H.M.S. Excellent (Gunnery Training School)

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H.M.S. Excellent in 1869.
Captain and Staff of Excellent, 1884.
Captain and Staff, 1909.
Junior Staff Officer W. W. Fisher observing drill on a gun.

H.M.S. Excellent, also known as Portsmouth Gunnery School or Whale Island was the British Royal Navy's main gunnery training establishment for most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

History

The foundation of a gunnery school in the Royal Navy has been attributed to Sir John Bechell and Captain William L. Bowles who had deplored the poor standard of gunnery which could be found after the War of 1812.[1] In 1830 Commander George Smith, having suggested the creation of a gunnery establishment, was directed by Admiral Sir George Cockburn to find a spot in Portsmouth Harbour where a ship could be moored and fire without inconvenience. Sir Byam Martin, Controller of the Navy, gave Smith permission to choose whatever old ship he needed for the purpose. The ship he chose was the Excellent which was already moored in the site desired by Smith. He was then appointed to the Excellent, in Cockburn's words, "for the purpose of establishing and carrying into effect a system of gunnery, for the instruction and information of the naval service in that branch of their duty."[2] In 1832 Captain Thomas Hastings succeeded Smith and remained in command until 1845, when he was succeeded by Captain Henry Ducie Chads.[3] The Excellent, formerly Collingwood's ship at St. Vincent, was broken up in 1834 and replaced by the Boyne, which was in turn replaced by the Queen Charlotte in 1859, both ships being renamed Excellent.[4]

First World War

Upon mobilisation in August, 1914, the Gunnery Schools were cleared, it being thought that they wouldn't be necessary in time of war.[5] The school was left in the charge of the Commander, Arthur J. Davies, and in the rush to mobilise some two hundred officers had left their kit in their cabins, taking only essentials with them. Men of the Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Fleet Reserve came for training, and Excellent began to become overcrowded.[6]

The Sub-Lieutenants course was discontinued, and was later described by the Admiralty as "unfortunate for the future training efficiency of the Fleet."[7] In 1915 the Long Course for Lieutenants qualifying in Gunnery Duties was restarted but was reduced by 50% to six months' length. The officers on the course were instructed by a Commander (G) from the Grand Fleet.[8][9]

In 1917, women of the Women's Royal Naval Service were sent to Whale Island after the Director of the service, Dame Katherine Furse visited Excellent to check, in the words of one author, "the lay of the land". She apparently compared the place to a large London club. Captain Henry Ralph Crooke later described the only incident he knew of between women and the men there:

I had only once any difficulty with the Wrens. About a week after their arrival the Commander came to my office with a very gloomy face, to report that on the previous evening about seven o'clock he had come across one of our men embracing a Wren in the Rock Garden. I directed the Wren Officer to deal with the female delinquent—in public before the rest of the detachment—and said I would see the man.

Him I found to be a 3rd Class Officer's Steward and very ill-looking to boot. I sentenced him to 14 days No. 10A and told him to tell everyone else the next offender would get a fortnight in sells, and that the east end of Stamshaw bridge was the limit for osculation.[10]
Numbers trained by Excellent
August, 1914 - August, 1918[11]
Lieuts. (G) 41
Officers R.N. for T.B.D.'s 99
Other commissioned officers R.N. 203
R.N.A.S. officers 382
R.N.V.R. officers 339
R.N.R. officers 2526
Gunners [O.C.R. error?] 168
Gunners (T) 186
Gunners [O.C.R. error?] 14
Boatswains 36
Gunner's Mates 623
Gunlayer I. 410
Gunlayer II. 2,171
Gunlayer III. 404
P.O. (G) 460
Seaman Gunners 5,343
Rangetakers 296
Lieut. (G)'s Writers 42
Divers—Seamen 350
Divers—Artisan 130
A.B. 572
D.A.M.S. Gunlayers
D.A.M.S. 2nd Hands
10,237
Trawler Ratings 876
D.F.C. 605
Ratings for Motor Boats 874
Ratings for Tank Corps 1,958
Ratings for Machine Guns 63
Ratings for Air Service 203
Motor Mechanics 520
R.N.V.R. Seamen 627
R.N.R. Seamen 1,931
New Ships' Companies 5,672
E.R.A.s 346
Marine Recruits 1,086
Warrant Armourers 26
Chief Armourers 8
Armourers 12
Armourer's Mates 33
Armourer's Crew 421
Miscellaneous Officers and Men 1,760

Captains

Dates of appointment given:

See Also

Footnotes

  1. Lloyd. The Origins of H.M.S. Excellent. pp. 194-195.
  2. "Naval Gunnery" (News). The Times. Friday, 20 August, 1841. Issue 17754, col F, p. 3.
  3. Clowes. History of the Royal Navy. VI. p. 203.
  4. Lloyd. The Origins of H.M.S. Excellent. p. 196.
  5. Progress in Naval Gunnery, from 1914 to 1918. p. 21.
  6. Young. p. 80-81.
  7. Progress in Naval Gunnery, from 1914 to 1918. p. 22.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Young. p. 81.
  10. Young. pp. 85-86.
  11. Progress in Naval Gunnery, 1914-1918, pp. 21-22.
  12. Young. The House that Jack Built. p. 161.
  13. Young. The House that Jack Built. p. 161.
  14. The Navy List. (June, 1847). p. 16.
  15. The Navy List. (December, 1856). p. 150.
  16. The Navy List. (December, 1858). p. 153.
  17. The Navy List. (December, 1864). p. 185.
  18. The Navy List. (December, 1868). p. 193.
  19. The Navy List. (September, 1870). p. 46.
  20. The Monthly Navy List. (June, 1875). p. 144.
  21. The Navy List. (December, 1878). p. 210.
  22. The Navy List. (June, 1880). p. 210.
  23. Hopkins Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/36. f. 652.
  24. Hopkins Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/36. f. 652.
  25. The Navy List. (December, 1881). p. 210.
  26. Fisher Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/15. p. 9.
  27. The Navy List. (September, 1885). p. 253.
  28. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Friday, 15 October, 1886. Issue 31891, col E, p. 6.
  29. Fisher Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/15. p. 9.
  30. Domvile Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/14. f. 243.
  31. Domvile Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/14. f. 243.
  32. Domvile Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/14. f. 243.
  33. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Wednesday, 4 June, 1890. Issue 33029, col E, p. 10.
  34. "Naval & Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Tuesday, 13 June, 1893. Issue 33976, col E, p. 10.
  35. Beaumont Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/17. f. 92.
  36. "Naval & Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Wednesday, 13 June, 1894. Issue 34289, col G, p. 11.
  37. Douglas Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/36. f. 337.
  38. Douglas Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/36. f. 337.
  39. "Naval & Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Saturday, 9 November, 1895. Issue 34730, col E, p. 10.
  40. Jeffreys Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/86. f. 50/100.
  41. May Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39. p. 860.
  42. May Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39. p. 860.
  43. "Naval & Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Saturday, 29 December, 1900. Issue 36338, col C, p. 9.
  44. Barrow Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/38/72. f. 65.
  45. Scott Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39. f. 1160.
  46. Scott Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/18. f. 473.
  47. Hamilton Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/19. f. 335.
  48. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Tuesday, 31 January, 1905. Issue 37618, col E, p. 6.
  49. Hamilton Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/19. f. 335.
  50. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Monday, 10 June, 1907. Issue 38355, col B, p. 6.
  51. Tupper Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39. f. 1337.
  52. Tupper Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39. f. 1337.
  53. Tudor Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 90.
  54. Tudor Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 90.
  55. Singer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 220.
  56. Singer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 220.
  57. The Navy List. (December, 1914). p. 314.
  58. The Navy List. (November, 1917). p. 393r.
  59. Crooke Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 36.
  60. Crooke Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 36.
  61. The Navy List. (December, 1918). p. 791.
  62. Bax Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44/133. f. 133.
  63. Bax Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44/133. f. 133.
  64. Mitchell Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 134.
  65. Davies Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 413.
  66. Davies Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 413.
  67. Best Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 192.
  68. Best Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 192.
  69. Scott Service Records. The National Archives. ADM 196/45/203. f. 207.
  70. Scott Service Records. The National Archives. ADM 196/45/203. f. 207.
  71. Royle Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 170.
  72. Royle Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. f. 170.
  73. Pridham Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. Book 9, f. 302.
  74. Pridham Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/50. Book 9, f. 302.
  75. Power Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/52. f. 501.
  76. Power Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/52. f. 501.
  77. Superseded that day. Palliser Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/52/290. f. 663.
  78. Palliser Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/52/290. f. 663.
  79. Palliser Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/52/290. f. 663.

Bibliography

  • Lloyd, Christopher (1955). "The Origins of H.M.S. Excellent". The Mariner's Mirror 41 (3): pp. 193-197.
  • Young, Robert Travers (1955). The House that Jack Built: The Story of H.M.S. Excellent. Aldershot: Gale & Polden Limited.