The University of Portsmouth’s successful MA in Naval History is producing some exciting research into the social and cultural background of the Royal Navy. Distance Learning Student and ex-Royal Navy Artificer, John North, is researching the history of Artificers in the RN, and is calling on the public to help him write a history of the Branch and its men.
“Second to None” – 2018 will see the 150th anniversary of the introduction of Artificers into the Royal Navy. As yet there does not appear to be any definitive history of Artificers since their introduction in 1868 with the introduction of Engine Room Artificers, with the rank of Chief Petty Officer, through Artificer engineers with the rank of Warrant officer, created in 1898 and Electrical Artificers introduced in 1901.
There were further additions with Ordnance Artificers appearing in 1919, Air Artificers in 1938, Air Electrical in 1942 and Shipwrights in 1947. There have been many establishments associated with Artificers, from the original hulks in Chatham and the Tamar through HMS Caledonia in Rosyth, HMS Ariel and Daedalus, HMS Collingwood, HMS Condor and HMS Sultan.
The modern Artificer was the brain child of Admiral ‘Jackie’ Fisher, who introduced the scheme for the training of Boy artificers, the forerunners of Artificer Apprentices, in 1903. This was consolidated in 1906 with the commissioning of the hulks Audacious and Erebus as HMS Fisgard in 1905 a name which became synonymous with Artificers until their demise in 2010.
It is hoped that there may still be reminders of how life was for Artificers through this 150 years that may help with the compilation of a properly researched history that may be ready for the anniversary next year.