Naval Intelligence Division

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Naval Intelligence Division
Board of Admiralty Flag 20th Century.png
CountryFlag United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.gif United Kingdom
AllegianceBritish Empire
BranchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
RoleMilitary Staff
Part ofAdmiralty Naval Staff
In CommandDirector of Naval Intelligence
FirstRear-Admiral the Hon. Sir Alexander E. Bethell,
LastRear-Admiral Patrick W.W. Graham,

The Naval Intelligence Division (NID) was created as a component part of the Admiralty War Staff in 1912 replacing the earlier Naval Intelligence Department. In 1917 it became part of the Admiralty Naval Staff and 1964 it became part of the Navy Department, Naval Staff. In 1965 it was absorbed into the new Defence Intelligence Service.

It was the intelligence arm of the British Admiralty before the establishment of a unified Defence Intelligence Staff in 1964. It dealt with matters concerning British naval plans, with the collection of naval intelligence.


The Foreign Intelligence Committee was established in 1882[1] and it evolved into the Naval Intelligence Department in 1887.[2]

The NID staff were originally responsible for fleet mobilisation and war plans as well as foreign intelligence collection; thus in the beginning there were originally two divisions: (1) intelligence (Foreign) and (2) Mobilisation. In 1900 another division, War, was added to deal with issues of strategy and defence, and in 1902 a fourth division, Trade, was created for matters related to the protection of merchant shipping. The Trade Division was abolished in October 1909 in the wake of the Committee of Imperial Defence inquiry into the feud between the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir John Fisher and former Commander-in-Chief Channel Fleet, Admiral Lord Charles Beresford, when it was discovered that the captain heading the Trade Division had been supplying the latter with confidential information during the inquiry.[3]

In 1910, the NID was shorn of its responsibility for war planning and strategy when the outgoing Fisher created the Navy War Council as a stop-gap remedy to criticisms emanating from the Beresford Inquiry that the Navy needed a naval staff—a role the NID had been in fact fulfilling since at least 1900, if not earlier. After this reorganisation, war planning and strategic matters were transferred to the newly created Naval Mobilisation Department and the NID reverted to the position it held prior to 1887—an intelligence collection and collation organisation.[4]

In 1912 the division was established as a component part of the new Admiralty War Staff organisation when that body was abolished in 1917 it continued as a division of the new Admiralty Naval Staff until 1964 when the Department of Admiralty was abolished it then became part of the Navy Department (Naval Staff). In 1965, the three service intelligence departments were amalgamated in the new Defence Intelligence Service at the Ministry of Defence.

Director of Naval Intelligence


  1. Allen. The Foreign Intelligence Committee. p. 68.
  2. "Obituary". Obituaries. The Times (34523). London. 1895. col F, p. 10.
  3. Hurd, Archibald (1921). "The Merchant Navy". John Murray. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  4. Strachan, Hew (2003). "The First World War: Volume I: To Arms". Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199261918.