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Navy recruitment

Posted: Wed Apr 16, 2014 8:36 pm
by Graham Ashford
Hi there

I wondered whether anyone might be able to help me. I am trying to understand Navy recruitment during the end of the 18th century.

I'm afraid to say that at the moment about all I know of is the press gang, but I can't see how this would have filled all the ships of the Navy at the time with a workable force.

Did the Navy set up recruitment drives like I believe the army may have done, or was the press the only form of recruitment it had available for most men?

Can anyone start me off anywhere :)

Kindest regards

Graham

Re: Navy recruitment

Posted: Wed Apr 16, 2014 11:23 pm
by Henri De Ceredigion
Graham Ashford wrote:I'm afraid to say that at the moment about all I know of is the press gang, but I can't see how this would have filled all the ships of the Navy at the time with a workable force.


It is really quite suprising just how effective press ganging was you know



and when coupled with the knowledge that it was either drink the water and die of cholera or drink alcohol, well, you have a ready supply of people who would make perfect sailors!

Re: Navy recruitment

Posted: Fri Apr 18, 2014 10:43 am
by Grania
I'm no expert by any means, but I know a little.
Press Gang - absolutely, technically this was only supposed to take skilled seamen (merchant ships etc) but the practice could be a different matter altogether.
There were also plenty of volunteers, who received a little money 'on arrival' and a bit more freedom (the feeling being they were less likely to run), and yes, there could be recruitment drives, from individual ships - if you go down to the historic dockyard at Portsmouth, old posters of this kind are sold in their shop, the language is really quite fun! Captains with a good reputation for gaining prize money used it to their advantage.
As the wars at the end of the 18th/early 19th century went on, manning the navy became quite a struggle - then, if I remember correctly, 'quota' men were used as well, convicted criminals from gaols all over the country, some of whom had probably never seen the sea in their lives.

Not a pleasant life by any means, and yet probably no harder than life was for many on land - fairly guaranteed meals, needs generally provided for one way or another, and a chance of prize money that could set a man up for life if he was very lucky.

As I say, I'm no expert, this is just stuff I've gleaned from various sources over the years, including some of the many many novels written about this period - if you like this sort of thing, I would recommend the books of Patrick O'Brien, as his grasp of the facts is far superior to most.

Re: Navy recruitment

Posted: Thu May 08, 2014 12:25 pm
by Tod
Two people worth asking are Foxe (on here) and Dave "Wiz" Wilson he's on my friends list on FB.

Re: Navy recruitment

Posted: Wed Jun 04, 2014 1:39 pm
by lviningsmith
Grania wrote: if you go down to the historic dockyard at Portsmouth, old posters of this kind are sold in their shop, the language is really quite fun! Captains with a good reputation for gaining prize money used it to their advantage.


I think I'll take a much delayed trip down there myself. Have recently started collecting antique posters after coming across my grandfathers collection recently. Would be lovels to combine a trip to the docks with my newly acquired hobby. I've been meaning to head down for the last couple of years but never quite made it. This summer!

Re: Navy recruitment

Posted: Fri Jul 04, 2014 11:30 am
by ETFox
Formerly-Foxe here!

What Grania said.

Re: Navy recruitment

Posted: Fri Jul 04, 2014 9:30 pm
by Grania
I'm flattered someone agrees!

While we're on the subject - does anyone know of any groups who do Napoleonic-era navy who might given women something to do? :) (I'm being optimistic!)

Re: Navy recruitment

Posted: Sat Jul 05, 2014 1:33 am
by ETFox
One important feature of the press that hasn't been mentioned is that they didn't just work ashore, they were perhaps more effective at boarding home-coming vessel and conscripting the men, all of whom were seamen, sometimes (though by no means always) leaving only enough men to get the ship into port.

The ladies of HMS always seem to have plenty to do: https://sites.google.com/site/historicalmaritimesociety/

Re: Navy recruitment

Posted: Sat Jul 05, 2014 10:53 am
by Grania
Thanks! :)

Re: Navy recruitment

Posted: Sat Aug 09, 2014 8:24 pm
by Graham Ashford
Thanks ever s much for all the help :)

I sense another trip to the dockyard coming on.