Bermuda

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HM Naval Base, Bermuda
HMS Terror (1857-1902), HMS Caesar (1915-18), HMS Malabar (1919–51, 1965–95).
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
CountryFlag of Bermuda.png Bermuda
AllegianceFlag United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.gif United Kingdom
BranchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
Garrison/HQRN Base, Bermuda

Bermuda or formally HM Naval Base, Bermuda was a base of operations and command of the Royal Navy establishment officially designated HMS Malabar established in 1956. It served as the headquarters of the West Indies command until 1976. The base remained open until 1995 when it was closed.

History

During the seventeenth century, the Admiralty and the Crown recognised Bermuda’s strategic location as a safe ‘stepping stone’ for subsequent expansion in the Americas. However, the island would see its importance grow out of proportion to its size when the Thirteen Colonies declared their independence from Britain. France’s entry into the War of the American Independence in 1778, led to the reinforcement and re-fortification of Bermuda. By 1779, there was a British garrison on the island, and the forts were prepared for a French assault that never came. Meanwhile, Bermuda became the primary base of operations for the Royal Navy in the American campaign.[1]

After the American War of Independence, the Admiralty would initiate the enlargement and improvement of naval facilities on the island. In 1811, the construction of the Royal Naval Dockyard on Ireland Island was under way. The dockyard, named HMD Bermuda, was planned to be the territory’s principal naval base guarding the shipping lanes of the western North Atlantic Ocean. The British military presence would not be restricted to the Royal Navy.[2]

The British Army maintained a large garrison, known as Bermuda Garrison, and fortified the islands. The military improvements were successfully used during the War of 1812. The attacks against Chesapeake and Washington, DC were launched from the British installations on the territory. Shortly before these military operations, the Royal Navy’s North American Station had been transferred from Halifax to Bermuda. Thus, consolidating the relevance of the archipelago to Britain’s strategic position in the North Atlantic and the Caribbean.[3]

In the first half of the nineteenth century, Britain invested heavily on Bermuda’s military infrastructure. However, the investments were not coordinated with the numbers of the British garrison on the islands. Bermuda’s prominence as a naval base was displayed during both world wars. Its strategic location was essential for the vessels crossing from the Caribbean or North America to Europe. When the United States entered the First World War, its navy used the islands as a staging point to reach Europe.[4]

In 1917, Britain allowed the US Navy to use facilities on White’s Island in Hamilton Harbour. By the end of the war, Bermuda was an important hub for the trans-Atlantic convoys. This relevance would only increase when the Second World War broke out, and the Battle of the Atlantic quickly developed into a battle for the survival of Britain’s war effort.[5]

The interwar years witnessed the arrival of a Royal Air Force (RAF) presence. In 1933, the RAF established a station at the Royal Naval Dockyard to repair and resupply floatplanes. As the tension in Europe grew, the British military presence was diversified. In the late 1930s, the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm and the RAF had seaplane bases on the islands. The facilities would eventually face expansion during the war years. In 1939, Darrell’s Island – a small island within the Great Sound of Bermuda – was taken over as an RAF station operating a Transport Command and Ferry Command.[6]

After the end of the Second World War, the military presence in Bermuda would face significant changes. The British forces of the RAF establishments at Kindley Field and Darrell’s Islands were quickly withdrawn. The movement was followed by the closure of most of the Royal Naval Dockyard and the complete withdrawal of regular British Army units in the early 1950s. Concerning the closure of the Bermuda Dockyard, the process began 1951 with the removal of the floating drydock. In 1958, the Admiralty’s and the Army’s landholdings in Bermuda were transferred to the Bermudian Government. The only place retained as a base was the South Yard of the Dockyard, named HMS Malabar and later classified as a ‘supply station’. The reduced naval base no longer served as a dockyard, vessels needing refits or major repairs were sent to Britain.[7]

The closure of the naval base HMS Malabar in 1995 put to an end 200 years of permanent Royal Navy presence in Bermuda.[8]

In Command

Captain-in-Charge of H.M. Naval Establishments, Bermuda (1919-1942)

Commodore-in-Charge, Naval Establishments Bermuda (1942-1946)

Captain-in-Charge, Bermuda (1945-1948)

  1. Captain, E. O. Tudor, June, 1946 – October, 1948.(additionally as Captain-Superintendent, H.M. Dockyard Bermuda).[9]
  2. Captain, J. A. McCoy, October, 1948 – ?.(ditto).[10]

Resident Naval Officer, Bermuda (1971)

  1. Lieutenant Commander, B. Ian D. Stranack, 1971 (additionally Commanding Officer of HMS Malabar).

Senior Resident Naval Officer, Bermuda (1976-1979)

  1. Commander Tim Kitson, 1st April , 1976 – 1979.

References

  1. Tossini, J. Vitor (14 October 2019). "Fortress Bermuda – Four centuries guarding Britain's interests overseas". UK Defence Journal. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  2. Tossini, J. Vitor. (14 October 2019) Fortress Bermuda. UK Defence Journal.
  3. Tossini, J. Vitor. (14 October 2019) Fortress Bermuda. UK Defence Journal.
  4. Tossini, J. Vitor. (14 October 2019) Fortress Bermuda. UK Defence Journal.
  5. Tossini, J. Vitor. (14 October 2019) Fortress Bermuda. UK Defence Journal.
  6. Tossini, J. Vitor. (14 October 2019) Fortress Bermuda. UK Defence Journal.
  7. Tossini, J. Vitor. (14 October 2019) Fortress Bermuda. UK Defence Journal.
  8. Tossini, J. Vitor. (14 October 2019) Fortress Bermuda. UK Defence Journal.
  9. Admiralty, British. (July 1946). The Navy List. Flag Officers in Commission. H.M.S.O. London. England. p. 1869.
  10. Admiralty, British. (October 1948). The Navy List. Flag Officers in Commission. H.M.S.O. London. England. p. 1038.