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Academic papers

Primarily on the Royal Navy


by Len Barnett M.A.

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The second, third, fourth and sixth of the following essays formed part of a Master’s degree course, in War Studies, at King’s College, University of London. The opinions expressed below cannot however be regarded as those of the college and are mine alone.

Incidentally, some of these papers have also been posted elsewhere on the internet.




Valentine Joyce -

Spithead Mutineer of 1797



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This paper grew out of a piece of commissioned research. Originally tasked to research this mariner as my client had been told that he was a forebear of her husband, this proved not to be the case. However, I became interested in finding out more about the mutineer and his family. The result is but a ‘work in progress’. In time I hope to find out more about how the young Valentine was educated, probably at a church school in what is now called ‘Old Portsmouth’, but was then the heart of Portsmouth in the 18th century. I would also like to learn more about his family. There are also other questions I wish to answer, such as where he was lent when onboard the Royal George and what previous links can be found to the other principal mutineers. As and when I get answers to these questions, I shall update the online paper.





Education and training in the Royal Navy 1756-1918 as an element of the impact on industrialisation on war and the military establishment




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This essay was an effort in going some way to disproving the college line on education, which maintained that military establishments in the ‘civilised’ world were highly active in promoting education for the masses in the 19th century, because of the complexities that industrialised war brought. Thanks to N.A.M. Rodger’s wonderful book The Wooden World I already knew of educational requirements in the R.N. during the Seven Years War and my own studies into merchant mariners of the 19th century made me realise that the situation was far more complex than portrayed at college. While not written to support my activities as a genealogical researcher, this paper can be used as an aid to social history.




An Assessment of Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Fisher’s Achievements and Limitations as a Naval Reformer




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As originally written the first version was no more than an introduction to this intriguing character, delivered at a seminar for fellow students with no previous knowledge of the subject. A short paper and relatively lightweight, in order to put over salient points I deliberately mixed analysis with narration. The severe limitations imposed did not allow for research from primary sources and would not have served any useful purpose. In regards to Fisher, I have read a number of biographies over time, but have judged Ruddock F. Mackay’s still to be the only one that has properly sought to explain the inconsistencies in his actions.


N.B. Although having already revised this in some ways to reflect recent ‘Navalist’ theories, Matthew Seligmann’s papers have confirmed my own suspicions over some of these ‘Navalists’ and show that Professor Arthur Marder was actually correct in much of what he wrote post First World War. Therefore, when I have the time, I shall address this matter within my paper properly





‘Trial & Error’ - The Royal Navy  and Mine Countermeasures 1904-1914



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This is a slightly expanded and reworked version of my dissertation for M.A. I chose this subject for two main reasons. In my private work I had dealt with the effect of mines on merchantmen during 1914 and from reading operational records had wondered precisely why the R.N.’s performance in mine-countermeasures had been less than excellent in the early stages of the war. An under researched subject, this was an opportunity to satisfy my own curiosity. Secondly, I had attended a lecture by two well-known British naval historians. The subject matter supposedly was a major reassessment of the Royal Navy’s performance at the Dardanelles in 1915 that incidentally I have never seen any signs of. While I was not fully competent to judge the analysis on gunnery, I was far from convinced in one of these historians’ statements on dealing with the Turkish/German mine defences in the narrows. This historian associated himself with Commodore Keyes and the deployment of mine-sweeping destroyers. From the operational records I had already seen, dealing with the North Sea in 1914, it was obvious that destroyers were simply not suited to sweeping in confined waters. I brought this point up, but was sent away with a flea in my ear. Apparently Roger Keyes knew a lot more about the subject than I. Having now done the requisite research on the pre-war trials, I am now even more of the opinion that sending fast destroyers rigged with sweep-gear up the Dardanelles would have been suicidal for the crews involved and pointless tactically.




A ‘Well Known’ Incident Reassessed - The German Attempted Mining of the Thames in August 1914




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A slightly different version of this paper was published in The Mariner’s Mirror volume 89 number 2, in May 2003. The only academic piece that I have managed to have published conventionally, even then, this was only after a bitter struggle. This is because the anonymous referees attempted to have hoary old myths and inaccuracies introduced and that I fought vociferously. In this case I prevailed. Unfortunately, I have not in any other and is the reason that I self-publish: as I simply do not wish to play silly games.




How successfully did Britain respond to German Unrestricted U-boat warfare in 1917 & 1917?



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The original version of this essay was written at a time when I was more than slightly disenchanted with my degree course. Overwhelmingly, war was treated purely as a military matter, with outside concerns ‘relegated to the footnotes’ if even mentioned. Highly critical of this, I decided to draw on my own studies and answer this question in a far wider manner than anticipated. I was rather surprised to receive a good response to this!

Having later posted this on an American university’s website dealing with the First World War, it has been used twice in Strategic Studies Group seminars at the United States Navy’s War College, Newport, Rhode Island. Disagreeing inherently with US foreign policy, I have, however, requested that the USN does not use my paper further.

With new analysis on the Admiralty War Staff, this has been slightly amended in early 2010.



Britain’s Nuclear Deterrent – What is it good for…?



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In early February 2014 a defence lobbyist invited me to write a paper on the merits of the Liberal-Democratic Party’s ideas on future nuclear deterrence, for publication on a website that he is involved with. As pitched to me, this was due to my past experience as a submariner in the Polaris Programme and as this website was said to be politically independent, I was to be allowed leeway to write as I wished.

Unfortunately, I was to learn that this simply was not the case. Cutting a very long and complicated saga short, after considerable time, effort and frustration this paper was rejected. Having apparently upset a handful of elderly admirals and senior civil servants that had vetted my paper, I was requested to provide a less ‘political’ paper instead!



Britain’s Submarine Nuclear Deterrence – Past, Present and Future



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Continuing, albeit with grave reservations, I duly produced a more technical paper, concentrating purely on martial aspects. Once again, my paper lay unread for months. Eventually vetting was conducted by a landsman academic that insisted on numerous ‘corrections’. Having previously read some of this individual’s work, I had not been impressed, as his products were typical of those with no experience of anything other than academia. Not only did he refuse to acknowledge that statements from government officials might not necessarily reflect reality; he required me to make changes that I knew to be factually incorrect; and also refer to his works rather than an historian that I trust.

On making my position on this interference absolutely clear, I found that the ‘liberal’ was ultimately authoritarian. Therefore, I felt that to retain my principals, I would not allow myself to be bullied in this way and withdrew my paper. Bizarrely, having messed me around severely, I was tartly informed that if was I to buckle to his will he would still publish it. On informing him that Hell would have to freeze over before I would have any further contact with him, he gave the impression of being tewwibly upset!



The Rise, Fall and Possible Rise of the Ukrainian Navy: A Brief Assessment 1992-2015



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In the period between writing the submarine papers and this one I had been investigating providing material for one of the defence/offence industry’s rags. This also proved exasperating, in that the editor insisted on gutting my pieces and inserting his own less than accurate terms and opinions under my name.

Although my original intention of writing a lightweight piece for the above publication became untenable, I was then spending a great deal of time and effort at think-tank events, making contacts and getting different perspectives on contemporary matters. One of these new contacts was a civil servant that encouraged me to carry on and produce a paper on this subject, with the intention of submitting it for possible use by a government department. Experienced in historical research and analysis, I was truly amazed at the scope (and to a lesser degree quality) of information online. With additional information from well-placed individuals in Kyiv, it was submitted in late 2015.

Unfortunately, my trust in this civil servant could be seen as misplaced and in the event I had to make a Freedom of Information Act request to find out what the situation was in late Spring 2016. Even then I received no cooperation from the civil servants and the eventual results of my FOI request were both lacking in factual detail and downright amateurish.





Also, for details on self published booklets primarily on maritime subjects relating to the First World War

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