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Britannia Royal Naval College and HMS Raleigh could merge. Royal Marines may move from Scotland

Published: 04 Aug 2011

Naval training bases HMS Raleigh in Cornwall and Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) in Dartmouth, Devon could be moved on to one site.

Leaked Royal Navy documents seen by the BBC reveal these options as part of armed forces changes. This item with thanks to the BBC website 29 July 2011).

The Royal Marines' 45 Commando may move from Scotland to the South West under the Estate Rationalisation Programme. Decisions are expected in 2013.

The Royal Navy said it would not comment on leaked documents.

Other Royal Marine activities could be moved within the Devonport base, says the document.

The move follows the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in 2010 to decide the future shape and size of Britain's armed forces.

It says: "In the post SDSR environment we, along with the other services, have been developing options to address the challenge of maintaining or, where possible increasing the effectiveness of our estate, whilst at the same time minimising the cost of running it by reducing the estate footprint."

For more than a century, the Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) has trained Royal Navy officers and has been the training establishment of choice for a succession of kings and princes.

HMS Raleigh, commissioned in 1940, is a basic training facility of the Royal Navy at Torpoint in Cornwall.

Military expert and author of Warship World magazine Mike Critchley said as the Royal Navy had been reduced in size over recent years, there was a smaller number of recruits.

"Both establishments have been running on half power so there is a lot of sense in putting them both on one site.

"The question is which one."

He said that BRNC, which is located on the banks of the River Dart, had "huge commercial value" for development but there would be an "outcry from admirals up and down the country" if it was closed.

He said: "It's all about cost. Is it cheaper to rebuild either or find another site and close both?"

Any move of 45 Commando to the South West would see it stationed closer to its headquarters as the unit is part of 3 Commando Brigade, which has its headquarters in Plymouth.

The brigade's two other units are already stationed in the region: 42 Commando's barracks are based in Bickleigh, near Plymouth; and 40 Commando is near Taunton, Somerset.


For over a century, The Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) has been the training establishment of choice for a succession of kings and princes.

Opened in 1905, it has served the country for 105 years, training many of the navy's top admirals.

Perched majestically above the River Dart, The Britannia Royal Naval College is among the finest buildings in Devon.

It comes as no surprise to learn the man behind it was also responsible for the facade of Buckingham Palace.

Architect Sir Aston Webb was commissioned to design the naval officer training college.

It followed an announcement from the First Lord of the Admiralty in 1896 that a new college would be built.

Tenders for the building of the college were requested in 1900 and the successful firm was Higgs and Hill, with a winning tender of £220,600.

King Edward VII laid the foundation stone in 1902 and the college - on a hill called Mount Boone - was opened in on 14 September 1905.

But why was the college built here in the first place?

The building replaced the previous 'home' of the training college - HMS Britannia and HMS Hindostan, two ships which had been based on the River Dart for 42 years.

Among the early cadets, in 1877, were Prince Albert Victor - grandson of Queen Victoria - and Prince George - later King George V.

As early as 1875, mutterings had been made about switching naval training onshore, after concern was expressed about the health of the cadets due to overcrowding and poor sanitation.

Dartmouth was chosen as it was well away from the distractions which were available in more obvious ports, such as Plymouth and Portsmouth.

The land on which BRNC was built was owned by the estate of Sir Walter Raleigh - a gift to the Devonian seafarer from Queen Elizabeth I.

The Raleigh estate refused to sell the land, so it was compulsorily purchased.

1905 was exactly 100 years after Admiral Lord Nelson's victory at Trafalgar, but times had moved on and although Britain still ruled the waves, a more modern system of naval officer training was needed - hence the need for the naval college.

The mission statement of the college is: "To deliver courageous leaders with the spirit to fight and win".

And its role has been "to change young men and women from civilians into fit, professional and compassionate leaders, proud of themselves, the uniform they wear, and the tradition they represent".

One of its first cadets was the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, followed shortly afterwards by Prince Albert, later to become King George VI.

The royal link has remained throughout its 105 years.

Prince Charles and Prince Andrew received their Royal Navy training here, and legend has it that the Queen, as a young Princess Elizabeth, met Prince Philip on a Royal visit to BRNC in July 1939.

The building survived a bombing attack in September 1942, when one person died and serious damage was caused.

The following year, 1943, it was taken over by American forces in preparation for the D-Day landings, and the cadets were moved out to train at other sites - they returned in 1946.

The college - which received the Freedom of the Borough of Dartmouth in 1957 - has seen many changes over the years.

In 1976, it started to train female cadets for the first time.

BRNC celebrated its centenary in 2005, and two years later, Tony Blair became the first serving Prime Minister to visit the college.

In April 2010, the Duke of Edinburgh returned to the Britannia Royal Naval College to take the salute at the Lord High Admiral's Parade.

The alternative title for this item - in an American accent is - YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS.


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