Annual Naval Meetings

First held in Bristol in April 1979, the annual naval meeting features presentations from well-known academic historians and authors as well as enthusiasts, researchers, divers and veterans.

Now held in Bristol on the first Saturday in June each year, each meeting starts with discussion of he answers to a pre-meeting quiz before moving on to illustrated presentations. Each meeting will feature a keynote speaker who delivers the annual D.K. Brown memorial lecture and there is also a warship identification quiz. Each meeting includes a range of presentations including topics from the First and Second World Wars, the post 1945 period and one other subject.

Sponsored by WARSHIPS

Presentations in recent years have included:

  1. The development of the Victorian battleship in the late 19th Century.
  2. WARRIOR versus GLOIRE.
  3. Diving the wreck of the cruiser MANCHESTER.
  4. Royal Navy AA gunnery during the Second World War.
  5. The performance of Japanese submarines during 1941 – 45.
  6. The development of the fast submarine in the Royal Navy post 1945.
  7. The scuttling of the French Fleet at Toulon in November 1942.
  8. The German invasion of Norway in 1940.
  9. Mers el Kebir July 1940.
  10. The Royal Navy and the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940.
  11. The 21-inch torpedo as the Royal Navy’s principal anti-ship weapon during the First & Second World Wars.


These meetings are also an excellent opportunity for naval enthusiasts to get together and discuss their interests with like-minded people as well as having the opportunity to purchase naval photographs and books at very reasonable prices.

Should you wish to attend an annual naval meeting please contact the organiser at

Reports of Past Meetings

41st WSS Annual Naval Meeting: 1st June 2019.

The keynote speaker was Dr Richard Hammond University who delivered the 13th D.K. Brown memorial lecture with a presentation entitled British Perceptions of the Italian Navy 1935 – 1943. The second speaker was Dr Innes McCartney who, in a presentation entitled Scapa 1919: The Archaeology of a Scuttled Fleet, described the scuttled German warships still to be fund in Scapa Flow.

After lunch Dr Jon Wise discussed naval links between the British and Netherlands navies after 1945 in a talk entitled Co-operation and Collaboration: the British and Dutch Navies in the Cold War.

Our penultimate speaker was Professor Aidan Dodson who surveyed the fate of surviving Axis warships in 1945 in his talk entitled The Allocation of ex-enemy vessels at the end of the Second World War.

Dr Richard Osborne brought proceedings to a close by discussing Britain’s last naval war with France in a presentation entitled Operation Ration: the Royal Navy’s Blockade of Vichy France 1940 – 1942.

40th WSS Annual Naval Meeting: 2nd June 2018.

The keynote speaker was Dr Ian Speller of Maynouth University Dublin who delivered the 12th D.K. Brown memorial lecture with a presentation entitled The development of Royal Navy amphibious warfare ships and craft, from 1945 to 1982.

The second speaker was Dr Malcolm Cooper who re-evaluated the first 18 months of the Battle of the Atlantic in a presentation entitled Blind Man’s Bluff: The Trade War at Sea May 1940 – March 1941.

After lunch Professor Andrew Lambert of Kings College London showed how the Royal Navy’s strategy of destroying an enemy’s dockyard and other naval infrastructure led to the winning of the Crimean War in the Baltic and also led to the construction of a fleet of gunboats. In his presentation entitled Coast Assault in the 1850s – 1870s: the Creation of the Offensive Forces Andrew went on the discuss the strategic threat posed to other nations by the existence of force of gunboats armed with very heavy guns.

Our penultimate speaker was Matt Skelhorn (MoD), who delivered a presentation entitled Royal Navy wreck management. He discussed the problems posed by the 8,000 post 1870 legacy wrecks that were monitored by the UK MoD. He described the problems that these wrecks posed and the steps taken to prevent environmental damage caused by the leakage of oil fuel from their tanks as their structural integrity declined with the passage of time. In particular he described the removal of oil from the wreck of the RFA tanker DERWENTADALE off St Helena – and how the recovered oil was sold for refining in South Africa thereby helping to defray the costs of the clean-up operation.

The final speaker, Dr Innes McCartney of Bournemouth University addressed the issue of the identification of WW1 U-boats wrecks and how these matched the official U-boat loss records compiled contemporaneously by the Royal Navy. His presentation entitled The archaeology of World War 1 U-boat wrecks contained many unique underwater photographs as well as charts claimed U-boat losses with the positions of identified U-boat wrecks around the British Isles and in particular the English Channel.

39th Annual World Ship Society Naval Meeting : 3rd June 2017

The meeting began with Andrew Choong of the National Maritime Museum delivering 10th D.K. Brown Lecture entitled Planning the next Tsushima – the Imperial Japanese Navy’s war plans in the mid to late 1930s. Thereafter Dr Richard Osborne described the futility of the attempt to construct the Northern Barrage by the 1st Minelaying Squadron during 1940 – 43 in talk entitled Probably the Least Profitable Naval Action of the War.

After lunch Professor Andrew Lambert analysed the influence of the pre-eminent naval historian of the period on the Dardanelles campaign in his paper Gallipoli and Corbett. Andrew demonstrated that many of the vessels ordered by Fisher following his return to the Admiralty were intended for operations in the Baltic but ended up at the Dardanelles. Next up was Mark Brady who discussed the presence of the Imperial Japanese Navy in all aspects of modern Japanese Culture including cartoons, video games, art and models. The final speaker was Dr Aidan Dodson whose presentation The Armoured Cruiser – the Poor Man’s Battleship discussed the development of this warship type, its utilisation and its limitations.

38th Annual World Ship Society Naval Meeting: 28th May 2016

About 40 members attended the 38th Annual Naval Meeting, which was held in the Hawthorns, Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1UQ on Saturday 28th May 2016, started at 10.30 and ended at 17.00.

Dr Innes McCartney, who delivered the ninth DK Brown lecture entitled Diving the Jutland Wrecks, started proceedings by describing the circumstances surrounding the loss of so many warships during the First World War’s largest naval battle on 31st May/1st June 1916. He explained how, by using the latest multi-beam technology mapping technology, cutting-edge image creation and physical surveys of the wrecks, he was able locate and evaluate the condition of the wrecks thereby providing answers to long-answered questions as well as some startling new revelations. His ground -breaking research, which has generated the first new information about this infamous battle for 80 years, resulted in a profusely-illustrated and very well-received presentation. Not unexpectedly, Innes’ fine lecture generated considerable discussion during a wide-ranging Q & A session.

After lunch, Professor Andrew Lambert gave a fascinating lecture entitled Inventing the modern ship – and the modern world, Charles Napier, Aaron Manby and J.M.W. Turner. Andrew evaluated Turner’s work in relationship to the defeat of Napoleon, the growth of the British Empire and the consequent need for the United Kingdom to embrace advances in marine technology. This beautifully crafted, highly engrossing and thoroughly enjoyed presentation was so much more than mere art appreciation and left us all with a much better understanding of Turner and his work.

Our third speaker was Dr Ed Hampshire, who in a talk entitled John Nott’s 1981 Infamous Defence Review, discussed the behind the scene machinations that led up to the ill-conceived White Paper that, but for the Falklands War, would have reduced the Royal Navy to little more than an anti-submarine escort force. Ed explained the drivers behind the defence review and how various key personnel in the MoD at that time attempted to implement Government policy so as to maintain Army strength in Germany at the expense of flexible naval forces. All-in-all it was a fascinating account of the events just prior to the war in the South Atlantic and it triggered a considerable number of Q & As.

The final speaker was Dr Aidan Dodson, who in a presentation entitled After the War: the Allies and the Fate of the German Navy after 1918, described how the units of the High Seas Fleet were disposed of after the Armistice. After outlining the fate of those ships interned in Scapa Flow, Aidan explained the fate of those vessels allocated to the victorious Allies, the basis upon which that allocation was made and went on to outline their subsequent service careers. This was yet another well-researched and well-illustrated paper covering a lesser known aspect of the First World War.