Department of the Permanent Secretary

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Department of the Permanent Secretary
Flag of Civilian Members of the Board of Admiralty 1922-1964.gif
Department overview
JurisdictionGovernment of the United Kingdom
HeadquartersAdmiralty Building
Department executives
Parent DepartmentDepartment of Admiralty

The Department of the Permanent Secretary [1] also formally known as Department of the Permanent Secretary to the Admiralty or Department of the Secretary and previously known as the Naval Department, was the Civil Service department responsible for the control, direction and guidance of all administrative functions of the British Admiralty from 1882 to 1964, it was controlled and directed by the Permanent Secretary to the Admiralty.

The Department of the Permanent Secretary was responsible for coordinating all the work between all the branches, departments, divisions, offices, and sections of the Department of Admiralty.


Prior 1860, the Admiralty Secretariat, was charged with carrying special duties that were not usually dealt with by other departments, was also conduit from which departmental submissions would be submitted to the Lords Commissioners, when the commissioners had reached a decision this was usually communicated back to all relevant departments by correspondences that had been written by the secretariat staff which was then signed by the Secretary. As this was the system that was operating no important decision could be made without the knowledge and approval of the Secretary's Department.

All orders from the Board of Admiralty were conveyed through this system and this department effectively became a center for official admiralty knowledge. In 1832 as the business of the admiralty was expanding four specialist sub branches were created to handle key areas of business they were the Military Branch, the Naval Branch, the Civil Branch and the Legal Branch one assigned for each for the First Naval Lord (M Branch), the Second Naval Lord (N Branch), the First and Second Secretary's (C Branch) and the Judicial Department, (L Branch). In 1860 the Admiralty Secretariat was renamed the Secretary's Department. The former secretariat in name did not disappear altogether it remained as a sub department in the secretary's organisation.[2]

In 1869 a number of changes were introduced in to modify this system then existing, mainly due to the complication caused by duplication of business and the resulting delays that it caused by a number of departments that were instructed to communicate directly to the board and always action the orders given by the offices of the various commissioners, without the approval of this secretariat. By this year the secretariat sub branches had expanded to nine. They included the Military Branch, the Naval Branch, Commission Branch, Warrant Branch, Legal Branch, Miscellaneous Branch, Pension Branch, Establishment Branch formerly the Civil Branch and Steam Branch.[3]

In 1877 the office of Permanent Secretary to Admiralty was abolished and replaced by the Naval Secretary to the Board of Admiralty at which point this department was replaced by a new Naval Department. In 1882 further re-structuring took place the formally known as the Naval Department was abolished and the former permanent "Secretary's Department" was reinstated as the Department of the Permanent Secretary, this was following a recommendation in a report that was produced by the Massey Lopes Committee of the House of Commons. The purpose of the formation of this committee was to investigate and conclude possible recommendations for restricting the secretariats role in relation to other departments, the word Naval was dropped as that implied military and replaced with civil terminology.

In 1932 following re-structuring with the Admiralty the Department of the Accountant-General of the Navy was abolished and some of its departments responsible for finance were merged within the Secretary's department, the same year the Admiralty Records Office that had existed since 1802 was now part of this department.[4] The department existed until 1964 when the post of "Permanent Secretary" was abolished and replaced by a new Navy Department [5] and a Permanent Secretary to the Navy.[6]

Office of the Permanent Secretary to the Admiralty

The Department of the Permanent Secretary which was the general co-ordinating agency, regulating naval finance, providing advice on policy, conducing all correspondence on behalf of the Board and maintaining admiralty records. Its primary department to deliver this is the Admiralty Secretariat (Department of the Permanent Secretary, sections of the Secretariat (other than those which provide Common Services) were known as Branches.

Staff of Secretary's Department

The Permanent Secretary was initially assisted by a Chief Clerk then re-styled later as Principle Clerk, then later re-designated as Assistant Secretary from 1911 [7] (not a Deputy Secretary, which post didn't exist until after 1920),[8] whose duties were defined in March, 1913, as:

The Assistant Secretary acts for the Permanent Secretary in his absence and relieves him of such part of his ordinary duties as the Permanent Secretary may assign to him, the Permanent Secretary continuing to be responsible to the Board. He is responsible for the detailed supervision of the departmental organisation for war, and in this capacity is connected with the Admiralty War Staff, and attends and acts as Secretary at the periodical Staff Meetings. He exercises a general supervision over the Secretary's Department, under the direction of the Permanent Secretary. He also has general charge of office arrangements, including the allocation of accommodation and the superintendence of the Messenger Staff.[9] After 1911 a number of Assistant Secretary's were created responsible for dealing with work in specialist area's such as Civil Administration, Finance, Materials and Estimates, Naval Personnel and Staff from 1920 onward they would report to the Deputy Secretary.

Senior Staff

Principal Permanent Clerk

  • 1876–1880, Thomas Wooley.[10]
  • 1880–1885, Edwin N. Swainson.[11]
  • 1885-1888, Richard D. Awdry.[12][13]
  • 1896–1901, Henry J. Van Sittart Neale.[14]
  • 1902–1907, Charles. Inigo Thomas.[15]
  • 1907–1911, Sir W. Graham Greene.[16]

Assistant Permanent Secretary

Deputy Permanent Secretary

  • 1931, Charles Walker.[19]

Deputy Secretary Personnel

Deputy Secretary General Policy and Finance

Senior Assistants Specialist Duties

A number of assistant secretaries specialising in certain area's were created they included:[24]

Assistant Secretary for Finance Duties (F)

  • Vincent W. Baddeley, 1911 – 1920.[25]

Assistant Secretary Civil Administration (C)

  • Robert R. Scott, 1917 – 1920.

Assistant Secretary Naval Personnel (N)

Assistant Secretary Material and Estimates (ME)

Assistant Secretary Staff (S)

  • John W. S. Anderson, 1917 – 1918.[26]
  • Walter F. Nicholson, 1918 – 1920.

Component sub-Departments

Admiralty Secretariat

The Admiralty Secretariat[27] was the organisation staffed by civilian members of the Admiralty initially charged initially with assisting the First Lord of the Admiralty, until the creation of the office of Secretary to the Admiralty and Second Secretary to the Admiralty in the execution of their responsibilities.[28] The structure of secretariat was divided into various branches one responsible for each member of the Board of Admiralty.

Record Office

Charged with responsibility for collecting, filing and managing official Admiralty documents (1809-1964)


  1. Hamilton, C. I. (3 February 2011). The Making of the Modern Admiralty: British Naval Policy-Making, 1805–1927. Cambridge University Press. p. 191. ISBN 9781139496544.
  2. "Records of Secretary's Department". Kew, England: National Archives UK. 1812–1968. Retrieved 19 July 2019.
  3. United Kingdom, Parliament of the (1869). Accounts and Papers of the House of Commons. London: H.M.S.O. p. 8.
  4. Archives, The National. "Records of Secretary's Department". National Archives, 1812-1968, ADM Division 15. Retrieved 26 February 2017.
  5. Edgerton, David (8 December 2005). Warfare State: Britain, 1920–1970. Cambridge University Press. p. 125. ISBN 9781139448741.
  6. Steinberg, S. (26 December 2016). The Statesman's Year-Book 1965-66: The One-Volume ENCYCLOPAEDIA of all nations. Springer. p. 100. ISBN 9780230270947.
  7. Hamilton, C. I. (3 February 2011). The Making of the Modern Admiralty: British Naval Policy-Making, 1805–1927. Cambridge University Press. p. 290. ISBN 9781139496544.
  8. Rodger, N.A.M. (1979). The Admiralty. Lavenham: T. Dalton. p. 138. ISBN 0900963948.
  9. Greene, Sir William Graham. Official Rules and Procedure:Orders and circulars on changes in administration in the Admiralty, 1884-1917. GEE/2. National Maritime Museum. p. 2.
  10. Whitaker, Joseph (1 January 1876). "An Almanack for the Year of Our Lord ..." J. Whitaker, p.136. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  11. "The Nation [Electronic Resource]". William Mccrillis Griswold, p.855. 1 January 1885. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  12. Admiralty, British (January 1888). The Navy List: Department of the Secretary of the Admiralty. London: H.M.S.O. p. 299.
  13. "International Shipping & Shipbuilding Directory". Benn Brothers Limited. p.157. 1 January 1897. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  14. Admiralty, Great Britain. "An alphabetical list of the officers of the royal navy: the Royal marines, and the Royal naval reserve, present at Spithead". H.M. Stationery Office, 1897. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  15. "Gleanings and Memoranda: A Monthly Record of Political Events and Current Political Literature". Publication Committee of the National Union of Conservative and Constitutional Associations, p.211. 1 January 1907. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  16. "The New Hazell Annual and Almanack ..." H. Frowde, Oxford University Press, p.140. 1 January 1914. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  17. Seligmann, Matthew S. (24 May 2012). The Royal Navy and the German Threat 1901-1914: Admiralty Plans to Protect British Trade in a War Against Germany. OUP Oxford. p. 146. ISBN 9780199574032.
  18. Defence Yearbook. Brassey's Naval and Shipping Annual. 1920. p. 3.
  19. "The British Imperial Calendar and Civil Service List". H.M. Stationery Office, p23. 1 January 1931. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  20. Admiralty, British (February 1962). The Navy List: Department of the Secretary of the Admiralty. London: H.M.S.O. p. 905.
  21. Admiralty, British (Spring 1968). The Navy List: Department of the Secretary of the Admiralty. London: H.M.S.O. p. 905.
  22. Navy List. February 1962.
  23. Navy List. Spring 1968.
  24. Hamilton, C. I. (3 February 2011). The Making of the Modern Admiralty: British Naval Policy-Making, 1805–1927. Cambridge University Press. p. 290. ISBN 9781139496544.
  25. "Minute from WSC [First Lord of the Admiralty] to Vincent Baddeley [Assistant Secretary for Finance Duties, Admiralty], on the presentation of the Naval Estimates". CHAR 13/6A/114-116, Churchill Archive, 9 January 1914. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  26. Whitaker, Joseph (1 January 1920). "An Almanack...: by Joseph Whitaker, F.S.A., containing an account of the astronomical and other phenomena ...information respecting the government, finances, population, commerce, and general statistics of the various nation's of the world, with an index containing nearly 20,000 references". Whitaker's Almanack. p.236. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  27. Cock, Randolph; Rodger, N. A. M (2008). A Guide to the Naval Records in the National Archives of The UK (PDF) (2 ed.). University of London School of advanced study Institute of Historical Research. p. 87.
  28. Dykes, Godfrey. "How the Admiralty worked when we had a Global Navy" (PDF). Godfrey Dykes. Retrieved 24 February 2017.


  • Hamilton, Admiral Sir. Richard. Vesey, G.C.B. (1896). Naval Administration: The Constitution, Character, and Functions of the Board of Admiralty, and of the Civil Departments it Directs. London: George Bell and Sons.
  • Hamilton, C. I. (2011). The Making of the Modern Admiralty: British Naval Policy-Making, 1805–1927. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781139496544.
  • Harley Simon, Lovell Tony, (2017),Permanent Secretary to the Board of Admiralty,,
  • Haydn, Joseph; Ockerby, Horace (1890). The Book of Dignities; containing Lists of the Official Personages of the British Empire, Civil, Diplomatic,
  • Logan, Karen Dale (1976). The Admiralty: Reforms and Re-organization, 1868-1892. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation. University of Oxford.
  • Precis of the Division & General Mode of Conducting the Business of the Admiralty at Whitehall." Dated 21 June 1844. The National Archives. ADM 1/5543.
  • "Return "of the Distribution of Business under the Lords of the Admiralty under the Old and New Arrangement for conducting the business of the Department."" H.C. 84, 1869. Copies in Greene and Milne Papers. National Maritime Museum. GEE/2 and MLN/146/1.
  • Rodger. N.A.M., (1979) The Admiralty (offices of state), T. Dalton, Lavenham, ISBN 978-0900963940.
  • Smith, Gordon (2014), British Admiralty, Part 2 - Changes in Admiralty Departments 1913-1920, Naval-History.Net.