Navy Recruitment and Promotion

This page was started because of some oddities I found while researching some of the officers and crew of HMS and HMNZS Gambia. It is not authoritative but an attempt to clarify in my own mind by what was meant by some references I found.

A brief note on the Royal New Zealand Navy

Originally, the British Royal Navy was solely responsible for the naval security of New Zealand. The passing of the Naval Defence Act 1913 created the New Zealand Naval Forces as a separate division within the Royal Navy. The Naval Defence Act 1913 was passed on December 11, 1913 and provided the statutory basis for the establishment of the New Zealand naval forces. The Act did not authorise New Zealand to build its own warships and provided for the automatic transfer of New Zealand naval vessels to the Admiralty in time of war. The act empowered New Zealand to raise and maintain permanent naval forces, to apply the naval discipline Act and Admiralty instructions to the forces and to reinstate the Naval Reserve.

The New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy also known as the New Zealand Station was formed in 1921 and remained in existence until 1941.

With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, New Zealand promptly declared war against Germany and the Axis powers, and expanded its naval forces. In recognition that the naval force was now largely self-sufficient and independent of the Royal Navy, the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy became the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) in 1941.

Special Entry

Special Entry as a cadet meant different things, entry standards and who was allowed to join changed over the years. Since the 1850s officers had undergone an initial spell of training in a static ship followed by a period at sea as a midshipman. Later plans called for cadet training ashore (construction of Dartmouth Naval College had begun in 1898) followed by six months in the training cruiser, midshipman time in the fleet and finally the examinations for sub-lieutenant.

Fisher-Selborne Scheme

The Fisher-Selborne Scheme was an effort propsed by John Fisher, 1st Baron Fisher, Second Sea Lord, and approved by William Palmer, 2nd Earl of Selborne, First Lord of the Admiralty, in 1903 to combine the military and engineering branches of the Royal Navy. The main goal was to return control over the movement of a ship to the military officer. The scheme started in 1903 and the cadets were 13 year-old boys who were through four years of education at Osborne and Dartmouth, normally followed by eight months in a cadet training cruiser and two years four months as a midshipman. The four years of education was double to what was previously required and showed that the recruits going through this scheme were to be more specialists than normal seamen.

Special Entry Scheme

The Special Entry scheme was the brainchild of Winston churchill and got its first cadets in September 1913. Recruited largely from the public schools, these seventeen year olds were intended to spend eighteen months aboard a dedicated training ship before joining the fleet as midshipmen. As midshipmen and sub-lieutenants they were to follow the same curriculum as Fisher-Selborne scheme officers but, because of their age on entry, would be slightly older when commissioned.

The Fisher-Selborne and Special Entry Schemes continued for many years but also underwent many changes. At the end of WWII, reforms were being asked for as the House of Commons debate on January 28, 1948 shows. The new scheeme called for an all day interview rather than the 20 minutes one required for Special Entry. Whereas the Special Entry started at 13, the new one would be for 16 year-olds. Special Entry from primarily for the executive branch of the navy, the new scheme was for the executive, engineering and supply branches. The new scheme offered two years education at the Royal Naval College followed by eight months in a training cruiser before proceeding to the Fleet as midshipmen.

The aim of the revisons was to recruit about 25 percent of commissioned Naval officers by promotion from the Lower Deck, and half the remainder from the age 16 entry, and the other half from the special entry at age 18.

Elinor Frances Romans' 2012 doctorial thesis "Selection and Early Career Education of Executive Officers in the Royal Navy c1902-1939" is an interesting and readable account of the change from the patrionage of the 19th century to the Fisher-Selborne and Special Entry Schemes.

Upper Yardman Scheme

The Upper Yardman Scheme had its origin in 1912, when Admiral Prince Louis of Battenberg, the then First Sea Lord, initiated a scheme to allow Royal Navy ratings the chance to gain a commission at a relatively young age and so enable them to compete for promotion to the highest ranks. Until 1931 it was known as the Mate Scheme because successful candidates were promoted to the rank of mate, but that title was very much disliked and from 1932 onwards the scheme became known as the Upper Yardman Scheme, those successful being promoted to the rank of sub-lieutenant.

The term Upper Yardman refers to the days of sail where the smartest and bravest of seamen manned the upper yards and its adoption served to reinforce the superiority of the officer candidates to the rest of the lower-deck and suggested officer-like qualities of courage and seamanship skill.

Selection, training and promotion

Selection for training as an upper yardman starts with a recommendation from a divisional officer that a rating be considered as a CW (Commissions and Warrants) Candidate. If this is approved by the captain of the prospective candidate's ship, the candidate commences a year's probation and then appears before the Admiralty Interview Board for consideration for acceptance as an upper yardman. Successful candidates then commence training lasting a year or more, those who pass being promoted to acting sub-lieutenant.

Initially, the upper age limit for upper yardmen was 25, but since 1972 the scheme has accepted candidates in two age groups: upper yardmen (UY) up to 25 years old with promotion prospects similar to those of direct entry officer cadets, and senior upper yardmen (SUY) of 35 years and older who remain within the specialisation of their rating career.

Training locations

At most times since the inauguration of the scheme, upper yardmen training has taken place in shore establishments especially commissioned for that purpose or in separate units within existing shore establishments. These have included:

Prior to 1942 - HMS Collingwood, Fareham, Hampshire
1942 - HMS Raleigh, Torpoint, Cornwall
1949 - HMS Hawke, Exbury House, Southampton, Hampshire (previously HMS King Alfred - RNVR)
1955 - HMS Temeraire, Port Edgar, South Queensferry, Scotland
1960 - Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth

Royal Navy candidates were joined by candidates from the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal New Zealand Navy until the 1960s. The Upper Yardman Scheme is still in effect (October 2017) and can be found in BR3 Volume 1 - Naval Personnel Management (June 2016); Part 7, Career Structures; Chapter 50, Promotion to Officer by Ratings and Other Ranks, which says that "The Upper Yardman (UY) and RM Corps Commission (CC) schemes are designed to provide opportunities for the promotion of young ratings and other ranks to commissioned rank. Personnel seeking promotion to the Officer Corps via these schemes will be in competition with non-Service candidates." Should the original PDF be superseded or otherwise be unavailable, a copy of it is available from this site.

Sources and Resources

New Zealand Defence Act 1913 - New Zealand Legal Information Institute
New Zealands Naval Defence Prior to 1914 - Torpedo Bay Navy Museum
Royal Naval College, Darmouth (Entry) - House of Commons, Hansard, 28 January 1948 vol 446 cc1017-24
Royal Navy Reference Library
Selection and Early Career Education of Executive Officers in the Royal Navy c1902-1939 - 2012 thesis by Elinor Frances Romans, It is also available from this site
Upper Yardman Scheme - Wikipedia