The Royal Australian Naval College in its early years was certainly definitive about what type of entrant was thought most suitable for officer training. A look at the 1918 edition of the College Handbook illustrates the point very well. It is interesting to ponder as to whether we are still recruiting for the same type of entrant today. . . . .
‘The intricate mechanism of the modem ship – be it battleship, destroyer or submarine – requires such delicate handling and intimate technical knowledge that the ‘fool’ would soon find himself hopelessly out of his depth and incapable of ‘carrying on’.
The bulk of executive naval officers may be divided into two classes, the Specialists and those who are commonly known as ‘salt horse’. The former are those who, when promoted to the rank of lieutenant, specialise in Gunnery, Torpedo, Engineering, etc.
The Specialists (say 30 of the whole) are, generally speaking, the ‘high-brows of the Navy’, and need brains. Boys who successfully pass the educational examination may be considered suitable for entry, as far as the educational standard is concerned. A bright, smart, cheery boy, fond of games and open-air life, with a leaning towards the sea as a profession; alert and full of joie de vivre, even with a spice of mischief in him; imbued with a sense of honest, straightforward manliness, who would not stoop to prevaricate in order to escape punishment; a strong-minded boy of good moral courage; capable of ‘taking charge’, who will not be likely to lose his head in an emergency; quick to act and do the right thing; good physique – this is what is wanted, the ideal type.
The sensitive; the highly strung; the prosy, slow, poetical type; the bookworm; the effeminate; the boy without ambition, who is content to float along with the crowd; the boy lacking initiative, energy and vitality; the boy who is inordinately fond of home life; the sly type who confuses illicit acuteness with cleverness; the boy who never plays games, but prefers to mope indoors with a book – these are not wanted.’
It is interesting to ponder whether today the Navy wants men and women who are indeed book-readers; are perhaps sensitive to the needs of others; are perhaps quietly thoughtful. Is it necessary to ‘like games’ in the days where warfare is often fought at extreme range and physical qualities are perhaps not as important? In short, haven’t we changed over the many years the RAN has been in existence?