All posts by Grace Lundstrom

The Shrinking Royal Navy

 

A man in 17th century naval dress stands on a raft that is sinking in the middle of the sea. He wears a hat that reads, “From Nelson to Nothing in 200 Years.” As the sun sets behind him in a rowboat a sailor says, “The boy stood on the budget deck, the unrealistic commitments around his neck.”
A man in 17th century naval dress stands on a raft that is sinking in the middle of the sea. He wears a hat that reads, “From Nelson to Nothing in 200 Years.” As the sun sets behind him in a rowboat a sailor says, “The boy stood on the budget deck, the unrealistic commitments around his neck.”

 

The Shrinking Royal Navy, a political cartoon by Iain Green, was created on July 30th, 2013 in response to the news that the Royal Navy was letting go of their commitment to NATO because Great Britain’s budget could not afford it. As Horatio Nelson, a symbol of the once powerful British navy, is sinking, the sailormen of today salute him in farewell. Although the budget of the Royal Navy was continuing to weaken, Great Britain was losing control of their commitments as their ship, or raft, was going under.

The cartoon shows a man in 17th century naval dress, Horatio Nelson, standing on a raft that is sinking in the middle of the sea. The man has three medals hanging around his neck that appear to be weighing on him and a “For Sale” badge on his chest. He wears a hat that reads: “From Nelson to Nothing in 200 Years.” Behind the man, sitting in a rowboat are three faceless naval sailors. The sailor in the middle holds a small blue flag with the letters RN on it, meaning Royal Navy. The two sailors on either side are each holding their ores in attention, as the middle sailor says, “the boy stood on the budget deck, the unrealistic commitments around his neck.” Behind them, the flag of the Royal Navy called the White Ensign flies at half-mast mourning the death of the once greatest navy. In the background, many 17th century style ships line the horizon as the sun sets on them.

The commitments hanging around the naval officer’s neck are the Med, the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic, the Atlantic Ocean, and NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “Defence ministers have admitted the UK has been forced to pull out of key NATO naval defence groups in a sign of just how stretched the Royal Navy has become.” This quote from an article published on July 30th, 2013 in The Scotsman, Scotland’s National Newspaper, explains how the Royal Navy was no longer fulfilling their commitment to NATO in 2013. Further investigation revealed that they had been failing to provide their promised ships to the maritime group in the Mediterranean since 2010 (Maddox). The navy that once ruled the seas could no longer keep their commitments.

The Royal Navy has been around since 1660, and became recognized as the world’s dominant naval power after the Battle of Trafalgar led by Horatio Nelson on March 15th, 1805 (“Royal Navy History.”). In response to budget cuts in 1931, the Washington Post published a piece on the discontent saying, “For the first time in centuries the crew of a British fleet became recalcitrant this week on account of a reduction in pay, and put a stop to projected maneuvers” (“Britain’s Navy.”). This was not the last time that great Britain balanced the budget at the expense of the navy. In fact, the royal navy has been in a steady decline since the 1930’s (Kuehn). In 2013, when the cartoon was published, there were more admirals then ships (Gallagher). 

The Shrinking Royal Navy shows what has come of the Royal Navy since the start of the navy’s decline in 1931. John Francis Knott’s cartoon titled, “Well, I’ll Be Blowed!”  mocks the situation that Great Britain was in when their navy first started declining due to the budget cuts during the Great Depression. 

The cartoon, The Shrinking Royal Navy, pulls humor from Great Britain’s desperate pride of the navy that they used to have. It is humorous because people find the misfortune of others to be amusing as is explained by the Superiority Theory of Humor. Not only is the idea itself comedic, but the way it is portrayed. Green painted the greatest sea power sinking into the ocean as the sun sets on it’s reign. He also uses bright colors, rhyming in “deck” and “neck”, and the alliterations of “nelson” and “nothing” to make the situation seem trivial. All the way to the “For Sale” sign on his chest, mocking the cuts in the budget and with the flag at half-mast, the sailors in the background are in mourning of their precious navy.

Once the world’s greatest naval force, Great Britain’s sea power is not what it once was without the resources needed to fulfill their commitments and stay afloat. But as the sun is setting on the British sea power, the beauty of what once was shines reflected on the water.

 

Works Cited

“Britain’s Navy.” The Washington Post (1923-1954) Sep 17, Washington, D.C., 1931. http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/150090962?accountid=7118. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016.

Gallagher, Nicholas M. “When Britain Really Ruled the Waves.” The American Interest. The American Interest LLC, 14 Nov. 2014. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016. http://www.the-american-interest.com/2014/11/14/when-britain-really-ruled-the-waves/.

Green, Iain. “The Shrinking of the Royal Navy.” Cagle.com, edited by Daryl Cagle, Cagle Cartoons, 4 Aug. 2013, www.cagle.com/iain-green/2013/08/the-shrinking-british-royal-navy. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016. Cartoon.

Kuehn, John T. “The Decline and Fall of British Sea Power May Not Be Over.” War on the Rocks. War on the Rocks, 05 Dec. 2015. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016. http://warontherocks.com/2015/12/the-decline-and-fall-of-british-sea-power-may-not-be-over/.

Maddox, David. “Royal Navy Pulls out of Nato Commitments.” The Scotsman. Johnson Publishing, 30 July 2013. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016. http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/royal-navy-pulls-out-of-nato-commitments-1-3020604.

“Royal Navy History.” Royalnavy.mod.uk. Royal Navy, 2014. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016. http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/features/history-timeline.

“Well, I’ll Be Blowed!”

"Well, I'll be blowed!"
John Bull, the personification of Britain, has a bewildered expression as he looks at a naval officer representing the Royal Navy, as he sits with Mahatma Gandhi on a blanket labeled ‘Passive Resistance.’

 

“Well, I’ll Be Blowed!” is a political cartoon mocking the blow to Britain’s naval pride about the issues they were facing in 1931. The cartoon was illustrated by John Francis Knott and published on September 20th, 1931 in the Dallas Morning News. It was Autumn, 1931. The First World War had ended in 1918 and the roaring twenties followed until the stock market crash of 1929 (History.com). When the economy of the industrial world collapsed, more problems arose for Great Britain to battle. In September of 1931, Great Britain was facing many disruptions due to the start of the Great Depression and a loosening grip on not just their precious empire, but one of their own military forces.

The title of the cartoon, “Well, I’ll Be Blowed!” is an expression that became popular in Great Britain during the turn of the century to mid-1900s and was used to express great surprise, similar to “well, I’ll be darned” (Simpson “well, adv. and n.4.”). The cartoon depicts John Bull, the personification of Britain, with a bewildered expression as he looks at a naval officer representing the British navy, often referred to as the Royal Navy. The naval officer is sitting with Mohandas Gandhi on a blanket labeled ‘Passive Resistance.’ Gandhi, named Mahatma meaning ‘saint’ in Hindi, was the Nationalist leader of the passive resistance protests in India during the late 1920s and early 1930s (BBC News). Gandhi and the navy are sitting on the same blanket of resistance against Great Britain, which is unexpected because the navy was Great Britain’s strongest military force. The military was how Great Britain kept tight control over India and all of the British Empire. In the background of the cartoon, many ships are out at sea, but on shore John Bull stares at the navy sitting the blanket of passive resistance that Gandhi laid out.

John Bull became the popular persona of England and all of Great Britain in the early 1900s.  He was commonly depicted as a stout middle aged white man wearing a tailcoat, waistcoat, and boots, all from the Regency Period of the early 1800s. He also usually holds a cane and has a low top hat. John Bull is the personification of Britain in a similar manner to how Uncle Sam represents the United States of America (Johnson). John Bull is supposed to represent the majority of Great Britain and his surprise to what is happening in the cartoon represents the reaction that Great Britain was having at the time.

When this cartoon was published, Britain had been struggling to keep control over India for almost 20 years. India, known as “the jewel in the crown” of Great Britain began non-violent protests for independence in 1920. India had been under the control of the British since they arrived in India in the 1600s (BBC News). Leading up to 1931, Mahatma Gandhi had been campaigning for India’s independence through passive resistance. Gandhi had been working as a lawyer in South Africa during the early 1920’s, but after the the massacre in Amritsar in 1918, where 379 unarmed nationalist demonstrators were killed, Gandhi decided India had to stand up to Great Britain and that they would be better under their own rule (Wolpert). He quickly became a prominent leader in passive resistance against the British rule.

In the Fall of 1930, Gandhi attended the first Round Table Conference in London to discuss a new form of government for India (Trager).  In September of 1931, Gandhi was back in England for the second Round Table Conference. He wanted India and Great Britain to “exist in the Empire side by side as equal partners, held together ‘by the silken cord of love.'” As it was worded in the editorial that accompanied the cartoon in the Dallas Morning News, “It is a conflict between an idealism of a far-away future and a realism that sees things as they are.” Although, Gandhi’s desires for the country sounded beautiful, many in Great Britain didn’t think that giving India autonomy to self govern would be good for the Indian people (Dallas Morning News). Also, Great Britain’s Empire was threatened.

Not only was Great Britain having trouble with India, but with their own military, which they used to enforce their power, began protesting against them. Headline in the New York Times read, “NATION SHOCKED BY NEWS”, on September 15th of 1931, the Royal Navy conducted a protest against Great Britain at Invergordon and on the 16th there was another at Rosyth Base (Selden). The Royal Navy was the pride of Great Britain and for the first time in centuries, there was discontent there. Since far before world war one, the Royal Navy had been considered the strongest navy in the world and put much of their resources and manpower into building up their navy and keeping it strong and growing stronger. The Royal Navy became the dominant sea power in 1805 when it defeated the French and Spanish fleets during the Battle of Trafalgar (“Royal Navy History”). When the Great Depression hit them at the end of the 1920’s however, many budget cuts needed to be made and they chose to make 25% pay cuts to the royal navy (Lowry). 

With the discussion for an independent India and their protests in the air, the disorder in the navy was a slap in the face that Great Britain should have seen coming. The political cartoon by John Francis Knott laughs at the discomfort that Britain was facing as their grasp on world power appeared to be slipping. Not only was “the jewel in the crown” seeking independence, but the pride of the military was in resistance as well. In the cartoon, John Bull looked surprised and maybe scared and he had reason to be.

 

Works Cited

BBC News. “India Profile – Timeline.” www.bbc.com. BBC, 23 Sept. 2016. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-12557384.

Dallas Morning News Editorial Staff. “Gandhi’s Idealism.” Dallas Morning News  [Dallas, Texas], 20 Sept. 1931, sec. IV, p. 6. America’s Historical Newspapers, infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/ ?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=Q6EL5CCQMTQ4MDQyNDIwNC40ODI1MTM6MToxMjoxMjguODMuNjMuMjA&p_action=doc&s_lastnonissuequeryname=6&d_viewref=search&p_queryname=6&p_docnum=1&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-104D21319BD1D300@2426605-104D2133809DF0B9@37-104D213D50D94037@Gandhi%27s%20Idealism. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016.

History.com Staff. “Stock Market Crash of 1929.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.  History.com Staff. “Stock Market Crash of 1929.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

John F. Knott Cartoon Scrapbook, [ca. 1930-1942], 1952, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Johnson, Ben. “John Bull, Symbol of the English and Englishness.” Historic-uk.com. Historic UK, 8 Sept. 2014. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/John-Bull/.

Lowry, Sam. “The Invergordon Mutiny, 1931.” Libcom.org. Libcom.org, 9 Mar. 2007. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. https://libcom.org/history/1931-invergordon-mutiny.

“Royal Navy History.” Royalnavy.mod.uk. Royal Navy, 2014. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/features/history-timeline.

Selden, Charles. “Disorder in the British Nave Follow Economy Pay Cut; Manoeuvers Are Cancelled.” New York Times (1923-Current file)Sep 16, New York, N.Y., 1931. http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/99307291?accountid=7118.

Simpson, John A. “well, adv. and n.4.” Def. P6. www.oed.com. Oxford University Press, Dec. 2014. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

Trager, James. “1931.” The People’s Chronology, 3rd ed., Gale, 2005. Gale Virtual Reference Library,  Accessed 29 Nov. 2016. go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3460601931&it=r&asid=b446869dc318d220d9663e0d9c575d74.

Wolpert, Stanley. “Gandhi, Mahatma M. K.” Encyclopedia of India, edited by Stanley Wolpert, vol. 2, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006, pp. 119-125. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3446500239&it=r&asid=2b657833b7ab29e7e1e5fd3c8699f99d. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016.