Visit to the Britannia Royal Naval College

We always welcome reports of visits to facilities that show the amazing range of information and library services in the CILIP SW region. Here Anne Howard reports on a visit to the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth on the 4th November. 

A repeat visit to the College Library is in planning for a Wednesday afternoon sometime in 2016.  To register your interest in joining us for this enjoyable and educational experience, please contact valerie.bearne [@]


Built in 1905 when ‘money was no object’, the Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) is a beautiful building high on a hill overlooking the River Dart in Dartmouth.


Peter and Gill conducted a tour of the college showing us the highlights which included the Great Hall, the Senior Gun Room and the Anglican chapel.

Peter pointed out that in the west window, high up, is small round section quartered with leadwork and explained that at 16.30 on 21 October which is ‘Trafalgar Day’, light coming through this window casts the shadow of a cross onto the altar – the only time this happens, at precisely the time and date of Nelson’s death. The chapel was built in 1905, exactly a hundred years after the Battle of Trafalgar.

There are also a Catholic chapel, mosque, Church of Scotland and Free Church chapels on the site.

Museum and Archives

Older historic materials are located in this area and research is undertaken by the Britannia Museum Trust.

Upper and Lower Library

The Library and staff are provided by Babcock Facilities Management Services as part of the Naval Training Support Contract. The main role of the resource is to support the 400 cadets training during any given year. There are three intakes each year and 85% of the intake are graduates with an average age of 23 years. Between 10% and 25% of the intakes are female. The intake will also include Senior Upper Yardies (SUY’s) who are ratings who have reached the top of the career progression and have often never undertaken academic study. The initial training takes 30 weeks. After completion the cadets undertake specialist training in their chosen field, for example initial warfare training which may take a further 15 weeks.

The Library is on two levels. The lower level has been redesigned to provide a comfortable browsing space which is clearly signed. This was deliberate because the space is available at all times and the intention is that the cadets can locate resources independently when the staff are not on duty. The subject areas are supportive of the knowledge that the cadets are researching and include international affairs, meteorology, leadership skills and doctrine (documents that cover the strategic aims of the Royal Navy).

The upper Library, complete with chesterfield sofas, houses the stock covering past conflicts and history of the navy. The collection has a long run of such titles as The Navy List and The Blue List which are looked after by the Britannia Museum Trust. This is ideal because it enables Peter and Gill to support the current cadets with their training requirements, rather than using external research requests.

The collection has been reduced since 2011 to ensure the remaining stock is relevant to current training. The original collection consisted of stock added from Greenwich and RNEC Manadon (the Royal Naval Engineering College) in Plymouth which were amalgamated when those libraries closed. This was the first comprehensive stock check since 1978 and was undertaken as part of the transformation of the Library.


Peter controls his own budget, from which resources such as Jane’s Fighting Ships online are purchased. Peter’s budget is intended to ‘provide an academic library’ for BRNC.

The Ships Library Officer, based in Portsmouth, mainly supplies the ships and shore establishments with paperbacks for recreational purposes, supplying BRNC with fiction paperbacks for their Fiction Swap in the Learning Centre and the Costa Coffee Bar.

Information Literacy

Peter and Gill have put a lot of time and effort into developing an informal and supportive atmosphere in the Library and recognized the value of developing an information literacy programme. This is based on the ILEAD tool: ‘Identify, Locate, Evaluate, Assess and Deliver’.

The Navy is looking for agile, adaptable thinkers who can operate in changing cultural, technological and operational environments. There is fierce competition for resources and the Navy wants to be in a strategically strong position. Peter links information literacy with the critical thinking skills required by RN Officers and he and Gill continue to develop the programme. Peter has researched the model practised by the Royal Marines whereby promotion is reliant on research skills and educational attainment.

The aim is to tie enquiry skills to the information relevant to the courses. The tour and the presentations given by Peter and Gill were interesting and informative. The College is a beautiful building located in a perfect place overlooking the River Dart. Peter and Gill have done a tremendous job transforming the Library and deserve the accolade from the 2015 audit that it ‘exceeds expectations’.

Anne Howard


One thought on “Visit to the Britannia Royal Naval College

  1. Pingback: Retired or About to Retire? Don’t Lose Touch! | CILIP South West Member Network

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s