If you wish to serve your country as a commander of any force,
great or small, you must nourish yourself with study.
Commodore Goodenough
1871

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The Development Of Naval Education

In early days when the King went to war, he commandeered merchant ships, built castles on them, filled the castles with soldiers, and was ready for sea. The merchant seamen who had manned the ship in peace continued to sail it in war, but the soldiers did the fighting. Sailing a ship was scarcely a reputable occupation for gentlemen. Soldiering was. The importation of big guns into ships, however, put the soldiers out of business. The men who sailed the ship began to work the guns and, by the time of James I, the soldiers in ships had passed away. But the captains and officers of ships were still established gentlemen. When the Elizabethan Fleet sailed to meet the Armada, Drake, the seaman, did not command it. Howard of Effingham, the gentleman, did so. It was the same all down the line. The tarpaulins sailed the ships, while the young bloods officered it. The gentlemen were not seamen and the seamen were not gentlemen.

The gentlemen, however, must be taught their profession. Influence was the best passport to the quarterdeck and many reached it without knowledge. Samuel Pepys was the first to attempt a reform of their deficiencies. Charles II and his brother, James, Duke of York, had made sea service respectable and it became the fashion for well-born youth to officer the King's ships. But they did not condescend to learn seamanship, although not averse to drawing their pay. In 1677 it was ordained that every candidate for the post of Lieutenant must have served three years at sea, at least one year as a midshipman, produce a certificate of sobriety, diligence and obedience from their Captain and pass an examination in navigation and seamanship it the Navy Office. The latter weeded out the incompetent. "Thank God", Pepys wrote in the following year, "'we have not half the throng of those of the bastard breed pressing for employment which we heretofore used to be troubled with, they being conscious of their inability to pass this examination".

The examination in navigation could not be passed by intuition and influence alone. Instruction was required. The only man aboard who could give it was generally the Chaplain. His position at this time was not high one, although he had just been elevated from his former rating with the ordinary seamen to the status of a Warrant Officer. But in education he outshone the ship's officers. So he probably gave the necessary instruction, although, owing to an oversight of authority he had to give it free. It was another quarter of a century before payment for teaching the young gentlemen was finalized. It was the practice for Admirals and Captains to enter their own officers, and their protégés were borne in the ship's books as part of their retinue, generally as Captain's servants. These young gentlemen, called volunteers, chased X with the chaplain or a poor but educated relation who might be specially embarked for the purpose. These early schoolmasters were paid as ordinary midshipmen and sometimes received a private allowance out of the funds provided by the parents of the volunteers. Particularly in small ships, this pittance failed to produce proper pedagogues. So in 1702, an Order in Council of Queen Anne permitted the payment from public funds of bounty of £20 a year, besides the pay of an ordinary midshipman to "ingenious parsons who should enter themselves on board Her Majesty's Ships of the 3rd, 4th and 5th rate to instruct the Youths in the art of seamanship", The test of ingenuity was made by the Master and Brethren of Trinity House. The schoolmaster's function was "to employ his time on board in instructing the volunteers in writing, arithmetic and the study of navigation, and in whatsoever may contribute to render them artists in that science". The scope of the instruction extended further however than the potential officers. He was also "to teach the other youths of the ship." "He is to be early every morning at the place of teaching and to represent the names of such as are idle, or averse to learning, to the Commander, in order to his taking course for their correction.

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