FROM DREADNOUGHT TO DARING: 100 YEARS OF COMMENT, CONTROVERSY AND DEBATE IN THE NAVAL REVIEW

December 18, 2020
Posted by: Bill Evershed

How privileged indeed are all we NR members.  Not only can we think it but we can also write and publish “Have you considered, Admiral, the possibility that you might be wrong?” But surely this book has already been reviewed; soon after it was published in 2012. Why another? Because this is OUR book and yet I’ll wager that, for very many of the 2000 or so of us NR Members, this large tome still sits unopened on a bookshelf, as had mine.  But Covid Lock-Downs and winter evenings provide an unexpected opportunity for Rounds.

I have now walked through this fine, well armed and well armoured super-dreadnought from forward to aft: I have spoken with all of her 500+ Ship’s Company and her Wardroom of nearly 30 Officers, two superb XVs of talent. One chap, an American, had too strong a twang for me to follow and another seemed too cerebral for my ‘Peter Principle’ intellect but all the others seem first rate in their chosen specialisations in the ship.

Indeed, there is a century of Comment, Controversy and Debate in The Naval Review. Everything is there and much for my personal interest because the NR’s first century covers my father’s 35 years Naval (WW1 aircrew and later RNSS) service from 1914 to 1949, my own service from 1953 to 1978 and my NR membership of over 50 years from 1963.

Memories from my Greenwich War Course! WW1’s Jutland and the Dardanelles; the Inter-War years; problems arising from the RNAS/RFC merger and its ongoing legacy with the RAF; our ‘Yank’, ‘Canook’, ‘Aussie’, ‘Kiwi’, ‘Yarpie’ and Indian colleagues; WW2’s Atlantic submarine menace defeated by the MN, RNVRs and RNRs; problems of the BPF’s Fleet Train and the growth of the RFA; post WW2’s Cold War and NATO. Then Korea, Suez, nuclear power and weaponry; fits and starts of naval aviation; Polaris; the Far and Middle East; the Argentine invasion of the Falklands which paradoxically saved the RN from political extinction and consequent survival of the ‘Booties’; ‘amphibiousity’ and ‘jointery’; service conditions; WRNS at sea; the disgrace of the Cornwall incident; the tragic demise of the RCNC leading to design faults all too obvious today; and, parallel with all this to some extent, the tragic demise of the RN. 800k at the end of WW2; even 400k when I joined, and goodness knows how few today; inter-woven throughout by difficulties in Officer structure and recruitment and the whole scenario over-laden by political ramifications and machinations colouring the problems of Admiralty. How many 1SLs since Mountbatten can you name? I can name only one: and he was a Lt Cdr in the ship in which I was a Mid.

Surprisingly, I didn’t find the Sick Bay, a Toothie or a Padre, and scarcely a Schoolie.

And for 2100 Rounds? Simply join Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham and his choice Coda. And what of my usual Page 59 criterion for books? It refers to the WW1 need to implement Convoys!

Well, you might claim, all that may be fine for really ancient ‘Endangered Species’ members of the NR. What about today’s Two-Stripers or Two-And-A-Half’s?  For you the old saw: History repeats itself or at least rhymes and those who choose not to learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it.  So, if you are at sea, you may well be too busy to read this heavy tome and if you have a shore job you should value the precious time with your family but if you have one of those worst-of-all-jobs ‘Week-Ending’ you are in luck because this is the book for you to take with you for more than a good and profitable browse on Monday to Thursday evenings.

How privileged indeed are all we NR members.  Not only can we think it but we can also write and publish “Have you considered, Admiral, the possibility that you might be wrong?”