In 1873 the Naval College in Portsmouth acquired the buildings of the old Royal Hospital for Seamen in Greenwich – and so the Royal Naval College was established.

Learning to use the reactor at the Royal Naval College

Students learning how to use the nuclear reactor at the Royal Naval College

The College quickly became the most highly rated naval officers’ training college in Europe, with a reputation for academic rigor and its training staff leaders in their fields. In an age of rapidly developing technology, new courses were continually added, naval science was taught in the laboratory and even a small nuclear reactor was constructed.

Royal Naval College officers bowling on the Skittle Alley

A typical night of bowling and drinking in the Skittle Alley

Naval officers-in-training made the best of their time at ease. The Skittle Alley was a hit, as it had been for the Greenwich Pensioners before.

The 1933 Night Pageant at the Royal Naval College

The 1933 Night Pageant

Also popular was performing in the annual Night Pageant, a grand theatrical performance narrating the history of the Royal Naval College and the Royal Navy.

Not just British naval officers, but also the elite of foreign navies trained here, many from British colonies or countries within the British Empire’s sphere of influence.

Much of China’s navy throughout the twentieth century was built by graduates of the Royal Naval College – first by figures such as Yan Fu at the end of the Imperial dynasty, and then in Communist China by students who had fought alongside the Allies in World War II.

Wrens at the Royal Naval College in 1942

Wrens training at the Royal Naval College in 1942

Thousands of Wrens also studied here – click here to learn about the WRNS and the Royal Naval College.

In 1983 the Government decided to amalgamate the training of officers of all three Armed Services together in Wiltshire, and the Navy left in 1997. The Greenwich Foundation, an independent charity, was established to conserve the site for present and future generations, and create enjoyment, learning and unique cultural experiences for everyone.

Today this historic landmark is open to the public and is the home of three unique visitor attractions; the Painted Hall, the Chapel, and the Visitor Centre.

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