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.
“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.