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Royal Naval Air Service


In the early part of the 20th century the British Royal Navy used balloons and airships for reconnaissance. After the failure of the Royal Navy's airship Mayfly in 1911, the naval minister, Winston Churchill, began arguing for the development of military aircraft.

In 1912 the government formed the Royal Flying Corps. The British Navy was given the airships owned by the British Army. It was also given twelve aircraft to be used in conjunction with its ships. The first flight from a moving ship took place in May 1912. The following year, the first seaplane carrier, Hermes, was commissioned. The Navy also began to build a chain of coastal air stations.

In January 1914 the government established the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). Within a few months the RNAS had 217 pilots and 95 aircraft (55 of them seaplanes). One of the most successful seaplanes purchased by the RNAS was the Curtiss H-16, a craft produced by Glen Hammond Curtiss in the USA.

By the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, the RNAS had more aircraft under its control than the Royal Flying Corps. The main role of the RNAS was fleet reconnaissance, patrolling coasts for enemy ships and submarines, attacking enemy coastal territory and defending Britain from enemy air-raids. The leading war ace in the RNAS was Raymond Collishaw with 60 victories.

The RNAS was severely attacked for its failure to prevent the Zeppelin bombing raids. In February 1916 there was a change of policy and the Royal Flying Corps were given responsibility of dealing with Zeppelins once they were over Britain. The RNAS now concentrated on bombing Zeppelins on the ground in Germany.

The RNAS also had fighter squadrons on the Western Front. Popular aircraft with these pilots included the Bristol Scout, the Sopwith Pup and the Sopwith Camel.

When the RNAS had 67,000 officers and men, 2,949 aircraft, 103 airships and 126 coastal stations when it was decided to merge it with the Royal Flying Corps to form the Royal Air Force in April 1918.

When we were flying off the ships, we couldn't stay airborne for long because we'd run out of fuel - that was the trouble. People sometimes had to ditch their aircraft. I saw about seven ditchings. Sometimes the plane would be going up steeply, then it would stop and start going back and it would have no speed - no power. The wind was stronger than the power it had to go forward. In about twelve months they were able to overcome that with a lot more power.

We never ditched - fortunately - because if you ditched you were in big trouble. We never had any parachutes and we didn't have radio. We had pigeons which we carried in a basket - but I never had to use them. Some of our people who were adrift in the drink could be there for up to five days, and they used to let the pigeons go. They would fly back to the loft at the station, and a search party would be sent out to look for them. As a general rule, after five days of searching, they'd give up and the men were lost.

However, I met a fellow once who was on leave from the Halcyon; he was sitting beside me one afternoon by the River Dee, and he said how he'd been lucky. He'd ditched and they were about to give up looking for him when somebody thought they saw something - and sure enough, it was him. He was very lucky.

In those days you had an open cockpit and it was very cold. You had a leather jacket and a leather helmet, and you'd put Vaseline on your face, and you had gloves to protect you from frostbite. The standard issue was long johns and you had a thick shirt and a vest. Over the top of that you had a grey shirt and a tunic. Your working gear was a tunic with patch pockets, which was very useful and practical. Then you had a choice - you could have trews or you could wear britches and puttees [strips of cloth wound around the leg to form leggings], which took a while to put on. With regard to equipment, you didn't have gun mountings in the aircraft until about June of 1916. That was when we first got the Lewis gun. When I first got in the cockpit, it was my job to sit behind the pilot and defend the plane with two Lee Enfield Rifles.

Once Lewis guns were mounted on our planes, we had the problem of trying to shoot through the propeller. in the air, if you tried it, you'd just shoot the prop away. Then they developed the synchromesh gear with the engine, which synchronised the firing of the machine gun through the prop. It was amazing. We made rapid progress in the last three months of 1916, and from then on we didn't really look back. They gave us the Bristol, Sopwith, Handley Page and so on, and aircraft producers have made good progress from then on. In 1917, they started putting radios in the aircraft. They could send signals over forty miles, so the radio fellows told me, and they could receive signals over sixty. From then on we didn't need the pigeons.

From 26 April to 6 May 1917 flying over France, Captain Ball took part in 26 combats in the course of which he destroyed 11 hostile aircraft, brought down two out of control and forced several others to land. Flying alone, on one occasion he fought six hostile machines, twice he fought five and once four. When leading two other British planes he attacked an enemy formation of eight - on each of these occasions he brought down at least one enemy plane, and several times his plane was badly damaged. On returning with a damaged plane he had always to be restrained from immediately going out in another.


Royal Naval Air Service

Royal Naval Air Service. When the Royal Flying Corps was founded in 1912 it had a military and naval wing. The latter soon adopted the name Royal Naval Air Service, which was officially recognized in July 1914. It then possessed 39 aircraft, 52 seaplanes, and 7 airships. Their main responsibility was defence against submarines, including bombing of their bases, observation for the fleet, and coastal defence against Zeppelins. Seaplanes could be carried on cruisers, but not until August 1915 did an adapted seaplane take off from Campania and it was two years later that a seaplane relanded on its carrier. The RNAS was amalgamated with the RFC in 1918 to form the Royal Air Force. But the special requirements of the navy led to the creation of the Fleet Air Arm, jointly administered until 1937 when it was placed under naval control.

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Royal Flying Corps (RFC) / Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) / Royal Air Force (RAF)

British military aviation has its roots in the Royal Engineers, which established a balloon corps in 1908. In May 1912, the Royal Flying Corps was established with a military wing, which worked for the army a naval wing for operations with the fleet the Central Flying School for instructional purposes a repair depot called the Royal Aircraft Factory and a reserve.

A form of interservice rivalry developed almost at once between the military and naval wings, and shortly before the declaration of war, in the summer of 1914, the naval wing broke away to become the Royal Naval Air Service.

When war was declared, the RFC deployed with the British Expeditionary Force an aircraft park and four squadrons (Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5), each equipped with the entire mixed bag of aircraft then in the British inventory. After a series of moves necessitated by the initial British retreat, headquarters in France was established at Saint Omer, where it remained for most of the war. The first field commander of the RFC was Brigadier General David Henderson. Henderson would shortly return to England, though, leaving command in the field to Hugh Montague ‘Boom’ Trenchard.

Initially, each RFC unit acted as something of a self-contained air force, performing the complete range of activities, which at the time consisted primarily of reconnaissance duties with the occasional bombing mission. As the war progressed, the force grew in number, and by 1916 squadrons began to specialize either as fighter, bombing, or reconnaissance units, the latter role being further divided into photographic and artillery functions. As a consequence of specialization, the practice of units having a multiplicity of types was abandoned, and squadrons started to become known not only by their role but also by what type of equipment they possessed. Balloon companies using tethered observation balloons as artillery spotters began appearing in British service in 1915 and remained a fixture on the Western Front throughout the war.

Technological advances were rapid during the war, and keeping up with the enemy in the design and deployment of new types was a constant problem. The British sometimes suffered severely as a result. When the Germans were first to develop an interrupter gear — allowing a machine gun to fire through the propeller arc — the RFC found itself on the receiving end of the ‘Fokker scourge.’ During the spring of 1917 the problem reached a crisis. During the Battle of the Somme, the previous autumn, the Luftstreitkräfte (Air Service) had organized its single-seat fighter force into heterogeneous jagdstaffeln (fighter squadrons) and reequipped with the Albatros D.I and D.II. The type had been refined over the winter into the D.III.

The RFC, however, had lagged in the introduction of new types and went into the spring with the same complement of tired aircraft,mostly BE 2s that had been in use for the last two years. It paid a high price – the highest number of casualties in a single month it would suffer during its existence – a month that went down in history as ‘bloody April.’

Technological advantage was not the only factor in these losses doctrine also played a part. Throughout the war, Trenchard followed an offensive policy. This action has attracted its share of criticism, but faced with German occupation of the high ground and the insatiable intelligence needs of the army, often only satisfied by aerial reconnaissance, the RFC seems to have had little choice but to press on with what it had.

The situation improved over the summer of 1917 with the introduction of the Sopwith Camel, the SE 5/5a, the de Havilland D.H. 4, and the Bristol Fighter the SE 5/5a was the best design to emerge from the Royal Aircraft Factory during the war, the other three, of course, being the products of private firms. From that point on, technology remained fairly balanced, and casualties returned to a manageable level until spiking again in September 1918 following the German introduction of the BMW-powered Fokker D.VII.

The Royal Flying Corps did not operate exclusively on the Western Front, however. After some initial jurisdictional feuding with the RNAS, the RFC had assumed responsibility for the aerial home defense of Great Britain, thereafter regularly scrambling a hodgepodge of mostly second-line equipment in response to Zeppelin and Gotha attacks.

Outside of England and France, units also served in Egypt and Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Russia, providing support to British army operations in those theaters.

The Royal Naval Air Service mission was primarily, if not exclusively, the support of British maritime endeavors. This covered a wide range of activities, from antisubmarine patrols and general reconnaissance duties in connection with the fleet, to bombing missions against submarine pens and Zeppelin bases. To fulfill these missions, the RNAS developed a varied inventory that included floatplanes, flying boats, the first experimental torpedo-bombers, and lighter-than-air airships. Ships were also adapted to work with aircraft, leading to the balloon ship (which extended the effective range of vision of the group to which the balloon vessel was attached), the crane-equipped seaplane carrier, and, eventually, to the first flight-deck aircraft carriers.

In addition to new equipment, innovative techniques were also developed for work over the water, one of the most useful to the prosecution of the war being the so-called spider web. The spider web was an invisible grid over the English Channel and North Sea that provided an organized method for aircraft to use in searching for underwater mines and U-boats. Provision for aerial escort as part of the convoy scheme also contributed to the safety of Allied shipping as it crossed the Atlantic to and from North America.

As mentioned, the RNAS did not operate exclusively over the water. Throughout the war, naval units were deployed for land-based operations on the Western Front.And among the Allied forces, the RNAS could take credit for the first tentative attempts at strategic bombing. In the summer of 1916, the RNAS organized No. 3 Wing and equipped the unit with Sopwith 11/2 Strutters and Breguet bombers with the aim of attacking targets inside Germany. The group was stationed at Luxeuil, near Nancy, putting it within reach of manufacturing plants in the Saar River Valley. Bad weather – the perpetual enemy of aerial operations – kept No. 3 Wing grounded throughout much of its life, but its first – and most memorable – raid took place on 12 October 1916 when it attacked the Mauser Works at Oberndorf. The raid was a truly international operation involving not only the British naval unit but also French bombers and an escort of Nieuport fighters provided by the U.S. volunteers of the Lafayette Escadrille. By spring, however, the lackluster results achieved led to the breakup of the group and the reassignment of its crews to other units, many going to the navy’s single-seat squadrons up near the channel coast. There, some pilots, such as Canadian ace Raymond Collishaw, would go on to great success flying the Sopwith Pup, Triplane, and later the immortal Camel, supplementing the RFC in support of army operations.

Relations between the two British aviation services were always somewhat tense, accusations of various intrigues going in both directions. The rivalry heightened to the point that a government committee merged the RFC and RNAS into the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918.


Unit History: Royal Naval Air Service

The Royal Naval Air Service or RNAS was the air arm of the Royal Navy until near the end of the First World War, when it merged with the British Armys Royal Flying Corps to form a new service (the first of its kind in the world), the Royal Air Force.

When the RFC was founded on April 13, 1912, it was intended to encompass all military flying. The Navy, however, was not pleased at all forms of naval aviation being moved to an Army corps, and soon formed its own, unauthorised,[citation needed] flying branch with a training centre at Eastchurch. Command of this group was given over to Murray Sueter, who had been working on airship development for the navy. At the time, the Admiralty, known as the "Senior Service", had enough political clout to ensure that this act went completely unchallenged. The Royal Naval Air Service was officially recognised on July 1, 1914 by First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill. The new service was completely separate from the RFC except for the Central Flying School, which was still used, and became in effect a rival air force.

By the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, the RNAS had more aircraft under its control than the RFC.[citation needed] The Navy maintained twelve airship stations around the coast of Britain from Longside, Aberdeenshire in the northeast to Anglesey in the west. In addition to seaplanes, carrier borne aircraft, and other aircraft with a legitimate "naval" application the RNAS also maintained several crack fighter squadrons on the Western Front, as well as allocating scarce resources to an independent strategic bombing force at a time when such operations were highly speculative. Inter-service rivalry even affected aircraft procurement. Urgently required Sopwith 1½ Strutter two-seaters had to be transferred from the planned RNAS strategic bombing force (for which the type was in any case quite unsuitable)[citation needed] to RFC squadrons on the Western Front because the Navy had "cornered" Sopwith production. In fact this situation continued - although most of Sopwiths products were not specifically naval aircraft. Thus RNAS fighter squadrons obtained Sopwith Pup fighters months before the RFC - and then replaced these first with Sopwith Triplanes and then Camels while the hard-pressed RFC squadrons soldiered on with their obsolescent Pups. An account of this scandalous situation is to be found in the book No Parachute by Arthur Gould Lee.

On April 1, 1918 the RNAS was merged with the RFC to form the RAF. At the time of the merger, the Navys air service had 67,000 officers and men, 2,949 aircraft, 103 airships and 126 coastal stations.

The RNAS squadrons were absorbed into the new structure, individual squadrons receiving new squadron numbers by effectively adding 200 to the number so No. 1 Squadron RNAS (a famous fighter squadron) became No. 201 Squadron RAF.

The Royal Navy regained its own air service in 1937, when the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Air Force (covering carrier borne aircraft, but not the seaplanes and maritime reconnaissance aircraft of Coastal Command) was returned to Admiralty control and renamed the Naval Air Branch. In 1952, the service returned to its pre-1937 name of the Fleet Air Arm.


Royal Naval Air Service

The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) was the flying branch of the Royal Navy. As World War One drew to a close, the RNAS was merged with the Royal Flying Corps to form the Royal Air Force.

The first time the idea of providing the Royal Navy with an aerial service was in 1908, when the idea emerged that the navy should have an airship. This idea was supported by First Sea Lord Sir John Fisher and the ‘Mayfly’ was built. However, it never flew and broke in half in September 1911, giving ammunition to sceptics of the idea.

In 1910, there were already four Royal Navy officers training to fly aircraft, but this was completed outside of formal training at the Royal Aero Club in Kent. Club members were acting as instructors rather than any official navy instructors. It was believed that the Admiralty had little faith in the idea, having stipulated that those trained be unmarried - anyone who engaged in aerial training pre-war were subjecting themselves to an activity with a very high fatality rate.

However, the idea that planes could be used to provide the navy with another layer of protection and offensive capability did begin to take hold. Seaplanes in particularly offered the navy advantage in the days before radar was introduced, providing fleets with a means of scouting for enemy ships and submarines.

Members of the Royal Naval Air Service check their planes

In 1912, the Air Department at the Admiralty was created and commanded by Captain Murray Sueter, who was responsible for “all matters” connected to the Naval Air Service. A formal Naval Air Service seaplane base was established on the Isle of Grain, Kent, and in 1913 aircraft from the NAS formally took part in naval manoeuvres for he first time with ships from the Royal Navy.

The Naval Air Service officially became the Royal Naval. However, it became independent of the RFC on 1st August 1915 when it was put under control of the Royal Navy. By the time World War One had began, the RNAS had 93 aircraft, size airships and 720 staff.

During the war, the airships were based around the British coast to provide early warning of any approaching enemy ships and submarines. RNAS planes also patrolled the coastline and protected London from bombers and Zeppelins. However, it was not uncommon for the RNAS to initiate attacks on German coastal positions in Belgium and it also had two squadrons that were fighting on the Western Front, aiding the infantrymen.

RNAS rivalry with RFC became intense, exacerbated by the fact that only RFC pilots - such as Albert Ball and James McCudden - became known as flying aces rather than RNAS pilots. However, the RNAS still took part in their fair share of daring and dangerous missions. On Christmas Day 1914, for example, the RNAS attacked German Zeppelin bases at Cuxhaven and Wilhelmshaven. An RNAS pilot - Flight Commander C Edmonds - also attacked a Turkish ship with a torpedo attached to his aircraft during the Gallipoli campaign, sinking the ship by flying just 15 feet above the sea.

The growth of the RNAS was also enormous, highlighting the real need for an aerial service in the Royal Navy. By the time the RNAS merged with the RFC, its had grown its staff from 720 to 55,000, grown its aircraft from 93 to 3,000 and grown its airships from six to 103.


Royal Naval Air Service

The Royal Naval Air Service (R.N.A.S.) was the constituent division of the Royal Navy responsible for aircraft, airships and for projecting air power within the scope of naval operations. Originally founded as the Naval Wing of the Royal Flying Corps (R.F.C.) in 1912, it encompassed previous small-scale experimentation with heavier and lighter-than-air craft and expanded upon it. From its official inception as the R.N.A.S. in July, 1914, the Air Service outgrew its R.F.C. origins and opened its own flying schools, built its own aircraft and commenced a large non-rigid and rigid airship programme during the course of the First World War. Thanks to Admiralty initiative, the R.N.A.S. was ceaselessly active from its earliest days until amalgamation with the Military Wing of the R.F.C. to form the Royal Air Force, in April, 1918.

From the outset the R.N.A.S. created controversy and became a political pawn between those who wanted a unified air service (many fliers and politicians) and the Admiralty which had unilaterally assumed control of the Naval Wing of the R.F.C. These political battles increased in ferocity throughout the critical years of the war and resulted in the 1917 decision to create a unified Royal Air Force which was instituted on 1st April, 1918. The decision, while praiseworthy in many ways, strangled British Naval Aviation development for a generation and allowed the United States Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy to gain a qualitative and quantitative lead.

The R.N.A.S. was entrusted with lighter-than-air development in Britain and oversaw the creation of a rigid and non-rigid airship force for operating over the ocean which produced well-over 200 airships by the end of the war. With heavier-than-air aircraft the R.N.A.S. helped pioneer the use of aircraft at sea, conducting the first take-offs from warships and eventually in 1917 the first landings on vessels and the first carrier air strikes upon an enemy. The aircraft carrier as recognisable today was a creation of the Royal Navy.

Quite apart from sea-going aeronautical matters planes of the R.N.A.S. were active in all theatres of operations in the First World War, fighting on the Western Front, in the Middle East and the East Coast of Africa. An armoured car detachment operated in the Middle East and in Belgium. At home the R.N.A.S. was the first body entrusted with the aerial defence of London from the Zeppelin threat with both aircraft and anti-aircraft guns. At the amalgamation of this diverse body into the Royal Air Force in 1918, the R.N.A.S. had nearly 3,000 land and sea planes, 200 airships and over 50,000 officers and ratings.


The Royal Navy’s Air Service in the Great War

David Hobbs’ carefully chosen title gives some indication of the political complexities surrounding his latest subject, as a book about the actual Royal Naval Air Service would technically have to end on 1 April 1918 with the RNAS’s absorption into the newly created Royal Air Force, a service which, the author robustly argues, ‘cared little for the sea power on which Britain and its Empire depended’.

Hobbs begins with the Royal Navy’s first airship, HM Rigid Airship Number 1, in 1909, and ends with the construction of the world’s first flush-decked aircraft carrier, HMS Argus, in 1918, concluding with an outline of the proposed use of Argus in an air-strike attack by specialised torpedo bombers on the German High Seas Fleet at anchor in its bases – an operation that would, of course, have pre-dated the carrier-based raids on Pearl Harbor and Taranto by more than two decades.

There is perhaps no better example of how war can provide a catalyst for technological change at breathtaking pace: in just nine years, the Royal Navy’s air service evolved from a series of experiments with balloons, airships, and flimsy aircraft resembling kites to an organisation that encompassed nearly all the features of a modern naval air arm, with a range of equipment that encompassed aircraft-carriers bespoke strike, reconnaissance, and fighter aircraft and anti-submarine and long-range reconnaissance capabilities.

We should perhaps reflect on this when next we convince ourselves that the latest version of a must have smartphone or a new way of consuming video represents the ‘white heat’ of technological change.

Hobbs’ book is well structured, taking his readers through the development of the Royal Navy’s air service in 18 chapters, the last being a short and very appropriate reflection. The book is broadly chronological, although several chapters are self-contained and explore themes that developed throughout the war, including the advancements in deck-landing techniques (Chapter 11) and RNAS training (Chapter 12).

Chapter 7 takes readers down a series of unfortunate Churchill-inspired technological blind alleys for the RNAS, including the service’s flirtations with tanks and armoured trains.

Chapters 13 and 14 are rightly devoted to the political in-fighting that eventually led to the creation of the Royal Air Force. This disaster set back British naval aviation for years, with the unforeseen consequence of forcing the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, back in its rightful home again since May 1939, to enter the Second World War poorly equipped and under-prepared.

Chapter 14 is a sobering account of the Smuts Report, the centenary of which was marked last year, which was the smoking gun of the whole affair, and is rightly dubbed by Hobbs as ‘the report that forgot about sea power’.

HMS Argus, the world’s first true aircraft carrier, deservedly gets a chapter to itself. The importance of this ship, a conversion from the Italian liner Conte Rosso, is often overlooked, as it arrived too late to make much of a contribution to the war at sea. However, the carrier represented an extraordinary leap forward in capability and Hobbs, as I believe, correctly notes it to be ‘the crowning achievement of the RNAS’.

‘To put things in perspective,’ he goes on to say, ‘the first tentative steps to evaluate the operational usefulness of aircraft launched from a ship’s deck in the open sea had taken place… during 1913.’ Five years later, Argus joined the fleet with many of the features that define a modern aircraft carrier, including a fully enclosed 330ft-long hangar, a full-length flight deck, aircraft lifts, rudimentary but effective fire-prevention systems, and a crude but workable arrester system using a latticework of retaining wires stretched foreand-aft along Argus’s deck.

The carrier’s air wing included Sopwith Camel fighters and innovative Sopwith T.1 Cuckoo torpedo bombers, the first bespoke maritime strike aircraft, with folding wings to facilitate easy stowage in a carrier hangar. Argus’s Camels and Cuckoos would have featured in the Tondern Raid, the projected attack on the German High Seas Fleet in harbour, which also appropriately receives a chapter to itself.

Useful appendices show the locations of the principal airfields used by the RNAS in Britain, France, and Flanders the evolution of the RNAS uniform and a list of every Royal Navy ship that was equipped to operate aircraft during the Great War. The book is lavishly illustrated, with maps and many photographs new to me these often drawn from the author’s own private collection.

The Royal Navy’s Air Service in the Great War is rigorously researched and engagingly written, peppered with as many personality-led anecdotes of these pioneering days of naval flying as it is with hard facts and figures. It is a definitive history, and essential reading for any serious student of naval aviation or the First World War.

Having now recently reviewed two books by Hobbs, his research and writings have definitely left me far better informed about the various incarnations of the Royal Navy’s aviation branch than before.


Royal Naval Air Service - History

ROYAL NAVY - BADGES of RANKS for OFFICERS, MEN and BOYS

With addendum on Other Branches (RNAS, Medical, Paymaster, Instructor and WRNS) and Warrant Officers

Extracts from the Admiralty Manual of Seamanship, 1915

Yeoman of Signals George Smith, 1916 (click to enlarge)

(click all pages to enlarge)

Lieutenant John Hunter RNVR (Canada) c 1917
(courtesy Andy Hunter)

Other World War 1 Branches - RNAS, Medical, Paymaster, Instructor and WRNS

Medical Branch (to November 1918, thereafter RN rank with Surgeon prefix)

Accountant Branch (to November 1918, thereafter RN rank with Paymaster prefix)

Naval Instructor Branch (to November 1918, thereafter RN rank with Instructor prefix)

WRNS (approximate equivalents based on standard width sleeve rings, with or without diamonds)

Naval Instructor (over 15 years)

Deputy Assistant Director/Principal (without)

Naval Instructor (over 8 years)

Paymaster/Assistant Paymaster (over 4 years)

Naval Instructor (under 8 years)

Deputy Divisional Director/Deputy Principal (without)

Assistant Paymaster (under 4 years)

Assistant Principal (without)

Quarters Supervisor (half-width ring above three buttons)

Warrant Officers

Most Royal Navy and Royal Marine ranks are straightforward - Boy to Chief Petty Officer, Midshipman to Admiral of the Fleet, but in the middle are the sometimes puzzling Warrant Officers, a rank that was only discontinued in 2010.

Following are a list of what I believe to be the Warrant Officer ranks existing in the World War 1 period. Any corrections would be appreciated:

Artificer Engineer, Chief Artificer Engineer, Boatswain, Carpenter, Chief Boatswain, Chief Carpenter, Chief Gunner, Chief Signal Boatswain, Gunner, Mate, Mate (E), Signal Boatswain, Warrant Electrician, Warrant Engineer, Warrant Mechanician, Warrant Officer, Warrant Schoolmaster, Warrant Shipwright, Warrant Telegraphist, Warrant Victualling Officer, Warrant Wardmaster, Warrant Writer.

Correction with thanks to Jim Kemp, 7 Mar 2013 - Clerk and Assistant Clerk were not warrant officers. The Clerk was a Midshipman in the Paymaster specialisation Assistant Clerk a Naval Cadet in the same specialisation. The rank progression was Asst Clerk to Clerk to Asst Paymaster (later Sub Lieutenant Paymaster).


RNAS Armoured Car Section [ edit | edit source ]

RNAS armoured cars during the Battle of Gallipoli, 1915.

The RNAS engaged in interservice rivalry on land as well as in the air, possessing for a time the UK's only mechanised land forces in the form of the RNAS Armoured Car Section made up of squadrons of Rolls-Royce Armoured Cars. Commanded by Commander Charles Samson, the section was originally equipped with unarmoured touring cars and intended to provide line of communications security and to pick up aircrew who had been forced to land in hostile territory. Samson saw the possibilities when he armed one vehicle with a Maxim gun and ambushed a German car near Cassel on 4 September 1914. He then had a shipbuilders in Dunkirk add boilerplate to his Rolls Royce and Mercedes vehicles. ⎦] The new armoured car squadrons were soon used to great effect forming part of Naval mechanised raiding columns against the Germans. By November 1914 the Section had become the Royal Naval Armoured Car Division (RNACD) eventually expanding to 20 squadrons. As trench warfare developed, the armoured cars could no longer operate on the Western Front and were redeployed to other theatres including the Middle East, Romania and Russia. In the summer of 1915 the RNACD was disbanded and the army took over control of armoured cars, with the units soon coming under the command of the Motor Branch of the Machine Gun Corps. ⎧]

However RNAS experience of the Western Front would not be lost, No. 20 Squadron RNAS was retained under Naval control to further develop armoured vehicles for land battle, these personnel later becoming the nucleus of the team working under the Landships Committee that developed the first tanks.

The RAF would later inherit some ex-RNAS armoured cars left in the Middle East, and during World War II, the Number 1 Armoured Car Company RAF played an important role in the defence of RAF Habbaniya when the base was attacked by Iraqi nationalists.


Royal Naval Air Service - History

Royal Naval Air Service

The first flight from a moving ship took place in May 1912. The following year, the first seaplane carrier, Hermes, was commissioned. The Navy also began to build a chain of coastal air stations.

One of the most successful seaplanes purchased by the RNAS was the Curtiss H-16, a craft produced by Glen Hammond Curtiss in the USA.

By the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, the RNAS had more aircraft under its control than the Royal Flying Corps. The main role of the RNAS was fleet reconnaissance, patrolling coasts for enemy ships and submarines, attacking enemy coastal territory and defending Britain from enemy air-raids. The leading war ace in the RNAS was Raymond Collishaw with 60 victories.

The RNAS was severely attacked for its failure to prevent the Zeppelin bombing raids. In February 1916 there was a change of policy and the Royal Flying Corps were given responsibility of dealing with Zeppelins once they were over Britain. The RNAS now concentrated on bombing Zeppelins on the ground in Germany.

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