The strength of the Navy 1882 to 1982

This book, BR 1806, my edition 1958 [front cover shown in the left hand frame],  is a must in any naval library, whether owned privately or by naval establishments. The picture in the right hand frame appears as the book's first inside cover page. Today, in the twenty first century, this picture would be symbolic, and this petty officer would represent all who serve in the navy irrespective of rank, or gender and includes Royal Marines.

However, this book looks at the Royal Navy, its organisation and its ability to fight wars and to protect the United Kingdom. It, and the data I will supply from a different source of information concerning  the NAVY'S STRENGTH in the one hundred year period 1882 to 1982, concerns itself with NAVAL PERSON POWER only, which necessarily excludes the WRNS and the Royal Marines not engaged in seagoing ships.  Now whilst I know that WRNS and Royal Marines not engaged in seagoing ships cannot be divorced from the Royal Navy and their support is implicit in the book, the book is written for the guidance of naval officers biased almost exclusively to the sharp end, namely for those who serve at sea.  Before you decide to email me about the fairer sex, please note the title of my page is such that it precludes anything after the year 1982.

So why have I used the expression NAVAL PERSON POWER ?  Returning to the picture above of our petty officer, he of course is symbolic of all those who served afloat, man and boy, officer and rating, RN and RM, and of course others too:  HMS Hood, for example, went to the bottom with several officers and men from foreign countries, chiefly from new and old Commonwealth countries but also from European countries and Scandinavia. The ratings serving in a ship are talked of as the "ships company" and are addressed as such for ceremonial events. We also refer to the "ships complement" and this can loosely be translated as saying that all onboard drafted to complement billets, have proper [and therefore] responsible jobs.  Prior to 1956, boys drafted to seagoing ships did not occupy complement billets and were bourne for training only.  Boys were not listed in the complement billet returns rendered to the Drafting Authorities, but they were members of the ships company. In the lists of NAVAL STRENGTH below, boys are not included [until after 1956].   So why the watershed ?  In 1956, at the time of the Suez War, so many men and ships were deployed to the Mediterranean and thence to the Near East, involving men from the RN [national servicemen were denied their demob and discharge by purchase was stopped], and Reserve Forces [called up en masse, the last time this occurred] that boys had to be used in complement billets to make up the shortfall in numbers.  After that war, boys/juniors were doing proper jobs whilst undergoing OJT [on job training], later on to be armed with the proverbial Task Book.

So in summary, the lists of NAVAL STRENGTH figures, do not include WRNS, any Royal Marines, and no Boys until after 1956. Mind you, by omitting these figures it doesn't 'affect the price of bread' too much when RN numbers are high, but it does do when low and post-change 1990 when women became an integral part of the RN instead of being WRNS:  for example, if I took the 2009 overall figure of 37.500 and took out 6000 Royal Marines and 2000 women, we are left with just 29,500 RN male personnel and that, for a maritime nation, is a pathetic return on our national security. In the data below, there are periods when numbers are on-going, year in year out.  When that occurs, I jump to the next year which sees an alteration in ACTIVE NAVY PERSONNEL. So, if you want to find your year e.g., 1967, look backwards to the year before it for the numbers in 1967.

YEAR NUMBERS YEAR NUMBERS YEAR NUMBERS YEAR NUMBERS
1882
58,000
1885 61,000 1890 67,000 1891 70,000
1893 76,000 1894 81,000 1895 86,000 1897 97,000
1898 103,000 1900 113,000 1901 117,000 1902 122,000
1903 126,000 1904 130,500 1905 127,000 1906 127,500
1907 127,000 1908 128,000 1910 131,000 1911 133,000
1912 136,500 1913 146,000 1914 250,000 1915 350,000
1916 400,000 1917 450,000 1919 275,000 1920 136,000
1921 124,000 1922 118,500 1923 99,500 1924 100,500
1925 102,500 1928 102,000 1929 100,000 1930 97,000
1931 93,000 1932 91,500 1933 91,500 1934 92,000
1935 99,100 1936 119,000 1937 127,500 1938 134,000
1940 276,000 1941 405,000 1942 507,000 1943 671,000
1944 779,000 1945
865,000
1946 503,000 1947 195,000
1948 152,000 1949 148,000 1950 142,000 1951 140,000
1952 148,000 1953 149,000 1954 137,500 1955 132,000
1956 125,500 1957 120,000 1958 110,000 1959 105,000
1960 100,500 1961 97,500 1962 96,500 1963 98,000
1964 100,000 1965 97,000 1966 100,000 1968 97,000
1969 92,000 1970 87,500 1971 84,000 1972 83,500
1973 82,000 1974 79,000 1976 77,000 1977 76,500
1978 75,500 1979 73,000 1980 72,000 1981 74,500
1982 73,000
 

You will see above highlighted in blue and red, the lowest and the highest number ever bourne respectively.  I have already told you that in 2009 the number is 29,5000.

So why did we need or keep so many naval personnel?  Well just have a look at this list and not all of it is in the correct chronological order nor is the list complete.  Britain was either directly involved, indirectly involved or had a major interest, in all of the following occurrences.

Second Afghan War 1879-1882 Anglo-Egyptian War 1882 Atlas and Zulu Wars 1883-1888
War in the Sudan 1883-1885 War in Somaliland 1883-1885 Sino-French WAR 1884
Myanmar War [Burma] 1885-1887 American Civil War West Africa Makaia War 1888
Abyssinian War 1887 Lu Shai Expedition 1889 Burma War 1890
Anglo-Manipuri War 1891 Britain France Germany Buganda Civil War 1885-1892 Yoruba War 1877-1893
Franco-Siamese War 1893 Matabele War 1893 Cod War 1893
Ashanti War 1893-1894 Sino-Japanese War 1894 Anglo-Adi War 1894
Nembe British War 1895 Anglo-Zanzibar War 1896 Anglo-Sudanese Reconquest 1896-1899
The Philippine Revolutionary Wars 1896-1897 British in Quebec 1896 Pathan War 1897-1898
Kiauchau War 1897 Thessalian War 1897 Uncle Sam's War 1898
Hut Tax War 1898 Samoa Civil War 1898-1899 Two Boer Wars 1898-1902
Six Day War of 1899 Ashanti War 1900-1901 War in China British Rajputs 1901
British Sokoto Conquest 1903 Moroccan Crisis 1903-1904 Russo-Japanese War 1904
Somali Mad Mullah War 1905 Zulu War 1906 Second Mad Mullah War 1907-1920
WW1 1914-1918 1919 Third Afghan War 1919 Irish War of Independence 1919-1921
Russian Civil War 1918-1920 Saud Sharif War 1924 British in Shanghai 1927-1928
British Nigerian Riots [Womens War] 1929-1930 Spanish Civil War 1931-1939 WW2 1939-1945
Cold War 1946-1990 IndoChinese War 1946-1954 Greek Civil War 1946-1949
Yangtse Incident 1947 Berlin Airlift 1947 Indo Pak War 1947-1953
Palastine 1945-1948 Canal Zone 1951-1954 Kenya 1952-1960
Malayan War 1948-1960 Arab Israeli War 1948 Korean War 1950-1953
Algerian War 1954-1962 Cyprus War 1955-1959 Sudanese Civil War 1955
Aden War 1955-1967 Suez War 1956 Egypt-Israel War 1956
Omani War 1957-1959 Cod Wars 1958-1961 Belize 1959-1989
Indonesian Confrontation 1962-1966 Bay of Pigs 1961 Cuban Crisis 1962
Indo Pak War 1965 Six Day War [Arab/Israeli] 1967 Nigerian Civil War 1967-1970
Northern Ireland Civil War 1968-1994 Indo Pak War 1971 Sudanese Civil War 1972
Yom Kippur War 1973 International Oil Crisis 1973 Turkey/Cyprus Invasion 1974
Mountbatten Murdered by the Irish 1979 Iran Iraq War 1980 - 1988 Falklands War 1982

In this one hundred year period, it is impossible to calculate the deaths caused by these wars but thinking only of WW1, WW2, the Russian Revolution, Korea [with over 1 million dead] and other long wars, it has to be on the top side 300 to 400 million souls.  Whatever it is, and clearly it must have been the most cruel part of all history, let use be thankful that we always HAD a strong Navy.  At this point, think on just how vulnerable we are today with OUR weak navy. Amen.