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Llynges Frenhinol Gymreig - Royal Welsh Navy (Welsh History Post Glyndwr)

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The Llynges Frenhiniol Gymreig (Royal Welsh Navy - RWN) is the Maritime Arm of the Welsh Armed Forces. It consists of a full complement of vessels from Aircraft Carriers, through to Patrol Craft and a large diesel electric submarine flotilla.

History of the Royal Welsh Navy

The founder of the RWN was King Hywel I (1490-1512). Hywel was the first Welsh monarch to pay serious attention to the requirement of Wales to have at least a naval presence in the Severn Sea (Bristol Channel) and Irish Sea areas. The Navy was officially founded in 1508 with the launch of the St David, Wales' first warship, Hywel himself was killed in 1512 whilst supervising the building of the second ship of the fleet, St Teillo.

Royal Welsh Navy Jack

The Ensign of the Royal Welsh Navy

Royal Welsh Navy 1508 - 1630

This period of the RWN is quiet, the Kings of Wales, and the hierarchy of the Navy build several small ships, mostly of the fireship and troop transport variety and whilst the Navy is engaged in the 1st Anglo-Welsh and 2nd Anglo-Welsh wars these wars are largely fought by the Army with the Navy only playing an ancillary role, mainly supply and troop transport across the Bristol Channel.

First Modernisation Period 1630-1688

King Dafydd IV (1600-40) was the first monarch since Hywel to look seriously at the state of the Welsh Navy and under him the young scion of the House of Powys-Fadog (Maredudd ap Dafydd Powys-Fadog) undertook the modernisation of the RWN. For this reason, Maredudd is considered the "father of the Welsh Navy" and the RWN Badge is variant of the Badge of the House of Powys-Fadog.

Under his guidance the Navy was expanded with its new Headquarters being based in Pembroke. The Navy was expanded to consist of 10 Ships of the Line with half based in Pembroke and the remaining half based in North Wales at Conwy.
Naval Coat of Arms

Coat of Arms of the Royal Welsh Navy

 As Prince of Powys, Maredudd would continue to act as Admiral of the Fleet and control the Navy on behalf of Parliament and the King during the reign of Hywel III. The Navy, whilst lacking the prestige and influence of the Army continues to expand during this period up to the outbreak of the Dutch Wars. Wales sides with the Dutch Republic during the First Dutch War. This first war, fought between Commonwealth England on side and the Dutch Republic with its allies (including the Kingdom of Wales) was won by the Dutch, though the Welsh Navy suffered severe reverses during the conflict. In 1653, the Naval Battle of the Bristol Channel, fought between England and Wales resulted in the loss of over half the Welsh fleet. This loss would lead to the "Princely Plot of '54", although Maredudd would retain his control of the Welsh Navy. The next ten years would see Maredudd engage in a massive ship building program which would see the Welsh fleet increase to 20 ships of the line, with another six in dock.

The Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-67) sees Wales now allied to the restored English Kingdom, failure though still haunts the Welsh Fleet. 15 Welsh ships were docked with the English fleet in Chatham and in June 1667 were destroyed by the Dutch in the Raid on the Medway. This disaster almost finished Maredudd's career within Welsh politics, with many in Parliament calling for his dismissal.

Hywel however put his weight behind Maredudd and again parliament financed the rebuilding of the fleet. The third Anglo-Dutch war (1672-74), whilst less devastating than the previous two wars for the Welsh Fleet was still a strategic defeat for the fleet and the aging Prince-Admiral. The fleet, whilst not suffering the losses of previous limped home following the final defeat of the combined Anglo-French-Welsh fleet.

Prince Maredudd dies in 1682 in London where he was forced to flee to after finally being dismissed from his post of Admiral of the Fleet.

Second Modernisation - 1688-1718

Under Hywel III's son, Hywel IV the Navy was ignored for the first five years of his reign, but in 1688 as part of Hywel's re-integration of Wales with continental politics, the Navy again received the attention needed. Again under the aegis of the Prince of Powys, this time Maredudd's son, Prince Llewellyn, the Navy received enough funds to modernise the fleet, maintaining a small, but well equipped fleet. Llewellyn would continue to hold the post of Prince-Lord Admiral under Hywel's son, Dafydd V (1706-18) and continued to modernise and enlarge the fleet, keeping up with the English as much as the Welsh treasury could afford to. Such attention was in contrast to the neglect of the Army during the same period. The fleet in 1710 consisted of 25 ships of the line, with another 10 planned for construction.

In 1715 the Prince-Lord Admiral is also placed in control of the Welsh Army, making Llewellyn the most powerful man in Wales, with effective control over the Royal Fortress' (such as Caerodor, Amythig, Caerfilli, and Penfro), the Army and the Navy. As such both previously neglected fortress' and Army began to receive the same lavish attention that the Navy had enjoyed since 1688. The Duke of March was placed as Powys' deputy with control of the Army whilst the Prince retained overall command with effective control over the Navy.

The 3rd Anglo-Welsh War of 1718

The importance placed on the Navy allowed Wales to evacuate during this war, whilst the neglect of the Army showed up in the rapid defeat of the Army. Llewellyn becomes Regent in September of 1718 with the death of Dafydd, and he orders the evacuation of the Royal Family aboard the HBMS St Teillo to France, whilst after his death (in late Sept 1718) the Prince of Glamorgan (Cystennin) orders the final evacuation of Wales aboard the Welsh fleet which sails for the Breton coast containing the Welsh Treasury and many of the Welsh nobles, with Cystennin finally leaving the port of Milford aboard the HBMS Henrietta.

Welsh Exile 1718-1796

The Navy survived the exile period relatively intact. The fleet allowing King Rhys the chance to invade Wales 6 times during his reign. Whilst the ships age during this period and many of them are lost either in battle or to old age, there is still a core of Welsh Ships remaining for the final invasion in 1759, with the flagship St Teilo still in action, though she was lost in the Battle of Harlech. By 1796 the Welsh Navy has diminished in size to only five ships, all of whom are loan ships from France.

The 2nd War of Independence is fought largely by the Army, though in 1765 the Navy symbolically "comes home" to Pembroke and Milford Haven, even though by now most of the sailors aboard the ships are French.

Sail - Ship of the Line

The LPM Dewi Sant

19th Century

During the 19th Century the Welsh Navy was to play its part both in Europe as part of the English alliance and also within Wales itself, allowing the creation and expansion of the Welsh Empire. 1799 see's the first Welsh ships off the Argentine coast, allowing Wales to colonise Patagonia, whilst in 1801 the Welsh Navy is part of Nelson's fleet fighting the French. 1805 see's a Welsh Squadron of ships serve at Trafalgar. This expansion though carries its own price. The 1815 revolt was formed in part by returning sailors and soldiers wanting greater freedoms within Wales, and also the changing social dynamic as the growing Industrial Revolution took hold within the Kingdom. The Revolt was only put down by King Arthur's use of mercenary troops, and as part of the punitive measures against the men who took part in the revolt, they and their families were exiled to the new Welsh Colonies, both in Patagonia and Africa.

During the late 1830's the RWN (LFG) was engaged in a low level war with the Argentine Republic, though the RWN wins several successive battles with the Argentine Navy, the long distances involved in the war lead to the eventual Welsh loss of Patagonia to the Argentine Republic. The Peace Treaty of 1840 secures Welsh rights within the Republic, but the end result is still merger with the Argentine state.

During the Welsh Civil War of 1843-49, the main role of the Navy was to keep outside powers from taking advantage of the Welsh Oversea's territories, the Admiralty managed to stay above the bitter dynastic politics, though as a result they were removed from the inner circles of both camps.

For the remainder of the century as Wales prospers due to the rise in Industrial output the Armed Forces benefits from increased funds. The Navy expands to its largest size with over 40 ships, maintaining a Welsh presence on the High Seas. Following the English lead, toward the end of the century the Welsh Admiralty starts to experiment with Ironclads leading toward the reduction in size of the fleet as it switches from wood and sail to iron and steam.
LPM Samson Sant

The LFG's first Ironclad ship, the LPM Samson Sant

20th Century

The opening years of the 20th Century sees the Navy approach its apogee of power. With Wales a leading member of the Industrial powers of Europe, both the Army and Navy have funds to build ships and arm men in a manner that Wales hadn't been able to before or since. However, with the accession of Iorwerth to the throne in 1904 things begin to change slightly. Wales does not enter the 1st World War, abrogating its treaty commitments to both France and England. One result is a decline in trade with both these nations, although Wales does come through to 1919 in a far stronger financial position than any of the Western Allies. The global trade recession though of the 1930's hits Wales hard, with the Armed Forces taking a large hit in their budgets. With the Axis Treaty with Germany however, the Navy again begins to receive greater funds, which King Iago directs into the Submarine Flotilla. With the overthrow of Iago and the switching of Wales to the Allied side the Welsh Navy moves to the Atlantic, working with the Royal British Navy in defeating the Nazi U-Boat fleet.

Following the end of the war and the start of American "consultations" with the Welsh Government the RWN purchases two aircraft carriers from England, (Malta Class), this gives the RWN an increased reach, though via American guidance the RWN would move more toward Submarine warfare and close coast support roles as the Cold War progressed.
LPM Tywysog Maredudd

The LPM Tywysog Maredudd

As the RWN moves toward the 1980's, political pressures begin to take hold to reduce the size of the fleet. Wales no longer has an Empire and the Welsh economy never regained its former strength meaning that financing a fleet which contains two aircraft carriers is prohibitively high.

With the 1990's Strategic Defence Reviews it was decided to maintain the RWN's focus on Submarine warfare, keeping the Upholder Class flotilla at an 8 submarine strength and whilst the two Carriers would be refitted, they would be decommissioned in the early 21st Century.

Current Fleet


Prince Class Frigate

The Current Welsh Fleet contains different classes of ships from Aircraft Carriers, frigates, missile boats, diesel submarines, fleet supply and coastal patrol

Rank Structure of the Llynges Frenhiniol Gymreig

Chief of the Defence Staff (Professional Head of the Y Lluoedd Arfog Gymreig - Welsh Armed Forces): Arglwydd Syr Ieuan ab Owain Yrgain (Former Head of the Welsh Army)

Lyngesydd Arglwydd 1af (1st Lord Admiral): Tywysog Llyngesydd Syr Gruffydd ap Aeron Powell (Prince Admiral Sir Gruffydd Powell)

Sir Gruffydd is the professional head of the LFG and is based in the Naval Headquarters in Pembroke.

Rank Structure of the Navy - Officers

  • Llyngesydd (Admiral)
  • Is-Llyngesydd (Vice Admiral)
  • Tu ol-Llyngesydd (Rear Admiral)
  • Morlywydd (Commodore)
  • Capten (Captain)
  • Cadlywydd (Commander)
  • Is-Gapten Cadlywydd (Lieutenant Commander)
  • Is-Gapten (Lieutenant)
  • Is-Gapten Ail Ddosbarth (Lieutenant 2nd Class)
  • Llongdyncanol (Midshipman)
  • Llongdyncanol - Mab Ieuengaf (Midshipman - Cadet) - Officer in Training

Rank Structure of the Navy - Other Ranks

  • Swyddog Gwarant Brenhinoedd (Kings Warrant Officer - WO 1st Class)
  • Swyddog Gwarant Ail Ddosbarth (Warrant Officer 2nd Class)
  • Pen Swyddog Bychan (Chief Petty Officer)
  • Swyddog Bychan (Petty Officer)
  • Morwr Arweiniol (Leading Seaman)
  • Morwr Cyffredin (Common Seaman)

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