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The Navy League, the Rising Generation and the First World War

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Histories, Memories and Representations of being Young in the First World War
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Abstract

The Navy League (founded 1894−95) regarded the cultivation of ‘sea-mindedness’, including among children, as one of its most important fields of propaganda and activity. The League’s work with children and young people was manifested in several ways: the establishment of ‘training ships’ for working-class boys, the formation of branches at public schools, and the dispatch of its famous wall map to board schools. In combination, these endeavours contributed to the increase in ‘militaristic’ associational culture before the First World War. Press coverage of and public responses to the Navy League’s work with children attracted both support and criticism. For despite outward appearances—uniforms, ranks and naval culture—the Navy League’s ‘sea cadets’ remained civilians and members of a voluntary organisation. Yet, during the First World War, older boys were increasingly likely to see combat and the Navy League published stories about the heroism of former Sea Cadets and boy sailors. These sat alongside a more ambiguous assessment by navalists of the success of their movement in inculcating sea-mindedness among the civilian population. Perceived failure in the latter led the Navy League to focus almost all of its energies at the end of the war on the ‘rising generation’.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    W. Mark Hamilton, ‘The Nation and the Navy: Methods and Organization of British Navalist Propaganda, 1889–1914’, PhD, University of London (1977).

  2. 2.

    Cheshire Observer, 21 December 1907.

  3. 3.

    Navy League Journal, no. 23 (May 1897), pp. 1–2.

  4. 4.

    Stephanie Olsen, Juvenile Nation: Youth, Emotions and the Making of the Modern British Citizen, 18801914 (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014), pp. 54, 137, 165.

  5. 5.

    Anne Summers, ‘Militarism in Britain before the Great War’, History Workshop Journal, 21 (1976), pp. 104–123; John Springhall, Youth, Empire and Society: British Youth Movements, 18831940 (London: Croom Helm, 1977); Michael Rosenthal, The Character Factory: Baden-Powell and the Origins of the Boy Scout Movement (London: Collins, 1986); Allen Warren, ‘Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the Scout Movement and Citizen Training in Great Britain, 1900–1920’, English Historical Review, 101, 399 (1986), pp. 376–398; Robert H. MacDonald, Sons of the Empire: The Frontier and the Boy Scout Movement, 18901918 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993).

  6. 6.

    Morning Post, 14 July 1896; Marianne Czisnik, ‘Commemorating Trafalgar: Public Celebration and National Identity’, in David Cannadine (ed.), Trafalgar in History: A Battle and its Afterlife (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), pp. 139–154.

  7. 7.

    See, Evening Express, 20 October 1900; Evening Express, 21 October 1905.

  8. 8.

    For contrasting view on the receptiveness of the public to such propaganda see John C. Mitcham, Race and Imperial Defence in the British World, 18701914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016).

  9. 9.

    House of Commons Debates, 31 July 1907, vol. 179, cols 987.

  10. 10.

    Arthur J. Marder, The Anatomy of British Sea Power: A History of British Naval Policy in the Pre-Dreadnought Era, 18801905 (London: Frank Cass, 1972), p. 55.

  11. 11.

    Adrian Gregory, The Last Great War: British Society and the First World War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), pp. 9–39.

  12. 12.

    Matthew Johnson, Militarism and the British Left, 19021914 (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013), pp. 66–89; N.C. Fleming, Britannia’s Zealots, Volume I: Tradition, Empire and the Forging of the Conservative Right (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2009), pp. 55–56.

  13. 13.

    W. Mark Hamilton, ‘The “New Navalism” and the British Navy League, 1895–1914’, Mariner’s Mirror, 64, 1 (1978), p. 38.

  14. 14.

    N.C. Fleming, ‘Imperial Maritime League: British Navalism, Conflict, and the Radical Right, c. 1907–1920’, War in History, 23, 3 (2016), pp. 296–322.

  15. 15.

    Wyatt and Horton-Smith, circular to Navy League membership, 22 June 1907, L.G.H. Horton-Smith Papers, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, HSM/8.

  16. 16.

    Junior Branch, Imperial Maritime League: First Annual Report: 1 January 1909–31 December 1909, Lionel Horton-Smith Papers (HSM), National Maritime Museum, Greenwich; Hamilton, ‘New Navalism’, p. 124.

  17. 17.

    Navy, 19, 5 (May 1914), pp. 134–135.

  18. 18.

    For example, see, Navy, 19, 3 (March 1914), pp. 60, 70. The Navy League’s enrolment of pupils at St Andrews School for Girls, after one of Knox’s lectures, was afterwards raised in parliament on the mistaken belief that Knox worked for the Royal Navy, see, Courier and Argus, 20 March 1906; Looker-on, 29 May 1915.

  19. 19.

    Hamilton, ‘Nation and the Navy’, p. 173; Geoffrey Best, ‘Militarism and the Victorian Public School’, in Brian Simon and Ian Bradley (eds), The Victorian Public School: Studies in the Development of an Educational Institution (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1975), p. 130.

  20. 20.

    Aberdeen Daily Journal, 22 February 1906.

  21. 21.

    Best, ‘Militarism’, p. 130.

  22. 22.

    In 1908 the NL listed the following school branches: Bradfield College, Radley College; Tonbridge School; West Downs, Winchester; Ludgrove, New Barnet; Eastbourne College; Sedbergh School; Repton; St Christopher’s School, Eastbourne; St Aubyn’s School, Rottingdean; Cottesmore School, Brighton; Edmundsbury School, Eastbourne; Aberdeen Grammar School; Boxgrove School, Guildford; Gresham’s School, Holt; Castle Park, County Dublin; Windlesham House, Brighton; Northaw Place, Potter’s Bar; Connaught House School, Weymouth; Elstree School, Hertfordshire; Perse School, Cambridge; Wycombe Abbey School; Devonshire House, and Bexhill, NLJ (October 1908), p. iv.

  23. 23.

    Worcestershire Chronicle, 8 July 1899.

  24. 24.

    Royal Commission on the Militia and Volunteers: Minutes of Evidence, Volumes I and II (London: HSMO, 1904).

  25. 25.

    Hamilton, ‘Nation and Navy’, pp. 147–149; see, Liverpool Mercury, 20 December 1899.

  26. 26.

    Western Daily Press, 27 May 1902.

  27. 27.

    Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 6 September 1902.

  28. 28.

    Navy, 17, 2 (February 1912), p. 28.

  29. 29.

    Navy, 17, 1 (January 1910), p. 22; ibid., 17, 4 (April 1910), p. 107; ibid., 17, 8 (August 1910), p. 223.

  30. 30.

    Hamilton, ‘Nation and Navy’, p. 150.

  31. 31.

    Chester Courant and Advertiser for North Wales, 20 February 1901.

  32. 32.

    C. McL. McHardy, British Seamen, Boy Seamen and Light Dues (London: Navy League, 1899). See, correspondence between Arnold White and Lionel Yexley, 1902−03, Arnold White Papers, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, WHI/202. Alicia Percival merely attributes the origins of the Sea Cadets to the provision of training and not to anti-alien rhetoric, see, Alicia Percival, Youth Will be Led (London: Collins, 1951), p. 139.

  33. 33.

    Navy, 10, 10 (October 1905), pp. 243–244.

  34. 34.

    Navy, 11, 9 (September 1904), pp. 243–244.

  35. 35.

    Ibid., 11, 9 (September 1904), pp. 243–244. See also, ibid., 16, 5 (May 1909), pp. 132–135.

  36. 36.

    Penny Illustrated Paper, 3 December 1910.

  37. 37.

    Springhall, Youth, Empire and Society, p. 45.

  38. 38.

    Hamilton, ‘Nation and Navy’, p. 148.

  39. 39.

    Rosenthal, Character Factory, p. 281.

  40. 40.

    Mary A. Conley, From Jack Tar to Union Jack: Representing Naval Manhood in the British Empire, 18701918 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009); Christopher McKee, Sober Men and True: Sailor Lives in the Royal Navy, 19001945 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), pp. 1–12; Quintin Colville, ‘Enacted and Re-enacted in Life and Letters: the Identity of the Jack Tar, 1930 to Date’, Journal of Maritime Research, 18, 1 (2016), pp. 37–53.

  41. 41.

    Matthew S. Seligmann, Rum, Sodomy, Prayers and the Lash Revisited: Winston Churchill and Social Reform in the Royal Navy, 19001915 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), p. 14.

  42. 42.

    Ibid, p. 154.

  43. 43.

    British Seamen for British Ships (London: Navy League, 1900), pp. 1–3.

  44. 44.

    Michael Paris, Warrior Nation: Images of War in British Popular Culture, 1850–2000 (London: Reaktion, 2000), pp. 83–109; Olsen, Juvenile Nation, p. 27.

  45. 45.

    Anna Davin, Growing Up Poor: Home, School and Street in London 1870–1914 (London: Rivers Oram Press, 1996), p. 201.

  46. 46.

    Rosenthal, Character Factory, pp. 104–105.

  47. 47.

    Navy, 21 (March 1897); ibid., 18, 5 (May 1913), p. 136.

  48. 48.

    Rosie Kennedy, The Children’s War: Britain, 19141918 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), p. 91.

  49. 49.

    Olsen, Juvenile Nation, p. 21.

  50. 50.

    Robert Baden-Powell, Scouting for Boys (35th edition, London: Scout Association, 1991), pp. 56–60, 276.

  51. 51.

    For historiographical debate on Scouting and militarism see, MacDonald, Sons of the Empire, pp. 181–186.

  52. 52.

    The idea that the Royal Navy’s role in protecting free trade meant that it was a force for peace was promoted with particular enthusiasm by its supporters in the Liberal party, see Matthew Johnson, ‘The Liberal party and the Navy League in Britain before the Great War’, Twentieth Century British History, 22, 2 (2011), pp. 137–163.

  53. 53.

    Matthew Johnson, ‘Militarism in Britain? The Boy Scouts and the War Office before the Great War’, in Simon J. James (ed.), Books for Boys: Literacy, Nation and the First World War (Durham: Institute of Advanced Study, University of Durham, 2014), pp. 14–19.

  54. 54.

    Navy, 21, 11 (November 1916), p. 296; Springhall, Youth, Empire, and Society, p. 138.

  55. 55.

    Arthur Marwick, The Deluge: British Society and the First World War (London: Macmillan, 1965), p. 29; Navy, 19, 9 (September 1914), pp. 259–260; ibid., 19, 10 (October 1914), p. 268.

  56. 56.

    Navy, 19, 10 (October 1914), p. 294.

  57. 57.

    Navy, 19, 11 (November 1914), pp. 231–232; ibid., 19, 12 (December 1914), p. 344.

  58. 58.

    Kennedy, Children’s War, pp. 105–107.

  59. 59.

    Navy, 19, 9 (September 1914), pp. 251–252; ibid., 19, 12 (December 1914), p. 335.

  60. 60.

    See, Navy, 20, 3 (March 1915), p. 68; ibid., 20, 6 (June 1915), pp. 163, 170–171; ibid., 21, 4 (April 1916), p. 98; ibid., 20, 6 (June 1916), p. 160; ibid., 21, 2 (February 1916), p. 34; ibid., 21, 2 (February 1916), pp. 34–35; ibid., 21, 3 (March 1916), p. 64.

  61. 61.

    Ibid., 21, 9 (September 1916), p. 236.

  62. 62.

    Ibid., 20, 11 (November 1915), p. 335.

  63. 63.

    North Wales Chronicle and Advertiser for the Principality, 24 September 1915.

  64. 64.

    Scout Association, An Official History of Scouting (London: Hamlyn, 2006), pp. 53, 55.

  65. 65.

    Navy, 21, 10 (October 1916), p. 270.

  66. 66.

    Ibid., 21, 9 (September 1916), p. 242.

  67. 67.

    Ibid., 21, 9 (September 1916), p. 242.

  68. 68.

    Ibid., 21, 10 (October 1916), p. 262.

  69. 69.

    Ibid., 21, 9 (September 1916), p. 242.

  70. 70.

    Navy, 23, 5 (October 1918), p. 98.

  71. 71.

    Kennedy, The Children’s War, pp. 83–119.

  72. 72.

    Navy, 21, 11 (November 1916), p. 296.

  73. 73.

    Ibid., 20, 2 (February 1915), pp. 42–43.

  74. 74.

    Ibid., 20, 3 (March 1915), pp. 86–87.

  75. 75.

    House of Lords Debates, 23 November 1915, vol. 20 cols. 422–444.

  76. 76.

    J.L. Crutchley, ‘E is for Empire? Imperialism and British Public Elementary School Curricula, 1902–1931’, unpublished PhD, University of Worcester (2016), pp. 62–123.

  77. 77.

    Kennedy, Children’s War, pp. 120–154.

  78. 78.

    Jeff Bowersox, Raising Germans in the Age of Empire: Youth and Colonial Culture, 18711914 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 54–80.

  79. 79.

    Kennedy, Children’s War, pp. 120–154.

  80. 80.

    J.W. Winter, The Great War and the British People (2nd edition, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), p. 206.

  81. 81.

    Kennedy, Children’s War, p. 130.

  82. 82.

    Navy, 21, 11 (November 1916), p. 295.

  83. 83.

    Ibid., 21, 12 (December 1916), p. 305.

  84. 84.

    Ibid., 22, 5 (August 1917), pp. 112–113.

  85. 85.

    Ibid., 23, 5 (October 1918), p. 100; Arnold White, National Efficiency (London: Methuen, 1901).

  86. 86.

    Ibid., 23, 5 (October 1918), p. 96.

  87. 87.

    Ibid., 24, 5 (October 1919), pp. 118–119.

  88. 88.

    Ibid., 23, 3 (June 1919), p. 60.

  89. 89.

    Ibid., 24, 4 (August 1919), p. 108.

  90. 90.

    Ibid., 23, 3 (June 1919), pp. 64–67; Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard, 19 September 1919; Navy, 24, 5 (October 1919), p. 131.

  91. 91.

    Navy, 24, 4 (April 1919), p. 48.

  92. 92.

    Ibid., 23, 5 (October 1918), p. 98.

  93. 93.

    Ibid., 23, 5 (October 1918), p. 98.

  94. 94.

    Jim English, ‘Empire Day in Britain, 1904–1958’, Historical Journal, 49, 1 (2006), pp. 247–276; Navy, 24, 5 (October 1919), pp. 118–119.

  95. 95.

    Mark Connelly, The Great War, Memory and Ritual: Commemoration in the City and East London, 19161939 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2002), pp. 94–95.

  96. 96.

    Matthew C. Hendley, Organized Patriotism and the Crucible of War: Popular Imperialism in Britain, 19141932 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2012), pp. 3–10.

  97. 97.

    Duncan Redford, ‘Collective Security and Internal Dissent: The Navy League’s Attempts to Develop a New Policy towards British Naval Power between 1919 and the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty’, History, 96, 321 (2011), pp. 48–67.

  98. 98.

    The Times, 13 May 1976.

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Fleming, N.C. (2020). The Navy League, the Rising Generation and the First World War. In: Andrews, M., Fleming, N.C., Morris, M. (eds) Histories, Memories and Representations of being Young in the First World War. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-49939-6_6

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