After many years and some reconsideration, I have decided to make my MA Major Research Paper available to read. This was completed at Wilfrid Laurier University in 2010. I would like to very much thank my supervisor Professor Roger Sarty, who has often encouraged me since. I would also like to thank Professors John Laband and Geoff Hayes for their thorough evaluation of this paper during my MA defense.
During the first part of the Second World War, Sir Herbert Richmond, professor at Cambridge University and the leading British naval historian, asserted that old-fashioned historical education of the Royal Navy’s officers had a deleterious effect on the navy’s operational performance. This paper is an examination of the impact of what Richmond called the “Blood and Thunder” school of history on the Royal Navy’s professional culture, and the effects of that culture on tactical decision-making during the period 1939 to 1943. The objective is to gain further insight into the institutional culture of the Royal Navy, greater understanding of how officers made tactical decisions, but most importantly endeavour to test more precisely the linkages between professional culture and decision-making in battle. Accordingly this paper will answer the following questions:
1) What was the “Blood and Thunder” school of history that Richmond decried?
2) How might “Blood and Thunder” have influenced the culture of the Royal Navy?
3) What do Richmond and his allies’ criticisms reveal about Royal Navy educational
4) How can tactical decisions in the Second World War be better understood in light of
the influence of “Blood and Thunder” ideas on the Royal Navy’s culture?
This paper will argue that there is insufficient proof to demonstrate that the “Blood and
Thunder” school of history directly effected Royal Navy tactical decisions as Richmond claimed.