Royal Naval Museum


Frequently Asked Questions of the 20th Century Gallery

1. When was the rum ration abolished?
2. Who is the current First Sea Lord?
3. When and where was the battle of Jutland?
4. Why was Jutland indecisive?
5. What was the first purpose-built aircraft carrier?
6. What is a review of the fleet and how many have there been in twentieth century?
7. What was the battle of the Atlantic?
8. When were the WRNS formed?
9. When were women allowed to serve at sea?
10. What was the name of the naval part of the D-Day landings?

11. Why is the letter R used to indicate aircraft carrier pennant numbers?

1. The rum ration for officers was abolished back in 1881, but was continued for lower ratings until 31st July 1970. However, on certain special occasions, at the express order of the Sovereign, rum can still be issued to the crew.

2. The current First Sea Lord is Admiral Sir Jonathan Band KCB, ADC

3. The battle of Jutland took place in the North Sea west of Denmark off the Jutland peninsula on 31st May - 1st June 1916

4. Through out the build up of arms on both sides prior to the First World War, there was an expectation of a major high seas battle. Germany, in particular, wanted to end the dominance of Britain’s navy and Britain expected another decisive victory like that of Trafalgar over a hundred years before to maintain their supremacy. However, in the end, both countries claimed victory. During the battle itself, Britain lost far more ships and men than Germany, losing 14 ships and 6000 men against 11 ships and 2500 men, for which Germany claimed a material victory. However, Britain claimed a longer term victory as the German High Seas Fleet never emerged again to challenge the British navy and German naval tactics were concentrated on U-boat warfare and blockade, which underlined British naval dominance in the North Sea.

5. There are two schools of thought in regard to what constitutes the first purpose built aircraft carrier. Firstly, there is HMS Ark Royal  which was purchased as a mercantile hull but so extensive was the work carried out on it to make it into an aircraft carrier that it was practically a complete construction. Alternatively, the other school of thought is that HMS Hermes was "designed, ordered, laid down and launched" as an aircraft carrier in 1917-1919 that takes the honour.

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6. Reviews of the fleet have taken place usually as a special celebration for the monarch e.g. coronation or anniversary. Most of the reviews that have taken place in the twentieth century have been held at Spithead although a combined NATO fleet review took place at the Clyde in 1965. There have been 12 reviews in the twentieth century, the first taking place in 1909 for King Edward VII and the last in 1977 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s silver jubilee. However, as part of the Bi-centenary celebrations for Trafalgar in 2005, a special International Review of the Fleet took place. There have been three partial reviews on the presentation of the Queen's Colour.

7.This was the name given to one of the major campaign during the Second World War. Principally, it was the campaign by Germany’s submarines to starve Britain by breaking of her major supply lines. It was a long, hard fought campaign that was not really decisive until the Autumn of 1943, with both sides losing many ships and men.

8. The Women’s Royal Naval Service was first formed in November1917 under the direction of Dame Katherine Furse. The purpose was to substitute women in naval administrative and shore roles so that the men could serve at sea. The WRNS recruited 6000 women to undertake a variety of tasks. It was disbanded in October 1919. As part of the planning for the Second World War, the WRNS was resurrected, this time under the auspices of Mrs Vera Laughton Mathews. This time, 74,000 women were in service by 1944 taking on over 200 different jobs in the navy, serving overseas and in other branches. As a reward for valuable service, the WRNS was made a permanent service in 1949. It was not until 1977 that the service became subject to the Naval Discipline Act and in 1993 it was finally disbanded as a separate service with full integration into the Royal Navy.

More information on this subject can be found in the information sheet on Womens Royal Naval Service

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9. Women started serving at sea in 1994 and currently make up at least one third of every ship’s crew. The only branch that remains closed to women is the Submarine Service.

10. Operation Neptune was the name of the naval part of the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944. This operation planned for the transportation, protection and support of the land assault forces on the beaches. It was only one part of the whole operation whose overall title was Operation Overlord.

11. There is no significance in the use of the letter R in the pennant numbers for aircraft carriers. If it was possible to use a letter that corresponded to the ship type then it was pure co-incidence, but there was no reason that the letter should be significant. When R was introduced, the letter A was being used for Auxiliary vessels and C was being used for cruisers, but N for minelayers, P for small war vessels, V for aircraft and W for boats have no significance to the ship type.

If you have any further questions about other aspects of naval history int he twentieth century, why not see our research collections pages

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