Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Admiralty issues AFO 2239/31 - On this day in Scottish Naval History, 1931

On this day in Scottish naval history the Royal Navy posted an Admiralty Fleet Order AFO 2239/31 on ships' notice boards. This order had been anticipated by the crews of many ships in port. News of it had leaked on 12th September and the Sunday newspapers, read by many sailors on shore leave, had picked it up. The contents of the order confirmed the rumours and sent shockwaves through the Atlantic Fleet anchored at Invergordon Naval Base.

The Royal Navy had conducted a savings review as part of the previous Government's belt-tightening exercise because of the financial fallout of the Wall Street crash of 1929. The huge cuts needed in public expenditure had split the Labour Government and in August 1931 it had to resign. A new National Government was formed from all parties which forced through the cuts. Each part of the government needed to make savings and the armed forces were no exception.

Morale was already at a low ebb within the forces as they had been repeatedly starved of money and new equipment after the First World War, and these new cuts were always going to be unpopular. As with all big business the biggest cost is personnel; so the Admiralty Fleet Order reported that from 1st October 1931 there would be a pay cut across all ranks of the Royal Navy.

Officers, Non-commissioned officers and ratings who had enlisted after 1925 would face a 10% pay cut, but any sailor below the rank of Petty Officer who had joined before 1925 would face a cut which would see them receiving the same pay as the post-1925 men. This would be comparable to a 25% pay reduction.

Unsurprisingly the long service men facing the biggest cuts were not happy. There was little animosity felt to their officers and petty officers because they were also facing pay cuts but there was still simmering discontent both ashore and on the ships anchored in the Cromarty Firth.

A fleet exercise was being planned for 15th September 1931 which would bring matters to a head. The Invergordon Mutiny was still two days away but the posting of the AFO on this day eighty years ago was the lighting of the touch paper.

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