Pembroke Dockyard

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HM Dockyard, Pembroke
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
Pembroke in Wales
Site information
OperatorRoyal Navy
Controlled byNavy Board, Board of Admiralty
Site history
In use1832-2008
Installation information
Resident Commissioner of the Navy, Pembroke, Captain-Superintendent, Pembroke Dockyard

Pembroke Dockyard or formally HM Dockyard, Pembroke was a Royal Naval Dockyard of the Royal Navy located at Pembroke, Wales. It was controlled by the first the Navy Board represented by a Resident Commissioner of Navy who was responsible for supervising the principal officers of the yard. In 1832 responsibility for the management of dockyards transferred to the Board of Admiralty represented by a Captain-Superintendent. It opened in 1814 and closed in 1814 when the work and staff of dockyard was transferred from Milford Dockyard that was closed down and existed until 1926 when shipbuilding at the yard was ceased. It did however it continued to be used sa an active naval base until the 1940's and remained owned by the Royal Navy until 2008.


1758 Naval report

The origins of naval shipbuilding on Milford Haven were in the private shipyard of Jacobs on the north side of the waterway. In November 1757, the Admiralty sent a surveying delegation to the haven, which prepared a report for Parliament recommending, "the construction of a Milford dock yard".[1] No such place as Milford existed at this time, just the village of Hubberston. Secondly, the report showed early signs of lobbying existing, with the scale of the local infrastructure and ship building activity exaggerated.[1]

Milford Dockyard

Dockyard development began on the north bank of the waterway. By the late 18th century, much of the village and the lands around Hubberston were owned by diplomat and politician Sir William Hamilton. Together with his nephew, the Hon. Charles Grenville, he proposed a scheme of development under the title "Milford", in reference to the 1758 report.[1] They began by building a shipyard, and leased it to a Messrs. Harry and Joseph Jacob, though after receiving an order in 1796 to build a frigate and later a 74-gun ship-of-the-line, Jacobs went bankrupt. The Navy took over the shipyard lease.[1]

In 1809, a naval commission recommended purchase of the Milford Haven facility and formal established of a Royal Navy dockyard. [1] After the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and the merging of the two sides of the Royal Navy under the Admiralty Board, a School of Naval Architecture was opened in Portsmouth in 1810 and, effectively then, Millford was to be set up as a model dockyard under French management (possibly to develop the manoeuvrability of British ships) from which lessons could be learnt for implementation in other dockyards.[1]

New town of Pembroke Dock

After failing to agree a purchase price for the existing Millford shipyard with Fulke Greville, Charles Greville's heir, the Admiralty agreed purchase of land 5 miles (8.0 km) across the haven from Milford, near the town of Pembroke in a district called Pater (village) or Paterchurch. This was one of the few sites in the haven suitable for building a dock for constructing decent sized ships, as its shoreline was flat but led quickly into deep harbour. Secondly, the Board of Ordnance had purchased 50 acres (20 ha) in preparation from the 1758 report to strengthen the haven's defences,[2] which was added to by the purchase of an adjoining 20 acres (8.1 ha) for £5,500 from the Meyrick family.[1]

The town of Pembroke Dock was founded in 1814 when Pembroke Dockyard was established, initially called Pater Dockyard. Construction started immediately, with the former frigate HMS Lapwing driven ashore as a temporary accommodation hulk. Orders were placed for the construction of 74 gun battleship, and four frigates. However, after the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815, although the scheme still seemed ill placed in what would be a smaller Royal Navy, the final plans were given the go ahead on 31 October 1815. The Naval Dockyards Society published a historical review in 2004.[3]


On 10 February 1816, the first two ships were launched from the dockyard – HMS Valorous and Ariadne, both 20-gun post-ships, subsequently converted at Plymouth Dockyard into 26-gun ships. Over the span of 112 years, five royal yachts were built, along with 263 other Royal Navy vessels. The last ship launched from the dockyard was the Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Oleander on 26 April 1922.

In 1925, it was announced that the Royal Dockyards at Pembroke Dock and Rosyth were redundant and would be closed. A petition was sent to Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, stressing the lack of alternative employment and the economic consequences of closure, but the decision was not overturned. First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Earl Beatty, said, "Whether these Yards are necessary for naval purposes, the Admiralty is the only competent judge. As to whether they are necessary for political or social reasons is for the Government to decide. The fact is, that so far as the upkeep of the Fleet is concerned, they are entirely redundant."[4]

The last Pembroke-built ship afloat was the hulk of the iron screw frigate Template:Ship, which was broken up in Belgium in 1956. In June of the same year, Admiral Leonard Andrew Boyd Donaldson, the last Captain-Superintendent of Pembroke Dockyard, died aged 81.[5]

Although active warships were not based in Pembroke Dock after the 1940s, and formal dockyard work ceased in 1926, the base remained an official Naval Dockyard, and retained a Queen's Harbour Master, until 2008 (one of the last 5 QHMs in the UK, together with those at the currently (2010) extant bases at Devonport, Portsmouth, Rosyth and Clyde). The Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service (RMAS) was based in Pembroke Dock until disestablishment in 2008, and the Ministry of Defence sold the freehold of the site to the Milford Haven Port Authority (MHPA) in 2007. For most of the last 20 years of MOD usage, the principal RMAS assets seen in the base were the MOD Salvage & Marine Team [6] (formerly CSALMO) vessels located there, the majority of which were relocated to the Serco base in Burntisland on the River Forth upon the activation of the £1bn Future Provision of Marine Services (FPMS) contract in May 2008.

Administration of the dockyard

HM Dockyard Pembroke Plan in 1909

The Admiral-Superintendent[7] was the Royal Navy officer in command of a larger Naval Dockyard. Portsmouth Dockyard, Devonport Dockyard and Chatham Dockyard all had admiral-superintendents, as did some other dockyards in the United Kingdom and abroad at certain times. The admiral-superintendent usually held the rank of Rear- Admiral. His deputy was the initially the Captain of the Dockyard (later Captain of the Port from 1969).

Some smaller dockyards, such as Sheerness and Pembroke,[8] had a captain-superintendent [9] instead, whose deputy was styled commander of the dockyard. The appointment of a commodore-superintendent [10] was also made from time to time in certain yards.

The appointment of admiral-superintendents (or their junior equivalents) dates from 1832 when the Admiralty took charge of the Royal Dockyards. Prior to this larger dockyards were overseen by a Resident Commissioner of the Navy who represented the Navy Board.

Resident Commissioner of the Navy, Pater Yard (1830-1832)


Captain-Superintendent, Pembroke Dockyard (1857-1887)

Commodore-Superintendent, Pembroke Dockyard (1887-1889

Captain-Superintendent, Pembroke Dockyard (1889-1906)

Admiral-Superintendent, Pembroke Dockyard (1906-1915)

Captain-Superintendent, Pembroke Dockyard (1915-1926)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 J.S.Guard (January 5, 2004). "H.M. Dockyard Pembroke – A Brief History". J.S.Guard. Retrieved 23 August 2012.
  2. Listing for remains of Pater Fort, 1758
  3. "Pembroke Dock Community Web Project". 15 July 1926. Archived from the original on 19 February 2012. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  4. "From W.S. Chalmers, The Life and Letters of David, Earl Beatty (1951), p.469". Archived from the original on 7 February 2012. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  5. "History of Pembroke Dock". Archived from the original on 7 February 2012. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  6. "Ministry of Defence: Salvage and Marine Team". Archived from the original on 26 October 2012. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  7. "Royal Naval dockyard staff". The National Archives, UK, 2016. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  8. Carradice, Phil (2013). The Ships of Pembroke Dockyard. Stroud, Gloucs.: Amberley.
  9. "Royal Naval dockyard staff". The National Archives, UK, 2016. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  10. Stewart, William (2009). Admirals of the World: A Biographical Dictionary, 1500 to the Present. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. p. 47. ISBN 9780786438099.
  11. Harrison, Simon (2010–2018). "Resident Commissioner at Pater Yard". S. Harrison. Retrieved 3 December 2019.