Royal Naval Reserve

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In 1859 the Royal Naval Volunteers were established by act of Parliament. The preamble to the legislation explained:

Whereas it is expedient that there should be a reserve volunteer force of seamen for service in Her Majesty's fleet in time of emergency, and that the seamen composing such force should be duly entered and trained.

The maximum number of men was set at 30,000, and [1]

By the Officers of Royal Naval Reserve Act, 1863, masters, mates and engineers in the merchant service were permitted "to serve as officers of reserve to the Royal Navy."[2]

Supplementary List

To ameliorate the shortage of watch officers, in 1895 provision was made for one hundred officers of the Mercantile Marine to enter the Royal Navy on a Supplementary List of Lieutenants and Sub-Lieutenants.[3] In 1898 provision was made for fifty more officers of the Mercantile Marine to join the Supplementary List.[4] These two intakes were known as the "Hungry Hundred" and "Famishing Fifty" respectively.[5]

Writing in early 1913, Admiral Sir Alfred L. Winsloe (Commander-in-Chief on the China Station) warned the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, against entering any more officers from the Royal Naval Reserve after his experience with previous intakes:

The old "Hungry Hundred" as they were always called did no good to the Service, they were what might be called King's hard bargains. We do not get anyone who is of any use, but we get a lot of the poor relations of the rich, who recommend my nephew or who ever else he may be because the person who recommends him wants to get him a billet with pay attached, so that he will not come to him for money. They are of no use on board, as if on watch they do not relieve the Captain of any responsibility, and the seamen will not do anything for them. Out of the whole of the last lot you could count on the fingers of one hand those that were of any use, and there were originally over 200 of them. Their getting their messing paid for them and also never having to go on half pay makes the other Lieutenants of the Service discontented. Since it appeared in the papers that you were going to enter a certain number, the junior officers of P&O have had their pay raised to prevent them leaving that service. I daresay other companies have done the same.[6]

In 1913 another one hundred officers were provided for on the Supplementary List.[7]

The only officers from the Royal Naval Reserve officers whose careers prospered appear to have been Guy R. A. Gaunt and George B. Powell, who were retired upon promotion to the rank of Rear-Admiral in 1918 and 1921 respectively. George F. Hyde retired from the Royal Navy in 1912 as a Lieutenant to join the Royal Australian Navy as a Commander. He eventually rose to the rank of Admiral in that Navy.

Practical Research Considerations

The Service Records of R.N.R. men in the ADM 240 and ADM 340 tranches of The National Archives are considerably harder to read than those of Royal Navy men. Profuse, verbose, faintly written in a shoddy hand, and largely consumed with details of no practical interest – it is hard to know what these men did by reading their Service Records. — TONY LOVELL, Editor.

See Also


  1. "An Act for the Establishment of a Reserve Force of Seamen, and for the Government of the same." 22 & 23 Victoria, c. 40.
  2. An Act to establish Officers of the Royal Naval Reserve." 26 & 27 Victoria, c. 69.
  3. Order in Council of 29 July, 1895.
  4. Order in Council of 9 August, 1898.
  5. Dawson. Flotillas. p. 29.
  6. Winsloe to Churchill. Letter of 13 February, 1913. Churchill Papers. Churchill Archives Centre. CHAR 13/19/17.
  7. Order in Council of 7 March, 1913.


  • Dawson, Captain Lionel. (1935). Flotillas: A Hard-Lying Story. London: Rich & Cowan Ltd.