Reply To: Jack all at sea – swimming in the sailing navy

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#9611
Alastair Wilson
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    By Alastair Wilson
    If anyone is seriously interested in pursuing this, I would suggest looking through RN ratings’ Service Certificates at NA, Kew, to find the earliest record of P(assed) S(wimming) T(est). I would think it was in the 1880s, following the change to QR&AI, as stated by Justin R in his initial posting.
    I find it interesting that there were instances, such as that quoted by N.B., where all members of a ship’s company could swim. I would suggest that this was more likely in pre-industrial England, when sea-farers were drawn almost exclusively from those who dwelt by the sea, and so would at least have had a facility to learn to swim. From about 1850 onwards, when greater mobility given by the railways, enabled enabled young men to ‘run away to sea’, and men from inland areas joined the Royal Navy in increasing numbers, I would have expected the incidence on non-swimmers to have increased.
    It would be interesting, too, to examine the records of the various training ships run by such bodies as the Marine Society, to establish whether, and from what date, they taught their boys to swim.
    And it is also instructive to see the number of awards made by the (Royal) Humane Society (Captain Maryatt was by no means alone) – they will be found in the Navy Lists for the period). As an example, Vice-Admiral Sir James Startin (1855-1948) received three awards from the Society, as well as the Albert Medal, awarded in 1918 when he was 63 years old, and serving as a Commodore RNR, having volunteered to serve in a lower rank during the war.