The Royal Navy 1815-1870. What did and what does the Navy do???.
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The Royal Navy of the United Kingdom is the oldest of the British armed services (and is therefore known as the Senior Service). From the 18th century to the middle of the 20th century (250 years), it was the largest and most powerful navy in the world, playing a key part in establishing the British Empire as the dominant power of the 19th and early 20th centuries. In World War II, the Royal Navy operated almost 900 ships. During the Cold War, it was transformed into a primarily anti-submarine force, hunting for Soviet submarines, mostly active in the GIUK gap. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, its role for the 21st century has returned to focus on global expeditionary operations
In the early 18th century, the navy was large but short on money. It was easily the biggest navy at the time.
By the later stages of the 1800’s it was an immovable force, and thanks to government being able to borrow money, it gave the navy extended credit so that it would never go bankrupt.
The navy started to emerge by focusing on certain areas, that would go on to be naval bases. They picked these spots carefully, in order to protect and promote Britain’s strategic and economic interests abroad, i.e. their foreign policy.
The navy made many advancements over at the start of the 18th century and because of their accomplishments, they had huge importance in later wars, such as the Napoleonic wars and WW1 and WW2.
The first base at the start of this period was in Spain. Naval operations in the War of the Spanish Succession were at first focused on the acquisition of a Mediterranean base, culminating in an alliance with Portugal and the capture of Gibraltar (1704) and Port Mahon (1708).
The next move for the navy was within Austria, and featured the War of the Austrian Succession and the lesser known War of Jenkins' Ear against Spain. In the latter war, the British deployed a very large amphibious force under Admiral Edward Vernon in the Battle of Cartagena, aiming to capture this major Spanish colonial port in modern day Colombia. Following an able defence assisted by strong fortifications, and the ravages of disease, the British failed in their attempts suffering heavy casualties.
This saw further disappointing losses in the Americas, largely due to French intervention, but the navy was able to continue to gain bases in India and the Caribbean.
During the Napoleonic wars, the Navy showed its true force by dominating its rivals.
Although they did not want to get involved, the French declared war on them and this sparked what Winston Churchill regarded as the “first world war”.
The navy reached the peak of its power at the Battle of Trafalgar. On 21 October 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar where a numerically smaller but more experienced British fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson decisively defeated a combined French and Spanish fleet. This eventually led to almost uncontested power over the world's oceans from 1805 to 1914, when it came to be said that "Britannia ruled the waves".
After the Napoleonic wars, Britain dominated the seas, but not without tensions from its rivals. Much of this tension was in the form of a triangle between Britain, France and America.
American traders took advantage of their country's neutrality to trade with both the French-controlled parts of Europe and Britain. Both France and Britain tried to prevent each other's trade, but only the Royal Navy was in a position to enforce a blockade. In 1812, the United States declared war on the United Kingdom and invaded Canada. At sea, the American War of 1812 was characterized by single-ship actions between small ships, and disruption of merchant shipping.
Between 1793 and 1815 the Royal Navy lost 344 vessels due to non-combat causes: 75 by foundering, 254 shipwrecked and 15 from accidental burnings or explosions. In the same period it lost 103,660 seamen: 84,440 by disease and accidents, 12,680 by shipwreck or foundering, and 6,540 by enemy action.
During the 19th century the Royal Navy enforced a ban on the slave trade, acted to suppress piracy, and continued to map the world. To this day, Admiralty charts (MAPS) are maintained by the Royal Navy.
Royal Navy vessels on surveying missions carried out extensive scientific work. Charles Darwin travelled around the world on HMS Beagle, making scientific observations which led him to the theory of evolution.
The end of the 19th century saw structural changes brought about by the First Sea Lord (Chief of Staff) Jackie Fisher who retired, scrapped, or placed into reserve many of the older vessels, making funds and manpower available for newer ships.
He also oversaw the development of HMS Dreadnought, the first all-big-gun ship and one of the most influential ships in naval history. This ship rendered all other battleships then existing obsolete, and started an arms race in Europe.
Admiral Percy Scott introduced several new programmes such as gunnery training and central fire control which greatly improved the effectiveness in battle of the Navy's ships.