1863 (HMS Britannia) – present
Initial Officer training
Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC), commonly known as Dartmouth, is the initial officer training establishment of the British Royal Navy. It is located on a hill overlooking the port of Dartmouth, Devon, England. Royal Naval officer training has taken place in Dartmouth since 1863. The buildings of the current campus were completed in 1905. Earlier students lived in two wooden hulks moored in the River Dart. Since 1998, BRNC has been the sole centre for Royal Naval officer training.
The training of naval officers at Dartmouth dates from 1863, when the wooden hulk HMS Britannia was moved from Portland and moored in the River Dart to serve as a base. In 1864, after an influx of new recruits, Britannia was supplemented by HMS Hindostan. Prior to this, a Royal Naval Academy (later Royal Naval College) had operated for more than a century from 1733 to 1837 at Portsmouth, a major naval installation. The original Britannia was replaced by the Prince of Wales in 1869, which was renamed Britannia.
The foundation stone for a new building at the college was laid by King Edward VII in March 1902. Sir Aston Webb designed the shore-based college at Dartmouth, which was built by Higgs and Hill and practically completed in 1905.
The first term of cadets entered at the R.N. College Osborne were transferred to Dartmouth in September 1905.
The college was originally known as the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth (BRNC). As a Royal Naval shore establishment, it was later known also by the ship name HMS Britannia (a battleship called Britannia operated from 1904 to 1918). The college was named (ship name: HMS Dartmouth) in 1953, when the name Britannia was given to the newly launched royal yacht HMY Britannia. The training ship moored in the River Dart at Sandquay, currently the former Sandown class minehunter HMS Cromer, continues to bear the name Hindostan.
Cadets originally joined the Royal Naval College, Osborne, at the age of 13 for two years' study and work before joining Dartmouth. They studied there for four years there before starting sea training at age 17. RNC Osborne closed in 1923. The entry age for the Naval College was changed to 16 in 1948, and to 17 and 6 months in 1955. Until 1941, Dartmouth was in effect a specialised boarding school, with parents paying fees for tuition and board.
During the Second World War, after six Focke-Wulf aircraft bombed the College in September 1942, students and staff moved activities to Eaton Hall in Cheshire until the autumn of 1946. Two bombs had penetrated the College's main block, causing damage to the quarterdeck and surrounding rooms.
The college today
In the early 21st century, officer cadets, as they are known until passing out from the college, can join between the ages of 18 and 32. While most cadets join BRNC after finishing university, some join directly from secondary school. All spend between 30 and 49 weeks at the college, depending on specialisation. A large contingent of foreign and Commonwealth students are part of the student body. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary sends its officer cadets to BRNC for an 8-week initial officer training course, before they start at a maritime college.
Following the closures of the Royal Naval Engineering College, Manadon, in 1994 and the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, in 1998, BRNC is the sole naval college in the United Kingdom.
Slightly removed from the main buildings is Sandquay, which is below the college on the River Dart. It is primarily used for seamanship and boat handling training. Cadets are required to know that there are 187 steps from the college to Sandquay.
To enter as an officer cadet, British entrants must have 180 or more UCAS points. Prospective cadets then proceed to the Admiralty Interview Board, where they are tested mentally and physically. Several mental aptitude tests are administered, along with a basic physical fitness test and a medical examination.
King George V and King George VI were naval cadets at Dartmouth, as were the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York. It is said that the Duke of Edinburgh met the then Princess Elizabeth at Dartmouth. Prince William spent a brief period at the College after leaving Sandhurst as part of his training with all three of Britain's Armed Forces.
Sheikh Mubarak Ali Yousuf Suoud Al-Sabah, a member of the Royal Family of Kuwait, attended the Royal Navy Young Officer Course at Britannia Royal Naval College in 2002.
Commanders of the college
Source for list below: Listing compiled by historian Colin Mackie; additional references are given in the list.