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The Navy of the Restoration

Alec Samuels

Lord Tedder, Marshall of the Royal Air Force, educated at Whitgift School, Croydon and Magdalene College, Cambridge (1909-1913), was a most distinguished military commander in WWII, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Middle East and then Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Mediterranean 1941-1943 and Deputy Supreme Commander for Operation Overlord, the invasion of France 1943-1 945. Subsequently he became Chancellor of the University of Cambridge 1950-1967.
What is less well known is that before WWI he won the Prince Consort prize for his research dissertation, The Navy of the Restoration, published in Cambridge Historical Essays, Cambridge University Press 1916.
Needless to say, Samuel Pepys played a significant part in the story. Secretary to Montagu, Pepys went to Holland in 1660 to accompany Charles II home and carried the King’s Declaration from ship to ship. Montagu became the first Earl of Sandwich and a Knight of the Garter. Pepys was appointed Clerk of the Acts, though at that time young and very inexperienced, knowing little of accounts, and indeed he had to learn the multiplication tables in 1662. He very soon developed the necessary skills.
The problems of the Navy were very serious, including huge debts, little money, cutbacks, corrupt suppliers, shortage of sailors, poor morale. Pepys set to work and soon set up a proper civil administration, getting the finances on to a firm footing, weeding out the incompetent, introducing discipline, and getting victualling organised, through local surveyors, indeed becoming himself Surveyor General. “Seamen love their bellies above anything else.” In the mid 1660’s came the Dutch wars, the result of striving for naval and maritime supremacy. Inadequate victualling meant poor morale, and the need to break off action and return to port. Lowestoft was an English victory but a lost opportunity (Lord Sandwich lost a son). In June 1666 the Dutch won a victory, though a pyrrhic victory, and the public was disgusted. In July 1666 the Dutch were forced to withdraw from the engagement. In 1667 the Dutch got up the Medway, a considerable humiliation for the English. Fortunately the treaty of Breda ended the hostilities. France was the real enemy.
Without the highly skilful administration of Pepys the Royal Navy would have been in a serious position and indeed would have lost the wars with the Dutch, yielding supremacy of the seas to Holland – an unthinkable prospect.