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THE EDUCATION AND TRAINING OF NAVAL OFFICERS.
PROBABLY at no period of our to conduce most effectually to the history-certainly not at any time efficiency of the whole. And it during the present generation has would certainly be concluded by the Royal Navy occupied so large any reasonable person, that the a share of public consideration as careful and judicious training of at present, as may be easily per- the young lads destined to become ceived from the close attention the officers of the Fleet would be bestowed by Parliament upon all one of the first points looked to. matters relating to it, from the Would it be believed, therefore, constant discussions upon naval by any one not conversant with subjects with which the public naval affairs, that until these last press teems, and from the widely- very few years this important subspread and still increasing popu- ject has been utterly neglected, and larity of this noble service through- is only now, as it were, beginning out the length and breadth of these to receive that attention and care Islands. Hence no excuse is neces- which its consequence demands ? It sary for bringing forward any point is not too much to say that in no bearing upon the welfare and effici- other country has the training of ency of the Navy; and the particu- its naval officers been so disregardlar subject of which we propose to ed as in England, and we are still treat in this paper, is one that has far behind every other nation in not received that general considera- this respect. It may well be a tion which its importance justifies matter of no small pride and gratiand requires.
fication to the officers of the Navy, We propose, then, to consider the when they consider the many names present system of educating and distinguished in science which their training officers for the Royal Navy, body has furnished; for these have and to see how far this system meets been in a great measure self-taught, the requirements of the service. and owe nearly everything to their
If we remember the very early own exertions and industry, having age at which it is requisite for a striven to make up by these means lad to embark in a seafaring life in for the absence of advantages which order to make a good sailor—the should have been supplied them by age when the mind is most im- the State. pressionable, and in the most pli- The records of the educational able state for being moulded into branch of the naval service are any form, or trained in any direc- scanty indeed. The first attempt tion—if we bear in mind further at anything like a State interference the very peculiar and special re- with the training of lads intended quirements of the naval profession, for the Navy took place in 1729, we cannot fail to perceive how im- when a Royal Naval Academy was portant it is that a boy intended instituted in Portsmouth Dockyard for the Navy should receive that for that purpose. The scheme of particular sort of education which instruction which was framed for is best suited to his future career. this establishment was excellent. It might, with great reason, be sup- and well suited for the requireposed that, in this the greatest ments of the service, had it been maritime country of the world— made compulsory. It included the boasting a Navy famous in his- elements of a general education, as tory and equal in size to all other well as mathematics, navigation. navies combined-every branch of French, drawing, fortification, gunthis great service would be vigi- nery, and the small-arm exercises ; lantly watched and tended, so as together with the principles of shipbuilding, and practical seamanship This state of matters lasted until in all its branches, for which latter the close of the great war; but, in a small vessel was set apart. Had 1816, material alterations were made this arrangement extended to all in the arrangements. A school for those who entered the Navy, we naval architecture was added to the probably should not now have to establishment, and the staff of prolament the backward condition of fessors and masters was altered in the service in this respect; but the consequence. In 1828 the free evil genius of “half measures" education of naval officers' sons-a seemed to wield his baneful influ- boon which had been thankfully ence even in those days, for the enjoyed by them for fifty-five years entrance to the Academy was-was discontinued; they were now purely voluntary, and the building required to pay at a reduced rate, was only intended to contain forty in proportion to their rank. Moreboys, which was but a small pro- over, the number of appointments portion of those annually entered in open to them according to this the service. The voluntary system, scale-which had been reduced from inoreover, proved a total failure : forty to thirty in 1816—was now the nobility and gentry, for whose to be shared by the sons of military benefit the Academy was instituted, officers; and thus the advantages apparently did not care to send which the Navy had so long detheir sons there-preferring, pro- rived from the Academy were so bably, sending them at once to sea curtailed as to become little more under charge of some friend or re- than nominal. lative-for the maximum number In order to keep up the number of forty scholars was never attain- of students at the College, it had ed. In 1773, therefore, the numbers been found necessary, from time to having fallen very low, the King de time, to extend special privileges termined to offer a gratuitous edu- to those young officers who had cation to a certain number of naval joined the Navy through that estabofficers' sons; and, accordingly, fif- lishment; and this produced a disteen boys out of the forty, being cordance between the two classes sons of commissioned officers, were of officers that was found to be educated free of all expense. The productive of great inconvenience stimulus thus given to the Academy to the service. Accordingly, these revived its failing strength, and it advantages were gradually withcontinued on this footing until drawn during the later years of its 1806, when the enormous extent existence; and the College again of our naval armaments called for languished, and finally terminated a large increase of the number of its checkered career in the year officers ; and the Academy was en- 1837. From that date until 1857 larged for the accommodation of no steps whatever were taken to seventy pupils, being thenceforward re-establish any sort of training designated the Royal Naval Col- for naval officers, the system under lege. Forty out of the seventy boys which they joined the service durwere now to receive a free educa- ing these twenty years being the tion as the sons of naval officers; same as that applying previously and the plan of instruction was the to all those who did not pass same, with slight modifications, through the College. The age of as that which had been before es- admission into the Navy was from tablished for the Academy. But twelve to fourteen; and the only even this increased number of pu- qualification necessary to become pils came far short of the require an officer was, to be able to write ments of the service, and therefore English from dictation, to know the greater part of the young officers the first four rules of arithmetic, joined the Navy without passing Reduction, and the Rule of Three. through the College.
The writer can never forget his astonishment, when, as a boy of his services were daily becoming twelve and a half, he went up more and more valuable to the firsttremblingly for his examination lieutenant, a captain who had at in much doubt and anxiety as to heart the future prosperity of the whether his stock of Latin, French, young officers under his command. and Euclid would be deemed suffi- would take care that their study cient to gain him admission into hours were interfered with as little the Navy-he found sums in simple as possible. addition and subtraction placed be. But this was the bright side of fore him! However, it is a signi- the picture. It not unfrequently ficant comment upon the mode of happened that, from peculiar cireducating boys in this country, that cumstances, the school hours were the majority of lads wbo fail in the unavoidably broken into ; the capexamination upon joining the Navy, tain's cabin — the usual place of even to this day, break down in study-might be otherwise occuwriting from dictation, being in pied; and it was not always easy, or some instances quite unable to even practicable, to set apart any spell even the easiest words! other place where the studies could
For the further instruction of be carried on with any degree of the youngsters, after joining the satisfaction. And it must be conservice, naval instructors in all the fessed that while many—and those larger ships were supposed to teach our best officers—took the greatest the young gentlemen the mysteries pains in the improvement of their of navigation; the gunnery officer youngsters, instances to the coninstructed him in the great-gun and trary were unhappily not rare : and small-arm drills, and his duties on the want of interest evinced by the board in the course of time taught captain produced its effect in the him seamanship. And so, after indifference of the instructor, and six years in a midshipman's berth, the consequent backwardness of the he faced bis examiners with a pupils. For the effectual carryingout beating and anxious heart, only too of a system of schoolroom instructhankful if he passed through the tion on board a sea-going man-ofdreaded ordeal, and received the war must, under any circumstances, precious document setting forth be a difficult task, and can only prothat he was duly qualified to take duce satisfactory results when enupon himself the charge and com- couraged to the utmost by the officer mand of a lieutenant in her Ma in command. In many cases the jesty's fleet. The amount of in- studies were suffered to be considstruction which the young gentle- ered as subordinate to the ordinary men received varied exceedingly. work of the ship; and when the In those ships whose captains took naval instructor had, after some an especial interest in the welfare difficulty perhaps, obtained a place of their midshipmen, and were for his duties, and came to assemble themselves men of cultivated minds, his pupils, he would find that Mr able to appreciate rightly the ines- A. had been sent away on boat duty. timable advantage of a good educa- Mr B. was particularly required on tion, the naval instructors were deck, and Mr C. had been given supported and encouraged in their leave to go on shore. And in duties. And for the first two years cases where the naval instructor of their service, or until they be- was left wholly unsupported. as came midshipmen, the youngsters sometimes happened, some of his were excused from all other duty pupils, preferring a caulk on the during school hours, the claims of lockers of the midshipmen's berth the naval instructor upon their time or the charms of a new novel, would being considered paramount to all give themselves leave of absence others. Even during the later part from school, in confident security of the midshipman's career, when from any unpleasant consequences.
Although then, the naval instruc- either at home or abroad, wherever tors were, as a body, able and zeal- three captains or commanders could ous, and always anxious to impart be assembled together; but the very to the young officers under their nature of the subject prevented any instruction such knowledge as lay set form of questions being put, in their power, yet in cases such as or any scale of numbers attainthese it was not in human nature ed, and necessitated the viva-voce that they could avoid falling into de- form. Therefore the degree of spondency at the difficulties which strictness of the examination debeset them in the first place, and pended entirely upon the disposi.. into utter indifference thereafter. tion of the examining officers, and
Moreover, it was only in the varied through every stage between larger ships that naval instructors excessive harshness and extreme were borne. In the very numerous laxity. Thus it often happened classes of vessels commanded by that officers notoriously incompecommanders and lieutenants there tent were returned as qualified, is no accommodation for a naval while others—young men of good instructor, and it was left entirely ability and much promise—were to the option of the master or se- turned back for months. The guncond-master to undertake the teach- nery examination on board the Exing of the young officers in the in- cellent was a very strict one; it tervals of his regular duties ; the was conducted by regular examinonly encouragement afforded him ers, and lasted three days; it refor so doing being the magnificent quired a complete knowledge of the sum of five pounds per annum for subject to receive a certificate of each pupil! And the complement qualification, and on this head of officers in these vessels being there was nothing to be desired. small, the services of the midship. The examination for navigation at men for the duties of the ship could the College was carried out, as far not be often dispensed with ; there- as it went, with the greatest strictfore in many instances the know-ness and impartiality ; but it conledge acquired by them in any sisted of only the mere practice of branch of their profession, beyond navigation, required no mathematithat of seamanship, was of the cal knowledge whatever,* and obsmallest amount.
taining even the highest honours The consequence of all this was, implied no more than a superficial that many fine young men— whose knowledge of the subject. Yet it ill-fortune had placed them during was quite suitable to the amount of the greater part of their midship- instruction which the midshipmen man's time in small vessels, or had, as a general rule, been able to whose studies had, from the causes receive. we have pointed out, been neglect- Passed through this ordeal, and ed-found themselves, when the arrived at the position of a comperiod arrived for their examination, missioned officer of the fleet, a utterly unfit for the trial ; and pre- young man found himself, except ferred leaving the service of their in rare instances, entirely devoid of own accord to the discredit of any save professional knowledge, being rejected again and again. and that even of a very limited na
The subjects in which the candi- ture. Foreign languages, history, dates were examined to qualify for mathematics, the natural sciences, the rank of lieutenant were three- and even the fundamental laws by seamanship, gunnery, and naviga- means of which he carried out the tion. The examination in the first practice of navigating his ship-all of these was of a very unsatisfac- were known to him by name only ; tory nature. It could take place and every year of service, every step
* We are now speaking of previously to 1857.
he gained, brought his deficiencies mittee appointed in the previous more forcibly home to him. Thus year— the Admiralty adopted the at the age when education is usu- plan of a training-ship for naval ally completed, and young men are cadets, through which all those joinsettled down to the duties of their ing the service for the future were professions, those naval officers to pass. The age of entry into the whose minds recoiled from the training-ship was to be from thirthought of passing their lives in teen to fifteen, and a candidate was such a state of general ignorance, required to pass an examination in were compelled to begin at the very the following subjects : Latin or rudiments of learning, and in many French, geography, Scripture hiscases to sit down to decimal frac- tory; arithmetic, including protions, the elements of algebra, and portion and fractions; algebra as the first book of Euclid. That this is far as fractions, and Euclid as far not only not an overdrawn picture, as the thirty-second proposition of but a case of constant occurrence, the first book. Candidates over every naval man will readily allow. fourteen years of age were also re
To their credit be it said, a large quired to have a knowledge of number of officers, dissatisfied with the use of the globes, with definitheir very limited knowledge, appli- tions, algebra to simple equations, ed themselves with diligence in their the whole of the first book of Eucintervals of employment to this—in lid, and the elements of plane trimany instances distasteful-task ; gonometry. Six months was the and numerous are the names famous minimum and twelve months the in the service by scientific attain- maximum time allowed in the trainments, whose information was only ing-ship, according to age, those acquired by indomitable resolution joining under fourteen being allowand unremitting perseverance at a ed the whole year's instruction. At comparatively late period of their the termination of the regulated lives. Fully sensible of the defici- period, the cadet had to undergo a encies of the midshipman's educa- second examination, including all tion, though taking no steps to im- the subjects of the previous one, prove it, the Admiralty did certainly except Latin ; and in addition to offer some slight encouragement to these, involution and evolution, these officers, as will be seen here- simple equations, the elements of after.
geometry, and of plane and spheriThose officers who had joined the cal trigonometry, the simple rules service through the College were of of navigation, the use of nautical course not to such an extent defi- instruments, French, and a slight cient in educational acquirements; knowledge of surveying and conbut as they went to sea at the age of structing charts. If the cadet passfifteen at latest, their proficiency at ed this examination satisfactorily, an after period depended to a great he was forthwith appointed to a extent upon how they kept up the sea-going ship, and at the expiraknowledge they had gained while tion of fifteen months' service he at the College. Still, if any proof was eligible for the rating of midwere required of the valuable re- shipman upon passing a further exsults to be derived from a course of amination. If he failed in the extraining, such as that in practice at amination on leaving the trainingthe Naval College, it may be found ship, he was to be rejected from the in the fact, that many of our most service entirely. distinguished officers passed through The plan of instruction in the that establishment at the outset of training-ship likewise comprised an their career.
elaborate course of seamanship, as This most unsatisfactory state of follows :matters continued until 1857, when « First Instruction.--A general know-acting upon the report of a com- ledge of the different parts of the hull of