Port Admiral

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Port Admiral
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
Ensign of the Royal Navy

The Port Admiral also known as the Admiral of the Port,[1] was a former senior appointment in the British Royal Navy from 1667 to 1996.


In British naval usage, the term 'port admiral' had two distinct (and somewhat contradictory) meanings, one generic, one specific.

Historically, 'port admiral' was used as a generic term for the senior naval officer having authority over all commissioned ships and naval personnel stationed at a particular home base or anchorage at least until the end of the 19th century.[2] (Those appointed as Flag Officers Commanding or Commanding-in-Chief of a particular area or Fleet often functioned also as the local port admiral in this sense. Examples of this were Port Admiral of the Portsmouth Station, Plymouth Station and Nore Station which were the three major home ports of the Royal Navy.

By this definition, the port admiral did not have direct oversight of the local Royal Naval Dockyard (if any); Dockyards (including ships laid up 'in ordinary') instead the dockyard overseen by an independent official: usually a Resident Commissioner of the Navy appointed by the Navy Board prior to 1832 or an Admiral-Superintendent appointed by the Board of Admiralty after 1832 until its abolition in 1964 then appointments were undertaken by the Navy Board (Ministry of Defence) until 1970). The distinction is seen in informal correspondence such as the following, dated 1837: "The Devonport regatta ... was attended by the Port-Admiral, the Admiral-Superintendent of the Dockyard ... and other persons of consideration."[3] In practice however the offices of port admiral and admiral-superintendent were sometimes combined.[4]

Starting in 1970 and concluding by July 1971 the remaining Admiral-Superintendents of HM Dockyards were re-designated as Port Admirals; unlike the above use of the term, this was an official designation.[5] This reflected a consolidation of previously distinct command roles, and coincided with the appointment of civilian Dockyard General Managers to oversee work within the Dockyards across all departments.

Today, both uses of the term are obsolete as far as current British naval appointments are concerned, as the equivalent appointments are not of flag-officer rank.

Locations of Port Admirals

Examples of this can be seen in the appointments of

  1. Port Admiral, Chatham, (1971-1983)
  2. Port Admiral Devonport, (1970-1996)
  3. Port Admiral, Gibraltar, (1971-1992)
  4. Port Admiral Portsmouth, (1971-1996)
  5. Port Admiral, Rosyth, (1971-1983)


  1. Knight, Charles (1851). Knight's Excursion companion. Excursions from London, 1851. London, England: C. Knight. p. 11.
  2. Lavery, Brian (1989). Nelson's Navy: the Ships, Men and Organisation 1793-1815. London: Conway Maritime Press.
  3. "Correspondence". United Service Journal. 25: 126. 1837.
  4. "National archives".
  5. "Portsmouth Royal Dockyard Historical Trust".