Admiralty War Staff
|Formed||8 January 1912|
|Jurisdiction||Government of the United Kingdom|
|Parent department||Department of Admiralty|
The Admiralty War Staff was the former senior military staff advisory and operational planning organisation within the British Department of Admiralty that existed from 1912–17. It was instituted on 8 January 1912 by Winston Churchill in his capacity as First Lord of the Admiralty and was in effect a war council whose head reported directly to the First Sea Lord. After the First World War ended, the War Staff was replaced by the Admiralty Naval Staff.
History and development
The department's development can be traced back to 1885. It evolved out of some of the functions within the Naval Intelligence Department (NID), which originally consisted of two subsidiary specialist divisions: Foreign Intelligence Division and Mobilisation Division. In 1900 a third was added, the War and Coast Defences Division, to deal with issues of strategy and defence. In 1902 a fourth function was added, the Trade Division, which was created for matters relating to the protection of merchant shipping.
The Trade Division was abolished in October 1909 in the wake of the Committee of Imperial Defence inquiry into the feud between the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir John Fisher and former Commander-in-Chief Channel Fleet, Admiral Lord Charles Beresford, when it was discovered that the captain heading the Trade Division had been supplying the latter with confidential information during the inquiry.
Following restructuring the Naval Intelligence Department was relieved of its responsibility for War Planning and Strategy when the outgoing First Sea Lord, Admiral Fisher created an interim Navy War Council  as a stop-gap remedy to criticisms emanating from the Beresford Inquiry that the Navy needed a naval staff, a role the NID had been in fact fulfilling since at least 1900, if not earlier. After this re-organisation, war planning and strategic matters were transferred to the newly created Naval Mobilisation Department (NMD), and the NID reverted to the position it held prior to 1887, an intelligence collection and collation organisation.
Sir John Fisher had made known his support for the need of a Naval Staff as early as 1902. In creating a staff the Admiralty was certainly lagging behind, particularly when the War Office had a Chief of the General Staff with his own department as early as 1904, to deal with the aftermath of the Boer War and an assessment of the problems they faced the Admiralty. However, at this point the Royal Navy had no Naval Staff department.
In May 1909, the Director of Naval Intelligence, Rear-Admiral Alexander Edward Bethelll, submitted a proposal for a Navy War Council composed of the First Sea Lord as its President, the Director of Naval Intelligence as its Vice-President, an Assistant Director for War, the President and the Captain of the Royal Naval War College, and the Naval Assistant to the First Sea Lord. The head of the Naval Intelligence Department's War Division and the Commander of the Royal Naval War College were to act as Joint Secretaries.
In 1911, Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty, communicated to the Prime Minister that the Admiral of the Fleet was opposed to any formation of a new naval staff, and because of this he insisted that he be relieved of his duties by January 1912. Churchill would continue to brief the Prime Minister as the project developed and advised him as to what the composition of the new staff department might initially entail:
- War Education Division
- War Information Division
- War Planning Division
- War Mobilisation Division
These divisions would be headed by a new Chief of the War Staff answerable to the Board of Admiralty and supported by an Assistant Chief of the War Staff. In January 1912, the First Lord released his communique detailing the administrative function of the new department and listed the following new appointments.
- Chief of the War Staff
- Director of the Operations Division
- Director of the Intelligence Division
- Director of the Mobilization Division
From 1912, onward additional divisions were established headed by directors responsible for their particular function.
As stated in the Churchill Memorandum on a War Staff for the Royal Navy  Point 10: The functions of the War Staff will be advisory. The Chief of the Staff, when decision has been taken upon any proposal, will be jointly responsible with the secretary for the precise form in which the necessary orders to the Fleet are issued, but the Staff will possess no executive authority. It will discharge no administrative duties. Its responsibilities will end with the tendering of advice and with the accuracy of the facts on which that advice is based.
In early spring 1917 the name "War Staff" was abolished and was replaced by an Admiralty Naval Staff. The First Sea Lord also assumed additional title of Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) and staff functions were grouped under two new heads, the Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (DCNS) and the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (ACNS).
Chief of the Admiralty War Staff
Assistant to the Chief of the Admiralty War Staff
Special Service, War Staff
Special Service, War Staff included retired flag officers and active officers:
- Vice-Admiral Sir Edmond John Warre Slade, April 1915 – November 1918.
- Vice-Admiral Sir Douglas Austin Gamble, July 1915 – May 1917.
- Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Nelson Ommanney, August 1915 - – November 1918.
- Captain the Hon. Charles Joseph Thaddeus Dormer, July 1915 – November 1918.
- Captain Egerton Bagot Byrd Levett-Scrivener, July 1915 – November 1918.
War Staff Divisions
As of December 1916, operational divisions included:
- Anti-Submarine Division, formed in 1916
- Naval Intelligence Division, formed in 1912
- Operations Division, formed in 1912
- Mobilisation Division, formed in 1912
- Signals Section (Combined Operations), formed in 1916
- Trade Division, formed in 1914
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