THE DEATH OF H.M. THE QUEEN c.1901

The naval warrant officer rank [2nd class, 1st class, Chief and commissioned [known as a Ranker], were the only group of royal sailors who had been granted permission to have commercial premises from and in which they produced a monthly Journal. The premises were in the premier port of Portsmouth, and in each of the main naval ports at that time, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Chatham, Malta and Sydney monthly meetings were held, the outcomes of which were reported back to the Portsmouth HQ building for inclusion into the Journal which became a pan-navy document. It was a well read publication, nowhere more so than by Their Lordships in the Admiralty. The early days, formed and blessed by none other than Admiral of the Fleet Jackie Fisher and Admiral Samuel Hood, the matter was simply about the rank, but by the end of the 19th century it covered every conceivable subject concerning naval matters, personnel and materiel, lower deck, upper deck and the middle deck which was their springboard to addressing matters subordinate and superior to their ranks, four in number. In so many ways it was the forerunner of the Navy News, and as such, many  a wise head consulted the 19th and 20th century Journals as authoritative, as indeed they were, regularly 'fed' by comments made by both sets of Admiralty Lords, juniors who were captains over eight years seniority and commodores second class plus seniors who ranged from commodore first class to admiral of the fleet.

The warrant officers were a trouble lot having much to complain about, and they used the Journal as their mouthpiece to address grievances full well knowing that the First Naval Lord [later the 1st Sea Lord] would read and action if considered necessary. Reading the journals from back into the 19th century, each months issue being on average twelve A4 sheets, so approximately 144 sheet per annum times twenty five years, is in itself a naval history lesson far more profound than the single and parochial subject of a specific naval rank.  The journal was a 'must have' for the petty officers [chief petty officers did not exists until many years after the formation of warrant officer pressure group] for many amongst them aspired to become a warrant officer, but whilst it was also available to wardroom commissioned officers its very being was either envied or detested.  Envied because they themselves had no redress to their grievances other than through service channels [and they had plenty in the Victorian navy which were ongoing from the late Georgian navy, addressed in buddy-fashion by the man who became known as the sailor King, William IV because of his service in the navy. However, his short reign of just seven years, meant that his efforts on the behalf of naval officers came to naught. Detested because their subordinates [exempt rankers] had the ear of Their Lordships, and on some issues, had actually 'engineered' changes particularly when the Royal Commissions of naval service matters [1852] met leading to the 1853 enormous changes. These introduced the "professional navy" with the introduction of  the "continuous service", whereby men actually committed themselves to serving for long periods resulting in a stable work force, unlike the piecemeal, hit and miss comings and goings of pre 1853 times, when it was not uncommon for a ship to stay in harbour for lack of a crew. The lot of the good and faithful warrant officers had to wait for upwards of twenty years as such, before they had any chance of progressing in the navy: many never got that opportunity which bred disillusionment throughout that rank, and in many cases [which are reported upon in the journals]  the proverbial bottle became their friend and salvation!

As much as anything published in the journals which annoyed the commissioned officers, was the audacious direct approach to the royal family, even to the monarch, to convey messages from the warrant officers which in effect appeared to many that they, with their newspaper,  were the only one's in the navy with feelings on the subject. The wardroom ranks would have dearly loved to have done the same and no doubt too, the lower deck. As it was, the first lord of the admiralty would have sent to Buckingham Palace the condolences of the entire naval service on sad and happy royal occasions [not even the first sea lord would have had that latitude] with the warrant officers claiming their right to write, in flowing terms, of 'their' feelings to the royal mourners.  Few I suspect, know of the journals, but be assured after much studying of them, that the journal packed-a-punch and gave preeminence to the warrant rank of the royal navy, that no other rank, rating, branch or service could aspire to.  What Jackie Fisher had approved during his first reign as the first sea lord in continuation to what was approved by  Admiral Hood during his first reign as the first sea lord,  allowing warrant officers a voice-piece to publish [commercially] the merits and demerits of their rank, could not be curtailed by a subsequent first sea lord unless the journal had published something considered outlandish and contrary to good order and naval discipline. The writers and publishers of the journal were not so stupid as to err on that accord.

In the following article, you will note a typo or two [a persons 'metal' instead of 'mettle' for example] and of course the style of writing is typically 19th century [albeit just inside the 20th] and as such, strange by our standards.  It is flowery language which is defined as "it uses too many complicated words or phrases in an attempt to sound skilful."

For all that, it is a good read!

Note also the explanation of the funeral proceedings at Windsor railway station after the train bearing the coffin had arrived [one and a half hours late] from Paddington.  Given that the article was written in February 1901 [funeral was the 2nd February] for the March 1901 journal and the normal journalistic excellence of the warrant officers journal, plus the first hand experience of the events unfolding at Windsor as witnessed by naval gunners [a warrant officer rank in 2nd class, 1st class, and chief class] there can be little doubt that the article is correct in detail in every way. It also agrees with the account of Admiral Sir Percy Noble who attended the funeral as a gunnery officer in charge of the royal guard, which is recorded for all posterity in the official archives held at Kew.

Enjoy the article

 The naval Warrant Officers reaction to the death of Queen Victoria.pdf