Channel Squadron (1858-1903)

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Channel Squadron
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
CountryUnited Kingdom
BranchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
Garrison/HQPlymouth Dockyard, Gibraltar Dockyard

The Channel Squadron was formation established on 10 August 1858 it was renamed the Channel Fleet on 6 May 1903.

Command was usually vested in a Vice-Admiral known as the Senior Officer in Command, Channel Squadron.[1]


Throughout the course of Royal Navy's history there have been different channel squadrons stationed in home waters. During the Tudor period the Navy Royal operated a Channel Squadron initially based at Portsmouth Dockyard but later transferred to Plymouth, it was formed in 1512 and deactivated in 1601. Following on from this the next squadron to be formed in the channel was the the Western Squadron [2][3][4] which was the forerunner of this Channel Squadron that was later known as the Channel Fleet.[5]

In 1650 Captain William Penn , Commander-in-Chief, was charged with guarding the Channel from Beachy Head to Lands End with six ships. This system continued following the Restoration. It was the start of what was to become a Western Squadron.[6] In 1690 the squadron operated out of Plymouth Dockyard during wartime periods which was for most of the 18th century and early 19th century.[7][8]

In 1709 the Royal Navy formed another Channel Squadron that was based at Spithead, Hampshire, England under the command of Sir John Norris. It operated on a temporary basis until 1746. In 1854 the Particular Service Squadron was established for operations in the channel.[9] 10 August 1858 the Particular Service Squadron was made a permanent formation and renamed the Channel Squadron.[10]

Between June 1875 and February 1877 and again from November 1893 to November 1895 this squadron was stationed at Gibraltar Dockyard.[11] During the 19th century, as the French developed Cherbourg as a base for steam-powered ships, the Royal Navy developed Portland Harbour as a base for the squadron.[12]

With the amelioration of Anglo-French relations, and the rise of German militarism towards 1900, the need for a Channel Formation diminished and the main European naval arena shifted to the North Sea. Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson was officially "Senior Officer in Command of the Channel Squadron" from 1901 to 1903. His subordinate flag officer in that squadron was the Second-in-Command, who commanded a division of battleships. For the period 1858 to 1903 the Channel squadron was often incorrectly referred to as the Channel Fleet.[13]

On 17 April 1903 The Right Hon. Lord Charles Beresford was appointed Vice-Admiral Commanding, Channel Squadron.[14] On 6 May 1903 Admiral Beresford was informed by the Admiralty "that for the future the Channel Squadron shall be known as the Channel Fleet."[15] On 14 December 1904 the Channel Fleet was renamed as the Atlantic Fleet and the Home Fleet became the new 'Channel Fleet'.[16]

In Command

Senior Officer-in-Command, Channel Squadron

Second-in-Command, Channel Squadron

  1. Rear-Admiral Henry Chads, 1 October, 1869
  2. Rear-Admiral Augustus Phillimore, January, 1876 – December 1876
  3. Rear-Admiral William M. Dowell, 1877
  4. Rear-Admiral Henry Boys, June, 1878 – June, 1879
  5. Rear-Admiral The Hon. Henry C. Glyn, 20 June, 1881
  6. Rear-Admiral Sir Francis W. Sullivan, Bart., 14 August, 1882
  7. Rear-Admiral John C. Wilson, 1 April, 1883 ]
  8. Rear-Admiral William H. Whyte, 8 May, 1884 – 7 May, 1885
  9. Rear-Admiral Algernon C. F. Heneage, 3 July, 1885 – 7 August, 1886
  10. Rear-Admiral The Hon. Edmund R. Fremantle, 9 August, 1886
  11. Rear-Admiral Charles J. Rowley, 18 August, 1887
  12. Rear-Admiral St. George C. D'Arcy-Irvine, 1 September, 1888
  13. Rear-Admiral Richard E. Tracey, 12 September, 1889
  14. Rear-Admiral Loftus F. Jones, 12 September, 1890
  15. Rear-Admiral Edward S. Adeane, 15 September, 1891
  16. Rear-Admiral Edward H. Seymour, 16 September, 1892 – 25 April, 1894
  17. Rear-Admiral Alfred T. Dale, 25 April, 1894 – 20 April, 1895
  18. Rear-Admiral Arthur H. Alington, 1 May, 1895
  19. Rear-Admiral Armand T. Powlett, 1 May, 1896 – 19 May, 1897
  20. Rear-Admiral John Fellowes, 19 May, 1897
  21. Rear-Admiral John W. Brackenbury, 1 June, 1898
  22. Rear-Admiral Arthur D. Fanshawe, 1 June, 1899 – 31 May, 1900
  23. Rear-Admiral Albert B. Jenkings, 1 June, 1900
  24. Rear-Admiral Sir William A. D. Acland, Bart., 5 June, 1901 – 5 June, 1902
  25. Rear-Admiral The Hon. Assheton G. Curzon-Howe, 5 June, 1902 – 6 May, 1903


  1. Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony (11 May 2019). "Channel Squadron (Royal Navy) - The Dreadnought Project". Harley and Lovell. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
  2. Weigley, Russell F. (2004). The Age of Battles: The Quest for Decisive Warfare from Breitenfeld to Waterloo. Indiana University Press. p. 331. ISBN 0253217075.
  3. Ranft, Bryan (1995). The Oxford illustrated history of the Royal Navy. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 144. ISBN 9780198605270.
  4. "THE ROYAL NAVY AND THE FRENCH WARS: THE LONG-TERM BACKGROUND: by Jeremy Black, University of Exeter" (PDF). The Napoleonic Society, 2011. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  5. Mackesy, Piers (1964). The War for America: 1775-1783. Lincoln, Nebraska, USA: U of Nebraska Press. p. 192. ISBN 0803281927.
  6. Saunders, Andrew (1997). Book of Channel defences. London: Batsford [u.a.] p. 32. ISBN 9780713475944.
  7. Annal, David; Collins, Audrey (2012). Birth, Marriage and Death Records: A Guide for Family Historians. Casemate Publishers. p. 24. ISBN 9781848845725.
  8. "Royal Navy Dockyards: Plymouth". Royal Museums Greenwich, 2017. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  9. Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony. "Channel Squadron (Royal Navy) - The Dreadnought Project". Harley & Lovell, 26 November 2017. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  10. William Loney RN: Channel Fleet
  11. Archives, The National. "Correspondence of the Squadron at Gibraltar: ADM 144/6". Kew, England: The National Archives of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  12. Channel Fleet The Heritage Coast
  13. Davis, Peter. "The Times newspaper on the Channel Squadron, 1858-1862". Peter Davis. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  14. Harley & Lovell, 2017
  15. Harley & Lovell, 2017
  16. National Archives records