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Page last updated at 13:04 GMT, Monday, 18 October 2010 14:04 UK
Dartmouth Britannia Royal Naval College survives cuts
By Laura Joint
BBC Devon

Britannia Royal Naval College
Britannia Royal Naval College has operated for 105 years

The MP for Dartmouth, Dr Sarah Wollaston, has welcomed news that the town's Britannia Royal Naval College will not be closed as part of the Defence Review.

The Conservative MP for the Totnes Constituency had a meeting with the Secretary of Defence Liam Fox.

"He stated categorically that the Royal Navy has no plans to close Britannia Royal Naval College," she said.

The statement ended speculation it would be closed as part of cuts.

Royal connections

For over a century, The Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) has been the training establishment of choice for a succession of kings and princes.

Opened in 1905, it has served the country for 105 years, training many of the navy's top admirals.

Perched majestically above the River Dart, The Britannia Royal Naval College is among the finest buildings in Devon.

It comes as no surprise to learn the man behind it was also responsible for the facade of Buckingham Palace.

To deliver courageous leaders with the spirit to fight and win
BRNC mission statement

Architect Sir Aston Webb was commissioned to design the naval officer training college.

It followed an announcement from the First Lord of the Admiralty in 1896 that a new college would be built.

Tenders for the building of the college were requested in 1900 and the successful firm was Higgs and Hill, with a winning tender of £220,600.

King Edward VII laid the foundation stone in 1902 and the college - on a hill called Mount Boone - was opened in on 14 September 1905.

But why was the college built here in the first place?

The building replaced the previous 'home' of the training college - HMS Britannia and HMS Hindostan, two ships which had been based on the River Dart for 42 years.

HMS Britannia, 1863
The original college, HMS Britannia, moored on the Dart in 1863

Among the early cadets, in 1877, were Prince Albert Victor - grandson of Queen Victoria - and Prince George - later King George V.

As early as 1875, mutterings had been made about switching naval training onshore, after concern was expressed about the health of the cadets due to overcrowding and poor sanitation.

Dartmouth was chosen as it was well away from the distractions which were available in more obvious ports, such as Plymouth and Portsmouth.

The land on which BRNC was built was owned by the estate of Sir Walter Raleigh - a gift to the Devonian seafarer from Queen Elizabeth I.

The Raleigh estate refused to sell the land, so it was compulsorily purchased.

BRNC after the 1942 bombing
The college was severely damaged in a German bomb attack in 1942

1905 was exactly 100 years after Admiral Lord Nelson's victory at Trafalgar, but times had moved on and although Britain still ruled the waves, a more modern system of naval officer training was needed - hence the need for the naval college.

The mission statement of the college is: "To deliver courageous leaders with the spirit to fight and win".

And its role has been "to change young men and women from civilians into fit, professional and compassionate leaders, proud of themselves, the uniform they wear, and the tradition they represent".

One of its first cadets was the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, followed shortly afterwards by Prince Albert, later to become King George VI.

The royal link has remained throughout its 105 years.

Female cadets arrive in 1976
The first female cadets to train at Britannia arrived in 1976

Prince Charles and Prince Andrew received their Royal Navy training here, and legend has it that the Queen, as a young Princess Elizabeth, met Prince Philip on a Royal visit to BRNC in July 1939.

Freedom of Dartmouth

The building survived a bombing attack in September 1942, when one person died and serious damage was caused.

The following year, 1943, it was taken over by American forces in preparation for the D-Day landings, and the cadets were moved out to train at other sites - they returned in 1946.

The college - which received the Freedom of the Borough of Dartmouth in 1957 - has seen many changes over the years.

In 1976, it started to train female cadets for the first time.

BRNC celebrated its centenary in 2005, and two years later, Tony Blair became the first serving Prime Minister to visit the college.

In April 2010, the Duke of Edinburgh returned to the Britannia Royal Naval College to take the salute at the Lord High Admiral's Parade.




SEE ALSO
In pictures: The Duke at Dartmouth
09 Apr 10 |  People & Places
Video: The Duke at Dartmouth
09 Apr 10 |  Devon
Plymouth's proud naval history
28 Sep 09 |  History
In pictures: Fears for the future?
18 Oct 10 |  People & Places
In pictures: Fire in Dartmouth
28 May 10 |  People & Places
Can historic Dartmouth be salvaged?
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