Britain achieved un-paralleld global dominance for hundreds of years, through one factor more than any over – her naval power. And Island nation, surrounded by potential enemies, will always have to develop a powerful Navy for self defence. And naturally it is but a small progression from using a Navy to defend your island homeland, to asserting your dominance around the world.
Culturally, the Royal Navy has grown to become a very part of the fabric of Britain, and this is very much thanks to the importance that it has had in British history. Eminent naval Historian Andrew Lambert looks at the men who shaped the Royal Navy into one of the most succesful fighting forces in History.
One crucial – and I would argue positive – ommission is that of Lord Nelson. Too often Nelson has overshadowed some just as crucial Naval commanders in British history. More than enough has been written about Nelson, and this approach makes a refreshing change.
Lambert starts off looking at the career of Lord Howard of Effingham, the Admiral who led the British Navy’s fight against the Spanish Armada in 1588. This reminds us quite usefully that there was a British Navy before Nelson. We then have interesting chapters on Anson, Hood, Jervis, Parker, Fisher, Beatty and Cunningham.
There are some brave issues of selection – focussing on Beatty instead of Jellicoe. A modern perspective might also be interesting – to look at figures such as Henry Leach, John Fieldhouse and Sandy Woodward. The Royal Navy is smaller, and command has changed – but the same ethos and tradition still remains. People such as Captain David Hart-Dyke of HMS Coventry, and Captain Bill Coward of HMS Brilliant during the Falklands are of the same lineage as the sea dogs in this book.
This book is a useful reminder of a statement that Cunningham once made:
‘it takes one day to lose a battle, but two hundred years to build a tradition’.