Exeter Conference 18/20 September 2009
[Owing to lack of space, this report was not included in the printed SWS.]
Many SWMH members attended the superb 3-day conference in honour of Mike Duffy held at the University of Exeter on the 18/20 September, and the following is a brief synopsis of the matters discussed. The conference attracted some 153 attendees from at home and abroad and the support given by SWMH was mentioned on a number of occasions.
The Conference opened on the topic of SHIPBOARD HIERARCHIES with Gareth Cole who successfully completed his PhD under Mike Duffy looking at Who has command? The Royal Artillery aboard Royal Navy vessels, 1793-1815. His paper examined the relationships between Royal Navy commanders and the Royal Artillerymen that served on board their vessels. The commanders were meant to be the sole authority on board the ships. However, this authority was challenged by the artillerymen who had their own, separate, chain of command. This was because, ultimately, the artillerymen took their orders from the Master General of the Ordnance who was not part of the naval chain and, indeed, was not answerable to anyone in the naval hierarchy. At times, this meant that different orders could reach the commanders of RN vessels and the artillerymen. The main crisis points in this interaction were the various bomb vessels serving in the Royal Navy. Until the formation of the Royal Marine Artillery (RMA), itself a direct consequence of this command problem, the mortars were served by members of the Royal Artillery who frequently saw themselves as outside of navy control and command. This led to numerous complaints and directly challenged the authority of the bomb vessels' commanders. In identifying this problem the paper outlined the two command structures and the attempts that were made to rectify the command and control issues. In addition, it examined the victualling of Royal Artillery officers and men on board warships and also their position on merchantmen. His PhD thesis had been The Office of Ordnance and the Arming of the Fleet in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1793-1815.
Kate Hamblin was due to talk on Officer, Engineer, Professional, Trade Unionist: A century of Marine Engineer Officers and their organization in Britain, France and Germany, 1860-1960 which would have explored the identity of the sea-going Marine Engineers of the British Merchant Navy, but sadly due to ill-health she had to withdraw at the last moment, and we will look forward to hearing this hopefully on a future occasion.
Britt Zerb bravely stood in her stead and spoke lucidly on Marine Officers on naval vessels. The Marines had been founded in 1664 when a Maritime Regiment was founded, but generally the majority of fighting men of that discipline were army regiments serving aboard, where differences in control and authority caused problems, given the Navy Board had no authority over the Army. The Marines were founded by the interest of Admiral Anson and Major Patterson who wished to see a joint involvement under Navbal Discipline, and as a result a Corps of Marines was founded in April 1755. A Regiment of army personnel was ‘owned’ by its colonel and consisted of up to two battalions. A Corps was of indeterminate size with a direct command structure. Three Divisions were formed at Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth and in 1771 a colonel-commandant took overall responsibility for the Marines both in discipline and instructions. It was interesting to learn the first task of marines was to form a group of armed men between the officers and sailors and to prevent mutiny and desertions. Marines were however subject to harsher discipline than sailors. The change resulted in the Captain of a ship being in command of both his sailors and the marines, where previously he had no jurisdiction over army soldiers. The ranks within the marines led to ambiguity as a Captain in the marines was equivalent in rank to a Lieutenant in the Navy. Although the Navy looked down on marine officers they had the right to eat in the wardroom and special quarters for the marine officers were constructed aboard ship from 1755. The practice in the army of being able to purchase ranks was abolished for the marines where promotion depended upon service and qualification. The aristocrats continued to join the army or navy but the marines were composed of men from middle class merchant and tradesmen families, but later sons of marines and officers joined in increasing numbers. albeit there was a great deal of interchange between the Marines and the army, although all army officers had to enter the marines as 2nd Lts. Marines started to integrate with the Navy and following the Battle of Belle Isle, Admiral Keppel was told off for failing to report on the bravery of the marines under his command, but Keppel had assumed it was not in his control. Nelson saw the marine officers as very much equals and occupied places as such. Marines were discouraged from becoming seamen and were set very much apart as an elite. Once the units became the Royal Marines in 1803 the first Squadron to be fully manned by Marines was the Channel Squadron. Previously the marines had been disbanded after every war but after 1803 and the formation of the Royal Marines they became a standing organisation and were no longer disbanded, serving in both peace and war. An interesting aside was that until 1802 no catholics were allowed to serve in the marines.
Roger Morriss then spoke on High exertions and difficult cases. The work of the Transport agent in Portsmouth and Southampton, 1795-7. This was an account of the work of the agent for transports at Portsmouth and Southampton at the time of the Abercromby-Christian expedition based on his letters. It showed how the efforts of one minor official helped to transform the chaos of large scale troop embarkations, shipping shortages and destructive storms into relative order. Roger indicated how the state's new transport service was developing, at a point half way between the American War of Independence and the War of 1812. Roger Morriss did his Ph.D. thesis on Britain's Royal dockyards during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars which was revised and published as a book in 1983.
Sam Willis then produced a talk on Command in Crisis: Shipwreck and Mutiny which explored what the study of mutiny and shipwreck can tell us about command. Personally I found his delivery somewhat disjointed and disappointing. He focused on the problems faced by historians of interpreting the evidence from shipwreck and mutiny as they are always so loaded with personal and political agenda which distorts the evidence.
We then adjourned to a delightful wine reception hosted by the University.
On Saturday, 19th September 2009 the first session was chaired by Roger Knight who introduced Mike Duffy: The Exeter Years - surely a title for a film- watch out for the sequel!!.
The Principal topic for this part of the Conference was OFFICER MANAGEMENT & TRAINING, and we then heard Mary Jones, Towards a Hierarchy of Management : The Victorian and Edwardian Navy , 1860 - 1918, which looked at the changes in officer management in the Royal Navy during this period which marked the transformation of the Service from the old sailing Navy into the new battleship Navy. It traced the nature of those changes and provided brief case studies and relevant instances to illustrate the effects of those changes on crew management and argued the need for increased professional expertise on the part of officers in the growing battleship New Navy, which led to a rigid hierarchical structure which although stultifying to officers, provided for a more generally peaceful and contentedly obedient crew.
Duncan Redford then spoke on Hierarchies of the Modern Navy at how hierarchies and branch cultures were created and viewed within the structure of the modern Royal Navy. Based on his experiences at Britannia Royal Naval College, the Royal Naval Engineering College, Manadon, and service on surface ships, and submarines between 1991 and 2001. This was a particularly humorous approach whilst making an important point on the different interests of the Surface Ship officer, the supply and secretariat and the submariner! He presented an insider's view of naval hierarchies, and discussed the training officers received and the relationship between training (or primary education) and a wider, but still professionally focused, secondary training. He spoke on the various sub-cultures within the Royal Navy and how these various hierarchies — engineering, supply, executive, surface, submarine and aviation - viewed each other. In this way he illuminated the complexities of the more modern Royal Navy.
Elinor Romans thereafter discussed Boat work for Royal Navy midshipmen c1919-39. The handling of small craft under power, sail or oar was viewed as an essential part of interwar officer training, teaching both seamanship and leadership. It was expected that midshipmen would spend many hours crewing or commanding small craft both for sport and for practical purposes such as the transport of men and supplies. The role of boat work in leadership training has been emphasised by the writers of biographies and autobiographies and to some extent historians. This paper explored the true role of boat work in the training of Royal Navy midshipmen between 1919 and 1939, and investigated what role rowing, sailing and powered boats were expected to play in teaching young officers leadership. The paper also discussed the role of boat work in midshipmen's training prior to 1919 and other ways in which leadership was imparted to midshipmen.
Mike Farquarson-Roberts gave a superb lecture entitled Forgotten or ignored, the Officers at Invergordon; 'We are doing this for you as well you know', considering the Invergordon Mutiny of 1931 which had far reaching effects beyond the Royal Navy. The mutiny itself was more a lower deck strike than an insurrection, but the role of the Officers has received very little attention. The indications are that the junior and middle ranking officers, while far from being mutinous, were themselves very unhappy, and with low morale arising from repeated pay cuts, redundancy programmes, diminishing promotion prospects and denial of the marriage allowance given to RN ratings and personnel of the other two Services.
The topic then turned to LEADERSHIP and Peter Ward spoke on Admiral Rainer's Management Challenges. Admiral Rainier commanded the East Indies Station for 11 years, rising in rank from commodore to vice admiral of the red. The distance from Britain and the enormous size of his command (stretching from China to Malaysia and to Australia and New Zealand) gave the admiral unique challenges during this period, one when he was predominantly at war. His leadership skills were demonstrated through two major channels - the East India Company and the Royal Navy. Remoteness of the station meant that Rainier could not operate without the sophistication of the East India Company's resources. In dealing with its officials he had to show that extra level of leadership; directing the action of those over whom he had no control. Rainer's squadron was never large, 22 vessels at its peak, but its captains had often to operate remotely, able to deal directly with a range of people from local tribal chiefs, senior Chinese government officials, to the governor general of India, whose own objective was to take control of the navy. Rainier had to maintain the efficiency and motivation of his captains through the dreary task of trade protection with only the slightest hope of ship to ship action. How Rainier managed to instil his own values and objectives, to use his enormous powers of patronage over promotions, to motivate those over whom he had no direct command, surely the height of leadership, was examined.
We then had a presentation from an eminent Spanish maritime historian, Agustin Guimerá, who spoke on Leadership versus command in XVIIIth Century European Warships: Admirals Mazarredo and Jervis in Comparison. He explained the modern concept of leadership is putting the emphasis on the values of the leader as the key to understand his behaviour. His influence, control and efficiency are subordinated to this aspect. A leader must have social values and visions, which are pointing to a horizon of reasonable modernisation and welfare for all society. That is the real difference between a leader and a simple military commander.
After doing a correct diagnostic of situation, after clarifying social values, the leader is orientating and mobilising all people to adapt themselves to the new challenges and problems, to learn new and sometimes painful methods to solve them, to innovate and pay a price for these radical changes. He also is giving them power and autonomy to work on the conflicts and their solutions, sharing social responsibility and social participation. This talk was a comparative study of two outstanding admirals, particularly on the relations with their subordinates: teniente general Jose de Mazarredo (1745-1812), the best admiral of Bourbon Spain; and admiral John Jervis (1735-1823), a remarkable naval figure of the Royal Navy. It explored their ideas and practice in the command of the fleets, their relations with their officers and crews, mainly during the British blockade of Cadiz (1797-1799).
Stephanie Jones and Jonathan Gosling then brought the day to a conclusion with a presentation on Inspirational Leadership: Nelson's way of crew management exploring on what basis did crews judge authority to be legitimate or illegitimate? How did Nelson exemplify legitimate leadership in an extraordinary way? How did he inaugurate a new, inspirational, more messianic and romantic approach to leadership? In three ways:
- Inspiration as being a winner: Inspirational leadership was seen by the crew, as an attractive option through his reputation for winning battles. After months or years at sea they could win prize money and go home!
- Inspiration as being one of the boys: Inspirational leadership also came from Nelson's ability to be seen as more caring and supportive than most. He could arrange better food, lime juice, pensions, effectively managing the Admiralty supply systems. His sense of being `one of the boys', and sticking up for the crew, was linked to his willingness to sacrifice himself personally for the cause.
- Inspiration as being a celebrity: The building of the iconic, heroic image of Nelson wounded in battle, his well-developed personal reputation and the word-of-mouth creation of the legend can be linked to the start of mass-production industries producing Nelson memorabilia (or 'tar); this relates to the concept of romanticism and the emotional hero, counter to the rationalism that underpinned modernism and the industrial revolution.
That evening we sat down to a grand dinner in honour of Mike and Christine Duffy to celebrate his 40 years in his post at Exeter. A welcome was given by the Vice Chancellor, Mark Overton to which Sarah Palmer from Greenwich University responded and toasted Mike and his wife. Mike Duffy then responded with a powerful speech calling on closer cooperation between the University and bodies such as SWMH for the future.
On Sunday, 20th September 2009 the principal topic was CREW MANAGEMENT AND TRAINING and was opened by Andrew Little speaking on Foreign NCOs in the Dutch navy, 1642-97, using evidence assembled from unique seventeenth century naval payroll series, his paper examined aspects of British and other foreign personnel in the crews of the Dutch navy, 1642-97. British personnel were, of course, enemy subjects during the Anglo-Dutch Wars, as were - at various points - French and Southern Netherlanders also. Though foreigners in general rose only exceptionally to commissioned rank, very many were NCOs: foreigners did not comprise large numbers of warrant officers, but did form a very large proportion of petty officers. Background factors such as wage differentials (especially in the real wage) with other maritime employment options were sketched, but the paper looked primarily at the promotion and preferment of foreigners to Dutch petty officer rank, compared to trends in their overall numbers, in various episodes within the period. Special attention is paid (through micro-case studies) to developments within the crews of particular commanders and/or warships over time. The various different nationalities of foreigners are compared with Dutch personnel and the most common ranking positions held by foreigners ascertained and discussed. In a fully international maritime labour market, it seems the nationality of personnel was relatively unimportant: foreign personnel were able to access rank and promotion in the Dutch navy relatively easily - at least to the rank of petty officer; Dutch seamen were supervised routinely by foreign personnel and often even by enemy subjects; these foreigners were in often in charge of central functions aboard Dutch warships.
Oliver Walton then looked at New kinds of discipline: The Royal Navy in the second half of the nineteenth century, and assessed the impact of disciplinary changes in the Royal Navy in the second half of the nineteenth century upon the challenges of command and upon the reasons why crew obeyed. Centralised reforms may have addressed many aspects of authority and obedience, but created unforeseen tensions between centre and periphery, system and expediency, responsibility and control. In the 1860s the Admiralty constructed from the ground upwards a new disciplinary system. The last vestiges of the old system were removed in 1871 with the suspension of flogging. The paper examined the significance of the end of corporal punishment and the nature and effectiveness of those sanctions which replaced it. A second important aspect of the changes was the codification of naval law, in defining both offences and punishments. The third facet was the extension of bureaucratic surveillance which allowed the Admiralty to monitor the performance of both officers and men. The paper offered a critique of these reforms, and the extent to which they supported or undermined captains in their management of their crews. This critique becomes important in the light of other changes. The Admiralty undertook welfarist reforms to address some of the longstanding concerns of seamen. The corporation built into the naval career incentives to the good behaviour and obedience. Changes in the navy's social structure altered the parameters of discipline. A social gap opened up between the officer corps and the lower deck, inhibiting effective communication of grievances. A new police service was created. Meanwhile, the technocratic nature of the navy was reflected in growing numbers of distinct branches, each with its own identity and competence. Commanding officers had little say in these changes and had to do their best within the prescriptions of the disciplinary code. In exploring these issues, a range of sources will be used, including lower-deck diaries, court martial records and Admiralty correspondence. It was interesting in the questions it transpired that one of our members (not present) may have been the last boy at Dartmouth to be birched!!
The final morning sessions were on the subject of COMMAND IN BATTLE and was opened by Richard Harding, of the University of Westminster speaking on Neglect or Treason: Leadership Failure in the Mid-Eighteenth Century Royal Navy. This was a particularly good insight into the inter-relationship of command which could be used to assist any form of business - or dare I say government department - in the correct ways to look at business decisions. For naval historians the quality of leadership has been a key feature in the success of the Royal Navy. The narrative of eighteenth century navy is interspersed with clear examples of good and bad leadership to which operational success and failure are correlated. The explanation of victory in terms of the difference made by leadership remains as powerful today as it was to contemporaries. What is less studied and understood is how failure influenced contemporary opinions of the navy and naval power. This paper explored how the mid-eighteenth century public understood naval leadership failure and the impact this had on the politics of naval policy.
Andrew Lambert, of King's College, London then talked on Taking the "President": Command and Leadership in the War of 1812. On the 15th of January 1815 the American Frigate USS President was captured by the British frigate HMS Endymion, after a day-long pursuit in the Atlantic. The final frigate action of the War of 1812 saw the American naval hero Captain Stephen Decatur out-thought, out-sailed and out-fought by three British officers, and added the name President to the List of the Royal Navy. This paper presented the first archive based examination of the last Anglo-American frigate battle.
The closing afternoon sessions were under the title of POWER, AUTHORITY AND COMMUNICATIONS, with Helen Doe opening the proceedings with a talk on Who is in Charge? The Role of the Master and the Managing Owner in 19th century merchant shipping.
The role of the shipmaster is rightly seen as one of considerable responsibility. Before telegraphic communications he was in sole charge of the ship, the crew, passengers and cargo. He acted as the eyes and ears of the shipowners, acted as agent for them and under maritime law he had considerable power, even to sell the ship and/or the cargo should circumstances dictate. But such focus on the master ignores the reality of the role of the managing owners. Ralph Davis was one of the few historians to explore the complex relationship between the ship's husband or managing owner and the master of the ship. His well known summing up of the key task of the owner was 'the purchase of the right ship, the determination of what to do with it, the choice of master'. Yet this summary does not do justice to a role that increased in complexity and associated paperwork during the nineteenth century. The role of the managing owner on shore and that of the master at sea was fluid with a complicated balance between them and the various agents and authorities. Modem management theories relating to concepts of power and authority were considered together with a variety of sources such as accounts and correspondence. Examples were given of ship owners and managing owners in Teignmouth, Shoreham and Whitehaven.
The final discussion was led by Nicholas Rodger, Senior Research Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, taking us to the modern world of Command and Control in the Age of Electricity. It is only possible for senior officers to command squadrons if they can communicate with them. The invention of long-range electronic communications fundamentally changed the nature of naval warfare, but not automatically for the better. Cable and wireless genuinely revolutionised naval warfare, but he argued they were a source of weakness rather than strength to those who embraced more and faster signals without considering why they needed them. Nicholas is well-known for his work on the third volume of his Naval History of Britain, of which two volumes have been published already: The Safeguard of the Sea (1997) and The Command of the Ocean (2004).
This was a superb conference and one which I feel as many members as possible should attend in September 2010. SWMHSociety are strengthening our work with Exeter University bringing the ‘town and gown’ closer together and, as Mike Duffy stated, and his successor Dr. Maria Fusaro also confirmed, it will be good to see closer cooperation between the budding academics and we interested amateurs!! Mike Duffy, who has seen his Department achieve International acclaim, will be with Exeter University for the next year or so as Emeritus Professor, which means he will achieve even more!!
Reported by David Clement
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