They performed a range of duties: from senior officers to ordinary seamen, Royal Marines, gunners and stokers, signallers and cooks. Officer cadets began their naval education when they were as young as twelve, while many ratings joined the navy at the age of 15 or 16. Some would specialize in fields such as gunnery, wireless, torpedoes or electrical engineering.
Sailors joined the Royal Navy from every part of the United Kingdom, including Ireland, and from across the British Empire, particularly from Australia, Canada, Malta, New Zealand, and South Africa. The Royal Canadian Navy, New Zealand Naval Forces, Royal Australian Navy and Royal Indian Marine were small, but contributed to coastal defence and other campaigns.
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