Compass Branch

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Compass Branch
Board of Admiralty Flag 19th to early 20th Century.gif
Board of Admiralty Flag 19th to early 20th Century
Branch overview
Superseding department
JurisdictionGovernment of the United Kingdom
HeadquartersAdmiralty Building
Branch executive
  • Superintendent of Compasses
  • Assistant Superintendent of Compasses
Parent BranchDepartment of Admiralty

The Compass Branch (1842-1917) was established in 1842 as part of the Hydrographic Department to provide the Royal Navy with services for the design, development, inspection, testing and repair of compasses and certain other instruments. It subsequently undertook requirements for the other services as appropriate. In 1917 it was superseded by the Compass Department.


In 1795 The post of Hydrographer of the Navy was created. He became responsible to the First Naval Lord for producing charts, 'Sailing Directions', 'Notices to Mariners', tide tables and light lists and for supplying chronometers, compasses and other scientific instruments to HM ships. He was also responsible for naval meteorology and for the Admiralty's links with the Meteorological Office. In 1820 the Hydrographer was responsible for the Observatory, being advised by a Board of Visitors. In 1842 a Compass Branch as part of the Hydrographic Department was established.[1] In 1911 The Compass Branch was affiliated to the Controller of the Navy's Department. Its work in connection with terrestrial magnetism was transferred to the Royal Observatory Greenwich when it was renamed the Compass Observatory. In 1917, it moved to Ditton Park and used the house and its immediate grounds when the compass branch was elevated to an Admiralty department. The Radio Research Station of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research was co-located at Ditton Park, and provided basic information in this field.

Head of Branch

Superintendent of Compasses

Incomplete list of post holders included:

  1. 1842-1843 Commander Edward John Johnson
  2. 1844-1847 Captain Edward John Johnson
  3. 1855-1860 Captain Sir Frederick John Owen Evans
  4. 1860 Captain Edward John Johnson
  5. 1868-1885 Captain Ettrick William Creak
  6. 1914-1917 Captain Frank O. Creagh-Osborne (rtd). (continued till 1919 as head of the Compass Department).

Assistant Superintendent of Compasses

  1. 1868-1867, Lieutenant E. W. Creak
  2. 1909-1913 Commander Frank Osborne Creagh-Osborne
  3. 1913-1915 Commander Stanley B. Norfolk


  1. Fanning, A. E. (1 May 1980). "The Admiralty Compass Observatory". The Journal of Navigation. CUP. pp. 167–183. doi:10.1017/S0373463300035189. Retrieved 5 March 2017.

External links