, while it gave a better system of training to the pensioners, was mainly designed to obtain the services in war of the men who had quitted the navy after the expiration of their twelve years' service.

So far as other countries are concerned, the staff of officers does not differ materially from one navy to another. In all it consists of admirals, captains, lieutenants, midshipmen and cadets receiving their training in special schools. With the exception of the navy of the United States, all the important naval forces of the world are raised by conscription.

The strength and general condition of navies at any given time must be learnt from the official publications of the various powers, and from privately composed books founded on them. The yearly statements of the First Lord of the Admiralty in Great Britain, the Reports of the Secretary of the Navy in the United States, and the Reports of the Budget Committees of the French-Chamber contain masses of information. The Naval Annual, founded by Lord Brassey in 1886, is the model of publications which appear in nearly every country which possesses a navy. Mr F. T. Jane's All the World's Fighting Ships is a survey of the materiel of navies since 1898.

History of N avies

Every navy was at its beginning formed of the fighting men of the tribe, or city, serving in the ship or large boat, which was used indifferently for fishing, trade, war or piracy. The development of the warship as a special type, and the formation of organized bodies of men set aside for military service on the sea came later. We can follow the process from its starting-point in the case of the naval powers of the dark and middle ages, the Norsemen, the Venetians, the French, the English fleet and others. But centuries, and indeed millenniums, before the modern world emerged from darkness the nations of antiquity who lived on the shores of the Mediterranean had formed navies and had seen them culminate and decline. The adventures of the Argonauts and of Ulysses give a legendary and poetic picture of an " age of the Vikings " which was coming to an end two thousand years before the Norsemen first vexed the west of Europe. At a period anterior to written history necessity had dictated the formation of vessels adapted to the purposes of the warrior. Long ships built for speed ((Laval vrjcs, naves longae ) as distinguished from round ships for burden (orpoy'yiXat v ' 7 ' 1E3, naves onerariae ) are of extreme antiquity (see Ship). Greek tradition credited the Corinthians with the invention, but it is probable that the Hellenic peoples, in this as in other respects, had a Phoenician model before them. So little is known of the other early navies, whether Hellenic or non-Hellenic, that we must be content to take the Athenian as our example of them all, with a constant recognition of the fact that it was certainly the most highly developed, and that we cannot safely argue from it to the rest.

The Athenian navy began with the provision of warships by the state, because private citizens could not supply them in sufficient numbers. The approach of the Persian attack in 483 B.C. drove Athens to raise its establishment from 50 to loo long ships, which were paid for out of the profits of the mines of Moroneia (see Themistocles). The Persian danger compelled the Greeks to form a league for their common naval defence. The League had its first headquarters at Delos, where its treasury was guarded and administered by the `EX/rtvoTaytat (Hellenotamiai), or trustees of the Hellenic fund. Her superiority in maritime strength gave Athens a predominance over the other members of the League like that which Holland enjoyed for the same reason in the Seven United Provinces. The Hellenotamiai were chosen from among her citizens, and Pericles transferred the fund to Athens, which became the mistress of the League. The allies sank in fact to subjects, and their contributions, aided by the produce of the mines, went to the support of the Athenian navy. The hundred long ships of the Persian War grew to three hundred by the end of the 5th century B.C. (see Peloponnesian War), and at a later period (when, however, the quality of ships and men alike had sunk) to three hundred and sixty. The ancient world did not attain to the formation of a civil service - at least until the time of the Roman Empire - and Athens had no admiralty or navy office. In peace the war-vessels were kept on slips under cover in sheds. In war a strategos was appointed to the general command, and he chose the trierarchs, whose duty it was to commission them partly at their own expense, under supervision of the state exercised by special inspectors (aorooroAEis). The hulls, oars, rigging and pay of the crews were provided by the state, but it is certain that heavy charges fell upon the trierarchs, who had to fit the ships for sea and return them in good condition. The burden became so heavy that the trierarchies were divided, first between two citizens in the Peloponnesian War, and then among groups ( synteleiai ) consisting of from five to sixteen persons. Individual Athenians who were wealthy and patriotic or ambitious might fit out ships or spend freely on their command. But these voluntary gifts were insufficient to maintain a great navy. The necessity which compelled modern nations to form permanent state navies, instead of relying on a levy of ships from the ports, and such vessels as English nobles and gentlemen sent to fight the Armada, prevailed in Athens also. The organization of the crews bore a close resemblance in the general lines to that of the English navy as it was till the 16th and even the 17th century. The trierarch, either the citizen named to discharge the duty, or some one whom he paid to replace him, answered to the captain. There was a sailing master (Kv i 3epvriTfs ), a body of petty officers, mariners and oarsmen (inropecia ), with the soldiers or marines (kL136.Tae). As the ancient warship was a galley, the number of rowers required was immense. A hundred triremes would require twenty thousand men in all, or more than the total number of crews of the twenty-seven British line of battleships which fought at Trafalgar. And yet this would not have been a great fleet, as compared with the Roman and Carthaginian forces, which contended with hundreds of vessels and multitudes of men, numbering one hundred and fifty thousand or so, on each side, in the first Punic War.

Until the use of broadside artillery and the sail became universal at the end of the 16th century, all navies were forcibly organized on much the same lines as the Athenian, even in the western seas. In the Mediterranean the differences were in names and in details. The war fleets of the successors of Alexander, of Carthage, of Rome, of Byzantium, of the Italian republics, of the Arabs and of Aragon, were galleys relying on their power to ram or board. Therefore they present the same elements - a chief who is a general, captains who were soldiers, or knights, sailing masters and deck hands who navigate and tend the few sails used, marines and rowers. A few words may, however, be said of Rome, which transmitted the tradition of the ancient world to Constantinople, and of the Constantinopolitan or Byzantine navy, which in turn transmitted the tradition to the Italian cities, and had one peculiar point of interest.

As a trading city Rome was early concerned in the struggle for predominance in the western Mediterranean between the Etruscans, the Greek colonies and the Carthaginians. Rome. Its care of its naval interests was shown by the appointment of navy commissioners as early as 311 B.C. ( Duoviri navales). In the first Punic War it had to raise great fleets from its own resources, or from the dependent Greek colonies of southern Italy. After the fall of Carthage it had no opponent who was able to force it to the same efforts. The prevalence of piracy in the 1st century B.C. again compelled it to attend to its navy (see Pompey). The obligation to keep the peace on sea as well as on land required the emperors to maintain a navy for police purposes. The organization was very complete. Two main fleets, called the Praetorian, guarded the coasts of Italy at Ravenna and Misenum ( classes Praetoriae ), other squadrons were stationed at Forum Julii (Frejus), Seleucia at the mouth of the Orontes (Nahr-el-Asy), called the classis Syriaca, at Alexandria ( classis Augusta Alexandriae ), at Carpathos (Scarpanto, between Crete and Rhodes), Aquileia (the classis Venetum at the head of the Adriatic), the Black Sea ( classis Pontica ), and Britain (classis Britannica). River flotillas were maintained on the Rhine ( classis Germanica ), on the Danube (classis Pannonica and Maesica ) and in later days at least on the Euphrates. All these squadrons did not exist at the same time. The station at Forum Julii was given up soon after the reign of Augustus, and the classis Venetum was formed later. But an organized navy always existed. A body of soldiers, the classici, was assigned for its service. The commander was the Praefectus Classis. When Constantine founded his New Rome on the site of Byzantium, the navy of the Eastern Empire may be said to have. begun. Its history is obscure and it suffered several ecl i pses. While the Vandal kingdom of Carthage lasted (428-534), the eastern emperors were compelled to attend to their fleet. After its fall their navy fell into neglect till the rise of the Mahommedan power at the end of the 7th century again compelled them to guard their coasts. The eastern caliphs had fleets for purposes of conquest, and so had the emirs and caliphs of Cordova. The Byzantine navy reached its highest point under the able sovereigns of the Macedonian dynasty (867-1056). It was divided into the imperial fleet, commanded by the Great Drungarios, the first recorded lord high admiral, and the provincial or thematic squadrons, under their strategoi. Of these there were three, the Cibyrhaeotic (Cyprus and Rhodes), the Samian and the Aegean. The thematic squadrons were maintained permanently for police purposes. The imperial fleet, which was more powerful when in commission than all three, was kept for war. A peculiar feature of the Byzantine navy was the presence in it of a corps answering to the seaman gunners and gunnery officers of modern navies. These were the siphonarioi, who worked the siphons (Icc/xWVes ) used for discharging the " Greek fire." When the Turkish invasions disorganized the Eastern Empire in the 12th century, the Byzantine navy withered, and the emperors were driven to rely on the help of the Venetians.

The Italian republics of the middle ages, and the monarchical states bordering on the Mediterranean, always possessed fleets which did not differ in essential particulars from that of Athens. There is, however, one fact which must not be overlooked. It is that the seamen of some of them, and more especially of Genoa, served the powers of western Europe from a very early date. Diego Gelmirez, the first archbishop of Santiago in Gallicia, employed Genoese to construct a dockyard and build a squadron at Vigo in the 12th century.

Edward III. of England employed Genoese, and others were engaged to create a dockyard for the French kings at Rouen. By them the naval science of the Mediterranean was carried to the nations on the shores of the Atlantic. The Mediterranean navies made their last great appearance in history at the battle of Lepanto (1571). Thenceforth the main scene of naval activity was on the ocean, with very different ships, other armaments and organizations.

The great navies of modern history may best be discussed by taking first certain specially important national navies in their earlier evolution, and then considering those which are of present day interest in their relations to one another.

The British Navy.

The Royal Navy of Great Britain stands at the head of the navies of the modern world, not only by virtue of its strength, but because it has the longest and the most consistent historical development. The Norse invasions of the 9th century forced the English people to provide for their defence against attack from oversea. Though their efforts were but partially successful, and great Norse settlements were made on the eastern side of the island, a national organization was formed. Every shire was called upon to supply ships " in proportion to the number of hundreds and from the produce of what had been the folkland contained in it " (Stubbs, Const. Hist. i. 116). Alfred and his successors had also ships of their own, maintained out of the royal revenue of which they had complete control. Before the Conquest the system of contribution by the shires had largely broken down. Yet in its main lines the method of providing a navy adopted by Alfred and his immediate successors remained in existence. There were the people's ships which represented the naval side of the fyrd - i.e. the general obligation to defend the realm; and there were the king's own vessels which were his property. By the 11th century a third source of supply had been found. This was the feudal array. Towns on the sea coast were endowed with privileges and franchises, and rendered definite services in return.

The Norman Conquest introduced no fundamental difference. In the 12th century the kings of the Angevine dynasty made the military resources of their kingdom available in three ways; the feudal array, the national militia and the mercenaries. Dover, Sandwich, Romney, and the other towns on the southeast coast which formed the Cinque Ports represented the naval part of the feudal array. In the reign of Henry III. (1216-1272) their service was fixed at 57 ships, with 11 9 7 men and boys, for fifteen days in any year, to count from the time when they weighed anchor. During these fifteen days they served at the expense of the towns. Beyond that date they were maintained by the king. The Cinque Ports Squadron has been spoken of as the foundation of the Royal Navy. But a feudal array is wholly alien in character to a national force. The Cinque Ports, after playing a prominent part in the 13th century, sank into insignificance. They were always inclined to piracy at the expense of other English towns. In 1297, during one of the expeditions to Flanders, they attacked and burnt twenty ships belonging to Yarmouth under the eyes of Edward I. (1272-1307). The national militia had a longer life. The obligation of the coast towns and counties to provide ships and men for the defence of the realm was enforced till the 17th century. Nor did the method of enforcing that obligation differ materially. In the reign of King John (1199-1216), when the records began to be regularly kept, but when there was no radical change in system, the reeves and bailiffs of the seaports were bound to ascertain by a jury the number, size and quality of all ships belonging to the port. When the ships were required for the king's service they were embargoed. The local authorities were then bound to see that they were properly equipped and manned. It was the duty of the reeves and bailiffs to arrange that they should reach the place named by the king as rendezvous at the time fixed by him. These embargoes inflicted heavy loss even when they were honestly imposed, and loud complaints were heard in Parliament from the later years of Edward III. (1327-1377) that they afforded the king's officers many openings for oppression and corruption.

The true ancestors of the modern navy must be sought in the third element of the navy of the middle ages - the king's ships and his " mercenaries." Under King John we find the full record of a regular organization of a Royal Navy as apart from the feudal array of the Cinque Ports or the fyrd. In 1205 he had in all 50 " galleys " - long ships for war - distributed in various ports. William of Wrotham, archdeacon of Taunton, one of the king's " clerks," or ecclesiastical persons who formed his civil service, is named, sometimes in combination with others, as " keeper of the king's ships," " keeper of the king's galleys " and " keeper of the king's seaports." The royal vessels cannot have differed from the 57 warships of the Cinque Ports, and at first his navy was preferable to the feudal array, or the levy from the counties, mainly because it was more fully under his own control. They were indeed so wholly his that he could hire them out to the counties, and at a much later period the ships of Henry V. (1413-1422) were sold to pay his personal debts after his death. Yet though the process by which the king's ships became the national navy was slow, the affiliation is direct from them to the fleet of to-day, while the permanent officials at Whitehall are no less the direct descendants of William of Wrotham and the king's clerks of the 13th century. When on active service the command was exercised by representatives of the king, who were not required to be bred to the sea or even always to be laymen. In the crusade of 1190 the fleet of Richard the Lion Hearted (1189-1199), drawn partly from England and partly from his continental possessions, was governed by a body of which two of the members were churchmen. They and their lay colleagues were described as the ductores et gubernatores totius navigii Regis. The first commanders of squadrons were known as justiciarii navigii Regis, ductores et constabularii Regis. The crusade of 1190 doubtless made Englishmen-acquainted with the title of " admiral "; but it was not till much later that the word became, first as " admiral and captain," then as " admiral " alone, the title of an officer commanding a squadron. The first admiral of all England was Sir John Beauchamp, appointed for a year in 1360. The permanent appointment of a lord admiral dates from 1406, when John Beaufort, natural son of John of Gaunt, and marquess of Somerset and Dorset, was named to the post. The crews consisted of the two elements which, in varying proportions and under different names, have been and are common to all navies - the mariners whose business it was to navigate the ship, and the soldiers who were put in to fight. Until the vessel had been developed and the epoch of ocean voyages began, the first were few and subordinate. As. the seas of Britain were ill adapted for the use of the galley in the proper sense, though the French employed them, English ships relied mainly on the sail. They used the oar indeed but never as a main resource, and had therefore no use for the " turma " ( ciurma in Italian, chiourme in French, and chusma in Spanish) of rowers formed in the Mediterranean craft. Crews were obtained partly by free enlistment, but also to a great extent, by the press (see Impressment). The code of naval discipline was the laws of Oleron (see SEA Laws), which embodied the general " custom of the sea." By the reign of Edward III. (1327-1377) the duties and jurisdiction of the admiral were fixed. He controlled the returns of the ships made by the reeves, selected them for service, and chose his officers who had their commission from him. A rudimentary code of signals by lights or flags was in use.

The history of the middle ages bears testimony to the general efficiency and energy of the navy. Under weak kings, and at certain periods, for instance in the latter years of Edward III. and the reign of his grandson Richard II. (1377-1399), it fell into decay, and the coast was ravaged by the French and their allies the Basque seamen, who manned the navy of Castile. Henry IV. (1399-1413), though an astute and vigorous ruler, was driven to make a contract with the merchants, mariners. and shipowners, to take over the duty of guarding the coast in 1406-1407. Their admirals Richard Clitherow and Nicholas Blackburne were appointed, and exercised their commands. But the experiment was not a success, and was not renewed. Apart from these periods of eclipse, the navy in all its elements,. feudal, national and royal, was more than a match for its enemies. The destruction of the fleet prepared by Philip Augustus, the French king, for the invasion of England in 1213 at Damme, the defeat of Eustace the Monk in 1217 off Dover, the victory over the French fleet at Sluys in 1340, and the defeat of the Spaniards off Winchelsea in 1350, were triumphs never quite counterbalanced by any equivalent overthrow. Still better proofs of the ability of any navy to discharge its duties were the long retention of Calais, and the constant success of the rulers of England in their invasions of France. The claim to the sovereignty of the seas has been attributed on insufficient evidence to King John, but it was enforced by Edward III.

Under the sovereigns of the Tudor dynasty (1485-1603) the development of the navy was steady. Though Henry VII. (1485-1509) made little use of his fleet in war, he built ships. His son Henry VIII. (1509-1547) took a keen interest in his navy. Shipbuilding was improved by the importation of Italian workmen. The large resources he obtained by the plunder of the Church enabled Henry VIII. to spend on a scale which had been impossible for "his predecessors, and was to be impossible for his successors without the aid of grants from Parliament. But the most vital service which he rendered to the navy was the formation of, or rather the organization of existing officials into, the navy office. This measure was taken at the very end of his reign, when the board was constituted by letters patent dated 24th of April 1546. It consisted of a lieutenant of the admiralty, a treasurer, a comptroller, a surveyor, a clerk of the ships, and two officials without special title. A master of the ordnance for the ships was also appointed. Henry's board, commonly known as the navy board, continued, with some periods of suspension, and with the addition of different departments - the victualling board, the transport board, the pay office, &c., added at various times - to be the administrative machinery of the navy till 1832. They were all theoretically subject to the authority of the lord high admiral, or the commissioners for discharging his office, who had the military and political control of the navy and issued all commissions to its. officers. In practice the boards were very independent. The double government of the navy, though it lasted long, was, undoubtedly the cause of much waste - partly by the creation of superfluous officials, but more by the opening it provided for corruption.

The 16th century in England as elsewhere saw a great development in the size and capacity of ships, in the length of voyages, and consequently in the sciences of navigation and seamanship, which brought with them the predominance of the seaman element hitherto subordinate. In the reign of Henry VIII., when a squadron was commissioned in 1512, out of a total of 3000 men, 1750 were soldiers. By the end of the reign of his daughter Elizabeth (1558-1603) it was calculated that of the 8 34 6 men required to man her fleet 5534 were seamen, 804 were gunners, and only 2008 were soldiers. In the early years ,of his reign Henry VIII. equipped his squadrons on a system which bears some resemblance to the Athenian trierarchies. He made a contract with his admiral Sir Edward Howard (1477-1313),4771313), by which the king supplied ships, guns and a sum of money. The admiral, who had full power to " press," named the officers and collected the crews. Among them are named contingents from particular towns - the representatives of the fyrd. With the exception of the captain, who received eighteen pence a day, all were paid at the same rate, 5s. wages and 5s. for rations per month. Extra sums called " dead shares," the wages of so many imaginary men, and rewards, were provided for the master and warrant officers. Until the regular returns known as the " weekly progress of the dockyards" and the monthly lists of ships in sea pay " were established in 1773, no constant strict account of the strength of the navy was kept. The figure must therefore be accepted as subject to correction, but King Henry's navy is estimated to have consisted of J3 vessels of 11,268 tons, carrying 237 brass guns and 1848 of iron. It sank somewhat during the agitated reigns of his successors Edward VI. (1547-1553) and Mary (1553-1558). By Elizabeth it was well restored. In mere numbers her navy never equalled her father's. At the end of her reign it was composed of 42 vessels, but they were of 17,055 tons, and therefore on the average much larger. The military services rendered by the great queen's fleet were brilliant. No organic change was introduced, and fleets continued to be made up by including vessels belonging to the different ports.

The two most notable advances in organization were the establishment of a graduated scale of pay by rank in 1582, and the formation of a fund for the relief of sick and wounded seamen. This was not a grant from the state but a species of compulsory insurance. All men employed by the navy, including shipwrights, were subject to a small deduction from their pay. The amount was kept in the chest at Chatham, from which the fund took its name, and was managed by a committee of five, each of whom had a key, and of whom four were elected by the contributors. The commissioner of the dockyard presided.

It was between the accession and the fall of the House of Stuart (1603-1688) that the navy became a truly national force, maintained out of the revenue voted by parliament, and acting -without the co-operation of temporary levies of trading ships. The reign of James I. (1603-1625) is a period of great importance in its history. The policy of the king was peaceful, and he only once sent out a strong fleet - in 1620 when an expedition was despatched against the Barbary pirates. He took, however, a lively interest in shipbuilding, and supported his master shipwright Phineas Pett (1507-1647) against the rivals whom he offended by disregarding their rules of thumb. Under the lax administration of the lord high admiral Nottingham, better known as Lord Howard of Effingham, many abuses crept into the navy. Though more money was spent on it than in the reign of the queen, it had sunk to a very low level of effective strength in 1618. In 1619 the old lord admiral was persuaded to retire, and was succeeded by George Villiers, duke of Buckingham, the king's favourite. Nottingham's retirement was made compulsory by the report of a committee appointed to inquire into the condition of the navy in 1618. They reported that while numbers of new offices had been created at a cost treble the whole expense of the permanent staff of Queen Elizabeth's time, the dockyards had become nests of pilfering and corruption.

Ships were rotting, and money was yearly drawn for vessels which had ceased to exist. The committee undertook to meet the whole ordinary and extraordinary charges of the navy (upkeep and new building) for £30,000 a year. The ships in commission at that time during peace were confined to the diminutive winter and summer guards, whose duty was to transport ambassadors to and fro across the Channel and to hunt the pirates who still swarmed on the coast. Buckingham left the administration of the navy in the hands of the commissioners, who by dismissing superfluous officers and paying better salaries had by 1624 fulfilled their promise to restore the fleet. The establishment they proposed was only of 30 ships, but they were larger in aggregate tonnage by 3050 tons than Queen Elizabeth's.

Charles I. (1625-1649) carried on the work of his father as far as his limited resources allowed. The pay of the sailors, fixed in 1585 at ios., was increased to 15s. A captain received from £4, 6s. 8d. a month of 28 days (the standard of the navy) to £14, according to the size of his ship. Lieutenants, who were only carried in the larger ships, received from £2, 16s. to £3, ios., the sailing-master from £2, 6s. 8d. to £4, 13s. 9d., and the warrant officers from £1,3s. to £2, 4s. The rating of ships by the number of men carried was introduced in this reign. Vessels of good quality were built for the king, and he showed a real understanding of the necessity for maintaining a strong fleet.

But the time was coming when the hereditary royal revenue was no longer adequate to meet the expense of a navy. By the middle of the 17th century a costly warship, far larger than the trading-ship in size and much more strongly built, had been developed. The extension of British commerce called for protection which an establishment of 40 to 50 vessels could not give. When the Great Rebellion broke out in 1641 the navy of King Charles consisted of only 42 vessels of 22,411 tons. At the Restoration (1660) it had grown to 154 ships for sea service, of 57,463 tons. Such a force could only be maintained out of taxes granted by the parliament. The efforts of King Charles to obtain funds for his navy had a large influence in provoking the rebellion (see Ship Money). The government of the navy during this reign remained in the hands of the committee of 1618, under the lord high admiral Buckingham, till he was murdered in 1628. It was then entrusted to a special commission, who were to have held it till the king's second son James, duke of York, was of age. In 1638 the king restored the office of lord high admiral " during pleasure " in favour of Algernon Percy, 10th earl of Northumberland, by whom the fleet was handed over to the parliament.

During the Great Rebellion and the Protectorate the navy was governed by parliamentary committees, or by a committee named by the Council of State, or by Cromwell. The need, first for cutting the king off from foreign support, and then for conducting successive struggles in Ireland, or with the king's partisans on the sea, with the Dutch and with the Spaniards during the Protectorate, led to a great increase in its size. These, too, were years of much internal development. Blake and the other parliamentary officers found that the pressed or hired merchant ships were untrustworthy in action. The ships were not strong enough, and the officers had no military spirit. Parliament therefore provided its own vessels and its own officers. The staff was strengthened by the appointment of second lieutenants. The Dutch War of 1652-53 may be said to have seen the last of the national militia, fyrd or levy of ships from the ports for warlike purposes. After the war a code of " fighting instructions " was issued. During it a code of discipline in 39 articles was established. Both embodied ancient practices rather than new principles, yet it marked a notable advance in the progress of the navy towards complete organization that it should pass from the state of being governed by traditional use and wont, or by the will of the commander for the time being, to the condition of being ruled by fixed and published codes to which all were subject. The high military command during the interregnum1649-1660was entrusted to committees of admirals and generals at sea.

With the restoration of Charles II. (1660-168) the modern period in the history of the navy began. The first steps were taken to form a corps of officers. Lads of gentle birth were sent on board ships in commission with a letter of service - from which came their popular name of " king's letter boys " - to the captain, instructing him to treat them on the footing of gentlemen and train them to become officers. After the Dutch War of 1664-67 a body of flag-officers were retained by fixed allowances from the crown. This was the beginning of the halfpay list, which was extended by successive steps to include select bodies of captains and lieutenants, and then all commissioned officers. The process of forming the corps was not complete till the end of the reign of Queen Anne (1702-1714). Special training and a right to permanent payment are the essentials of a state service. The fleet was, at least in the earlier part of the reign, used for the promotion of British interests and the protection of trade in distant seas. One squadron was sent to take possession of Bombay, which formed part of the dower of Queen Catherine. Tangier, which was acquired in the same way, was occupied as a naval station till the cost of maintaining it proved excessive and it was evacuated in 1685. A series of effective attacks was made on the Barbary pirates, and ships were stationed in the West Indies to check piracy and buccaneering. Until 1673, when he was driven out of office by the Test Act, the king's brother James, duke of York, afterwards James II., held office as lord high admiral. He proved an able administrator. The navy office was thoroughly organized on the lines laid down by the earl of Northumberland, and revised " sailing and fighting instructions," as well as a code of discipline, were issued. During the latter years of the reign of Charles II. the administrative corruption of the time affected the navy severely. The fixed charge for ordinary and extraordinary expenses which had risen to 300,000 a year was mostly wasted, under the lax or dishonest supervision of the commission appointed by the king after his brother left office. James II. (1685-1688), who kept the admiralship in his own hands and governed largely through his able secretary, the diarist Samuel Pepys, did much to restore its efficiency. The navy he left was estimated to consist of 173 ships of 101,892 tons carrying when in commission 42,003 men and armed with 6930 guns.

The evolution of the navy was completed by the Revolution of 1688. It now, though still called royal, became a purely national force, supported by the yearly votes of parliament, and governed by parliamentary committees, known as the commission for discharging the office of lord high admiral. A lord high admiral has occasionally been appointed, as in the case of Prince George of Denmark, husband of Queen Anne, or the duke of Clarence, afterwards King William IV. But these were formal restorations. As no organic change was made till 1832, it will now be enough to describe the organization as it was during this century and a half.

The discipline of the navy was based on the Navy Discipline Act of 1660 (13th of Charles II.). The act was found to require amending acts, and the whole of them were combined, and revised by the 2 2nd of George II., passed in 1749. Some scandals of the previous years had caused great popular anger, and the alternative to death was taken from the punishment threatened against officers who failed to show sufficient zeal in the presence of the enemy. It was under this severe code that Admiral Byng was executed. In 1780 an amending act was passed which allowed a court martial to assign a lighter penalty.

The government, political and military, was in the hands of the admiralty. The administration was carried on in subordination to the admiralty by the navy board and the other civil departments, the victualling board, the board of transport, the pay office, the sick and hurt office and some others. At the head were the flag-officers, who were divided as follows: Admiral of the Fleet. Vice-Admiral Red. Rear-Admiral Red.

„ „ White. „ „ White. „ „ White.

„ ,, Blue. „ Blue. „ „ Blue.

The Red, White and Blue squadrons had been the divisions of the great fleets of the 17th century, but they became formal terms indicating only the seniority of the flag-officers. It was the intention of parliament to confine the flag list to these nine officers, but as the navy grew this was found to be impossible. The rank of admiral of the fleet remained a solitary distinction. The captains, commanders and lieutenants were the commissioned officers and received their commissions from the admiralty. Promotion from them to flag rank was not at first limited by strict rules, but it tended to be by seniority. During the war of the Austrian Succession, in 1747, a regular system was introduced by which when a captain was promoted for active service - to hoist his flag, as the phrase went - he was made rear-admiral of the Blue squadron. Captains senior to him were promoted rear-admiral in general terms, and were placed on the retired list. They were familiarly called " yellow " admirals, and to be promoted in this way was to be " yellowed." Promotion to a lieutenant's commission could be obtained by any one who had served, or whose name had been on the books of a seagoing ship, for five years. Whether he entered with a king's letter of service or from the naval academy at Portsmouth, as a sailor or as a ship's boy, he was equally qualified to hold a commission if he had fulfilled the necessary conditions and could pass an examining board of captains, a test which in the case of lads who had interest was generally a pure formality. He was supposed to show that he knew some navigation, and was a practical seaman who could hand, reef and steer. As captains were allowed a retinue of servants, a custom arose by which they put the names of absent or imaginary lads on the books as servants and drew the pay allowance for them. It was quite illegal, and constituted the offence known as " false musters," punishable by dismissal from the service. But this regulation was even less punctually observed than the rule which forbade the carrying of women. Till the beginning of the 19th century many distinguished officers were borne on a ship's books for two or three years before they went to sea. The navigation was entrusted to the sailing-master and his mates. He had often been a merchant captain or sailor. The captains and lieutenants were supposed to understand navigation, but it was notorious that many of them had forgotten the little they had learnt in order to pass their qualifying examination. As the navy was cut down to the quick in peace, the supply of officers was insufficient at the beginning of a war, and it was found necessary to give commissions to men who were illiterate but were good practical seamen. Officers who had not begun as gentlemen " on the quarter deck " were said to have come in " through the hawse hole " - the hole by which the cable runs out at the bow. Some among them rose to distinction. The accountant's work was done by the purser, who in bad times was said to be often in league with the captain to defraud both the government and the crew. The medical service in the navy during the 18th century was bad. The position of the surgeons who were appointed by the navy office was not an enviable one, and the medical staff of the navy was much recruited from licentiates of Edinburgh, or Apothecaries Hall. Finally it is to be observed that when a ship was paid off only the commissioned officers, masters and surgeons were entitled to half-pay, or had any further necessary connexion with the navy.


The crews were formed partly by free enlistment and partly by impressment. When these resources failed, prisoners, criminal and political, were allowed to volunteer or were drafted from the jails. The Patriotic Society, formed at the beginning of the Seven Years' War, educated boys for the navy. During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars the counties were called upon to supply quotas, which they commonly secured from the debtors' prison or the workhouse. A ship was supposed to be well manned when she had one-fifth of her crew of marines, and one-third of men bred to the sea. This proportion of seamen was rarely reached. As the navy did not train its men from boyhood in peace, the genuine sailors, known as " prime seamen " and " sailormen," who were the skilled artificers of the time, had to be sought for among those who had served their apprenticeship in the merchant service. They never enlisted voluntarily, for they disliked the discipline of the navy, and the pay was both bad and given in an oppressive way. The pay of a seaman was 22s. 6d. a month for able seamen, the rate fixed in the reign of Charles II., and 19s. for ordinary seamen. This sum was not paid at fixed dates, but at first only at the end of a commission, and after 1758 whenever a ship which had been a year in commission returned home - up to six months before the date of her arrival, the balance being kept as a security against desertion, which was then incessant and enormous. As men were often turned over from ship to ship they had a sheaf of pay notes to present on reaching home. The task of making up accounts was slow, and the men were often driven to sell their pay notes to low class speculators at a heavy discount. Discipline was mainly enforced by the lash, and the abuse of their power by captains was often gross.

These grievances led to a long series of single ship mutinies, which culminated in the great mutiny of 1797. The fleets at Spithead, the Nore, Plymouth, the South of Ireland and Cape of Good Hope mutinied one after another. The government had aggravated the danger by drafting numbers of the United Irish into the fleet, and the quotas from the counties contained many dangerous characters. The crisis which seemed to threaten the country with ruin passed away. Concessions were made to the just claims of the men. When political agitators endeavoured to make use of the discontent of the sailors for treasonable ends, the government stood firm, and the patriotism of the great bulk of the men enabled it to restore discipline. The " breeze at Spithead," as the mutiny was nicknamed in the navy, was the beginning of the reforms which made the service as popular as it was once hateful.

The administration of the navy throughout the 18th century, and in a less degree after 1806 up to 1832, was in many respects slovenly, and was generally corrupt. The different branches, military and civil, were scattered and worked in practical independence, though the board of admiralty was supposed to have absolute authority over all. The admiralty was at Whitehall, the navy office in Seething Lane near the Tower, and after 1780 at Somerset House. The victualling office was on Tower Hill, the pay office in Broad Street, where also was the Sick and Hurt office. In 1749, when the state of the navy excited just discontent, the admiralty first established regular visitations of the dockyards which in a time of general laxity had become nests of corruption. These visitations were, however, not regularly made. By the end of the century, and in spite of sporadic efforts at reform, the evil had become so generally recognized that Earl St Vincent, then first lord, persuaded parliament in 1802 to appoint a parliamentary commission of inquiry. Its reports, thirteen in number, were given between 1804 and 1806. - They revealed much waste, bad management and corruption. 'The tenth report showed that money voted for the navy was used by the then treasurer, Henry Dundas (Lord Melville), for purposes which he refused to reveal. In 1806 another commission was appointed to revise and digest the civil affairs of the navy, and a considerable improvement was effected. Much remained to be done. There was no strict appropriation of money. Accounts were kept in complicated, old-fashioned ways which made it impossible to strike a balance.

In 1832 Sir James Graham, first lord in Earl Grey's administration, obtained the support of parliament for his policy of sweeping away the double administration of the navy, by admiralty and navy office, and combining them into one divided into five departments. With this great organic change the navy entered on its modern stage.

was: -



At the death of Queen Anne, 1714

. 247


„ George I., 1727



George II., 1760

. 412


In 1783

. 617


In 1 793



In 1816. .. .

. 776


Subject to the warning that for the reason given above, the figures do not deserve absolute confidence, the material strength of the British navy from the death of Queen Anne to the fall of Napoleon The figures for 1783, and for 1816, are swollen by prizes and worn out ships. All the figures include vessels unfit for service, or useful only for harbour work, or ordered to be built, but not actually in existence. The number of men varied enormously from a peace to war establishment. Thus in 1755 on the eve of the Seven Years' War parliament voted 12,000 seamen. In 1762 the vote was for 70,000 men, including 19,061 marines - the corps having been created in the interval. In 1775, on the eve of the American War of Independence, the vote was for 18,000 men for the sea service, including 4354 marines. At the close of the war in 1783 the vote was for 110,000 men, including 25,291 marines, from which it fell in 1784 to 26,000 (marines 4495 included) and in 1786 to 18,000 men, of whom 3860 were marines. In 1812, when the navy was at the highest level of strength it reached, the vote was for 113,000 seamen and 31,400 marines. From this level it fell in 1816 to 24,000 seamen and 9000 marines. These figures represent paper strength. Owing to the prevalence of desertion, and the difficulty of obtaining men, the actual strength was always appreciably lower.


The French Navy.

Before the French monarchy could possess a fleet, its early kings,, whose rule was effective only in the centre of the country, had first to conquer their sea coast from their great vassals. Philip Augustus (1180-1223) began by expelling King John of England from Normandy and Poitou. The process was not completed until Louis XII. (1498-1515) united the duchy of Brittany to the crown by his marriage with the duchess Anne. Long before the centralization of authority had been completed the French kings possessed a fleet, or rather two fleets of very distinct character. Her geographical position has always compelled France to draw her navy from two widely different sources - from the Channel and the coast of the Atlantic on the north and west and on the south from the Mediterranean. This separation has imposed on her the difficult task of concentrating her forces at times of crisis, and the concentration has always been hazardous. Like their English rivals, the French kings of the middle ages drew their naval forces from the feudal array, the national levy and their own ships. But the proportion of the elements was not the same. Many of the great vassals owed the service of ships, and their obedience was always less certain than that of the Cinque Ports. The trading towns were less able, and commonly less willing, than the English to supply the king with ships. He was thus driven to trust mainly to his own vessels - and they were drawn at first exclusively, and always to a great extent, from the Mediterranean seaboard. His own territories in the south were insufficiently provided with seamen, and the French king had therefore to seek his captains, his men and his vessels by purchase or by subsidies from Genoa, or in a less degree from Aragon. When Saint Louis (1226-1270) sailed on his first crusade in 1249,.. he formed the first French royal fleet, and created the first French dockyard at Aigues Mortes. Ships and dockyard were bought from, or were built by, the Genoese at the king's expense. His admirals, the first appointed by the French crown, Ugo Lercari and Jacobo di Levante, were Genoese. Saint Louis created the office of admiral of France. When in later times Aigues Mortes was cut off from the sea by the encroachment of the land, Narbonne and Marseilles were used as ports of war. This fleet was purely Mediterranean in character. It consisted of galleys, and though the sail was used it was dependent on the oar, and therefore on the " turma " (chiourme ) of rowers, who in earlier times were hired men, but from the middle of the 15th century began to be composed of galley slaves - prisoners of war, slaves purchased in Africa, criminals and vagabonds condemned by the magistrate to the chain and the oar. Philip IV. le Bel (1285-1314) was led by his rivalry with Edward I. of England to create a naval establishment on the Channel. He found his materials in the existing Mediterranean fleet. A dockyard was built for him at Rouen, again by the Genoese Enrico Marchese, Lanfranc Tartaro and Albertino Spinola. It was officially known as the Tersenal or Dorsenal, but was commonly called the dos des gallees or galley yard, and it existed from 1294 to 1419. The French navy has always suffered from alternations of attention and neglect. In times of disastrous wars on land it has fallen into confusion and obscurity. Except when Francis I. (1515-1547) made a vigorous attempt to revive it at the very close of his reign, the French navy languished till the 17th century. Its very. unity of administration disappeared in the 15th century, when the jurisdiction of the admiral of France was invaded and defied by the admiralties of Guyenne, Brittany and the Levant. These local admiralties were suppressed by Francis I.

Richelieu, the great minister of Louis XIII., found the navy extinct. He was reduced to seeking the help of English ships against the Huguenots. From him dates the creation of the modern French navy. In 1626 he abolished the office of admiral of France, which had long been no more than a lucrative place held by a noble who was too great a man to obey orders. He himself assumed the title of grand maitre et surintendant de la navigation, and the military command was entrusted to the admirals du Ponant, i.e. of the west or Atlantic and Channel, and du Levant, i. e. of the Mediterranean. But Richelieu's establishment shrivelled after his death. It was raised from its ruins by the pride and policy of Louis XIV. (1643-1715). Under his direction a numerous and strongly organized navy was created. A very full code of laws - the ordonn

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Navy'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, April 7th, 2020
Tuesday in Easter Week
There are 5 days til Easter!
Search for…
Enter query in the box:
Choose a letter to browse:
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M 
N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  Y  Z 

Prev Entry
Next Entry
Navy And Navies
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology