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|Royal Naval Academy|
Royal Naval Academy, Portsmouth
The Royal Naval Academy was a facility established in 1733 in Portsmouth Dockyard to train officers for the Royal Navy. The founders' intentions were to provide an alternative means to recruit officers and to provide standardised training, education and admission. In 1806 it was renamed the Royal Naval College and in 1816 became the Royal Naval College and the School for Naval Architecture. It was closed as a training establishment for officer entrants in 1837.
In 1733, a shoreside facility was established in the dockyard for 40 recruits. A comprehensive syllabus provided theoretical and practical experience in the dockyard and at sea. Graduates of the Academy could earn two years of sea time as part of their studies, and would be able to take the lieutenant's examination after four years at sea instead of six. The Academy did not, however, achieve the objective of becoming the preferred path to becoming a naval officers. The traditional means of a sea-going "apprenticeship" remained the preferred alternative. The vast majority of the officer class was still recruited in this manner based on family ties, and patronage. Family connections, "interest" and a sincere belief in the superiority of practical experience learned on the quarterdeck ensured that the officer class favoured the traditional model. William IV summed up this view when he remarked that "there was no place superior to the quarterdeck of a British man of war for the education of a gentleman".
There was a clear prejudice against graduates. The then rating of midshipman-by-order, or midshipman ordinary, was used specifically for graduates of the Royal Naval Academy, to distinguish them from midshipmen who had served aboard ship, who were paid more. After two years at sea, graduates of the academy were eligible to be promoted to midshipman.
The college closed as a young officer training establishment on 30 March 1837 meaning that from that date all youngsters setting out on a naval career proceeded directly to sea. The closure of the college created a gap in officer training and in 1857 the two-decker Illustrious started to undertake the role of cadet training ship at Portsmouth. In 1859 she was replaced by the three-decker Britannia which was removed to Portland in 1862 and to Dartmouth in 1863.
A distinguished Academy graduate was Philip Broke who attended the Academy in 1791. He achieved particular fame as Captain of HMS Shannon in its victory over USS Chesapeake in the War of 1812. Two of Jane Austen's brothers, Francis and Charles, attended the Academy in 1786 and 1791 respectively. Both went on to become Admirals.
Another veteran of the War of 1812, Henry Ducie Chads, attended the Academy before joining the Royal Navy. He was First Lieutenant of HMS Java during her capture by USS Constitution. Command of the ship fell to Chads when her captain was mortally wounded near the close of the action, when he was forced to surrender the heavily damaged Java.