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HMS Torch, later HMS Bee
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
Active1915-1918, 1939-1946
AllegianceBritish Empire
BranchRoyal Navy
Part ofPlymouth Station (1939-1941)
Western Approaches Command (1941-1946)
Garrison/HQHolyhead, Wales.

Holyhead was a naval base and area command of the Royal Navy as one of the geographical divisions into which the Royal Navy divided its worldwide responsibilities. It was operational during World War One from 1915 to 1918 and during and after World War Two from 1939 to 1946.


Formerly subservient to Beaumaris as the region's main port, Holyhead came into its own in the early 19th century, when Thomas Telford built a new road to connect north Wales with London. The Admiralty Pier was constructed in 1821.

In 1845, an Act of Parliament led to the construction of the new port, and a new railway station was opened in 1851. In 1873 a new breakwater was completed. In 1908 the Holyhead Urban District Council tried to convince the Admiralty that they should set up a naval base at Holyhead and station a battleship or cruiser there. It had never occurred to the Admiralty to consider Holyhead for a naval base and they were not open to the suggestion.

By 1915 things had changed considerably and the submarine threat made Holyhead an ideal location. Auxiliary Patrol Vessels based at Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) were already patrolling the western Irish Sea (Auxiliary Patrol Area XVI) and vessels from Liverpool patrolled the eastern Irish Sea (Mersey Area) but it was clear that additional help was needed to cover this large and important area. A new auxiliary patrol area (Area XXII) was set up to be covered from a naval base at Holyhead and vessels were transfer from Kingstown to Holyhead. In 1916, a naval base was created and the Irish Sea Hunting Flotilla was established later in the First World War to combat U-boats operating in the Irish Sea.[1]

During the 1930s, a trade war with the newly established Republic of Ireland had an adverse effect on the level of use of the port, which caused widespread unemployment in the town of Holyhead. During the Second World War, however, the Royal Dutch Navy began using the port of Holyhead as a base. In June 1939, the Royal Navy submarine HMS Thetis sank during sea trials in Liverpool Bay, and it was subsequently brought to the harbour at Holyhead after being beached at Traeth Bychan.

In Command


Senior Naval Officer, Holyhead

  1. Lieutenant Commander Ronald Philip Stanley de Sausmarez, 1915 – 16 August, 1918.
  2. Captain J.B. Kitson, RN (retd), 25, August 1939 – 20 July, 1943.
  3. Vice-Admiral W.F. Selis, RN (retd), 20 July, 1943 – 18 October, 1943.
  4. Captain The Hon. E. Pleydell-Bouverie, 18 October, 1943 – 29 April, 1944.
  5. Acting Commander J.L. Younghusband, 29 April, 1944 – 6 September, 1944.
  6. Captain Malcolm Murray, c. September, (retd), 6 September, 1944 – 18 February, 1946.


  1. Gwynedd Archaeological Trust (March 2018). First World War Military Sites: Operations Report and Gazetteer, 1424, p.7.
  2. Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony (7 November 2018). "Holyhead - The Dreadnought Project". www.dreadnoughtproject.org. Harley and Lovell. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  3. Houterman, Hans; Koppes, Jeroen. "World War II unit histories & officers: Royal Navy Western Approaches Command: Holyhead". www.unithistories.com. Netherlands: Houterman and Koppes. Retrieved 7 December 2020.