The British or the Royal Navy is the maritime armed force wing that comes under the ambit of the British armed forces. The British Navy is in fact the oldest service branch of the British armed forces and it is also known as the Senior Service as it was founded way back in the 16th century. The establishment of the British Empire was virtue of the formidable force of the royal Navy and it was considered to be one of the most powerful naval units between the 17th century and the 20th century. It was after the completion of the Second World War that the Royal Navy lost its leading position to even more formidable and powerful United States Navy and currently the Royal Navy is the second best naval force in the world behind the United States navy.
The British Navy is of very significant importance to the British armed forces as the island nation security and prosperity of the British people is mainly dependent on the ability of the British navy to access the sea. The British Naval personnel are working day and night in order to protect the economy and the national interests of the country. The Royal Navy is a blue water navy that operates with high sophisticated and technologically advanced ships which also includes ballistic missile submarines, guided missile destroyers, helicopter carrier, aircraft carrier, landing platform docks, frigates and patrol ships. The United Kingdom’s nuclear war weapons are maintained through ballistic missile submarines of the British Navy. The Royal Marines, Royal Marines reserves and the Royal Naval reserves forms the Royal or British Navy and has currently a total of about 98 fleets at its various bases across the globe. The colors of the Royal Navy are Red and White and the motto which is in Latin means” if you wish for peace, prepare for war”.
History of the Royal Navy
In the 10th century, the power of the United Kingdom of England was mainly due to the strength of fleets that the country possessed. The merchant ships of England were introduced as naval ships of warfare whenever needed during the medieval period and the English naval power saw a considerable decline during the Norman Conquest. England did not feel the need for maintaining a certain amount of fleet of warships like other European nations during the time of peace and used to build the king’s ships as warfare ships from time to time. The chaotic naval organization as well as the movement of the fleets at a snail’s pace during war time was all major drawbacks of the naval force of England during the 10th and the 11th century.
The French started to attack the English forces through sea when the Hundred Years war broke out in the 14th century. The French fleets were destroyed by Edward III of England in the Battle of Sluys that took place in 1340. But major battle was fought on the French soil and the British naval forces were utilized in transporting armies and their supplies to the respective destinations during the war. But the frequent invasion of the French with the support of Castilian and Genoese allies through the south coastal ports were not completely outclassed by the British naval forces and the attack on the English soil came to an end only after Henry V occupied northern France.
King Henry VIII was instrumental in constructing a standing Royal Navy for united Kingdom which had its own secretariat, dockyards as well as permanent warships that came into existence in the 16th century. The newly built warships had its change of proving its mettle when Elizabeth I of England got involved in a war against Spain and the raid on Spain was a very profitable venture for the Royal Navy which also had the assistance of many privately owned ships for warfare. The efforts of the Spanish ruler to send Spanish Armada to stop the English support to the Dutch rebels in 1588 was a total failure as the Spanish forces were not able to break through the defense created by English navy and the poor planning and inclement weather also contributed for poor showing by the Spanish.
The 17th century once again saw the deterioration of the British naval power and the threat that emerged from the slaving Barbary pirate raids were not completely thwarted by the British navy. The rebuilding of the maritime war ships was carried out under the leadership of Charles I and many small powerful warfare ships were newly constructed. But the arrangements of the funds for building of these ships led to a outbreak of the English Civil war. The monarchy was abolished during the newly formed conflict and the Commonwealth of England got isolated and separated and threatened from all sides with its expanded Navy and hence became one of the most powerful Navy across the globe. The First Anglo Dutch war that broke out in 1652 was an inconclusive one as the might of the English naval forces was not able to fully destroy the tactical Dutch organization. But the tactical improvements that England showed in 1653 resulted in victories at Gabbard, Portland and Scheveningen and finally peace treaty was agreed on by both nations. This was the First war that the British navy fought by using the services of State owned and built warships.
The Dutch Navy waged a fierce battle with the British Navy during the Second Anglo Dutch war (1665-67) after remodeling its entire naval structure on the lines of the British Navy and the victory of English naval force at the battle of Lowestoft in 1665 was evenly matched by the Dutch victory in the epic Four days battle of 1666. The lack of funds during the war forced the warships of Britain to be at sea and the subsequent attacks by the renewed Dutch Navy resulted in several of the English warships to be captured and destroyed. This was one of the most humiliating defeats the British navy suffered at the hands of the Dutch. During the Third Anglo Dutch war, the English navy got the support of the French navy and after several inconclusive battles the war was called off. The English Navy completed the transition from being a semi amateur Royal fighting Navy into a full fledged professional and dedicated Royal Navy unit during the 17th century.
The Royal Navy was considered to be at its best during the 18th and the 19th century and only a combination of several world navy units put together could match the might of the British navy. The British navy showed their supremacy over their enemies in the War of Spanish Succession, Battle of Vigo Bay, War of quadruple Alliance, War of Austrian succession, Seven Years War and the War of the French revolution and Napoleonic wars. There were not much action seen in the Royal Navy front in between the years 1815 and 1914 and gave them ample time to rebuild and replace their navy warfare ships.
The outbreak of the World War I gave the opportunity for the Royal Navy to safeguard their homeland by confronting the High Seas Fleet of the Germans across the North sea. The tactical movements and operations of the British navy provide a very decisive factor in luring the German operation to abandon its challenge of the British navy. The Royal Navy proved to be a handful in guarding their motherland from the evil naval forces of other countries during the World War I. The inter war period saw the Royal navy being stripped of much of its powers as the Washington and London treaties resulted in scrapping of many larger capital ships as well as restricted the construction of new ships. But as the International tensions started to grow in early 1930’s, the Royal Navy ignored many treaty agreements and started to build new battleships and decided to increase their naval arm powers.
The early phase of World War II saw the first all aircraft naval attack carried out by the British Navy under the able guidance of Admiral Cunningham during the Battle of Taranto. The Royal Navy was not able to wage a successful battle and evacuation process during the early stages of the War and had to loose many naval personnel as well as warships during the battle. But the main talking point was the effective disarmament of the German surface ship capabilities during the battle of River Plate in 1939. The Royal Navy was also able to provide the necessary cover for the other British forces to wage successful battles in other parts of the world namely Italy, Normandy, North Africa, the Mediterranean and the Far East. They were also providing convoy cover across the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans in order to provide the necessary cover for the allied forces that were involved in the surface, air and submarine attack against the Axis powers.
There was significant decrease in the size and capability of the Royal navy after the Second World War owing to the financial crunch in Britain as well as the decline of the British Empire. The numero uno position that the British Navy had held for so many years went to the growing naval power house of the United States as they were deployed as a global naval power force and police force of the sea. The looming threat from neighbor Soviet Union as well as the Britain’s commitment all over the world made Britain increases their budgetary expenses for the Navy and hence Royal Navy’s first nuclear submarine HMS Dreadnought was commissioned in 1960s. The Resolution-class submarines fitted with Polaris missile was the first nuclear weapon that the British navy got. The fleet of aircraft carriers also got a facelift in the 1960s and three latest large aircraft carriers that can carry a load of about 60,000 tons were brought into the naval service of Britain making it one of the major naval powers of the world.
The major operation that the British navy conducted after the Second World War was the defeat of Argentina in the Falklands war of 1982. The British Navy fought with great resolute against the Argentina in their own place and HMS Conqueror was used to sink the enemy cruiser ARA General Belgrano. This war opened the eyes of the British Government on the importance of aircraft carriers as well as submarines. The other prominent wars that the British Navy has participated and is still participating are the Gulf War, Kosovo conflict, the war in Afghanistan and the Iraq war against the Iraqi forces.
Present of the Royal Navy
The British naval maritime service comprises of the Royal Navy as well as the Royal Marines. A total of about 37,300 regular personnel are serving the Royal Navy in various capacities and also has about 2,900 royal navy reserves and 19,600 of regular reserves in its fold. The basic naval training is imparted to the service personnel at Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth and the newly listed personnel are being trained at HMS Raleigh at Cornwall. The navy personnel are divided into several branches like the seamen officers, logistics officers, medical officers and naval engineers. Each of these men will be provided with different Royal Navy uniforms of blue or white color depending on their ranking and ratings.
A total of about 98 ships, 177 aircraft, an aircraft carrier, six destroyers, 13 frigates, 11 submarines, 15 minesweepers as well as one amphibious assault carrier and two amphibious transport docks are available at the disposal of the Royal Navy at any time. The two assault ships that are the nucleus of Royal navy’s amphibious fleet are HMS Albion and Bulwark and the fleet helicopter carrier is HMS Ocean. The 13 frigates are the backbone of the British Navy and the latest frigate to enter the service is Type 23 HMS St Albans in 2002. The Frigates are important felt of the British Navy which is used in protecting the vital trade and sea routes to Britain. Some of the popular frigates seen with the British Navy are: HMS Kent, Lancaster, Somerset, Sutherland, Westminster etc. The Type 42 destroyers are the important naval defense fleet against air attacks and have been proved to be very important missile attack fleet during the Gulf and the Falkland wars. HMS Edinburgh, Liverpool and York are the important destroyers of British Navy.
The Patrol Ships as well as the mine hunters are the smaller type of fighting ships that are doing the British Navy proud by safeguarding the sea lanes from unexploded artillery and the patrol ships are assigned the duty of taking care of UK’s gas and oil fields. One of the best multifaceted fleets in the inventory of royal navy is the astute class and Trafalgar class submarines that can be used for provided cover to other vessels or crossing wide oceans all alone or even operating in a particular task force group. Some of the main artilleries at the disposal of the British navy are: harpoon, sea dart, spearfish and sting ray torpedo, tomahawk cruise missile and trident D5 ballistic missile.
Future Royal Navy
There is no doubt that the prosperity of this small island nation definitely lies in the hands of the naval force in the future as well and there is no doubt that the British Navy will remain in the forefront of providing all the necessary defense and security to the national interests whenever the time arises in the near future. The British Government is going all out in order to secure peace and goodwill among all other allied nations and is looking at its maritime partners and allied forces to join in their motive to provide international security in the sea in the future also. The British Navy is looking at defending the sovereignty and the national interests in case of any emergency situation that arises in the future by a co-operated and combined attack with the Royal Air Force and the Army.
The British navy is also determined to continue the Nation’s nuclear deterrent in compliance with other leading power house nations and will take all steps in order to prevent nuclear war among any countries in the future. Some of the important factors that the royal navy will be concentrating on in the future are: ready to conduct warfare at sea or from the sea, providing maritime safety and will try to develop partnership with other countries in order to promote the interests of the country.
The Royal navy is looking forward to a bright future and hence has taken necessary steps in updating their existing fleet with more powerful, sophisticated and highly technical war ships. Some of the new arrivals to the British Navy inventory are: Type 26 global combat ships (2021), Queen Elizabeth Class and Prince of Wales that is built inside Britain will see the limelight in 2020 and the F 35 Lightning II a joint strike fighter that will be part of the vast British navy fleet by the end of this decade. So, there is no doubt that will all possible fleet resources and personnel resources, the Royal Navy is all set and ready to fight and win battles with their enemies either at the sea or from the sea.