A fleet review is a traditional gathering of ships from a particular navy to be observed by the reigning monarch or his or her representative, a practice allegedly dating back to the 15th century. Such an event is not held at regular intervals and originally only occurred when the fleet was mobilised for war or for a show of strength to discourage potential enemies. However, since the 19th century, they have often been held for the coronation or for special royal jubilees and increasingly included delegates from other national navies.
International fleet review, 4-5 October 2013 - to commemorate the centenary of the Royal Australian Navy's fleet arrival in Sydney Harbour; led by HMAS Sydney, the fleet was reviewed by Governor-General Quentin Bryce and Prince Harry, who took the royal salute on board HMAS Leeuwin. Approximately 20 foreign nations participated, activities including a tall ships parade, naval gun salutes, aerial flypasts, fireworks and lightshow spectacular, ships open to visitors, and a combined Naval march.
In Canada, fleet reviews may take place on either the Atlantic or Pacific coasts, typically in Halifax Harbour for the former and Victoria Harbour for the latter.
29 June 2010 - To mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Canadian Navy and held at the Bedford Basin. Ships of the Royal Canadian Navy, Brazilian Navy, Royal Danish Navy, French Navy, German Navy, Royal Netherlands Navy, Royal Navy, and United States Navy were reviewed by Queen Elizabeth II.
There have been several Fleet Reviews hosted by the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN). These include the following:
International Fleet Review, 5 October 1991, to mark the 50th anniversary of the RNZN.
International Naval Review, 18 November 2016, to mark the Royal New Zealand Navy's 75th birthday. In a break with tradition the RNZN mistakenly described the Review as a "Naval Review" rather than as the customary "Fleet Review".
Because of the need for a natural large, sheltered and deep anchorage, UK fleet reviews have usually been held in the Solent off Spithead, although Southend, Torbay, the Firth of Clyde and some overseas ports have also hosted reviews. In the examples below, the venue is Spithead unless otherwise noted.
A list follows of fleet reviews in England, Great Britain, and later the UK since the 14th century.
June 1346 - Edward III, before sailing to war with France
23-27 June 1773, King George III set out from Kew, in a Royal coach with scarlet outriders, for what some call the first formal Royal Review. On his arrival he was saluted by a "triple discharge of cannon", and proceeded to the dockyard where admirals and captains were assembled, each with his barge, to escort the King to Spithead. They had dressed their crews in fancy colours, each to his own taste (at that time the crews were not issued uniforms), whilst they themselves were resplendent in the full dress designed for them by George II in 1748. The ships on show were those that had fought the French in the Seven Years' War and were soon to join the War of American Independence, and were led by HMS Barfleur, of 90 guns, built only 5 years before.
25 June 1814, the last to consist solely of sailing ships. It was to celebrate the Treaty of Paris (1814), and to show the Allied Sovereigns, including the Czar of Russia and the King of Prussia, "the tremendous naval armaments which has swept from the ocean the fleets of France and Spain and secured to Britain the domain of the sea." 15 ships of the line and 31 frigates were present, all of them veterans of the Napoleonic Wars. It was reviewed not by George III, but by the Prince Regent
19 June 1845, inspecting the experimental squadron, from the new HMY Victoria and Albert. The Board of Admiralty attended in their steam yacht, Black Eagle. Some place this not 1814 as the last time that a Royal Review consisted only of sailing ships, and nearly the last time that the Queen could watch HMS Trafalgar's men run aloft and set the sails "with feline agility and astonishing celerity."
11 August 1853, fleet mobilisation for Crimean War, including for the first time steam screw ships of the line.
10 March 1854. Wary of a Russian break out into the North Sea, due to the numbers of their ships in the Baltic Sea, the British Admiralty brought together a force to contain them. This first division of the Baltic fleet was commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Napier. Napier's task was to find naval recruits and train them as quickly as possible. From the screw yacht-tender, HMS Fairy, and two months before her 35th birthday (which it was perhaps also intended to commemorate), Queen Victoria reviewed Napier's fleet at Spithead, shortly before it set sail, including (on 10 March 1854) a review of the first part of the fleet to set sail only eighteen days before Britain declared war on Russia. According to reports in the London Illustrated News (which printed a special edition for the occasion, with drawings of various scenes from the day of the Review), Fairy reviewed the fleet as it steamed up a path created by the ships anchored on each side, then a day later led the fleet out of Spithead as it began its journey to the Baltic.
23 April 1856, of the Baltic fleet on its return. First recorded example of the evening illumination of the fleet. Showed lessons learnt from the Crimean War, with the first of the ironclad ships present in the form of 4 1,500-ton floating batteries. Over 100 gunboats were present, "puffing about like locomotive engines with wisps of white steam trailing from their funnels."
26 June 1897, Diamond Jubilee, notable for being presided over by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) since she was too frail to attend in person. The ships formed two lines seven miles long lines; the 170 British ships included 50 battleships. Parsons made an unscheduled and dramatic appearance with his Turbinia showing power of steam turbine.
August 1899, her last, notable for being presided over by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) since she was too frail to attend in person, and for the visit of squadron from the German Navy.
One of the lines of battleships at the 1909 review.
16 August 1902, Coronation Review, the first time in the modern era that a review was used to mark the coronation
9 August 1905, review of the British and French fleets by King Edward VII at Spithead
August 1907, review of the reconstituted Home Fleet
16 July 1935, Silver Jubilee. 160 warships including HMS Revenge. Dudley Davenport, at the time a young cadet serving on board HMS Iron Duke (he later went on to a successful naval career, eventually reaching the rank of rear admiral), noted his impressions of this event in his diary:
"Turned out at 0545 and scrubbed focsle...after breakfast we gave all the brightwork a final polish and generally cleaned up... after lunch we fell in on deck ... All the ships with saluting guns fired a royal salute of 21 guns the noise was not as bad as we were led to expect. But the smoke screened most of the ships for some minutes... After tea 'Clean Lower Deck' was sounded and we had to fall in for manning ship my position on Y Turret grid on the Quarter Deck was an excellent one as we could see the yacht approaching... as the V&A approached the band played 'God Save the King' and the guard presented arms in the Royal Salute. When the King was halfway past we gave 3 cheers. You could just see the King on the Bridge, Saluting ...About ½ hour later we fell in again as he passed the other side.
After supper we watched the illuminations... after half hour all the lights were turned off and red flares were lit on deck, each held by a sailor at the guardrail. These did not look very good except for the first few seconds... the ships remained illuminated for the rest of the time until midnight... We turned in about 2345 very tired.
HMS Nelson with other British battleships and cruisers for the 1937 Coronation Fleet Review
16 May 1969 Elizabeth II - NATO review (NATO's 20th anniversary), Spithead - 64 ships from the 11 NATO countries participated: British contingent included HMS Phoebe and HMS Dido; United States - USS Wasp.