British Admiralty Control and Naval Power in the Indian Ocean (1793-1815)
Day, John Frederick
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis aims to explain how British naval power was sustained in the Indian Ocean during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. To improve efficiency and economy, the Admiralty had to reorganise the management of shore support services, as well as to rationalise the bases available to the navy to meet the enemy it faced. The basic proposal of this thesis is that British naval power was projected overseas by the Admiralty's effective reconciliation of two competing demands, the naval demand for strategic deployment and the domestic demand for reform. The thesis argues that British naval power in the Indian Ocean was increased by the acquisition of the Cape of Good Hope and Trincomalee and the naval bases built at these locations. The removal of the navy from complete dependence on the East India Company for support services was part of a long term policy of increasing Admiralty control of facilities in the east. In 1793 Bombay was the main naval base but Madras quickly became another hub supporting naval activities in the east. Other locations were considered. Calcutta was used and investigations were made into developing Penang as a navy base before Trincomalee became part of Britain’s long-term naval infrastructure. At the Cape a separate naval command was given responsibility for part of the Indian Ocean. Following the capture of Mauritius in 1810 this island was used temporarily as a forward support base. Admiralty control of the naval support services delivered to the squadrons at the Cape and in the East Indies was dramatically improved by the appointment overseas of resident commissioners from 1809. This resulted from the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission of Naval Revision, first suggested by the Commissioners on Fees in 1788. Resident commissioners ensured Admiralty instructions and policies were implemented and executed, resulting in improved efficiency and reduced costs.
PhD in Maritime History