Watching the Fleet

I very often come across some amazing things at the library. Today, for instance, I was cataloguing lots of books about How to be a Naval Officer and Fleet Reviews. The two categories follow each other on the shelves but wedged between them was an incredible piece of naval history.

It was the 1806 Order of Service for the funeral of Lord Nelson.

Apart from the front board being missing and the back board coming loose, a few tatty pages and dampness, it was pretty amazing for something so old. Mind you, it is now in an acid free plastic sleeve in order for it to last a bit longer.

Also of interest were the numerous special volumes for Fleet Reviews. My favourite was easily the one from 1909. Along with the usual lists of ships, details and explanations of their use as well as a pretty map showing what to view from where, this small book also contained instructions for people attending the review.

The first section was the King’s schedule, followed by some very detailed instructions for everyone else. These include the platforms at Waterloo where their trains would leave from (with the time on their tickets) and what to do at Southampton in order to board the Adriatic where lunch would be served. Then…

The Adriatic will leave Southampton at 1 p.m. and arrive at the fleet about 1:40 p.m. and will reach Spithead to join the Royal Procession about 2:15 p.m. The Adriatic will then follow the Royal Yachts through the lines of the fleet, coming to an anchor at the same time as the Victoria and Albert abreast of the Dreadnought. Directly after his Majesty the King has reviewed the flotillas the Adriatic will proceed to Southampton and tea will be served en route.

Review of the Fleet by His Majesty The King July 31, 1906

It could have been either the White Star Line liner, RMS Adriatic which was less than three years old with a capacity for 2,825 people or the SS Adriatic which was a collier that was in the Admiralty charter. Whichever it was, it would have been quite the ride between cruisers of the battle fleet. I guess there were also lots of people watching from the shore and in small boats. It would have been a marvellous spectacle.

Mind you, it seems an odd thing for a king to stand on the deck of a yacht and sail between the ranks of navy vessels just to look at them. What happens if he doesn’t like one?

Anyway, it made my day at the library that little bit more interesting.

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