I am not old enough to remember the British Empire, but my parents and grandparents lived through its latter days when Great Britain controlled seven-tenths of the world.
Sailors and soldiers could be away from home for years on end and thoroughly enjoying their lives.
Here we see a list from the shipping column of The Evening News in early 1939 before the destruction of the empire and the end of the world as people knew it at the time. Some of the ships mentioned went on to become household names – Royal Oak, Renown and Valiant.
Within two years Royal Oak and Renown would be at the bottom of seas many miles apart.
The distances the ships travelled then is beyond comparison with today’s warships.
HM Ships Vindictive and Carlisle had left Hong Kong in mid-December and on January 22 arrived in Shanghai – almost 1,000 miles of steaming and 4,900 nautical miles from Portsmouth. HMS Renown was on the other side of the Atlantic in Kingston, Jamaica, 4,000 nautical miles from Portsmouth.
With every ocean and sea in the world to patrol, we had to have a navy but at a cost that can only be imagined.
How it used to be, with Royal Navy ships around the world, and the HMS Royal Oak in Portsmouth Harbour before the Second World War.