Bits and Pieces Volume II

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17.  The_Queens_1953_Coronation_Fleet_Review_at_Spithead
18.  Naval Reviews  


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First click on this URL DIAMOND_JUBILEE_AND_THE_ROYAL_NAVY and at the bottom of the page your will find the URL for:-

The 1953 Coronation Fleet Review

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Whilst Portsmouth [SPITHEAD] has been privileged to witness the majority of naval static reviews, other areas of the English Channel have been the venue for warships to Salute their Commanders-in-Chief in static reviews, as well as underway in  non-static reviews.  Additionally, there have been other reviews which have not been attended by our Commanders-in-Chief, and I remember well being in Turpin* in the very early 60's when the whole of the submarine fleet met together in Falmouth Bay when the Salute was taken by FOSM [Flag Officer Submarines] at that time flying his Flag in HMS Dolphin at Fort Blockhouse and in HMS Adamant at the time of the static review.

* I joined Turpin a year after she had rejoined SM1 [Fort Blockhouse] ex engine repairs. In late February 1958, whilst out in the West Indies, Turpin lost both main diesels and she signalled an OPDEF [Operational Defect]. Having no engines meant that she could not recharge her batteries and so she couldn't dive. The tug Samsonia was despatched, and she took Turpin in tow back to the UK [Devonport] which took just over thirty days to cover the 5000 miles or so. It was the longest RN tow in history.

By static, I mean that the ships being reviewed are at anchor and the reviewing vessel in which is embarked the Commander-in-Chief, passes down between the columns, whereas, non-static is taken to mean that the reviewing vessel is hove to [or at anchor] whilst the fleet sails by in line ahead.  For the record, the submarines mentioned above were berth on trot's alongside the depot ship HMS Adamant - lots and lots of trot's!

Sea room is required for a non-static display, and the traditional venue [post July 1910] has been in the vicinity of Torbay, Lyme Bay and Falmouth Bay areas.  A large  review, which was static, and involved no fewer than 200 warships, was originally planned to take place in Mounts Bay, Penzance, in July 1910 to celebrate the Coronation of King George V.  However, the weather forecast was unfavourable, and the venue was switched to Torbay - a planners nightmare!  As far as I can ascertain, Mounts Bay was never chosen again, but Torbay is still on 'the books' as being a suitable venue.

Whilst it is natural to think of our Commanders-in-Chief who are of course our King's and Queen's, being embarked in a Royal Yacht whilst reviewing Their Fleet,  Their Majesties do occasionally embark in warships for a review.  Her Majesty was embarked in the frigate Surprise for her 1953 Coronation review which involved well over 200 warship's, simply because there was no Royal Yacht in service - Britannia entered service in 1954.  In antiquity, reviews were conducted by Monarch's viewing from terra firma. 

Fleet gatherings at Spithead have been taking place for over 2000 years, mainly as a muster point, in safe sheltered waters, before going off to attack our enemies.  Many of these gatherings have been for Royal events, but they are to numerous to mention in this bit of bit's and pieces.  Therefore, I will list just a few of the more notable events.  In the following table, I have prepared an easy to read [I hope] list of reviews.  However, there is inadequate space for the detail each of these events deserves. Quite arbitrarily I am starting with a visit by George III, and because he was the Monarch at the time of Lord Nelson's navy.





June 1773 Static Royal Review

George III




R.Y. Augusta and barge's of the Admiral's and Captain's whose command/ship was being reviewed. Event lasted for 4 days. It is said that 12 women of Portsmouth asked to be allowed to row the King from the dockyard to a man-of-war.  This was done and the King said that his barge had been 'manned'  by 12 of the finest women in Portsmouth. Sailor's didn't have a recognised uniform so their Captain's dressed them in fancy colours.  Officers dressed in uniforms dating from 1748 [George II] which was gold-braided tricorne hat [worn thwartships], tie-wig, brocaded kerseymore waistcoat edged with lace, gold-frogged dark blue coat, white knee breeches, white silk stockings and silver-buckled shoes. 
June 1794 n/a George III visit to award Admiral Lord Howe a prize for having been the victor at the Glorious 1st June battle Spithead

With  several captured French ships

R.Y. Royal Caroline n/a
June 1814 Static To celebrate the Treaty of Paris and to show the world the might of the British Navy. The Prince Regent [later George IV] was host to Czar of Russia and the King of Prussia Spithead


R.Y. Royal Charlotte  
March 1842 Static Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's visit to a Grand Naval Review Spithead


R.Y. Royal George The dress of officers and men looked very different from those worn at the last review. The old officers uniform had gone and they wore their cocked hats fore-and-aft instead of arthwartships. Epaulettes had come in and instead of breeches and buckled shoes they wore gold-laced trousers and black pumps.  Sailors wore baggy trousers, short jackets, white-taped blue collars, black silk scarves set off by a beribboned straw hat. The Queen endeared herself to the men by drinking rum from a mess can and tasting soup with an iron spoon.  The men cheered wildly and with a tear in her eye said, "I feel today that I am indeed old Ocean's youthful queen and that I am indeed surrounded by those who will uphold that title in the battle and the breeze."
June 1845 Static Royal inspection of the Experimental Squadron, ships testing speed and sea-going qualities on new ship designs. The Queen and Prince Albert attended. Spithead R.Y. Victoria and Albert No1. This was the last time that a Royal Review consisted only of sailing ships and nearly the last time that the Queen could watch Trafalgar's men run aloft and set the sails "with feline agility and astonishing celerity."
August 1853 Both Royal Review at the threat of war with Russia. The Queen and Prince Albert attended. Spithead R.Y. Victoria and Albert No1. The first Royal Review of a fleet of steam warships held when war with Russia was imminent attracted extraordinary  attention and was remarkable for two facts. Firstly, it included screw ships of the line as well as paddlers, and second, spectators  were brought down from London by train. The review involved races between the old sail fleet and the new steam fleet between Nab tower and Spithead, and between, mock battles, again between steam versus sail. Steam of course won both engagements in which HM and the Prince Consort participated to the full.
April 1856 Static On St Georges day, 23rd, led by HMS Royal George in honour of the occasion, a great naval review of the fleet by HM Queen Victoria  took place after the return from the Baltic at the end of the Crimean War. Spithead. with 254 ships manned by over 50000 men and carrying 1132 guns. The squadrons were: 22 line-of-battleships; 16 screw  frigates; 26 paddle frigates; 8 Royal Yachts; 7 sailing vessels and 188 gunboats R.Y. Victoria and Albert No1. The review saw the first of the ironclads, four 1500 ton floating batteries and their presence pointed the finger of doom  at the wooden ship still laying at anchor.
July 1867 Static An imposing naval demonstration in honour of The Sultan of Turkey, accompanied by Queen Victoria and the  Viceroy of Egypt.  In effect, a victory parade for having beaten the Russians in the Crimea.  Spithead R.Y. Victoria and Albert No2. For the very first time every ship flew the WHITE ENSIGN  for the days of the red, white and blue squadrons were now no more and every ship was iron-built or iron- clad.

4 reviews!!

Static Various reviews.  


1887 - celebration of the Queen's Golden Jubilee.


1897 - celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jublee
HM was  too  ill to attend! HRH The Princes of Wales [later Edward VII] took the Salute


Spithead - 1887

A total of 136 ships illuminated at night with coloured searchlights.

R.Y. Victoria and Albert No2. 1887 - The Queen's Golden Jubilee.  New types of ship were on show including the Collingwood  with her guns in barbettes and the large brig-rigged  Inflexible with four 80-ton muzzle-loading guns. There was also a submarine on show. The torpedo had made its appearance  and was carried by several vessels. For the first time a steam propelled ship, the Turbina  was present.  She revolutionised all warships throughtout the world and thereafter, steam became the norm in all vessels.
January 1901 n/a The coffin of HM Queen Victoria is transported from the Isle of Wight [where she died at Osborne house] across the Solent into Gosport's Clarence  naval yard. From Gosport railway station the coffin was transferred to London. Solent R.Y. Victoria and Albert No3. Gosport railway station, now totally and utterly abandoned, is but a short walk from HMS Sultan's main gate.  
August 1902 Static Coronation review of HM King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra Spithead R.Y. Victoria and Albert No3. This was the last review at which warships appeared with their black hulls, a red or green boot-top yellow or white topsides, buff masts and funnels, and gilt 'gingerbread' work on bows and sterns


July 1909 Static Reviewed by HM King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra Spithead R.Y. Victoria and Albert No3. A large number of submarines were reviewed.
July 1910 Static Reviewed by HM King George V and Queen Mary Torbay R.Y. Victoria and Albert No3. HM had been King for just two months
June 1911 Static The Coronation review for HM King George V and Queen Mary Spithead R.Y. Victoria and Albert No3.  
July 1912 Static Reviewed by HM King George V and Queen Mary Spithead R.Y. Victoria and Albert No3. Witnessed by Members of both House of Parliament
July 1914 Static Reviewed by HM King George V and Queen Mary Spithead R.Y. Victoria and Albert No3. The mightiest of all reviews.  40 miles of ships including over 50 battleships.  The greatest display of sea power ever witnessed.
June 1922 Static Reviewed by HM King George V and Queen Mary Torbay R.Y. Victoria and Albert No3. Review of the Altantic Fleet of which ships like the Hood were members.
July 1924 Static Reviewed by HM King George V and Queen Mary Spithead R.Y. Victoria and Albert No3. Great changes to the Fleet were apparent. We had just 10 [60] battleships; 1 [4] battle-cruiser; 9 [55] cruisers; but destroyer submarine and minesweeper numbers where greatly increased over 1914 numbers and the aircraft carrier appeared for the first time. Note: Figers in brackets are those of 1914.
July 1935 Static Reviewed by HM King George V and Queen Mary  for their Silver Jubilee.  Spithead R.Y. Victoria and Albert No3. In this review HM witnessed a fly-past by the Fleet Air Arm
May 1937 Static Coronation review of HM King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Spithead R.Y. Victoria and Albert No3. Many more destroyers and aircraft carriers present
June 1944 Static Reviewed by HM King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Isle of Wight D-day anchorage site HMS Charteris The King reviewed over 800 ships mostly landing craft and minesweepers.
June 1953 Static Coronation review of HM Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh Spithead HMS Surprise Just 1 battleship remained, the Vanguard, which never saw action. One of the main attractions was the Fleet Air Arm's fly-past of over 350 aircraft including jet aircraft.
July 1969 Both Review of 39 warships commanded by C in C Western Fleet Admiral John Bush, by HM Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh Torbay/Lyme Bay R.Y. Britannia The ships sailed past HM in line ahead in Lyme Bay
June 1977 Static HM Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh's  Silver Jubilee Spithead R.Y. Britannia HMS Reclaim was the only ship present to have been reviewed at this and the 1953 review
At the turn of the century, there was a 'gathering' of warships from NATO countries which assembled at Spithead for the FESTIVAL OF THE SEA which was held at Portsmouth.  Rather than it being a review, it was a extension of, or a replacement for, the traditional and proverbial NAVY DAYS.
Finally, and incredulously there is no GOLDEN JUBILEE FLEET REVIEW.  Despite Her Majesty's very obvious pleasure with the way and manner in which her Golden Jubilee has been planned and executed, I cannot help wondering whether the Government REALLY understands the relationship The Monarch has with the Royal Navy and how Her Majesty, already deeply hurt by losing Britannia, is being further denied that unique and very special ROYAL SALUTE, a SALUTE the NAVY WANTS TO GIVE, and a SALUTE HM EXPECTED TO RECEIVE. Giving Her Majesty an in-house welcome/salute within HMS Excellent from ALL THREE ARMED SERVICE, a LITTLE bit from the RN but note NO SUBMARINE PRESENCE, a LITTLE bit from the army from the days of Rushmore at Aldershot and a LITTLE bit from the RAF is insulting to say the very least, and thereafter a PATHETIC sail-past ships moored alongside in Portsmouth is  NOT the answer.  I asked the Editor of the Navy News twice [by email] why no review but even he didn't know the answer!  In passing, thank God for the fliers whose salute to Her Majesty was comparable to the fly-past's of other Fleet Reviews: they, the weather and our fellow street liners were excellent and we had splendid views of everything from our vantage point. Finally, if we are to believe the Portsmouth News newspaper of the 26th June 2002 page 17, the people of Portsmouth, are going to see their Queen for a LITTLE bit, just 45 minutes, from 1515 to 1600 on the 27th.  When compared to her other many visits to other cities  of recent weeks, it begs the question, what is going on?  Put your mouse pointer over the question posed!        I say bas New Labour. 

Now since I cannot show you any Golden Jubilee Navy pictures [it is now official - FLEET REVIEWS are a thing of the past, regrettably] - I can show you a couple of photographs Beryl [my wife] took  in Portsmouth for Her Majesty's brief walk about at Gun Wharf. 

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