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While Anson's western squadron formed the basis of British naval strategy for the next century, he also initiated tactical innovations and manoeuvres, and he took pains to keep his captains informed of his intentions.

Reforms at the Admiralty under Bedford as First Lord, with Sandwich and Anson as significant players reshaped both the seagoing navy and its administration ashore. For a start, there was the matter of defining the rank and status of officers at sea with the 1748 adoption of a formal hierarchy ranks, and the first uniforms for officers. 

At the top of the hierarchy, issues highlighted at the battle of Toulon in 1744 saw significant changes to flag rank. Until this point, Admirals were chosen from the captains' list in order of seniority, and as a result fleet commanders tended to be elderly.

A proposed compulsory retirement scheme for admirals and captains proved to be unacceptably radical, but a new rank created in 1747 delivered the same outcome by creating a notional rank of rear-admiral based on seniority, without the necessity of assigning the incumbent to an actual command. 

As a result, the Admiralty to reach down the captains' list and select the best candidates for active flag rank, while effectively putting the old, infirm and unsuitable out to pasture. At the same time, Anson used the rank of Commodore to appoint up and coming officers to command long before they became eligible for promotion to flag rank.

At the other end of the hierarchy, the Admiralty attempted to tackle another intractable difficulty. With the fleet effectively demobilised in peacetime, any outbreak of hostilities saw an undermanned fleet until the press gangs could deliver an adequate supply of skilled seamen. 

The French conscripted their crews from their seafaring communities, which gave them an initial advantage, but an Admiralty proposal to place a reserve of 3000 seamen on ‘half pay’ of £10 per annum was immediately denounced and dropped as politically impossible.

© Ian Hughes 2017