Naval Pageantry, Heritage, and Commemoration in Interwar Britain

Rowan Thompson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines how naval pageantry shaped public understanding of British sea power in the interwar years. Rather than being a period in which there was a danger of the Royal Navy becoming ‘lost to view and forgotten’ as some contemporary observers feared, this article instead demonstrates that naval pageantry was a crucial way in which members of the British public interacted, engaged with, and memorialized aspects of Britain’s naval and national history following the ‘crucible’ of the First World War. Naval pageants were used by a range of officials, associational bodies, and non-state actors to promote naval heritage, tradition, and continuity. Yet, such events were not simply conservative or anti-modern, also emphasizing the ongoing importance of the Royal Navy through militarized depictions of modern naval warfare. Finally, naval pageantry formed a significant part of the commemorative landscape of the post-war years, in part dedicated to those who lost their lives at sea during the First World War. As this article illustrates, naval pageants provide important insights into the often contested and complex cultural legacies of the First World War, alongside broader issues of the period including heritage, commemoration, militarism, modernity, conflict, and peace.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Historical Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 10 Jun 2024

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