in the 1970s, my Dad was a Sea Scout (something analogous to both Scouts and Sea Cadets, from my understanding). From that, he acquired two volumes of the 1960s edition of the Admiralty Manual of Seamanship. Well, I claimed them (and they’re sitting on my bookshelf, now) but since I finished my PhD, I have become more and more interested in these volumes- as they present the 20th centuries continuation of the kinds of professional documents created during the 17th century. Some of these were like the Regulations and Instructions while others, such as the Seaman’s Vade-Mecum (Caird, HOL 12) published by William Mountain in 1744 (which willl be a future Discuss=A-Vol post).
The documents I’ll be discussing in this series are in either the BR or OU series of documents, from the Admiralty. To quote Kew (The National Archive)’s catalogue description for ADM 234 (which contains BR)1 :
Admiralty printed books and pamphlets issued to the Navy in the BR (Books of Reference) series, which did not need inclusion in the security classified CB or SP series. They include regulations and instructions, handbooks and training manuals, reports and works of reference. The subjects dealt with by BRs include almost all those about which officers, ratings or civilian employees might need to be informed, which were insufficiently secret to be issued as CBs. They include all sorts of regulations and instructions, handbooks of weapons and equipment, training manuals, works of reference, historical studies (including the Naval Staff ‘Battle Summaries’), reports and studies of damage to ships in action, and the Geographical Handbooks produced by the Naval Intelligence Division. The series also includes some of the similar works produced by the same Division’s Interservice Topographical Information Centre for the use of all services.
Arrangement: The records are arranged in BR number order within each accession. The BR (Books of Reference) series was started in 1942 when the former OU (Official Use) series was discontinued. Many of the early BRs were renumbered from the OU series, while others were transferred from the CB (Confidential Books) series. The distinction Between these series lay neither in subject nor function, but in security classification: CBs were all graded ‘Confidential’ and above, as were the SPs (Signed Publications), but OUs were only ‘Restricted’ and BRs either ‘Restricted’ or freely available.
In the past several years, I have been purchasing/acquiring a number of different manuals- both for historical interest and because I find them useful in my own progression as a maritime professional. This post is going to be a quick overview of what I have in my collection, which I will explore in more detail in future posts.
Above we have about half the collection- the Seamanship manuals. The bottom row are the 1960s era Volumes I and II which are my Dad’s, I bought a Vol III of the same set off of EBay. In the top row are a 1913 Volume I, which I found in one of many boxes of books which were given to the maritime book store & chart agent that I worked at. It was and is not a second hand book shop, so I was allowed to pick through before we decided what we were going to do with the rest. Then, there are Volume I (1937) and Volume II (1934)- the second I bought from EBay, and Volume I was a gift from Fraser Mckee, a member of the Canadian Nautical Research Society and veteran of the Royal Canadian Navy. It was his edition from when he was a sprightly lad. The last book on the top row is Volume II from 1951.
The second group of books I have are related to Navigation. My Manual of Navigation Vol 1 is the 1987 version (reprinted 1994), via the Canadian Coast Guard College Library. Volume II is 1973, reprinted 1977. the big red book is The Admiralty Manual of Hydrographic Surveying, Vol I (1965) and the final book is Remarks on Handling Ships, OU 5274 printed in 1941 in Ottawa, Canada for the Royal Canadian Navy- although I purchased it from New Zealand. I’m trying to acquire a copy of BR 2092 Handling Ships from 1954, and I also have photos of the restricted Vol IV of the Manual of Navigation from 1962, which I will be sharing when we get to that point in the series.
The other category of manuals that I have are engineering. Yes, I am deck department to the core, but I do eventually have to pass a General Engineering Knowledge exam and this kind of stuff is actually quite interesting. I purchased all of these together from the United Kingdom. They were used by
SUB Lt. G. A. Royle, R.N. V.R. (That’s actually how it’s listed in the front of the volume- so that’s a particularly interesting piece of .. marginalia, I guess). Naval Marine Engineering Practice is edition 1955, reprinted 1956. The Machinery Handbook was reprinted 1955, and Engineering Manual for Her Majesty’s Fleet is 1950, reprinted 1955. Fascinatingly, it’s listed as the 9th edition, with the first edition having been printed in 1879. It’s fascinating because I haven’t yet found evidence of the Manual of Seamanship being printed earlier than 1908.
- Just to be clear, there are hundreds if not thousands of documents in the OU and BR series. The vast majority, having to do with very specific Royal Navy electrical and engineering systems were not available to the public. The documents discussed in this series are only one small insight into this gigantic framework of information and document control