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Royal NavyRoyal Navy

19th Century

By the early part of the 19th Century, the global situation had changed. Napoleon had been defeated, most of the Colonial Wars had ended, as had most of the European wars, meaning that there was less of a requirement for such a large regular armed forces. Ships were laid up and maintained with minimal crews and as for the soldiers and seamen, they were laid off to wait for the next conflict where they would be again required…

It was however realised that having the ships in a fine state of repair was all and good, but without the suitably trained crews to man them, they were all but useless if they were needed. Several attempts to find a solution to this were tried with organisations such as the Royal Naval Coast Volunteers (RNCV) (who were seamen who showed a willingness to support the cause in peacetime), but it was the Government’s passing of the Royal Naval Volunteer Act of 1859 and shortly afterwards, the Royal Naval Officers Act that really made the difference.

Under these Acts financial and training provision was allocated for up to 10,000 experienced seafarers from the Merchant and Fishing Fleets to train in naval gunnery, who would support the Royal Navy in times of conflict. These men were known as the Royal Naval Volunteers, but over time, they evolved to become the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR). The training facilities provided by the Royal Navy were supplemented by the mooring of a number of ships around British ports and they also offered sea experience in warships to both officers and sailors to consolidate their basic training. Of note is the fact that in their professional careers, many RNR officers commanded the largest commercial ships of the day or held senior positions in the shipping industry and government. Over time, the officers and men of the RNR started to gain the respect of their regular service counterparts.