Teaching naval history

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?
 

Polto

War Hero
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.
 

MG Maniac

War Hero
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 .....
 
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.
 

Waspie

War Hero
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.
 
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 .....

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....?"

Do
 

Seaweed

RIP
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.
 
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.
 

MG Maniac

War Hero
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....?"

Do

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.
 
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.

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?"
"1805"
"why did we beat the French?"
"er..."

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.
 
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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.
 
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