On Wednesday, November 13, 2013 the 4th Alan Villiers Memorial Lecture took place at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. It was an interesting and well-attended event, which judging from delegates’ comments afterwards was highly successful. The event was graced by the presence of Nancie, Captain Villiers’ widow, and their daughter and two sons, and the guest of honour was the Royal Navy’s Fleet Commander and Deputy Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Philip Jones. Other guests included members of the three organising bodies, the local academic community and Midshipmen from the Oxford University Royal Navy Unit led by their Officer in Command Lieutenant Hugo Floyer Royal Navy.
Each of the three lectures was connected through a theme of professionalism and professionalization which gave many of the historians and former mariners in the audience food for thought. Doctoral researcher Samuel McLean of King’s College London began with a fascinating discussion of the creation and definition of the Royal Navy following the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660, arising from current research and analysis for his thesis. Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham, editor of the Naval Review, provided an excellent analysis of the history and purpose of the journal as an essential tool for internal, privileged professional discussion by serving naval officers, and outlined past and future challenges. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston delivered the Alan Villiers Memorial Lecture itself, describing the foundation, growth and character of the British-India Steam Navigation Company, illustrated by his personal experience as a young deck officer near the end of the Company’s long history as a major cargo and passenger company in the world’s oceans.
The audience took an active part as each paper was followed by a series of salient and interesting questions, which the speakers answered, often amplifying points so that we wished we had more time in a fast-moving programme. The talks may be published in one of more of the journals published by the organisers – details to be made available shortly.
It was announced that the Alan Villiers Memorial Lecture series will be supported for another four years by the organising bodies. The fifth AVML will be held on Wednesday 1 October 2014, when the keynote speaker will be Dr NAM Rodger of All Souls College, Oxford. His theme will be ‘The German Submarine War, 1914-1918’. Announcements on that event will be forthcoming on this website and in the journals published by the organising bodies, The Society for Nautical Research, The Naval Review and the Britannia Naval Research Association.
Audio recordings of this year’s talks are available now in .mp3 format, digitally recorded using a Zoom H2 Handy Recorder. We are currently unable to provide in-page streaming, but the audio files can be downloaded from the following links:
Samuel McLean Professionalization as Process: Definition of Royal Navy Officer Ranks 1660-1749 (25.2 MB)
Vice-Admiral (Retd) Sir Jeremy Blackham ‘One Hundred Years of Professional Knowledge: the centenary of the Naval Review’ (37.6 MB)
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston ‘A Maritime Empire : the British India Steam Navigation Company 1856 – 1973 (68.2 MB)
The recordings include the question and answer sessions, although not all of the questions can be heard clearly.