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The port of Greenock dates from around 1296 named after a Scottish Baron Hugh de Grenock. In the early 17th century, the first pier was built in Greenock. Shipbuilding was already an important employer by this time. Greenock's fishing trade grew prosperous, with barrels of salted herring exported widely, and shipping trade developed. As seagoing ships could not go further up the River Clyde, the Glasgow merchants including the Tobacco Lords wanted harbour access but were in disputes with Greenock over harbour dues and warehouses.
The first proper harbour was constructed in 1710 and the first well-known shipbuilders, Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, was established the following year. It was the oldest shipbuilding business in the world and gained numerous contracts with the Royal Navy from 1806, building ships such as Glasgow. In 1714 Greenock became a custom house port as a branch of Port Glasgow, and for a period this operated from rooms leased in Greenock. Receipts rose rapidly with the expansion of colonial trade.
The War of 1812 reawakened fears of American raids against Britain's ports. Earlier gun batteries had been dismantled and in 1813 ground was granted for a battery at Whitefarland Point. Fort Matilda was completed in 1818 and was sporadically modified over the century. In 1910 The Royal Naval Torpedo Factory, Clyde opened, with 700 workers transferred from the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. The site was tasked with designing and testing of torpedoes, the testing taking place in Loch Long.
Greenock suffered badly during the Second World War and its anchorage at the Tail of the Bank became the base for the Home Fleet as well as the main assembly point for Atlantic convoys. On 30 April 1940 the French Vauquelin class destroyer Maillé Brézé blew up off Greenock with heavy loss of life following an accident involving two of her own torpedoes.
Following World War Two Greenock became fully committed to naval R&D as the Torpedo Experimental Establishment (TEE). TEE was closed in 1959, when all torpedo research, development and design were concentrated at the newly formed Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment (AUWE), Portland.
Flag Officer-in-Charge Greenock
- Rear-Admiral Sir Richard A.S. Hill, RN (retd), 3 February, 1942 - July, 1945.
Chief Staff Officer to Flag Officer-in-Charge Greenock