Invergordon

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Invergordon
HMS Flora
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
Active1902-1956
CountryFlag United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.gif United Kingdom
AllegianceBritish Empire
BranchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
TypeStation

Invergordon was a naval base and area command of the British Royal Navy first created in early 1902 as one of the geographical divisions into which the Royal Navy administered its worldwide responsibilities the base was active until 1956. During World War I it was under the command of the Senior Naval Officer, Invergordon During World War Two it was under the command of Flag Officer-in-Charge, Invergordon, then later the Naval Officer-in-Charge, Invergordon.[1]

For command purposes the Royal Navy was divided into a number of major or local stations, fleets or or other formations, each normally under an admiral or senior officer.[2]

History

The battleship HMS Revenge at Invergordon c. 1925.

Invergordon started life as the northern terminus of a ferry across the Cromarty Firth to Balblair on the Black Isle. This formed part of a network of routes that for centuries was used by pilgrims making their way to the chapel dedicated to St Duthac in Tain. Real growth came in the 1700’s when a planned town was laid out on a grid pattern by the Gordons of Invergordon. The first real harbour was constructed in 1828, and it has been repeatedly expanded and enhanced since. From 1834 Invergordon was served by a steamer service from Glasgow, which used the Caledonian Canal and called at Cromarty en route.

The deep-water port of Invergordon was an important naval base during the two World Wars. The history of the Royal Navy here dates back to the beginning of the 19th century and continued through to the 1950’s. Invergordon was used as a base for coaling and for taking on water in the middle of the 19th century and the provision of fresh water in the town, by the Navy, is commemorated with a plaque on the side of the building at the corner of the High Street and Castle Road. In the early 1900’s Invergordon became an official naval base and frequently had visits from the Home Fleet. A typical one saw twelve battleships, six cruisers, two scout ships and twenty torpedo boats with a complement of 14,500 men visit the firth. During the First World War (1914-18) Invergordon was a full-scale base for the Royal Navy, providing fuel oil, water and dockyard repair facilities,[3] in what has often been called the best natural harbour in Europe. It was during this period the hospital was built, at the eastern end of the town. During the war there were probably 20,000 people living in and around Invergordon and other military camps ringed the firth.

On 31st December 1915 the cruiser HMS Natal was hosting a reception for local dignitaries off Invergordon when, for reasons never satisfactorily explained, it blew up and capsized, with the loss of over 300 lives. Some ‘Natal’ gravestones can be found in Rosskeen Churchyard at the western end of the town. The Natal Garden is not only a lure in itself but also a fond memorial to the souls who perished. The gardens were improved under an initiative which was undertaken as a project for the BBC series, Charlie’s Garden Army, and involved a huge community effort.

During the Second World War (1939-45) the Firth was not considered safe for the Navy as it was within flying distance of hostile forces on mainland Europe. It then became a base for primarily minor maintenance work and supplying fuel oil to visiting ships.[4], also for flying boats, with a maintenance base at Evanton, a training base at Alness, and three squadrons of aircraft based at Invergordon, patrolling as far as Shetland and the southern Norwegian coast. There were still visits by the Royal Navy however, especially for joint target practice with the Sunderland flying boats. Evidence of the Navy remains in the tank farm lying behind the town centre, which used to contain fuel oil and water for admiralty ships, and the Admiralty Pier, where warships docked and which is now used for cruise ships in the summer and oil field support vessels through the year. One German bomb hit one of the tanks during World War II when a large flying boat base occupied much of the northerly coast of the Cromarty Firth, the result of this being that the fuel oil flowed onto the railway tracks. According to town history the bomb did not explode. The naval base closed in 1956, but it was not until 31st March 1993 after the Falklands War, that the Navy’s ties with the port ended.

In Command

The supercarrier HMS Queen Elizabeth moored at Invergordon 18 August 2017.

Senior Naval Officer, Invergordon

  1. Captain Alexander Farrington, 28 February, 1919 – 30 June, 1922. (also Captain-Superintendent, Invergordon Dockyard).[5]

Flag Officer-in-Charge, Invergordon

  1. Rear-Admiral Herbert Pott, 31 August, 1939 – 15 May, 1940.[6]
  2. Rear-Admiral Charles Gage Stuart, 15 May, 1940 – 10 April, 1942.[7]

Naval Officer-in-Charge, Invergordon

  1. Vice-Admiral Leonard Laurence Peel Willan, (retd), 7 June, 1942 – June, 1944.[8]

Secretary to Naval Officer-in-Charge, Invergordon

  1. Paymaster Lieutenant Commander J.E. Hopperton, RNVR. 3 June, 1942 – June, 1944.[9]

Components

At various times it encompassed naval formations and other ships not attached to other fleets. In addition to shore establishments including, barracks, dockyards, depots, hospitals, refitting and re-supply bases, naval bases or victualling yards. Those components that were part of this station are shown below.

Naval Shore Establishments

Unit From To Ref
Invergordon Dockyard 1913 1946

References

  1. Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony (3 November 2018). "Invergordon - The Dreadnought Project". www.dreadnoughtproject.org. Harley and Lovell. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  2. "Records of Stations and Fleets". discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk. Kew, Surrey, England.: National Archives UK. 1702–1969. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  3. Barclay, Dr Gordon J. (1 August 2013). "World War One Audit of Surviving Remains. Canmore". canmore.org.uk. Government of Scotland. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  4. Barclay
  5. Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony (3 November 2018). "Invergordon" - The Dreadnought Project
  6. Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony (3 November 2018). "Invergordon" - The Dreadnought Project
  7. Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony (3 November 2018). "Invergordon" - The Dreadnought Project
  8. Houterman, Hans; Koppes, Jeroen. "Royal Navy, Rosyth Command 1939-1945". www.unithistories.com. Houterman and Koppes. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  9. Houterman and Koppes.