The Senior Service
The Navy was regarded as the key element of Imperial defence. It was not known as the Senior Service for nothing. The size and prestige of the Royal Navy was unparalleled and its power could be projected all over the globe. Control of the seas allowed for the creation, maintenance and defence of such a vast empire. It also allowed for a relatively small army as the navy could usually be relied upon to ferry reinforcements rapidly or deny rivals the ability to reinforce their forces.

The turning point which gave Britain control of the seas was the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Victory in this battle meant that British naval power could not be challenged. Whereas during the Eighteenth Century, European rivals could and did gain control of the seas as was demonstrated during the American Revolutionary wars. During the Nineteenth Century, British naval power was complete. It would not be until the German Tirpitz plan in 1898 that the British would feel that their naval superiority was once again challenged.

Organisation of Section
The menu to the right is organised according to the ship type. Remember, that ship classifications changed over time, particularly due to technological and engineering advances. Ship building was constantly undergoing reforms as rivals sought to keep ahead of one another. I've also included a Ships on Foreign and Particular Services section in order to try and give you a brief idea of where the individual ships were likely to be operating. I am fortunate in that I live in Plymouth and so have access to all the naval lists at the local library. Of course, the Royal Navy kept on reorganising itself, but generally divided the globe up into fleets and attached ships to those particular fleets. Of course, these mobile vessels could still have moved about over a vast area, but at least you can see where it was likely to be operating.

If you have any pictures or information that you would like to share on these pages then please contact me at

On Foreign And Particular Service
Royal Navy
Screw Battleships
Paddle Wheel Frigates
Masted Cruisers
Royal Yachts
Royal Indian Marine
Cigarette Cards

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by Stephen Luscombe