Sufficiently Grown Up?

Standing by for a barrage BUT ...

I am increasingly questioning whether the RNR (and by extension the RMR, TA & RAuxAF - though they may have different mitigating considerations) is able to justify having substantive 3-ring, 4-ring and 1* officers.

My thinking hedges around the fact that a "proper" staff job is a full time one and with the best will in the world the vast proportion of RNR personnel are unable (and indeed should not be expected, encouraged or even allowed) to put in a full time commitment except as either FTRS, Mobilised or Temp Ad Hoc duties.

Unit COs are ideally appointed for 2 years ... and then what happens to them? We end up with surplus Commanders and not enough "real jobs" for them to do.

I am not advocating that RNR Lt Cdrs should not be allowed to step up to the mark (as required) but I do think we need to focus on what the RNR is all about and recognise that to be a truly integrated part of the larger RN machine we need to work to RN tribal chiefs (at whatever level that may manifest itself) and an RNR SO1 for a specialisation is inefficient in terms of management integration and strength of policy-making and operational contribution .. so why have them?

The ambition of every Reservist (in my opinion) should be to be able to play his part in an Operational deployment (or provide essential support to assist others to get there (eg New Entry Training).

There are a number of 3-ring Operational billets that can be filled by RNR officers but they are limited and my argument is that where necessary they should be filled as Acting Cdr with the incumbent reverting to Lt Cdr on completion.

By extension therefore, RNR 4-ringers and the Cdre are, in my opinion, an unnecessary luxury and the RNR would be a significantly stronger and more focused organisation (and probably more relevant to the average regular) if these billets were held by RN officers.

Please note that I am not trying to denigrate any RNR officers currently at Commander rank or higher and recognise the tremendous job many of them do but that is not the point of this post.

The issue is could their "RNR day jobs" be better accomplished by an RN officer with the glass ceiling for RNR substantive promotion being capped at the valuable and eminently deployable SO2 level?

Standing by.


War Hero
totally agree with your views. I'd much rather we spent longer working up the promotion ladder, and got more experience at the right levels, than rushing to SO2 and beyond. To get SO1 in the RN needs nearly 20 years of full time naval experience - for us that equates to less than a year of trainining in the same timescale.

We have a huge surplus of commanders (40 plus I believe) and little for them to do. Lets draw down on the SO1 plus positions, and instead focus on spending a long time at SO2/SO3, with maybe a very limited (1 per branch) number of individuals appointed at the end of their service to be SO1's to head branches or key roles?
Broadside..I couldnt agree more.

My understanding is when CMR steps down his place is being taken by a full time Commodore...much too the annoyance I should imagine of a few old and bold 4 ringers who thought they were next in line...!!
An interesting thread - with a couple of valuable points to consider...

What function are the SO1s and above supposed to fulfil within the RNR - are they deployable assets or managers of the system? I fully agree with the sentiment that the role of the reserves (whatever colour) is to provide a RESERVE of trained personnel for the Armed Forces to draw upon when required - that, unfortunately, is not quite the same as a pool of cheap and available manpower to supplement gapped billets, which is what the waterfront manning authorities seem to think the Reserves now represent?

One might run the RNR with a glass ceiling at SO3/2 level - but remember that the same argument would apply, perhaps more strongly to the PO/CPO rate! The key skill sets at those rates are acquired ONLY by experience of actually DOING the job. Would we recruit and hold personnel if we told them (in Army terms) that they will be "grunts" for 10 years?

The arguement has been that the SO1s and above represented the "voice of reason" to our military managers - they were supposed to explain the "facts of life" - volunteers are exactly that - volunteers! Most senior regular officers have NEVER worked in the civilian sphere and have no concept of how civilian employers (or families) view the reserve forces. Since part of the 1* job involved representing RNR views direct to VCDS and the Parliamentary Select Committee - I will confess that our outgoing Commodore has been less than robust in representing a true picture from the civilian workplace, but at least he COULD discuss the problems of civilian employment from a personal experience standpoint; The incoming Commodore has no experience of this at all! Given this lack of knowledge who is supposed to advise him? The other 1*s at NAVY COMMAND and their staffs - or the senior members of the RNR at 3/4 ring & WO level perhaps?

Again, I find it difficult not to agree that there is a goss over-manning at Cdr RNR and above - but this is being "sorted" even as we speak by the compulsory (non-negotiable) transfer of many "seniors" to List 6 - ask around in your units!

I would suggest that there is a valid role for a small number of Cdrs RNR and above - remember, the Unit CO role is supposed to be the link to your local community and your employers (in parallel with SABRE), not just the administrative head of your Unit! Similarly, the Specialisation SO1s are supposed to be the key linkages to the users of your skills within the service...

Personally, I think it quite likely that RNR Units may shortly have RN Cdrs as COs - not to increase the efficiency (or integration) of the RN/RNR, but simply because the RN has run out of (floating) command drives for up and comming Cdrs! Like most of the changes over the last 10 years I will watch what happens with interest - the RNR has shown that it has the ability to support operations when asked to do so, unfortunately, I think we have damn nearly broken the back of the organisation in the quest fro the Holy Grail of OC...

I await further responses to this thread with interest.
mandama said:
Again, I find it difficult not to agree that there is a gross over-manning at Cdr RNR and above - but this is being "sorted" even as we speak by the compulsory (non-negotiable) transfer of many "seniors" to List 6 - ask around in your units! ...
Yes, I noted the "List 6 programme" and was initially encouraged but then, on reflection I became somewhat bemused (and angered) by it.

Is the idea to get those "selected for List 6" to resign and thereby save the "management" from doing any dirty work?

Certainly it would seem that they have been identified as surplus to requirements and have no further role to play in the RNR (which if it is the case is justification for some positive action to trim them out of the system).

They have been contacted and advised that there is no requirement for them to undertake training and if they do show up in unit they will be expected to do so at their own expense.

But if that is so why aren't they being retired or asked to resign ("in the interests of the Service") rather than just being hung out to dry?

If the individuals concerned want to continue to be part of the greater organisation it seems that their only option is to be "borne for social duties only" or to continue to contribute on a "completely voluntary basis" - how cynical (and cowardly) can our top managers get?
AntC said:
What list is list 6?
Unfunded, they have no budget of training days. Essentially they're on the books, can be deployed or go on FTRS or can be called on to do individual pieces of work on an ad hoc basis, but have no entitlement to training or bounty.
The RNR has two fairly major personnel problems at the moment:

1. There are far too many "old and bold" personnel who are both "old" in age and at ranks inappropriate for the expected usage of personnel "in wartime";
2. Gross numbers - we are a shrinking organisation which is VERY close to the cutoff critical mass number.

To solve problem (1) the management could simply wield the scythes - rather like the night of the long knives in 1994...with the same results - we would end up with the same age pyramid problems in ten years...if we survived that long. A mass "redundancy" would cause problem (2) to tip over the edge - we would cease to be a viable organisation in terms of numbers.

The List 6 compromise allows problem (1) to be actioned without causing too much damage to problem (2). It's not perfect, but what in life is?

There are of course the "nuclear" options:

1. Disband the organisation (stand fast Royal) to save money.
2. The RNR ceases to have any "footprint" but operates like the USNR - you simply turn up and do your 4 weeks a year...saves on the real estate and PS.
3. Abandon the idea of volunteer reserves and use the Royal Fleet Reserve personnel on annual recall (2/3 weeks) to supplement exercises etc..

I'm sure all of these proposals are currently being kicked around Navy Command as, yet again, we are forced into saving the moment the main fight is over retaining control of the FAA, as the RAF are currently fighting to have control of EVERYTHING that flies (One Nation, One Airforce). If the price of retaining the FAA is the loss of the RNR and other "non-essential" support services and contracts, I for one would not be surprised!

I have now served for over 25 years and have become rather cynical about our Lords and Masters; as an organisation we are quite capable of scrapping things for political expediency and the saving of a quick buck (and someones career) without giving any real consideration to the long term consequences. In the current political and financial climate I would suggest that we're due a re-run of the 1930s - not a very good decade for the RN.

Our new Commodore comes with a backgound in "personnel" and a reputation as a "hatchet-man" - my crystal ball suggests that, yet again, we're about to be re-organised, slimmed and, probably, integrated, to the point where a combination of nuclear options (2) and (3) are the prefered outcome.

I stand willing to be cheered up and corrected?

Yours in Hope.


War Hero
I see RTCs evolving to the position of being a regional naval base, commanded by regulars, who act as the RN footprint in the regions. They also happen to have RNR attending drill nights there - this consolidates real estate, and provides command opportunities for non Warfare SO1's.

The question is, what does the RNR do that is "mission critical" and what is "useful, but not going to end the world if we don't do it any more".

I'd put AWFP, Int, FAA and Medical in the former, the rest in the latter. 4 branches, 2 of which are hugely specialist and don't need many people at all, 1 is ex-reg only, and only AWFP is general duties. The AWFP profile could probably be met by either FTRS contracts to teams on a 2 year tour, using ex-regs or a cadre of RNR, and the other 3 can be run directly from parent HQs.

The remainder of the branches provide manpower and capabilities, but nothing that regs can't do as augmentation duties, or in extremis through recall of RFR.

Time for people to apply to transfer to Int if you ask me... ;-)
The TA has very few Lt Cols and above - not all TA battalion COs (substantive Lt Col post) are TA, as quite a few are Regular, and TA 1*s are as rare as.

Major is the best that 98% of TA officers can aspire to.


Lantern Swinger
I must say that this particular topic, along with the present pressure on us to commit to doing more and more (and i'm talking about extra work at home as well as the little bit we can manage on drill nights and not complaining about mobilisation) is just convincing me that my feelings of rapping my hand in when (if) I reach my 25th anniversary year in jan 2010.

Its all very depressing don't you think?

Cheers guys
For the record what is the "criticial mass" of manpower that the RNR needs to maintain in order to remain viable?

Last I heard, we had a strength of 2,200 or so. This doesn't seem likely however as it puts the average ship's company at 170 ish. At a guess, most units have half that at best; sailing a bit close to the wind perhaps.

Perhaps the "credit crunch" will give the Armed Forces more recruits thereby easing gapping problems in the regular services - leading to the disposal of the RNR.

What a shame that so many of our retention issues (which exacerbate our low manpower) are due to very basic administration problems, e.g. pay. Fancy mobilising to the Gulf but not being paid for the final 2 months of your tour? Thought not; and now that JR messes are getting wind of this kind of treatment of their mobilised colleagues (that was a gen example btw), they are voting with their feet before it's them that's pinged. And who can blame them?
dunkers said:
For the record what is the "criticial mass" of manpower that the RNR needs to maintain in order to remain viable? ...
Now there's a good question - and the answer is "it depends!"

If you want to maintain a separate CMR HQ command structure you need something to command but recent moves to "employ" RTCs more effectively are making this old chestnut of critical mass much more fluid.

Take HMS Forward (Birmingham) as an example - don't know the exact details but they have at least the following "occupiers of the building";
RNR, RMR, URNU, Officer Career Liaison, NPFS Regional and RAF Recruiters with the place being used a lot by local Mil and Civ organisations for meetings etc.

If this is repeated elsewhere the financial burden on the RNR is greatly reduced and, to be honest one of the biggest bits of the budget is real estate.

If the RNR as a separate entity was to be replaced by a Branch focus, with Regular tribal chiefs (plus an RNR SO2 on the staff) then the need for branch SO1s and Captains (RNR) goes away; RNR COs can be replaced by Regulars and Bingo! - Leaner, Cheaper and more integrated

It isn't rocket science and there is no reason that the RNR should fade away and die - it just needs to evolve ... and one thing that is getting in the way of this evolution is dinosaur strategic thinking!

Ref Mazza Magoo's point about chucking it all in at the 25 year mark - I'm in nearly the same boat mate - done it and loved (almost) every minute of it. Where I suspect we diverge is that I would probably do it all again if I got the chance.

At the moment, however I think the RNR as an organisation (which is quite different from the RNR as a contingency and as a deployable asset) is a broken arrow (with much of the breaking having been done by successive "RNR grown-ups" who have placed too much focus on real estate and promotion prospects for RNR officers, and desperately needs some dramatic mending!

The new Commodore - even if he does come with a hatchet in his hand - will bring some valuable objectivity and I am sure he will be experienced enough to avoid throwing baby out with the bath water.


War Hero
Its very interesting that the drill night attendance has so dramatically collapsed in recent years. Its a phenomena repeated across all units by most accounts - they've gone from being a social / training hub to something which only NE and JO's do as standard - I've only done one drill night in the past 14 months, and wouldnt dream of doing another one again - turn up, hang around, do feck all and thin out - thanks but no thanks!
Hardly surprising that drill attendance has gone down given the suicidal focus on getting the square root of stuff all done in a drill night so that time can be spent filling out JPA returns, doing Div stuff, meetings, visit prep, visit itself in fact pretty much everything except anything useful.

I have heard countless drips about people spending as much time getting on to JPA to sort out their trip into the RTC as they used to spend doing stuff in the RTC - no wonder it has gone tits up!

Regrettably I fear the units as centres of training and development have given way to administrative ivory towers - thank goodness for weekend training etc. - but you can only do so much of that if you don't want to end up in a divorce court!

Similar threads

Latest Threads