To say the Britain’s Royal Navy is legendary is probably to undersell it. There have been thousands of books - fiction and non-fiction - written about its successes during the Napoleonic wars. Admiral Horatio Nelson is famed around the world. One of London’s central squares is named for his victory against the combined French and Spanish fleets in 1805. Making the story that much richer, Nelson died of a bullet wound as it became clear that his daring plan had succeeded.
In the decades that followed, Britain’s navy helped the empire expand, projecting power in India, China, Africa and even the Antarctic. The ships and crews had a reputation for excellence - if not always humane treatment. And that reputation lasted for centuries. During World War One and World War Two, Britain’s navy was still the premier force. At least until the United States began to build ships on a scale the shrinking British Empire couldn’t match.
Following the Second World War, Britain’s empire shriveled and so did the need for and strength of its navy. The last time the Royal Navy fought a war on its own was in 1982, against Argentina over the Falkland Islands. War Is Boring Editor-in-Chief David Axe says Britain would have a hard time mustering the same strength today.
The views expressed in this article are not those of Reuters News.