INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOKS IN THIS SERIES ON THE PERIOD 1896-1899, AND IN THE 20TH CENTURY, PRE WW1 WIRELESS TELEGRAPHY 1900-1913 ARTICLES

Torpedo warfare, or the potential for it, had been known about since the start of the 19th century in 1800. It was used mainly by the Confederates in the American Civil War [1860's] and after that War, its evolution was rapid so much so, that come 1912 over thirty navies were using the famous Whitehead Torpedo.  Of course, the early torpedo's  bear no resemblance to the WW1 self-propelled  Whitehead torpedo, but the latter is very similar to modern day torpedo's discounting guidance and telemetry.

By 1879 the Royal Navy had established a TORPEDO SCHOOL and its very first annual report was submitted in this year. They continued in the same format year after year well into the 1920's, but ceased to be published after a major re-organisation of naval warfare and the many schools involved, each teaching a specific skill.

The early TORPEDO SCHOOL was responsible for TORPEDO's [and MINES of course] as well as GUNNERY, and as ELECTRICITY [and the facilities made possible by its introduction] came into common use, it too was added to HMS Vernon's growing list of responsibilities.  One can image the trepidation of young recruits to the new science when they routinely saw signs like this; were instructed by dapper chappies like this guy and were ultimately to work with such inspiring colleagues like this rather dirty and unkempt tar.
 

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In so many ways the Royal Navy has come a full circle, where today,  HMS Collingwood is the lead school on all and everything remotely ELECTRICAL/ELECTRONIC which is EXACTLY what HMS Vernon was well over 100 years ago before the days of The Portsmouth Dockyard Signal School, HMS Excellent, HMS Mercury, HMS Dryad, HMS Collingwood where it wasn't until 1947 when the Electrical Branch was formed.  

From HMS Vernon came the first naval electricians; the first naval radio electricians and the first radio operators albeit on a part time basis only.  Vernon was the lead school/authority in all the radio system assessments [and there were many of them down the years] and its officers laid down the W/T rules and regulations prior to WW1.  It was fitting therefore, that the very first SIGNAL SCHOOL should be built/established as an integral part of HMS Vernon, which was only moved to Leydene [East Meon] after the dockyard was heavily targeted by German bombers in WW2. The School's address at this time was "H.M. Signal School.  R.N. Barracks. Portsmouth ETC"

As developing torpedo technology inspired the establishment of  a school in 1879, then wireless technology warranted its own part of the school's annual report. From 1896 until 1899 this was published as a Chapter of the Main Report and from 1900 to 1913, as an Appendix to the Main Report which was a substantial bound book {8" x 13"} and as the technology evolved so too did the size of the printed Appendix. In 1914 at the beginning of WW1, W/T technology was still expanding and it was considered wise not to publish, except in secret form and distribution, the progress being made by the Royal Navy.  After the war, the Appendix never returned to the Annual Report of Torpedo School, because by 1920, the Admiralty had commissioned the Admiralty Signal Establishment {ASE} [also at Portsmouth although it moved out of harms way at the opening stages of WW2 to Haslemere in Surrey, to Lythe House] and they took up the research and the reporting, albeit, still in a Secret manner: ASE eventually became ASRE {Admiralty Signal and Radar Establishment -  lucky that Signals came before Radar !} and eventually to ASWE {Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment} once again back in the premier naval port of Portsmouth. The Portsmouth Dockyard Signal School Report,  like its former parent the Annual Torpedo School Report, continued first as an annual report then as a half-yearly report both supported by appendices and always with a classification of Secret. This sheet of paper from September 1936 is the lead-sheet to the 1936 half-yearly report No 7 - meaning, I would guess, that up to and including December 1932, annual reports were submitted and from the beginning of 1933 half-yearly's became the norm.  Number 7 would be finalised up to the end of June 1936, written-up, published and printed for circulation in early September.  Logical ? Certainly !  Moreover, because of that Secret caveat, it is more than likely that these documents with an extremely limited distribution dating from 1914 until post WW2, were all destroyed by burning, nothing less, with perhaps the odd copy or two, being locked away in a Government Archive. Here is that lead-sheet SIGNAL SCHOOL HALF YEARLY REPORT EXAMPLE.pdf

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ut, not only am I getting ahead of myself in chronology, there were problems brewing for all concerned at the 'coal face' because the necessary secret 'squirrel' reporting went from the 'egg heads' to the Admiralty, and from them to, guess where, the 'egg heads' of another "secret" department, circumventing the FLEET. The FLEET itself  was awash with 'egg heads';  indeed, it is well known that 30% of the officer corps {of all expertise} were RNR, RNVR, and were it not for the proverbial HO's [virtually all of them at sea in fighting roles], scientists, engineers, medical doctors, non-medical doctors, designers you name it, the shooting-match would have been lost. So....how does one tell the FLEET the contents of the Secret, nay, Most Secret  despatches which COULD affect their chances of survival ? Look, at your leisure to WW2 PROBLEMS and TECHNICAL ADVANCES

 

This PDF File, shows a typical annual report front cover and first few pages, this one from 1909.  It is published to allow you to get a feel for the detailed and comprehensive technical navy of 100 years ago. intro.pdf  These pages were always accompanied by a manpower report 1909 manpower.pdf

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