North Sea Fleet

From Naval History Archive
Jump to navigationJump to search
North Sea Fleet
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
Ensign of the White Squadron
CountryUnited Kingdom
BranchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
RoleTrade Protection, Blockade
Part ofRoyal Navy
Garrison/HQYarmouth Roads, Great Yarmouth, Ramsgate
FirstRear-Admiral of the Blue: John Byng
LastAdmiral of the White: Sir William Young
Admiral of the White: George Elphinstone, Viscount Keith.

The North Sea Fleet [1] was a naval formation and major operational command of the British Royal Navy based at Great Yarmouth from 1745 to 1802 then at Ramsgate from 1803 until 1815.[2]

The fleet was commanded by the Commander-in-Chief, North Sea.[3]

Historical Background

The North Sea has traditionally been an important command from the 13th to 15th centuries there was an Admiral of the North based at Yarmouth he commanded the Northern Fleet. During the 16th century Vice Admirals were appointed to the command of the North Sea Squadron though on an adhoc basis. From 1652-1654 Yarmouth used by the Royal Navy for stationing its North Sea Fleet during the First Anglo-Dutch War[4]. A more permanent formation the was then established in 1745.[5] In May 1804 in the middle of Napoleon's planned invasion of the United Kingdom (1803-1805) at the start of the War of the Third Coalition, although never carried out, was a major influence on British naval strategy and the fortification of the coast of southeast England.

The North Sea Fleet then under the command of Admiral of the White: George Elphinstone, Viscount Keith reached its largest composition consisting of some 170-179 ships (according to sources given) divided primarily between squadrons each commanded by competent admirals including one off Boulogne, France under Rear-Admiral of the Blue Thomas Louis, one in the Downs under Vice-Admiral of the White John Holloway, one off Flushing, Batavian Republic under Rear-Admiral of the White Sidney Smith, under Rear-Admiral of the Red Edward Thornborough, one at Texel, Batavian Republic, in Scotland one at Leith under Rear-Admiral of the White James Vashon and finally another stationed at Yarmouth Roads under Rear-Admiral of the Red Thomas Macnamara Russell together with a cruising and convoy force all reporting Lord Keith.[6][7]

In Command

Commander-in-Chief, North Sea

Deputy Commander-in-Chief, North Sea Fleet

  1. Vice-Admiral of the Blue: Horatio Nelson, 1801 – 1803.[8]

Second-in-Command, North Sea Fleet

  1. Rear-Admiral of the Blue: Andrew Mitchell, 1795 – 1796.[9]
  2. Vice-Admiral of the Red: Richard Onslow, 1796 – 1800.[10]
  3. Vice-Admiral of the Red: Philip Patton, 1803 – 1804.
  4. Vice-Admiral of the Red: John Holloway, 1804 – 1807.
  5. Vice-Admiral of the White: Bartholomew Rowley, 1807 - 1808.
  6. Rear-Admiral of the White: Sir Richard Strachan, 1809 – 1810.[11]

Composition of the Fleet May 1804

North Sea Fleet[12]
Formation/Units Ships of the Line Fourth-Rate Frigates Sloops Brigs Other Ships Total
Boulogne Squadron 1 5 3 3 11 23
Downs Squadron 5 1 4 4 6 9 29
Flushing Squadron 1 2 3 2 8
Leith Squadron 1 1 1 4 10 17
Texel Squadron 8 2 1 1 3 15
Yarmouth Squadron 5 2 3 3 13
Cruising & Convoy Forces 4 8 1 7 20
Off Heligoland[13] 1 1 1 3
Off Hellevoetsluis 2 2 4
Off Le Havre 2 3 3 8
Hollesley Bay 1 6 7
In Port 1 2 16 19
Fitting Out 1 1 1 1 4
Other 9
Totals 21 17 31 12 24 65 170/179


  1. Blake, Richard (2008). Evangelicals in the Royal Navy, 1775-1815: Blue Lights & Psalm-singers. Boydell Press. p. 133. ISBN 9781843833598.
  2. Archives, The National. "Admiralty: Nore Station: Correspondence". The National Archives, 1805-1939, ADM 151. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  3. Mace, Martin; Grehan, John (Nov 14, 2013). British Battles of the Napoleonic Wars 1793-1806: Despatched from the Front. Pen and Sword. p. 27. ISBN 9781473831421.
  4. Davies, J. D. (2008). Pepys Navy: Ships, Men and Warfare 1649-89. Seaforth Publishing. p. 195. ISBN 9781783830220.
  5. Palmer, Charles John (1856). The History of Great Yarmouth, Designed as a Continuation of Manship's History of that Town. Louis Alfred Meall, The Quay. p. 275.
  6. Rodger, N.A.M. (2004). "Fleets:May 1804 Invasion Threat". The command of the ocean : a naval history of Britain 1649-1815. London: Allen Lane. pp. 615–617. ISBN 9780713994117.
  7. Rodger, N. A. M.; Dancy, Jeremiah Ross; Wilson, Evan (2016). Strategy and the Sea: Essays in Honour of John B. Hattendorf. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer. p. 93. ISBN 9781783270989.
  8. Jones, Barry (2017). Dictionary of World Biography: Fourth edition. Canberra, Australia.: ANU Press. p. 621. ISBN 978-1-76046-126-3.
  9. Yonge, Charles Duke (1863). The History of the British Navy From the Earliest Period to the Present Time (II ed.). London: Richard Bentley. p. 641.
  10. Morrow, John (2018). "Appendix". British Flag Officers in the French Wars, 1793-1815: Admirals' Lives. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 265. ISBN 978-1-4742-7769-3.
  11. Harrsion, Simon (2018). "Sir Richard John Strachan (d.1828): Appointments". S. Harrison. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  12. Rodger. pp.615-617
  13. The forces off Helgioland were under Rear-Admiral Edward Thornborough commanding the Texel Squadron. Rodger, Dancy, & Wilson. p.94.