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Royal Navy

Introduction

The Royal Navy is the oldest of the British armed services. From the early 18th century to the middle of the 20th century, it was the largest and most powerful navy in the world, playing an instrumental role in establishing Britiain as a leading world power.

Although perhaps not so obviously associated with the Royal Navy as Portsmouth, Plymouth or Chatham, East Anglia does have numerous Naval connections. 


It was the mid 17th century Dutch Wars that fully established the East of England’s links with the Royal Navy.  Many of the Royal Navy’s ships were built in Woodbridge and Harwich in Essex. The 17th century Mayor of Harwich, Sir Anthony Deane, trained as a shipbuilder and went on to write important Naval texts such as ‘Doctrine of Naval Architecture’. He and his patron Samuel Pepys became MPs for Harwich and went on to have imortant Naval careers.
This period also saw two important battles fought in our waters, the Battle of Lowestoft (1665), which remains the worst naval defeat in Dutch history, and the Battle of Solebay (1672).

 

With the importance of the fishing industry and our long coastline the East of England has always acted as a nursery for great seamen.  The 18th century was no exception and produced great Naval leaders and seamen such as Horatio Nelson, the Parkers of Melford Hall, Captain Vancouver of King’s Lynn, Philip Vere Broke of Ipswich and William Fisher of Yarmouth.

 

The fleets which fought at the Battle of Camperdown (1797) and Copenhagen (1801) sailed from Yarmouth waters.

Admiral Duncan returned to a heroes welcome after his victory at Camperdown against the Dutch Navy led by Admiral De Winter. Letters written by Admiral Duncan reveal a great level of professional respect between the two Admirals and it was said that Duncan and his Dutch captive De Winter were seen walking together on the streets of Great Yarmouth. The two men would certainly have appeared conspicuous characters in Yarmouth, both being exceptionally tall men for their time, standing 6ft 4 inches and 6ft 2ins respectively. 

 

In 1915 Yarmouth and Lowestoft  received visits from German battle-cruisers and during World War II the East Coast convoys, the lifeblood of London, were dependant on the protection from minesweepers, motor gun boats and torpedo boats based at Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Harwich backed by destroyers from the Nore in the Thames estuary.

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