Selborne Scheme

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Captain Rosslyn Wemyss of Osborne noted in a 1905 letter to Fisher:

[A] tendency on the part of the parents of some of the cadets at Osborne to hope at least that their sons might never become Lieutenants (E), with no chance of commanding ships or fleets, and I have a suspicion that, that for this reason, they have in some cases even discouraged their sons in their engineering studies.[1]


Speaking before the Douglas Committee in 1906, Admiral Sir Lewis A. Beaumont, Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth, opined:

The fundamental change which has been brought about by the common entry has already disturbed the Service in a great measure, and, speaking for myself, I do not think that it has the good will of the Service generally. I do not mean the common entry alone, but what follows from common entry.[2]

In their minority report on the Douglas Committee, Rear-Admiral Login, Commodore Briggs and Captain Bacon, in opposing the inclusion of the Engineer Branch in the Military Branch, made direct reference to the Selborne Scheme reforms:

As officers in touch with the sea-going Fleets, we would also remind their Lordships that the great changes which have taken place in the Navy during the past two years have created a great feeling of unrest and uncertainty which only loyalty has in a measure recently soothed. It is very undesirable, therefore, to introduce at the present moment any further important changes which are not absolutely necessary.[3]



The first officer from Osborne promoted to the rank of Captain was Harold T. C. Walker on 31 December, 1931.[4][5]


The first 17 officers selected to specialise in engineering were appointed to the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, on 1 October, 1913.[6] The first promotions to the rank of Captain (E) occurred on 30 June, 1936, with the promotion of J. B. Sidgwick and D. C. Ford, who had entered Osborne in January, 1904, and September, 1903, respectively.[7]


There can be no doubt that there was strong opposition to the Selborne scheme. However, what Marder termed "objections of a snobbish nature" aside, it is also clear that much opposition was based on incorrect information regarding the scheme. It is all very well for Marder to damn "people who had not informed themselves as to the real nature of the Admiralty scheme",[8] but it suggests a real failure on the part of the Admiralty to present the case for and the details of the Selborne Scheme not only to the public but to the Navy itself.


  1. Quoted in Marder. p. 47.
  2. Douglas Committee Report. ADM 116/832. p. 127.
  3. Douglas Committee Report. ADM 116/862. pp. 43-44.
  4. "Royal Navy" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Friday, 1 January, 1932. Issue 46019, col B, p. 16.
  5. "Royal Navy" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Thursday, 14 January, 1932. Issue 46030, col G, p. 6.
  6. "Royal Navy" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Friday, 18 August, 1933. Issue 46526, col F, p. 5.
  7. "Royal Navy" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Thursday, 2 July, 1936. Issue 47416, col F, p. 25.
  8. Marder. p. 47.


  • Marder, Arthur J. (1961). From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, The Royal Navy in the Fisher Era, 1904-1919: The Road to War, 1904-1914. Volume I. London: Oxford University Press.