Royal Naval Academy

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Royal Naval Academy
Royal Naval Academy Portsmouth.jpg
Royal Naval Academy, Portsmouth
CountryFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
BranchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg  Royal Navy
RoleOfficer training

The Royal Naval Academy was a facility established in 1733 in Portsmouth Dockyard to train officers for the Royal Navy. The founders' intentions were to provide an alternative means to recruit officers and to provide standardised training, education and admission. In 1806 it was renamed the Royal Naval College and in 1816 became the Royal Naval College and the School for Naval Architecture. It was closed as a training establishment for officer entrants in 1837.

HMNB Portsmouth British Royal Navy base

Her Majesty's Naval Base, Portsmouth is one of three operating bases in the United Kingdom for the Royal Navy. Portsmouth Naval Base is part of the city of Portsmouth; it is located on the eastern shore of Portsmouth Harbour, north of the Solent and the Isle of Wight. Until the early 1970s, it was officially known as Portsmouth Royal Dockyard ; thereafter the term 'Naval Base' gained currency, acknowledging a greater focus on personnel and support elements alongside the traditional emphasis on building, repairing and maintaining ships. In 1984 Portsmouth's Royal Dockyard function was downgraded and it was formally renamed the 'Fleet Maintenance and Repair Organisation' (FMRO). The FMRO was privatized in 1998. Around the year 2000, the designation HMS Nelson was extended to cover the entire base.

Royal Navy Maritime warfare branch of the United Kingdoms military

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years' War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.



In 1733, a shoreside facility was established in the dockyard for 40 recruits. A comprehensive syllabus provided theoretical and practical experience in the dockyard and at sea. Graduates of the Academy could earn two years of sea time as part of their studies, and would be able to take the lieutenant's examination after four years at sea instead of six. The Academy did not, however, achieve the objective of becoming the preferred path to becoming a naval officer; the traditional means of a sea-going "apprenticeship" remained the preferred alternative. The vast majority of the officer class was still recruited in this manner based on family ties, and patronage. Family connections, "interest" and a sincere belief in the superiority of practical experience learned on the quarterdeck ensured that the officer class favoured the traditional model. William IV summed up this view when he remarked that "there was no place superior to the quarterdeck of a British man of war for the education of a gentleman". [1]

William IV of the United Kingdom King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of Hanover 1830-1837

William IV was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and King of Hanover from 26 June 1830 until his death in 1837. The third son of George III, William succeeded his elder brother George IV, becoming the last king and penultimate monarch of Britain's House of Hanover.

There was a clear prejudice against graduates. The then rating of midshipman-by-order, or midshipman ordinary, was used specifically for graduates of the Royal Naval Academy, to distinguish them from midshipmen who had served aboard ship, who were paid more. [2] After two years at sea, graduates of the academy were eligible to be promoted to midshipman. [3]

Midshipman ordinary, or midshipman-by-order, refers to an obsolete rating for prospective officers in the British Royal Navy. The rating was specifically applied to graduates of the Royal Naval Academy who had earned their sea time in a classroom instead of serving at sea.

In 1806 the Academy was reconstituted as the "Royal Navy College" and in 1816 was amalgamated with the "School of Naval Architecture". [4]

The college closed as a young officer training establishment on 30 March 1837, meaning that from that date all youngsters setting out on a naval career proceeded directly to sea. [5] The closure of the college created a gap in officer training, and in 1857 the two-decker Illustrious undertook the role of cadet training ship at Portsmouth. In 1859 she was replaced by the three-decker Britannia, which was removed to Portland in 1862 and to Dartmouth in 1863. [6]

HMS <i>Illustrious</i> (1803) ship launched on 3 September 1803

HMS Illustrious, a 74-gun third rate ship of the line and the second of that name, was built by Randall & Brent at Rotherhithe where her keel was laid in February 1801. Launched on 3 September 1803, she was completed at Woolwich. She was first commissioned for the Channel Fleet under Captain Sir Charles Hamilton and was involved in the Battle of the Basque Roads in 1809, in which she won a battle honour, and in the expeditions against the docks at Antwerp and render the Schelde unnavigable to French ships. On 22 November 1810, Illustrious was amongst the fleet that captured Île de France on 3 December. She then took part in the Invasion of Java (1811) in Indonesia. She was refitted at Portsmouth (1813–17) and then laid up in reserve until recommissioned in 1832. She was laid up again in 1845, and later used as a guard-ship, a hospital ship and, lastly, in 1854 she became a gunnery training ship and continued as one until she was broken up in 1868 in Portsmouth..

HMS <i>Britannia</i> (1820) 1820 first-rate ship of the line

HMS Britannia was a 120-gun first-rate ship-of-the-line of the Royal Navy, laid down in 1813 and launched on 20 October 1820.

Isle of Portland tied island in Dorset, England, UK

The Isle of Portland is a tied island, 4 miles (6 km) long by 1.7 miles (2.7 km) wide, in the English Channel. Portland is 5 miles (8 km) south of the resort of Weymouth, forming the southernmost point of the county of Dorset, England. A barrier beach called Chesil Beach joins it to the mainland. The A354 road passes down the Portland end of the beach and then over the Fleet Lagoon by bridge to the mainland. Portland and Weymouth together form the borough of Weymouth and Portland. The population of Portland is 12,400.

Notable individuals

A distinguished Academy graduate was Philip Broke, who attended the Academy in 1791. He achieved particular fame as captain of HMS Shannon in its victory over USS Chesapeake in the War of 1812. Two of Jane Austen's brothers, Francis and Charles, attended the Academy in 1786 and 1791, respectively. Both went on to become admirals. [7]

Philip Broke

Rear-Admiral Sir Philip Bowes Vere Broke, 1st Baronet, KCB was a distinguished officer in the British Royal Navy. During his lifetime he was often referred to as Broke of the Shannon, a reference to his notable command of HMS Shannon in the War of 1812.

HMS <i>Shannon</i> (1806)

HMS Shannon was a 38-gun Leda-class frigate of the Royal Navy. She was launched in 1806 and served in the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. She won a noteworthy naval victory on 1 June 1813, during the latter conflict, when she captured the American Navy's USS Chesapeake in a singularly bloody battle.

USS <i>Chesapeake</i> (1799) 38-gun frigate of the United States Navy

Chesapeake was a 38-gun wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy. She was one of the original six frigates whose construction was authorized by the Naval Act of 1794. Joshua Humphreys designed these frigates to be the young navy's capital ships. Chesapeake was originally designed as a 44-gun frigate but construction delays, material shortages, and budget problems caused builder Josiah Fox to alter her design to 38 guns. Launched at the Gosport Navy Yard on 2 December 1799, Chesapeake began her career during the Quasi-War with France and saw service in the First Barbary War.

Another veteran of the War of 1812, Henry Ducie Chads, attended the Academy before joining the Royal Navy. He was First Lieutenant of HMS Java during her capture by USS Constitution. Command of the ship fell to Chads when her captain was mortally wounded near the close of the action. He was forced to surrender the heavily damaged Java. [8]



  1. Dickinson 2007 , p. 32
  2. Lewis 1939 , p. 217
  3. Dickinson 2007 , p. 38
  4. Hill, John R. and Bryan Ranft Eds. 2002 p. 251
  5. Dickinson 2007 , p. 57
  6. Dickinson 2007 , p. 66
  7. "Philip Broke". Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. Retrieved 6 September 2018.
  8. Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1887). "Chads, Henry Ducie"  . Dictionary of National Biography . 09. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  9. The British Society for the History of Mathematics
  10. Eclipse Maps

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