Local reserves

Photo:The Badge of the Sussex Division RNVR, The device in the centre is taken from the coat of arms of Hove borough Council.

The Badge of the Sussex Division RNVR, The device in the centre is taken from the coat of arms of Hove borough Council.

Artwork: Tony Drury

The Sussex Division RNVR Part 1: 1903-1914

By Tony Drury

Background
The Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve was established on June 30th 1903. The force was organized into regional 'Divisions', each comprising of several 'Companies', and recruitment was open to men from all walks of life.

The RNVR is established in the town
On November 28th 1903 Number 5 (Brighton and Hove) Company of the London Division RNVR was established at the RNR Battery by many of the former Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers.  Further companies of the London Division were formed on the south coast at Newhaven, Eastbourne, Bexhill, and Hastings; this expansion led to the creation of a new Sussex Division on April 26th 1904. The new Division was comprised of five companies; numbers 1 and 2 Companies at the RNR Battery at Hove, number 3 at Eastbourne, number 4 at Newhaven and number 5 at Hastings; each company comprised of an officer in charge, 2 SNCOs and 22 ratings. Divisional headquarters was initially established at Glynde Place, near Lewes, the home of their commanding officer Commander the Hon Thomas Seymour Brand, RNVR (formerly Rear-Admiral RN Retired).

Photo:The men of No 5 Company (Hastings) of the Sussex Division RNVR, in 1910, winners of the Farquhar Bowl awarded for the best Battery in the annual inter-division Field Gun Completion.

The men of No 5 Company (Hastings) of the Sussex Division RNVR, in 1910, winners of the Farquhar Bowl awarded for the best Battery in the annual inter-division Field Gun Completion.

Reproduced with permission from the Hastings Bygones The Hastings Observer, 2009

Self sufficiency a watchword
Training for the RNVR in Brighton and Hove was conducted in buildings at the RNR Battery on Hove seafront and in the basement of a chemist's shop in Church Road. Training also took place aboard RN ships when available. On December 15th 1904 the Battery was transferred to the control of the RNVR and the Division Headquarters moved there. Divisions had to be self-sufficient; they had to raise their own funds to build and maintain drill sheds and HQ buildings for use by their Companies. In order to help raise funds the Sussex Division had formed a band which gave public performances on the Western Lawns and at Portland Road during the summer months and provided the music for dances held at Hove Town Hall. It was 1906 before the two Brighton and Hove Companies had raised sufficient funds to acquire 5 Victoria Terrace for their Company HQ.

Meagre allowances
Like their predecessors in the RNAV the men of the RNVR were responsible for their own financial outlay as well as that of their companies. There was little support from the Admiralty, enlisted men were issued their first uniform free of charge while officers had to provide their own. Reimbursement of expenses was only made when on official duties, not for journeys to and from company drill nights or other training sessions.  The Admiralty paid an annual award of 35 Shillings per 'efficient' man into the Divisional coffer and £4 annually towards administration costs. Any man who failed to meet the requirement of attending 40 drill sessions in his first year and 25 in each of the next two years had to pay the 35 Shillings out of his own pocket. Volunteers signed up for three years at a time. Other expenses were contributed from the pockets of the division and company officers, in particular electricity, heating and repair bills incurred by the HQ and any other buildings.

Gunnery drills
Training focused primarily on gunnery and basic seamanship skills, the RNR Battery had several 6" naval artillery pieces on which the men would drill and companies were formed into 'Batteries' for drill using 12 pounder field guns (this tradition is kept alive by the RN Field Gun competitions held during the annual Royal Tournament). The admiralty supplied equipment, such as service boats (whalers), rifles, cutlasses and field guns to facilitate drilling in the different disciplines laid down for the force to be proficient in. Volunteers were taught knot tying, basic 'marlin spike' skills and rowing and boat handling at Shoreham.

Photo:Poster for the Royal Naval Division; one member of the Sussex Division RNVR who fought with the RND was Able Seaman Alfred Langrish from Hove, he served with the Hood Battalion, 2nd Brigade, RND. Read some of his wartime experiences in the Letter in the attic project

Poster for the Royal Naval Division; one member of the Sussex Division RNVR who fought with the RND was Able Seaman Alfred Langrish from Hove, he served with the Hood Battalion, 2nd Brigade, RND. Read some of his wartime experiences in the Letter in the attic project

Image: Tony Drury collection

A new commanding Officer
On October, 28th 1907, Commander Brand was relieved of command of the Sussex Division RNVR by Commander the Rt. Hon. Viscount Curzon, RNVR (formerly of the London Divisision and later to become 5th Earl Howe).   The Division continued its training role until rumours of impending war brought a new urgency to drilling and levels of proficiency from the gun crews; the expectation was that upon being mobilised they would serve aboard warships of the Fleet. When war came however the reality was something completely different.

The RNVR is mobilised for war
On August 2nd 1914 the RNVR was mobilised for war and the men of the division were ordered to report to their drill halls and await further orders. Three weeks later the men of the RNVR were informed that only a small percentage of their number would be joining the fleet for service at sea, the rest were to join a new fighting force, the Royal Naval Division (RND), for military service on land. Many of the men from the Sussex Division would never return.

Sources:

Dingwall & Bailey (1977) 'Sussex (Sunday slilors) by the Sea, the History of the Royal Naval Reserve in Sussex: 1874-1974', Private publication

Kerr J.L. & Granville W. (1957) 'The RNVR - a record of achievement' London, Harrap & Co

Middleton, J. (2002, 2003) 'Encyclopaedia of Hove & Portslade' Vol.11, Q to R, Brighton & Hove Libraries

Warlow, B. (2000) 'Shore Establishments of the Royal Navy' (Second Edition) Liskeard, Maritime Books

Taylor, (1983) 'London's Navy: A Story of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve' London, Quiller Press Ltd.

This page was added on 12/03/2009.
Comments about this page

Does anybody remember the N.T.C. (Nautical Training Corps)? I was a member myself, we used to attend weekly meetings near Gloucester Road I think. I used to attend parades from our base through the town then up St James St then right into Burlington Street Church. I have searched your database and found no mention of the N.T.C. There must be someone who remembers us.

By J.Muns (13/03/2009)

The NTC is still alive and well within the city! I am the 2nd Officer at TS Zealous NTC. We have three ships still open: TS Nautilus in Kemp Town, TS Valiant in Woodingdean and TS Zealous in Hollingbury. If you want to know about the corps, try: www.ntc.org.uk

By Claire Wilkins (22/03/2009)

Thank you, for that, I was with TS Nautilus, our ship was based at somewhere near Albion Hill we were often visited by our commodore and founder Froest-Carr OBE, and always on remembrance Sundays when we paraded from Castle Square to Burlington Street for the service. They were good times and I made many friends.

By J.Muns (26/03/2009)

There was a gun carriage naval funeral in March 1909 of RNVR rating Albert George Sheppard from Round Hill Crescent to the Extra-Mural Cemetery. He died of pneumonia but we do not know in what circumstances. Can anybody help with more information?

By Keith Bankes (24/09/2017)

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