Devlog #14 - The Royal Navy

As was mentioned in the last Devlog, today's one will be all about Andrew Miller. Who's Mr. Miller and what does he have to do with the First World War? Well, he just happens to be the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom. Strange how the British have a habit of naming organizations and groups after generic male names. Regardless of its bizarre nomenclature, the Royal Navy in Fields of History is, as in real life, the world's largest navy by a quite considerable margin.

Though Anglo-Saxon England was a respectable Naval Power, after the Norman Conquest, the new leadership had little desire to invest in a navy, focusing instead on the English Army to deal with their various foes on the British Isles, as well as defend their possessions on the continent. England, in fact, had no standing fleet at all for much of this time, simply conscripting merchant ships and arming them with whatever weapons they could get their hands on to do their dirty work.

In fact, despite what the popular image of England dictated, it was actually Scotland and not England that was considered the naval power of the British Isles through much of the Medieval and Renaissance eras. The English did have a few major Naval Victories early on, most famously at the Battle of Sluys during the Hundred Years War, but England's small ad-hoc navy was rarely able to take advantage of these victories. It seemed, especially after the loss of the English possessions in France, that the English were quite content to stay on their half of the island.

The Tudor Dynasty, however, saw things differently. Driven by several factors - potential interest in colonization, the increased importance of protecting overseas trade, competition with other naval powers - Henry VII began to expand England's port infrastructure, his son Henry VIII established a full-scale standing fleet for the first time since 1066 including purpose-built warships instead of just heavily-armed merchant ships, and Elizabeth I ended up making full use of the new fleet to establish and protect New World Colonies, as well as deal a major blow to the Spanish Armada to give England room to operate uncontested in the Atlantic.

However, the fleet and enthusiasm for the "Navy Royal" had been sunk by the end of the 16th Century, with privateering against English traders once again becoming common. With this in mind, Oliver Cromwell realized the advantage of having a large fleet and used his position to rebuild it. When Charles II came to power, he made the Royal Navy a proper institution of the English state rather than a royal possession upon his ascension and became the largest fleet in Europe.

The advantage conveyed by the fleet soon became apparent. No other European country could deal with the Royal Navy alone, which gave the English a safety net that none of its contemporaries had and allowed them to focus more on creating and maintaining a global empire, rather than having to prioritize issues at home. As a result, England made major successful landfalls in North America and India.

This also led to a period of domination on the colonial scale - few wanted war with England, as the English were wont to simply sail in with a small group of marines and burn down or take over some of the less-defended colonial settlements. They could just simply afford the manpower and send the fleet there, which were two advantages the defenders didn't possess. The Dutch found a breach in the Raid on the Medway, however, which prompted the nervous English to expand their fleet once again. Union with Scotland came just a few year later, both creating a combined British fleet and making it even more important to maintain, as the new Union had even more coastline to defend.

Through the 18th Century, the British continued to expand their fleet, now having taken the position of innovation from the Dutch and Spanish. The British came up with the Rating System for ships, which was adopted by most nations to at least some degree, and turned naval engineering into naval architecture, with larger and better-armed warships becoming a fixture of the Royal Navy. Britain's grasp on the sea gave it a near-monopoly over the world's trade, even outside of its own colonial empire. As the now United Kingdom ascended to the world's hegemon, they experienced perhaps their greatest test of all: the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

The Battle of Trafalgar saw the combined efforts of France and Spain, which, at the time, possessed the world's second and third largest navies, against the Royal Navy. Ultimately, the United Kingdom's fleet was outnumbered, but superior designs and tactics won the day. After Trafalgar, the Royal Navy was feared throughout the world, with virtually no attempts made through the 19th Century to openly contest its supremacy. However, the high of patriotic fervor had subsided in the United Kingdom, which had rightly come to realize that the celebrated victory was not a display of natural British superiority, but of good leadership, good fortune, and her enemy's hesitation. 

As a result, paranoia began to build again between the British and their continental rivals, with the idea beginning to take hold that another combination of foreign navies could potentially end their continuing reign over the ocean. In 1889, not desiring to risk a sequel to Trafalgar with a potentially different ending, the Empire adopted the Two-Power Standard, which mandated that the Royal Navy be the size of the world's next two largest navies combined.

Not everyone was happy to hear that news.

The German Empire, now ruled by Kaiser Wilhelm II, was attempting to catch up on the many diplomatic affairs that they had missed due to the relative youth of the nation. An ambitious building program began in the Empire to attempt to make a navy that could, at the very least, defend itself against the Royal Navy. Britain followed its obligation and an arms race began, which saw the development of entirely new classes of ship - the Dreadnought Battleship, the Submarine and the Battlecruiser. Though the Germans were able to create a new and large navy in shockingly short time, the Royal Navy remained quite a bit larger.

The Royal Navy of 1914, as a result, has strong yet surprisingly young traditions and is made up primarily of ships built within the last 15 years. Conflict with the Hochseeflotte of the German Empire seems inevitable from here - while the Royal Navy is still well larger and stronger than the Kaiserliche Marine, it is not quite as large as The Admiralty would like, and is quite spread out. Historically, the RN overcame this problem, and by the Battle of Jutland - a Pyrrhic Victory for the Germans, which nonetheless forced them to spend the rest of the War in port - had established unquestioned British dominance once again on the sea. This was not an easy task, but it is the task you'll be dealing with as the United Kingdom in Fields of History.

Much research has been done of national archives and fleet registers in order to portray the Royal Navy in accurate fashion in the game. All of the actual ships of the Royal Navy from 1914 are indeed at your fingertips and ready to battle in-game, though, for gameplay reasons, the organization has been slightly changed in order to be more intuitive and fit in with the game's structure. Of course, within the system, you are free to reorganize and complement the starting composition of Andrew however you please.

In Fields of History, Naval Units (made up of one or more ships) are the acting agents of your Fleets, carrying out your orders. They're split into four tiers, with each additional increasing the amount of Slots it has. Each Ship Type has a different Slot Size, with Dreadnoughts, for example, taking up more Slots than Destroyers or Submarines. They are distributed as follow:

  • Half-Flotilla is a small naval unit composed of few ships. Half-Flotillas will be most often seen in smaller navies, and even when equipped with Capital Ships, are only really capable of fulfilling the most basic tasks, such as Reconnaissance or small-scale Cargo Raids. Half-Flotillas can be upgraded to Flotillas using Military Experience Points.
  • Flotilla has more slots than its Half counterpart, the Flotilla can hold more ships, making it useful for duties such as Escort, Blockade, and Shore Bombard. Largest navies will likely be using these for the same duties that others would assign to Half-Flotillas.
  • Squadron is large enough that it's commanded by an Admiral, which give the ships under their command a variety of bonuses in Naval Battle. They also contain more Slots for ships than the Flotilla. Most secondary Naval powers will probably concentrate their main warships into a Squadron. Squadrons can be upgraded to Grand Squadrons with a princely sum of Military Experience Points.
  • Grand Squadron is the biggest Naval Unit, with a huge amount of Slots. Like the Squadron, they have their own Admiral assigned to them. Only the world's largest navies will have a full Grand Squadron, and likely the only thing capable of stopping them would be a Grand Squadron in kind, or at least a bunch of smaller units. They should not be taken - nor used - lightly.

If you're the type to play favorites, one of your ships may be designated as the Flagship of the Navy, giving it a special status as essentially the embodiment of your Navy as a whole. The best sailors and officers in the entire navy will be moved to the ship's staff, giving it several bonuses to the stats that they effect, such as Cohesion. Typically this status should be reserved for the largest, most important ship (hopefully under an Admiral's supervision), both to take the most advantage of the skills, and because of the drawback associated: If the Flagship sinks, the rest of your sailors will suffer a major Morale penalty, which may lead to problems in your Fleets.

Like with the Ground Forces, you also have the power to appoint the Head of your Navy. Be it a politician like Winston Churchill (who was First Sea Lord in 1914) or an Admiral like Alfred von Tirpitz (Großadmiral of the Kaiserliche Marine), the Leader of your navy will bring unique benefits to all your Fleets. He's also able to be assisted by a member of the Admiralty to enhance the effects further.

In the Naval Overview, you can see the composition of your Fleets at a glance in two different ways. First is the actual Order of Battle of your Navy itself. There's also a comprehensive listing of all ships in your entire Navy, organized by type. This makes it easy and quick to judge your strength in the seas at a glance, especially important if you have an idea of your enemy's Navy size or want to make sure all your most important ships survived a battle.

Below that, you can see all of the ships you currently have under construction. This includes both ships being build for your own Navy, as well as ships that you're currently building for other Navies. Indeed, in Fields of History, you can build ships for other Nations, such as the Chilean Dreadnought Almirante Latorre, which is nearing completion at the beginning of 1914.

This Devlog is coming to an end, but before that, we would like to thank the historians who have documented the Royal Navy in this time period for both preserving this important history that was necessary to create the accurate depiction in Fields of History. You can find the sources we used for this purpose here:

With that said, thank you for continuing to follow and support us in this Project. Enjoy your shore leave while it lasts: now that you've got your sea legs, in the next Devlog we're taking another in-depth look at a Navy, this time the favorite of Reinhard Scheer, Friedrich von Ingenohl and Franz Hipper: Die Kaiserliche Marine of the German Empire!


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