We are an Island nation. Our very history stems from the fact that, from the earliest days of trade, our national need for imports and exports have demanded a competent naval force to protect our island’s interests. From the ‘King’s Navee’ to the masterful force which was the Royal Navy in the years just after WW2, we have had, made and determined policy by the presence and actions of Navy warships.
The names cascade down British history’s ledgers: Anson, Hood, Drake, Frobisher, a dip into any historical archive shows that seamanship, service and above all, loyalty and dedication to the rigours and rules of the Navy handed we Brits a stacked deck almost every time our Island Nation was tested. Apart from the defeats by the Dutch Admiral De Ruyter, Britain, or rather England, ruled the waves as never seen before or since. The British Crown and Navy took on Napoleon in his various disguises as a republican general, and then a dictator masquerading as an Emperor, and virtually dictated the course of the wars fought at sea; ending with the defeat of the French at Trafalgar by the naval genius of Lord Nelson.
The Great War saw Britain’s Fleet take on the German Grand Fleet, and after Jutland, where the navies clashed for perhaps the only time, saw the Germans holed up in their anchorages, with the British Fleet guarding the boltholes. The Germans nearly succeeded in starving Great Britain with the U-boat submarine fleet, but once deterrent measures were introduced, the subs were denied access to the North Sea, and were defeated.
The Second World War saw Britain’s naval forces, as usual, emasculated by politicians who just did not want to understand that, although Defence does not win headlines, if properly funded, it wins victories. Our Navy was badly funded and run during the peacetime years, and when the great conflict began, naval forces were stretched to breaking point by stupid decisions made by politicians with ideas of grandeur.The Royal Navy was partly modernised in the second half of the 1930’s, but the upgrade missed HMS Hood (sunk with a single shell from Bismarck), HMS Barham (torpedoed despite alleged anti-torpedo upgrade) and HMS Repulse (sunk by the Japs after sailing without any air cover whatsoever). We managed to win through, partly because the Krauts made more mistakes than we did; but mainly because the Japs attacked Pearl Harbour, and America came into the war, and saved the West for the second time in twenty years. The calibre of the Royal Navy’s officers and men were such that a naval action between the destroyer Glowworm and the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper, a vessel ten times the size of the destroyer; and where the destroyer sank after attacking and ramming the Hipper, allowed the Admiralty to place the Glowworm’s captain to receive the Victoria Cross posthumously on the recommendation of the German Cruiser captain, and his captured log.
As I have previously written on the Royal Navy, and watched its long decline in both ships and men, I would point to two items; one very recent, the other many years back.
Captain E.S.F. Fegan, V.C. Royal Navy; the sailor who turned his ship, H.M.S. Jervis Bay, to steer directly towards the Admiral Scheer, a heavy German cruiser intent upon savaging the convoy which ‘Jervis Bay’ was protecting. Without any hesitation, this man sailed his ‘Armed MerchantMan’ in under the guns of this mini-battleship, and took his ship, along with all her crew, to their deaths; but the convoy was saved, as they scattered before the killer cruiser could catch them.
British fishermen legally went in to Channel fishing grounds to harvest scallops, but were set upon, harassed and attacked by a much larger contingent of French fishing boats, outraged that the ‘RosBifs’ had the audacity to fish in grounds favoured by the French. The Brits called for protection from the Royal Navy, but to no avail. Of the FOUR R.N. vessels delegated for fishery protection duty, one is 8,000 miles away in the Falklands, HMS Forth is unable to sail because of the huge numbers of defects found after handover from BAe Systems the builders, (inclusive of electrical busbar connection bolts being GLUED back on after rupture),; one is in dock for repairs, and the fourth is in Norway at, wait for it; a Culture Festival.
Great Britain had been promised, by the Brexiteer politicians, that we can have and hold our own fishing grounds once more after ‘freedom day’. At the rate seen by this observer, all we shall be able to do to protect our own fishermen from the likes of the ‘effing French is to wave a white flag from a bloody ferry.