Royal Navy - in Popular Culture

In Popular Culture

The Royal Navy of the 18th century is depicted in many novels and several films dramatising the voyage and mutiny on the Bounty. The Royal Navy's Napoleonic campaigns of the early 19th century are a popular subject of historical novels. Some of the best-known include Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower chronicles, Julian Stockwin's Kydd series, Showell Styles' The Midshipman Quinn stories, Dudley Pope's Lord Ramage novels and Douglas Reeman's Richard Bolitho novels. Alexander Kent is a pen name of Douglas Reeman who, under his birth name, has written many novels featuring the Royal Navy in the two World Wars. Other well-known novels include Alistair MacLean's HMS Ulysses, Nicholas Monsarrat's The Cruel Sea, and C.S. Forester's The Ship, all set during World War II.

The Navy can also be seen in numerous films. The fictional spy James Bond is "officially" a commander in the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy is featured in The Spy Who Loved Me, when a nuclear ballistic-missile submarine is stolen, and in Tomorrow Never Dies when a media baron sinks a Royal Navy warship in an attempt to trigger a war between the UK and People's Republic of China. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World was based on Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series. The Pirates of the Caribbean series of films also includes the Navy as the force pursuing the eponymous pirates. Noël Coward directed and starred in his own film In Which We Serve, which tells the story of the crew of the fictional HMS Torrin during the Second World War. It was intended as a propaganda film and was released in 1942. Coward starred as the ship's captain, with supporting roles from John Mills and Richard Attenborough. Other examples of full length feature films focusing specifically on the Royal Navy, have been: Seagulls over Sorrento; Yangtse Incident, the story of HMS Amethyst's escape down the Yangtze river; We Dive at Dawn; The Battle of River Plate; Sink the Bismarck!; The Navy Lark.

CS Forester's Hornblower novels have been adapted for television, as have Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series, which, although primarily involving the Peninsular War of the time, includes several novels involving Richard Sharpe at sea with the Navy. The Royal Navy was the subject of an acclaimed 1970s BBC television drama series, Warship, and of a five-part documentary, Shipmates, that followed the workings of the Royal Navy day to day.

Television documentaries about the Royal Navy include: Empire of the Seas: How the Navy Forged the Modern World, a four-part documentary depicting Britain's rise as a naval superpower, up until World War I; Sailor, about life on the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal; and Submarine, about the submarine captains' training course, 'The Perisher'. A book based on the series, and also called Submarine, was produced by Jonathan Crane. There have also been recent Channel 5 documentaries such as Royal Navy Submarine Patrol, following a nuclear powered fleet submarine.

The popular BBC radio comedy series The Navy Lark featured a fictitious warship ("HMS Troutbridge") and ran from 1959 to 1977.

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