Fleet Review

Fleet Review

:"Fleet Review, Royal Navy redirects here. This article is on reviews of the Royal Navy. For Fleet Reviews of the US Navy see Naval Review, and for Fleet Reviews of other nations' navies see Review (disambiguation)"

The Fleet Review is a British tradition, where the monarch reviews the massed Royal Navy. It allegedly dates back to the 1400. It is not held at regular intervals (only 44 have been held to date), and originally occurred when the fleet was mobilised for war, or for a 'show of strength' to discourage potential enemies. However, since the 19th century they have often been held for the coronation or for special royal jubilees (indeed, since Edward VII it has been regularly held at each coronation) - this tradition may have come to an end with the cancellation of the 2002 Review for Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee on cost grounds (it remains to be seen if her heir Charles will hold one for his coronation). Also, since the 19th century, it increasingly often includes delegates from other national navies - as at the International Fleet Review of 2005.

Needing a natural large, sheltered and deep anchorage, it usually occurs in the Solent off Spithead (although, Southend, Torbay, the Firth of Clyde as well as some overseas ports have also hosted reviews - in the examples below, the venue is Spithead unless otherwise noted).

A list follows of fleet reviews since the 14th century.


*June 1346 - Edward III, before sailing to war with France
*1415 - Generally acknowledged as the first fleet review on record, by Henry V, at Southampton, before sailing for his first French campaign that ended in the Battle of Agincourt


*May 1662, Charles II
*February 1693, William III and Mary II, after the Battles of Barfleur and La Hougue


*March 1700, on Peter the Great's visit to Britain, a show of strength
*1773, King George III set out from Kew, in a Royal coach with scarlet outriders, for what some call the first formal Royal Review. On his arrival he was saluted by a "triple discharge of cannon," and proceeded to the dockyard where admirals and captains were assembled, each with his barge, to escort the King to Spithead. They had dressed their crews in fancy colours, each to his own taste (at that time there was no uniform naval uniform), whilst they themselves were resplendent in the full dress designed for them by George II in 1748. The ships on show were those that had fought the French in the Seven Years' War and were soon to join the War of American Independence, and were led by HMS "Barfleur", of 90 guns, built only 5 years before.
*May 1778, George III, before France joined American War of Independence
*June 1794, after Glorious First of June
*1814, the last to consist solely of sailing ships. It was to celebrate the Treaty of Paris (1814), and to show the Allied Sovereigns "the tremendous naval armaments which has swept from the ocean the fleets of France and Spain and secured to Britain the domain of the sea." 15 ships of the line and 31 frigates were present, all of them veterans of the Napoleonic Wars. It was reviewed not by George III, but by the Prince Regent
*September 1820, George IV, first Coronation Review. One ship in attendance was HMS "Beagle", later made famous by Charles Darwin.

Queen Victoria

17 occurred during her reign, the most for any monarch.

*March 1842, her first, held by herself and Prince Albert as a "Grand Naval Review." The Queen on this occasion endeared herself to her sailors, drinking a mess basin of grog, and liking it!
*1844, May - visit of the King of Saxony; and October, on the visit of Tsar Nicholas I, King Louis-Philippe of France and Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, both were a show of strength
*June 1845, inspecting the experimental squadron, from the new HMY "Victoria and Albert". The Board of Admiralty attended in their steam yacht, the "Black Eagle". Some place "this" not 1814 as the last time that a Royal Review consisted only of sailing ships, and nearly the last time that the Queen could watch HMS "Trafalgar"'s men run aloft and set the sails "with feline agility and astonishing celerity."
*August 1853, fleet mobilisation for Crimean War [http://www.mallettantiques.com/items/PS002.htm] , including for the first time steam screw ships of the line.
*10 March 1854. Wary of a Russian break out into the North Sea, due to the numbers of their ships in the Baltic, the British Admiralty brought together a force to contain them. This first division of the Baltic fleet was commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Napier. Napier's task was to find naval recruits and train them as quickly as possible. From the screw yacht-tender, HMS "Fairy",and two months before her 35th birthday (which it was perhaps also intended to commemorate), Queen Victoria reviewed Napier's fleet at Spithead, shortly before it set sail, including (on 10 March 1854) a review of the first part of the fleet to set sail only eighteen days before Britain declared war on Russia. According to reports in the London Illustrated News (which printed a special edition for the occasion, with drawings of various scenes from the day of the Review), "Fairy" reviewed the fleet as it steamed up a path created by the ships anchored on each side, then a day later led the fleet out of Spithead as it began its journey to the Baltic.
*April 1856, of the Baltic fleet on its return. First recorded example of the evening illumination of the fleet. Showed lessons learnt from the Crimean War, with the first of the ironclad ships present in the form of 4 1,500-ton floating batteries. Over 100 gunboats were present, "puffing about like locomotive engines with wisps of white steam trailing from their funnels."
*August 1865, on visit of the French fleet
*July 1867, held for Abd-ul-Aziz, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and his Viceroy of Egypt, Ismail of Egypt. For the first time every ship flew the White Ensign, after the dissolution of the old Red, White and Blue Squadrons. New designs were the five-masted HMS "Minotaur" with her powerful broadside, and the graceful 14-knot ironclad sister-ships HMS "Warrior" and HMS "Black Prince".
*May/June 1876, for the visit of Nasser-al-Din Shah(1848–1896), the Shah of Persia
*August 1878, of the reserve squadron
*July 1887, Golden Jubilee. Notable for the appearance of a Nordenfelt submarine (though the first RN Submarine would be Holland 1 20 years later)
*August 1889, on the visit of Kaiser Wilhelm II and his Admiral von Tirpitz, a show of strength
*August 1891, on visit of the French fleet
*August 1896, on visit of MPs and Li Hung Chang
*June 1897, Diamond Jubilee, notable for being presided over by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) since she was too frail to attend in person, and for the appearance of the "Turbinia".
*August 1899, her last, notable for being presided over by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) since she was too frail to attend in person, and for the visit of the German Squadron.

20th century to present

Edward VII

*August 1902, Coronation Review, the first time in the modern era that a review was used to mark the coronation
*August 1905, visit of the French fleet
*August 1907, review of the reconstituted Home Fleet
*12 June 1909, review of Home Fleet and Atlantic Fleet, including HMS "Invincible"
*2 July 1909, Southend, including HMS "Invincible"

George V

*June 1911, Coronation Fleet Review. USS "Delaware" sailed 4 June from America and appeared at the review from 19 June to 28 June.
*May or July 1912, for Houses of Parliament, at Weymouth, featured the first take-off of a plane from a ship which was underway - on 4 May Commander Charles Samson became the first man to take off from a ship which was underway. He did this in a Short S27 biplane whilst HMS "Hibernia" steamed at 10.5 knots (19 km/h).
*July 1914, fleet mobilisation for World War I. No fewer than 59 battleships and 17 seaplanes
*1919, at Southend, to mark the end of World War I
*July 1924, including HMS "Warspite"
*16 July 1935, Silver Jubilee160 warships including HMS "Revenge". D L Davenport, at the time a young cadet serving on board HMS "Iron Duke" (he later went onto a successful naval career, eventually reaching the rank of Rear Admiral), noted his impressions of this event in his diary:

:“Turned out at 0545 and scrubbed focsle…after breakfast we gave all the brightwork a final polish and generally cleaned up… after lunch we fell in on deck ... All the ships with saluting guns fired a royal salute of 21 guns the noise was not as bad as we were led to expect. But the smoke screened most of the ships for some minutes… After tea ‘Clean Lower Deck’ was sounded and we had to fall in for manning ship my position on Y Turret grid on the Quarter Deck was an excellent one as we could see the yacht approaching… as the V&A approached the band played ‘God Save the King’ and the guard presented arms in the Royal Salute. When the King was halfway past we gave 3 cheers. You could just see the King on the Bridge, Saluting …About ½ hour later we fell in again as he passed the other side.:After supper we watched the illuminations… after half hour all the lights were turned off and red flares were lit on deck, each held by a sailor at the guardrail. These did not look very good except for the first few seconds… the ships remained illuminated for the rest of the time until midnight... We turned in about 2345 very tired.

George VI

*Thursday May 20 1937 - Coronation Fleet Review. [http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/Quarters/6680/ External link] After the small beginnings of naval airpower at the 1912 review, five carriers were present this time.

Described by one naval officer in a letter to a friend - :"The day was quite as bad as I feared but my sisters are insistent that they enjoyed it all"

It was also the occasion of the infamous "Woodrooffe Incident" [http://uffish.net/archives/000327.html] [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,847864,00.html] in the BBC Radio coverage (known by the phrase 'The Fleet's Lit Up!')

HMY "Victoria and Albert III" took part in this review, her second and last before being scrapped in 1939.

The sole U.S. Navy representative was USS "New York", which had brought Admiral Hugh Rodman, the President's personal representative for the coronation, across the Atlantic.

*9 August 1939, including HMS "Revenge"
*May 1944, in secret, of the D-Day invasion fleet - also, ironically, the largest review to date (800 vessels, ranging from capital vessels to small minesweeper and landing craft).

Elizabeth II

15 June 1953, Coronation Fleet Review, coronation of Elizabeth II ( [http://daveg4otu.tripod.com/nos11.html] ). The first post-war review, here could be seen the ongoing technical innovations the war had produced ( [http://battleshiphmsvanguard.homestead.com/files/Anchorage.jpgPlan of the ships at anchor] ).

One row consisted largely of Battle class destroyers, many of which were withdrawn soon after:

*HMS "Finisterre"
*HMS "St. James"
HMS "Cadiz"
HMS "Solebay"
HMS "Corunna"
HMS "Aisne"
HMS "Barrosa"
HMS "Agincourt"
HMS "Camperdown"
HMS "St. Kitts"
HMS "Barfleur"
HMS "Crossbow"

Also present were HMS "Caistor Castle", representing the Reserve Fleet, and HMS "Carisbrooke Castle". May 1957 Review of the fleet off Invergordon Scotland.
*1965, partial review at the Tail of the Bank on Firth of Clyde
*May 1969 Elizabeth II - NATO review (NATO's 20th anniversary), Spithead - British contingent included HMS "Phoebe" and HMS "Dido"
*June 1977, Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II. HMS "Blake" and HMS "Tiger" both appeared.

Many Leander class frigates took part - HMS "Cleopatra" (positioned in the middle of HM ships "Zulu" and "Arethusa"), "Danae", HMS "Euryalus", HMS "Apollo", HMS "Phoebe", HMS "Hermione", HMS "Ariadne", HMS "Charybdis", HMS "Naiad", HMS "Arethusa", HMS "Scylla", HMS "Berwick", HMS "Andromeda", HMS "Galatea", HMS "Jupiter" and HMS "Diomede".

Also present were HMS "Antelope", HMS "Tartar" and HMS "Torquay" ( [http://battleshiphmsvanguard.homestead.com/files/SilverJubilee77Chart.jpgPlan of ships involved] ).

USS "California" represented the US Navy.
*1994 - D-Day 50th anniversary, including HMS "Edinburgh"
*1999 - Commemoration of Battle of the Atlantic anniversary, HMS "Cornwall" as flagship of the event
*28 June 2005, International Fleet Review for Trafalgar 200, also held in lieu of the 2002 Golden Jubilee Review, which was cancelled on cost grounds

External links

* [http://www.royalnavalmuseum.org/OnlineExhibitionFleetReviews.htm Online exhibition] and [http://www.royalnavalmuseum.org/info_sheets_fleet_reviews.htm Information sheet] at Royal Naval Museum
* [http://battleshiphmsvanguard.homestead.com/PastReviews.html Past Reviews]

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