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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Size of Royal Navy 1918 vs 1914


Harper
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I need to establish how may men joined the armed forces (UK only) between 1914 and 1918.

I found the British Army statistics in The Long, Long Trail - very helpful.

However, I have not been able to find comparable statistics for the Royal Navy.

So if any member has the manpower numbers for the RN in 1914 and 1918, I would be very grateful.

Needless to say, the numbers of men killed and discharged would also be needed in order to establish the total number of men who joined up during the war.

Thanks

Harper

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You would also need to specify whether you wished to include RNR and RNVR. There were approx. 57,000 wartime enrolments of ratings, and the mobilisation of thousands more, into the RNVR alone.

By 'joined up' do you mean the men who enlisted for the first time after 3 August 1914? Or do you also include the tens of thousands of men from the RFR, RNR and RNVR who were mobilised.

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Horatio

Sorry not to be clear in my first post.

I am trying to establish the impact of recruitment into the services on the civilian workforce.

According to the Army statistics 4,970,902 men were recruited in the UK.

Since my post I found in another thread that the Royal Navy grew from 201,017 on 15/8/14 to 407,316 on15/11/18. Therefore at least 206,299 men joined the RN as a whole during the war. Adding in deaths and discharges, the total must be over 250,000 if not 300,000.

For my purposes "over 5 million men left the civilian workforce and joined up" should accurate enough.

Thanks for your help.

Harper

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The numbers appear in the Appendices of Newbolt's Naval Operations, Vol. V; (on-line at naval-history.net)

Appendix I gives the strengths at the begining and end of the war:

6th August 1914: 147,667 regulars; 6,970 retired officers and pensioners; 27,395 Royal Fleet Reserve; 16,640 RNR, 2,345 RNVR; total: 201,017

15th November 1918: 188,537 regulars, 74,437 hostilities only, 12,346 retired officers and pensioners; 19,180 Royal Fleet Reserve; 60,598 RNR, 50,218 RNVR, 2000 colonial reservists: total: 407,316 (including RN Division).

Appendix J gives 640,237 as the total of men that served in the RN during the war

Appendix K gives casualties: in fleet service 22,811 KIA + 11,843 died of other causes; in the RN Division in France: 7,924 KIA + 666 died of other causes

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gwyrosydd

Welcome to the Forum and congratulations on a very helpful first post.

This information provides the evidence I needed.

Thanks again

Harper

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Yes, that is a useful table, and I think I understand all its categories except these two:

Entered for hostilities only

Retired Officers and Pensioners

Would anyone care to explain them?

Bart

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As far as I know:

Entered for hostilities only = Signed up for the duration of the war, not expecting to be kept on in the Navy afterwards.

Retired Officers and Pensioners = No longer in service, either being too old, or receiving a pension for some other reason (e.g. incapacitated or disabled). They were kept on the list because they were still considered part of the RN though not on active service.

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Thanks SeaJane, let me spell out my uncertainties:

Category: Retired Officers and Pensioners

My best guess is that this category is a combination of two categories:

(1) Officers serving in the Navy who at the moment of the outbreak of war, were not assigned to any post and were left to their own devices on half-pay, and who after war broke out were assigned to a post

and (2) Men who before the outbreak of war had retired from the Navy with the rank of officer and who after war broke out were recalled to serve.

Note: I don’t know whether the recall of a category-(2) man was compulsory or voluntary. I presume that point made little difference in practice.

As I say, the above is my current best guess. I’m not certain that it is correct. So I’d be glad to hear from anybody who has the knowledge to confirm or correct the above.

Category: RFR

An officer who retired from the Navy before the outbreak of war (perhaps to return as a category (2) man above) could not belong to any reserve force (at least AFAIK). But a retired rating could, if he wished, belong to the RFR. Thus in general a man who before the outbreak of war had retired from the Navy with the rank of rating, and who after war broke out came back to serve, was an RFR man, and was counted in that category. But what about the retired rating who at the outbreak of war was not a member of the RFR, but nevertheless came back to serve? Surely there must have been some such men. My guess is that they would be counted as RFR too, but I don’t really know.

Category: Entered for hostilities only

I have a real problem here and it is much more important than those above. I’ve researched a number of men who joined (or at any rate ended up in) the Navy, after the outbreak of war on a hostilities-only basis. Some of them were volunteers, some of them conscripts. All of them are documented as RNVR. Thus, the category ‘RNVR’ combined two quite different things: men who pre-war had been genuine part-time reservists and these newcomers. (As a former systems analyst I wouldn’t have done it that way myself. Nevertheless, the fact is that it was done that way.)

On that basis I had concluded that all men (or at least all except some unusual special cases) who joined (or at any rate ended up in) the Navy, after the outbreak of war on a hostilities-only basis - whether volunteer or conscript – were categorised as RNVR.

But in this table I find the category ‘Entered for hostilities only’ as an entirely separate category from the category ‘RNVR’. I just can’t explain that. So I’m very keen to hear from anybody who can.

Bart

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