Royal Navy
Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom

Naval Ensign
Active 1707 - present
Country United Kingdom
Type Navy
Size 37,500 [1]

89 ships (105 including Royal Fleet Auxiliary)

Part of Ministry of Defence
Garrison/HQ List of Royal Navy shore establishments
Motto Life Without Limits (recruiting)
Colours Red and White
Chief of Staff Adm. Jonathon Band
Aircraft flown
Attack Harrier, Lynx
Patrol Merlin, Lynx
Trainer Firefly, Tutor, Hawk, Jetstream
Transport Sea King
Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom
Royal Navy
Surface Fleet
Fleet Air Arm
Submarine Service
Royal Naval Reserve
Nursing Service (QARNNS)</tr>
Royal Marines Reserve
History and future</tr> History of the Royal Navy
History of the Royal Marines
Customs and traditions
Future of the Royal Navy
Ships</tr> Current fleet
Current deployments
Historic ships
Personnel</tr> The Admiralty
Senior officers
Officer rank insignia
Ratings rank insignia
Related civilian agencies of
the Ministry of Defence</tr>
Royal Fleet Auxiliary
Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service

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 mid-18th century until well into the 20th century, it was the most powerful navy in the world,[2] playing a key part in establishing the British Empire as the dominant world power from 1815 until the early 1940s. 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.

The Royal Navy is the second-largest navy of the NATO alliance, in terms of the combined displacement of its fleet, after the United States Navy.[3] There are currently 89 commissioned ships in the Royal Navy, including aircraft carriers, a helicopter carrier, landing platform docks, ballistic missile submarines, nuclear fleet submarines, guided missile destroyers, frigates, mine counter-measures and patrol vessels. There are also the support of 16 vessels of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. The Royal Navy's ability to project power globally is considered second only to the U.S. Navy.[4][5]

The Royal Navy is a constituent component of the Naval Service, which also comprises the Royal Marines, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Marines Reserve. The Royal Navy numbers 37,500 people of whom approximately 6,000 are in the Royal Marines.[6]


Main article: History of the Royal Navy


The development of England's navyEdit



England's first navy was established in the 9th century by Alfred the Great but, despite inflicting a significant defeat on the Vikings in the Wantsum Channel at Plucks Gutter near to Stourmouth, Kent, it fell into disuse. It was revived by King Athelstan and at the time of his victory at the Battle of Brunanburh in 937, the English navy had a strength of approximately 400 ships. When the Norman invasion was imminent, King Harold had trusted to his navy to prevent William the Conqueror's invasion fleet from crossing the Channel. However, not long before the invasion the fleet was damaged in a storm and driven into harbour, and the Normans were able to cross unopposed and defeat Harold at the Battle of Hastings. The Norman kings created a naval force in 1155, or adapted a force which already existed, with ships provided by the Cinque Ports alliance. The Normans are believed to have established the post of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.

The English Navy began to develop during the 12th and 13th centuries and King John had a fleet of 500 sails. During the Hundred Years' War, the French fleet was initially stronger than the English fleet, but was almost completely destroyed at the Battle of Sluys in 1340. In the mid-fourteenth century Edward III's navy had some 712 ships. There then followed a period of decline: the navy suffered disastrous defeats off La Rochelle in 1372 and 1419 to Franco - Castilian fleets, and English ports were ravaged by fleets commanded by Jean de Vienne and Fernando Sánchez de Tovar.


File:Loutherbourg-Spanish Armada.jpg

The first reformation and major expansion of the Navy Royal, as it was then known, occurred in the 16th century during the reign of Henry VIII, whose ships Henri Grâce a Dieu ("Great Harry") and Mary Rose engaged the French navy in the battle of the Solent in 1545. By the time of Henry's death in 1547 his fleet had grown to 58 vessels. In 1588 the Spanish Empire, at that time the leading naval power in Europe, sent the Spanish Armada against England in order to end English support for Dutch rebels (who were fighting a war of liberation against the Spanish), to stop English piracy and to depose the Protestant Elizabeth I. The Spaniards sailed from Lisbon and they planned to rendezvous with another invading force from the Spanish Netherlands and from there hop to England but the plan failed due to maladministration, logistical errors, English harrying, blocking actions by the Dutch, and bad weather. However, England led a similar large-scale expedition against Spain a year later in what is known as the Drake-Norris Expedition of 1589, which resulted in defeat for the would be Royal Navy.

A permanent Naval Service did not exist until the mid-17th century, when the 'General-at-Sea' (equivalent to Admiral) Robert Blake took the Fleet Royal under Parliamentary control following the defeat of Charles I.

However during this period tensions arose between the Commonwealth (and later Kingdom) of England and the newly formed Dutch Republic, concerning the so-called Acts of Navigation. These Acts provided that all merchant shipping to and from England or her colonies should be carried out by ships of either England or her colonies. The Dutch merchant class would receive a devastating blow this way, as the Dutch economy was greatly based on cargo shipping and trade, even possessing more cargo ships than all the other European nations combined. The English, envious of Dutch wealth and eager to start a war, further demanded that all foreign ships should raise their flag first when greeting an English ship in the Channel or the North Sea. This demand demonstrated the idea of Mare Clausum, which indicated that these territories were basically English. The Dutch on the other hand followed the belief of the Mare Liberum, which means that the sea is free for all to sail on. When a naval fleet of the Dutch commanded by Lieutenant-Admiral Maarten Tromp, met an English fleet under Blake, Tromp refused to raise his flag first. Blake then engaged the Dutch, starting the First Anglo-Dutch War. The English fleet, being in an better state than the Dutch navy, defeated the Dutch. However the same tensions would later on spark additional fighting.

In the second and third Anglo-Dutch Wars the Royal Navy was defeated by the Dutch and England was forced to lift her restrictions on trade. Several memorable battles at sea were fought, and great Admirals like the Dutch Michiel de Ruyter and the English Blake and Monck emerged. The Four Days Battle, still one of the longest seabattles in history was fought in the second war. The Raid on the Medway, still the most crushing defeat of the English/British navy in history, concluded the Second Anglo-Dutch War. However, the Royal Navy thereafter gradually developed into the strongest navy in the world. From 1692 the Dutch navy was placed under the command of the Royal Navy's admirals (though not incorporated into it) by order of William III following the Glorious Revolution.

The development of the United Kingdom's navyEdit

Under the Acts of Union in 1707 the Royal Scots Navy by then numbering just three ships, merged with the English Navy and the modern Royal Navy came into being. The Royal Navy had become the British navy.


File:HMS Victory - bow.jpg

The early 18th century saw the Royal Navy with more ships than other navies. Although it suffered severe financial problems throughout the earlier part of this period, modern methods of financing government and in particular, the Navy, were developed.[7] This financing enabled the navy to become the powerful force of the later 18th century without bankrupting the country. 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 middle part of the century was occupied with 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 defense assisted by strong fortifications, and the ravages of disease, the British failed in their attempts suffering heavy casualties.[8] The Navy also saw action in the Seven Years' War which was later described by Winston Churchill as the first world war.[9] The latter part of the century saw action in the American Revolutionary War where the Navy was defeating the fledgling Continental Navy until French intervention in 1778. The most important operation of the war came in 1781 when during the Battle of the Chesapeake the British failed to lift the French blockade of Lord Cornwallis, resulting in a British surrender in the Battle of Yorktown. Although combat was over in North America, it continued in the Caribbean (Battle of the Saintes) and India, where the British experienced both successes and failures.

The Napoleonic Wars saw the Royal Navy reach a peak of efficiency, dominating the navies of all Britain's adversaries. Initially Britain did not involve itself in the French Revolution, but in 1793 France declared war. The next 12 years saw battles such as the Cape St Vincent and the Nile and short lived truces such as the Peace of Amiens. In the early stages of the wars, the navy had several mutinies caused mostly by the sailors' poor conditions of service. The two major mutinies at the Spithead and the Nore in 1797, were potentially very dangerous for Britain, because at the time the country was at risk of a French invasion.

The height of the Navy's achievements though came on 21 October 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar where a numerically smaller but more experienced British fleet under the command of Vice 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".

In the years following the battle of Trafalgar there was increasing tension at sea between Britain and the United States. 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 characterised 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 th

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