Royal Naval War College

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A group portrait of Commanders and Captains on the War Course which began in September, 1902. From left to right, standing: H. C. C. Da Costa, C. R. N. Burne, C. W. S. Leggett, T. Dannreuther, A. A. C. Galloway, C. F. Corbett, W. O. Story, W. O. Boothby, C. C. Horne, J. G. Hewitt, F. K. C. Gibbons, G. E. Cave. Sitting: T. Y. Greet, E. A. Simons, C. W. Winnington-Ingram, H. J. May, F. A. A. G. Tate, E. M. C. Cooper-Key, A. J. Hotham.
Photograph: Navy & Army Illustrated.

The Royal Naval War College, before 1907 known as the War Course College, was an institution of higher education for officers of the Royal Navy established in 1900. It was commanded by a junior flag officer or senior Captain of distinction, based first at Greenwich, Devonport, and then at Portsmouth. Branch war colleges were located at Devonport and the Nore.

History

Admiral Philip H. Colomb had given six lectures on strategy every year at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich from 1887 to 1895. According to Professor Andrew Lambert, Captain Henry J. May started giving these lectures from 1898.[1] On 2 June, 1900, the Board of Admiralty ordered the President of the College, Admiral Sir Richard E. Tracey, to:

assemble the Council of Naval Education (Captain Briggs being associated with the Council) to consider the question of the Course of Study of the Senior Officers at the Royal Naval College, and to offer such suggestions as may be deemed desirable.

My Lords also desire that arrangements shall be made for the formation of a Naval Strategy Course at the Royal Naval College, on the general lines suggested in your memoranda and that of the Director of Naval Intelligence [Rear-Admiral Reginald N. Custance].[2]

In March, 1901, the First Lord announced to Parliament:

A Naval Strategy course, including therein Strategy, Tactics, Naval History, and International Law, has been commenced at Greenwich for the benefit of the Senior Officers at the Royal Naval College, and is being conducted by the Captain of the College. The Tactical Courses at Portsmouth are being continued. All the officers going through these courses have been placed on full pay.[3]

On 17 October Custance was able to write to Vice-Admiral Sir Cyprian A. G. Bridge, Commander-in-Chief on the China Station, that: "The War Course at Greenwich is turning out a great success under May's efficient leading. There is no doubt a great deal of mental activity now displayed in regards to tactics which may, I hope, be productive of good."[4]

In The Times of 15 November, 1905, changes to the war course were announced:

A recently issued Admiralty order intimates that in order to enable senior officers holding appointments to benefit by the war course hitherto carried on at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, these courses will in future be held at each of the three home ports—namely, Devonport, Portsmouth, and Chatham, in rotation. The first course will be held at Devonport this month. Accommodation will be provided in the War Course College, Portsmouth.[5]

The first course at Devonport was held from November, 1905, to March, 1906.[6] The next course started at Portsmouth on 7 March,[7] where the course remained for the next eight years.

For example, the first Course of 1907 was attended by four Flag Officers, thirteen Captains, thirteen Commanders, seven Lieutenants, four Army officers, two Royal Marines officers and one Commander from the Imperial Japanese Navy. With the assistance of Marines a tour in two parts was planned in conjunction with officers from the British Army Staff College, Camberley involving a reconnaissance and a landing.

The name of the War Course College at Portsmouth was officially altered to Royal Naval War College on 1 July, 1907.[8]

Aside from the main War College Course at Portsmouth, Branch War Colleges were established at Chatham, Devonport and Sheerness. Students and staff respective of rank received varying scales of allowance while attending these course from their inception.

By Order in Council of 31 May, 1910, it was sanctioned that a special allowance of six shillings a day be payable to all Captains of the Royal Navy serving on the Staff of the War College. It was also sanctioned that Majors or Captains of the Royal Marines of five years' seniority, who had previously passed the Staff College, and were appointed to the War College, could be granted the allowance of six shillings a day. By the same Order in Council the Admiralty was empowered to grant the temporary rank of Major to Captains of five years' seniority if appointed to the staff of the War College.[9]

In 1914, it was decided that the War College should return once more to the Royal Naval College, Greenwich - so as to be closer to the Board of Admiralty and the Admiralty War Staff. £5,000 was set aside in the Naval Estimates to facilitate the transfer.

At the outbreak of war the courses were suspended for the duration. In 1920 the college was re-formed once more at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, alongside the newly constituted Staff College. As the 1920s proceeded and the Navy contracted, the command of the Royal Naval College was merged with that of the command of the War College, thus permanently making President of the War College a Vice-Admiral's position. When the "Geddes Axe" fell in 1921, 19 of the 24 students and staff at the Senior Officers' War Course were discharged from the service.[10]

Lectures

Rear-Admiral George F. King-Hall, who had been considered by the "authorities" to replace Rear-Admiral May in 1904 on the grounds "they could not think of any one else,"[11] took the war course in late 1905. He noted in his diary: "I finished my War Course at Greenwich, a most interesting one it has been."[12]

Captain (later Admiral Sir) Dudley de Chair attended a number of Admiral Sir William May's lectures on tactics in December, 1911, and noted in his diary that they were "Most interesting."[13] De Chair, who at the time was in command of the new battleship Colossus, is an example of an officer who never formally attended the War College but attended part of the course on his own initiative.

Branch War Colleges

Captain Philip Francklin, M.V.O., formerly on the staff of the War College at Portsmouth, was appointed to Vivid for charge of the Royal Naval War College, Devonport, on 1 August, 1911.[14] Commander Cyril S. Townsend took command on 19 December, 1913.[15]

The purpose of the Royal Naval College, Devonport, was listed in The Navy List:

Short Course in Strategy, International Law, &c.
1. These courses will be of three weeks' duration and will take place over nine months in the year, from September to tune.
2. The course will consist of a series of lectures on International Law and Prize Manual, Merchant Shipping, and Court-Martial procedure, supplemented by instruction in the principles of Strategy,

Tactics, &c.
3. Officers will be nominated for the Courses by the Commander-in-Chief, Devonport, and the Commandant, R.M.L.I.
4. The courses will also be open to other volunteers who can arrange to attend.
5. Officers of the Royal Naval Reserve will be eligible to attend under the following conditions :—
(a) On completion of short courses of Gunnery, Torpedo, or other training.
(b) As a separate course to be applied for by the Officer himself.
(c) While undergoing 12 months' training (not Annual or Bienuial training; in ships refitting.
(d) Midshipmen will not be eligible for these courses and, as regards Sub-Lieutenants

and Acting Sub-Lieutenants who have completed Gunnery and Torpedo Courses prior to 12 months' training, the appointment will be subject to a special recommendation from the Captains of the Gunnery and Torpedo Schools.
6. Officers of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve are eligible to attend provided that they have completed courses of both Gunnery and Torpedo.
Lectures on Naval History, International Law, National Economics, Strategy, Tactics, etc.
Evening Lectures on the above subjects are given from time to time.[16]

Captain Bertram S. Thesiger, C.M.G., having just completed the War Course at Portsmouth, was appointed to Pembroke for command of the War College at Chatham on 12 April, 1913.[17]

The purpose of the Naval War Colleges at Chatham and Sheerness was thus enumerated:

Lectures on Naval History, International Law, National Economics, Strategy, Tactics, etc., are given at Chatham and Sheerness from time to time, and the Naval War Game played so far as time will admit.[18]

Comparisons with other Institutions

The British Army's Staff College at Camberley conducted a two year course consisting of thirty-two officers. Entry was by examination. In 1914 there were 472 officers who had passed the Staff College course (p.s.c.) on the Army List.[19]

Criticism

Dr. Robert L. Davison claims that "according to the confidential books of the commandant of the course, the number of officers taken from their studies to be returned to active service was very high." He bothers neither to specify the "number of officers" nor what percentage not completing the course constitutes "very high."[20] He claims that the War Course "tended to become a dumping ground for officers approaching retirement,"[21] and that "officers were regularly taken off the course in favour of sea commands and on occasion men who were not intended for further employment were sent to Portsmouth at full pay as a form of compensation to ensure that "Buggins" got his share."[22] Davison gives no evidence to support these views, and the editor believes that the numbers do not bear out his assertions. Readers may draw their own conclusion from the list of those who attended from 1904 to 1914.

He sees fit to make the somewhat snide observation:

Even at the War College, which supposedly was the home of historical research, one gifted officer was dismissed as "too historical" and concerns were expressed about his suitability for command as a result.[23]

The labelling of the officer in question, Lieutenant Alfred C. Dewar, as "gifted" is Dr. Davison's opinion and he is entitled to it. However, the remarks on Dewar's War Course (7 March - 1 June, 1906) actually read "Too theoretical & not quick enough."[24] So not only was Dewar not dismissed as "too historical", but neither was his "suitability for command called into question" as Davison claims.

Another example of the misuse of the War College reports on officers can be found in a recent work by Dr. Mary Jones. Captain Thomas W. Kemp was adjudged by Rear-Admiral Lowry to be "Good, but wanting in tact and judgement, difficult to employ with thus."[25] Dr. Jones cites this comment as "the sort of confidential report that appeared for torpedo officers."[26] The argument is completely undermined by the fact that Kemp wasn't a torpedo officer, and she provides no reports on actual torpedo officers to support her contention.

In Command of the Royal Naval War College

Dates of appointment given:

Flag Captains

Dates of appointment given:

See Also

Footnotes

  1. Lambert. "The Naval War Course". pp. 221-222.
  2. Evan Macgregor to Tracey. Letter of 2 June, 1900. The National Archives. ADM 203/64.
  3. Statement of First Lord of the Admiralty Explanatory of the Navy Estimates, 1901-1902. p. 7.
  4. National Maritime Museum. Bridge Papers. BRI 15. Quoted in Mackay. p. 238.
  5. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Wednesday, 15 November, 1905. Issue 37865, col D, p. 10.
  6. The National Archives. ADM 203/99. f. 7.
  7. The National Archives. ADM 203/99. f. 9.
  8. The National Archives. ADM 203/100. Inside front cover.
  9. London Gazette: no. 28382. p. 3993. 7 June, 1910.
  10. Hunt. Sailor-Scholar. p. 107.
  11. Diary entry for 11 February, 1904.
  12. Diary entry for 24 November, 1905.
  13. Diary entry for 12 December, 1911. De Chair Papers. Imperial War Museum. PP/MCR/C4. Reel 1.
  14. Francklin Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 446.
  15. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Thursday, 18 December, 1913. Issue 40398, col F, p. 12.
  16. The Navy List. (October, 1915). p. 948.
  17. Thesiger Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 472.
  18. The Navy List. (October, 1915). p. 948.
  19. Bond. The Victorian Army and the Staff College. p. 324.
  20. Davison. p. 21.
  21. Davison. p. ix.
  22. Davison. p. 316.
  23. Davison. p. 275.
  24. The National Archives. ADM 203/99. f. 10.
  25. The National Archives. ADM 203/99. f. 27.
  26. Jones. pp. 170-171.
  27. May Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39. f. 858.
  28. Slade Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39. f. 1201.
  29. Slade Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/20. f. 111.
  30. Slade Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/20. f. 111.
  31. Slade Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/20. f. 111.
  32. Lowry Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39. f. 800.
  33. Lowry Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39. f. 800.
  34. Bayly Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/38. f. 84.
  35. Bayly Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/19. f. 444.
  36. Jackson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/38. f. 682.
  37. Jackson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/38. f. 682.
  38. Bethell Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/38. f. 98.
  39. Bethell Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/19. f. 480.
  40. Hope Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 44.
  41. Hope Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 23/44.
  42. Thorp Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 20.
  43. Thorp Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 20.
  44. Webb Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 124.
  45. Webb Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 124.
  46. Le Mesurier Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 56.
  47. Le Mesurier Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 56.

Bibliography

  • Davison, Robert Lynn (2004). In Defence of Corporate Competence: The Royal Navy Executive Officer Corps, 1880-1919. Unpublished PhD Thesis. St. John's, NL: Memorial University of Newfoundland.
  • Hunt, Barry D. (1982). Sailor-Scholar: Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond 1871-1946. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. ISBN 0889201048.
  • Jones, Mary (2012). "Towards a Hierarchy of Management: The Victorian and Edwardian Navy, 1860-1918". In Doe, Helen; Harding, Richard. Naval Leadership and Management, 1650-1950: Essays in Honour of Michael Duffy. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press. ISBN 9781843836957.
  • Lambert, Andrew (2010). "The Naval War Course, Some Principles of Naval Warfare and the Origins of 'The British Way in Warfare'". in Neilson, Keith; Kennedy, Greg. The British Way in Warfare: Power and the International System, 1856-1956. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited. ISBN 9780754665939.