Teaching naval history

Discussion in 'History' started by Guns, Apr 25, 2013.

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  1. Guns

    Guns War Hero Moderator

    Teaching Naval history - discuss

    The original thread was about a pongo who wanted a ship to close up to SSD to sail up a lough and pick him up and quickly took a side road over teaching of naval history. Because I am a power hungry MOD I moved that bit to the above thread.

    Being as RR is the font of all naval knowledge and most of you piss stained old gits served through most of the naval history I thought I would pose the question here.

    Should, and if yes what, Naval history be taught throughout the RN similar to the RM and Army regimental history is?
  2. Quite often, things that are relevant are often easiest remembered such as the story behind square rig. Nelson, as a national hero and the fact that we have Pickle night and Trafalgar night are clearly still relevant, so stories behind these events need to be told. I recall when I was div reg for a while in Raleigh during 2005 I had one trainee who came up to me asking who Nelson was, and what was the big deal over Napoleon? Clearly, there would not be the time to go into any depth, but a little information is better than none, and if it done correctly and with some passion and fervour, then it might help to instil and generate some interest on the part of the individual who may then wish to do some research him or herself. Key points and milestone type stuff with brief explanations, and guidance on how to find out more. The training organisations could even have posters up about Nelson or something, explaining stuff maybe.
  3. Always thought it was ... at least when I did my POLC (many, many moons ago) I had to write an essay on "The Battle of Jutland" complete with references.

    Although we learn from history I think modern weaponary / warfare / equipment perhaps would preclude the era of "Ships of the Line" or "Dreadnoughts" but we could learn from modern day conflicts.

    Dunno .....
  4. HMS ENDURANCE 2005, a lonely middle watch somewhere in the South Atlantic. Voice of Marine ******* out of the gloom (acting as an additional ice lookout):

    "Sir, who do the Falklands belong to? Is it Brazil or Chile?"

    Other 2am highlights included "how did the Vietnam war star?"

    You can't fault him for interest, certainly.....

    There's a definite role for it - and I think, having been through BRNC and on the staff at RALEIGH (and 2 degrees featuring heavily on naval history), that it's probably a bit easier for the occifers simply because you sort of absorb it at Dartmouth, it's carved into every bloody wall, whether it's the name of a particular admiral, oil paintings, captured cannons, etc....

    It should be more straightforward in the mob because we're not trying to teach the histories of 4 million different cap badges. As a minimum everyone should probably know (and not in academic detail but the broad sweep (because if nothing else they're damn good stories):

    Nelson - the Nile, Copenhagen and Trafalgar
    Cochrane and his frigate actions
    19th century gunboat diplomacy, eg the Zanzibar War (lasted literally about 20 minutes)
    WW1 - Jutland, obv, but also Coronel (to show how to get it wrong) and Falklands (to show getting it triumphantly right)
    WW2 - Atlantic (just stick on the Cruel Sea), Taranto, D-Day/Dieppe for the combined ops angle
    Corporate 1982

    You could do that easily in an hour a week for 6 weeks (negat films). Obviously I do recognise, from my time instructing at RALEIGH, that the first challenge is to find the hour a week.... BRNC probably needs a bit more, but I'm not sure what the strat stories curriculum looks like there these days..... It's no substitute for going and doing, and you could argue that it's not core to the branch on ship, but it's probably a good idea nevertheless. I'm not suggesting we get all Britain's children reading GA Henty and the Boy's Own Paper again for stories of imperial pluck, but once they're through the doors there's a definite role for giving some examples to be proud of, and a bit of inspiration.
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  5. Being a Ganges lad, Naval History was taught for the year I was there.

    Being instructed in our historic past would be useful I believe although no benefit. Being aware of the traditions of the service should be factored in somewhere during training.
  6. Not convinced about that tbh - if nothing else dreadnought engagements still teach the value of doing as you're told and dying quietly without wasting anyone's time. Your 18th/19th century navy is weirdly a lot closer to now than the early 20th century one. OK, we don't get to go taking French convoys, and claiming large chunks of Africa, but there's a definite return to single ships operating miles from anyone else, self reliance, showing the flag, and having to exercise a bit of initiative rather than just "here's the Grand Fleet, who fancies taking us on....?"

  7. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    One way to stimulate curiosity could be to put a short piece up on the notice board (or even just a paragraph in Daily Orders) relating to the place next to be visited, or the piece of ocean one is passing through, giving a very brief account of what the RN did there once upon a time. Passing down the West coast of S America I did this for Coronel, the sack of Payta, the cornering of the Dresden at Juan Fernandez etc. Seemed to be appreciated.

    Often there are things to be visited or seen where a few words of explanation might not come amiss, like the dry dock at St Nazaire, or the goat track at Quebec (cue Cook under Saunders buoying the channel at night with muffled oars). I can still remember being fallen in, as a cadet, on Triumph's flight deck to witness the Royal Oak buoy in Scapa Flow.

    The main contrast with Pongo history is that seems to be Regimental history which, with respect, has a lesser scope than the vast worldwide sweep of ours, and doesn't go back as far.
  8. Certainly at Ganges in the early 60's we were taught it, alongside maths english and navigation.
  9. wet_blobby

    wet_blobby War Hero Moderator

    Why is everyone looking at this as a problem for the Navy to solve once the potential recruit has joined up?

    Should it not be a case of the AFCO saying "At your interview you'll be asked a few questions on Naval history, I suggest you read up on the following general topics..... "

    Why should Pusser pay.
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  10. Don't disagree with you at all and I hadn't considered the "single operating ships" aka "Master & Commander" ... more on the lines of Trafalgar and fleets of warships line astern.

    There's aspects of history which everyone can learn from and probably make comparisons with the thinking behind some of the decisions made by Admirals (Nelson etc) which I guess boils down to a thorough understanding of the capabilities of their opponents ... its just the thought of standing miles off somewhere in the middle of the ogin and launching missles that can think / navigate for themselves at some target and then Foxtrot Oscar to the nearest open bar which doesn't seem to fit with the likes of Trafalgar / Jutland etc so in this respect I think we are writing the history books rather than learnig tactics from history.
  11. Because, to paraphrase John Winton (and it was as true when I joined BRNC a decade a go as it was when he wrote it in the 50s:

    "we're looking for halfwits, the navy will give them the other half" not to mention "no one likes an inltelligent officer, he embarrasses everyone"

    More seriously, if it was just about learning dates and "gobbets" then yes, that would be one way of doing it. However, if we're trying to tell a good story, with a bit of blood and thunder, or "f******ng joy" as the Chief GI at BRNC used to describe, then it should be taught to them, so that the mob has some sort of control over what's being communicated.

    I know I'm in a slightly different place, because I studied the subject for 3 years before I ever darkened the doors of Dartmouth, but there's a lot to be said for everyone sitting in the same room and hearin the same thing to make it stick, especially if, however tangentially, it comes up in the bar later on. Sitting in your bedroom at home, worrying about the 3 different ways of spelling there for your recruit test, while all the time letting your mind get ahead of itself by worrying about, if you do pass, what sort of iron you need to take to training and what do you do on your days off at sea, is not the time to actually learn anything useful beyond what is needed to pass a test.

    "when was Trafalgar?"
    "why did we beat the French?"

    If it's about learning meaningless dates for the hell of it, then not only should pusser not be paying but we shouldn't be doing it full stop. If it's about a bit of context, and because we think there's some value in it, then we probably should.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2013
    • Like Like x 1
  12. wet_blobby

    wet_blobby War Hero Moderator

    I'm hearing you but, if the potential recruit has the history groundings already when he/she joins that should in theory, cut down the story telling time needed for someone to add a touch of panache and Hurragh.
  13. Don't they have barely enough funding to man the few ships that are left? Although it might be beneficial it could be seen as frivolous in terms that it won't save lives, fire training and such does. I haven't joined yet and might never, but i have met sailors who are extremely talented and do their jobs well- ask them about naval history and they haven't a clue. History and tradition are important, but that will be kept alive through nerds like me who study it academically :p The library at portsmouth dockyard is amazing and surprises me not more people use it. Not sure about the schtick with officers but meh
  14. All British history should be taught at school, got taught barely anything whilst I was there, was all about the American civil war and Egyptians and all that jazz. Got a bit of history in the Tudors but that was it. Everything else I know about British history I have taught myself and that really shouldn't have been the case.

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  15. tiddlyoggy

    tiddlyoggy War Hero Book Reviewer

    I strongly believe it should be taught during basic training, incorporating a visit to Victory and the RN museum. We have a wonderful heritage and if all it serves to do is install a little more pride in the uniform that the individual is wearing, then it has justified it's place IMO. I remember whilst serving in SFM in the mid 90's we were bored so went for a wander round the museum in South Yard in Guzz. I remember a quote there from an old RN poster saying, "For we speaketh by the cannon's mouth!" I nearly came in my pants, brilliant stuff!
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  16. not sure what they're doing at Whale Island now, but within the last 10 years part of the fire training was being shown videos of SHEFFIELD and SIR GALAHAD burning (which does kind of focus the mind a bit when it comes to "what's this flash hood for?") and the Bradford City fire. Going through the unit teaches you to operate a hose and how to fight a fire, the history bit drums in why exactly you might want to get it right...

    Similarly, for a century or two the view was taken that drumming in stories of the glorious past might just make the difference when it comes down to it between someone performing on the day or not - adds an extra layer of shame with all that reputation bearing down on you if you let your mates down. The jury's out on whether or not not that's actually true, but it's only really in the last 40 years that it's been even questioned...
  17. The visit to Victory was always well recieved but as alluded to above with regards to costs and time, even Sultan have removed this from the curriculum as it was considered not key to the job/trade. This attitude sadly seems to be the current thinking driven mainly by costs I guess. Those in uniform need to submit some sort of really strong business case to establish the importance of this element of training - without it, one could argue that tradition goes out the window, which would of course be quite sad. Somehow, the non-uniformed budget controllers need to be convinced of the importance and relevance of tradition and history. Somebody once said that to understand where you are now, you need know how you got there...or words to that effect.
    Lets elect an RR team to carry out a feasibility study and compile a business case...volunteers anyone?
  18. Dunno, I would assume as an outsider that what helps you perform on the day is your oppos, mates and your training, not what some sweaty smarmy historian festering away in the staff room of a polytechnic may judge in hindsight. I love Naval history, I think that as a country we owe everything to the Royal Navy, and the fact that we as a small island managed to have such an impact on global affairs due to her is truly amazing. Sadly it is not the same anymore, not just for us but for Navys worldwide. People often had such an affinity for them as standing armys were seen as a treat to liberty whereas the Navy (along with having exceptional capabilities) were seen more as purveyors of peace (depsite the high amount of sacrifice and bloodshed) and beneficial to the country; the universal ideologies of a countrys Navy are fascinating, and despite interest in say visitng ships in port, its just not the same anymore IMO. Not saying that it is of less worth, but perception isn't the same. Teaching people in training would be ideal, but realistically if you tell some poor baby sailor who already cries with stress due to having to take a higher level of work then they feel capable of due to staffing being cut to the bone, someone who constantly gets shafted for duty etc that they can never plan anything and feel 'trapped' that they have historical bits and bobs to take on board too, time how long it is before the chit goes in. It would be nice, but the armed forces are a skeleton these days, and tbh it is down to the service personnel that they keep on ticking over at all I reckon- anything seen as surplus to absolute demands I can imagine gets shot down. Teaching in schools would be ideal, plant the seeds and if someone wants to let them grow then they will further down the line. Any serving member of any armed force can visit HMS Victory for free as she is still a comissioned ship, but who actually would in their own time is a completely different matter...

    I ranted and it probably doesn't make sense. I am delirious on words.
  19. wet_blobby

    wet_blobby War Hero Moderator

    We used to when I was part of 4th ASRM. Game of pitch and put, gander at the Corps museum, back into town, bimble around the Victory then rest of the day on the piss, starting off in Southsea.

    Cracking day out.
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  20. sgtpepperband

    sgtpepperband War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer

    The Army and RAF are only able to teach recruits their history because they have the time.

    If the Royal Navy decided to teach our history, we'd never get any bloody work done! :wink:
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