Portland Base

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HM Naval Base, Portland
HMS Victory XI (1924-1932)
HMS Boscawen (1932-1946)
HMS Osprey (1946 1995)
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
Active1845-1995
AllegianceFlag United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.gif United Kingdom
BranchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
TypeStation
Part ofPortsmouth Station (1914-1969)
Garrison/HQRN Base, Portland

Portland Base was a naval command of the Royal Navy from 1845 to 1995.[1]

History

Picture of Royal Navy forces at Portland. Actual date unknown ships that can be seen are two Queen Elizabeth Class Battleships to the right and a Nelson Class Battleship upper center of the image date unknown but possibly after 1927 when the Nelson Class Battleships were built.

The Portland Harbour is a man made harbour and is naturally protected by the south coast of England, Chesil Beach and the Isle of Portland, providing refuge for ships against weather in all directions except east. The harbour had originally been known as Portland Roads a natural anchorage that had already been used by Navy Royal ships for centuries when, in the 16th century, King Henry VIII built Portland Castle and Sandsfoot Castle to defend the anchorage.

Prompted by the expansion of the French naval port of Cherbourg, just across the Channel, the Royal Navy established a naval base at Portland in 1845 and a scheme for the harbour to be transformed into a refuge was granted parliamentary approval the year before, however it was not officially granted the title of HM Naval Base, Portland until 1923. Portland was the first naval anchorage specifically designed for the new steam navy. Similar harbours of refuge would be built at Alderney, Dover, Holyhead, and later (in response to the increased naval threat from Germany) at Peterhead.

The harbour was envisaged primarily as a coaling station for the Royal Navy, being conveniently equidistant from the Royal Navy's two principal bases at Portsmouth and Devonport; however it was also where the Channel Squadron was based, newly re-formed in 1859.

In the 1850s it had been proposed that a Portland Dockyard be established, with three dry docks, three shipbuilding slips, a fitting-out basin and associated factory facilities. These plans were not carried through, however a floating dry dock was introduced in 1914, enabling Portland to function as a repair and refit facility. Onshore amenities included a range of storehouses, workshops and office buildings.

Over time, Portland was successively used as base for the Channel Fleet and Home Fleets, as well as part of the Reserve Fleet, and it also served as a depot for submarines. In the early years of the 20th century it served as base for the Navy's first Torpedo Boat Destroyers. During World War One it was the operational home to forces covering Auxiliary Patrol Area XIII.[1]

During both World War I and II the bay was filled with neutral ships at anchor waiting to be searched for materials that might be useful to the enemy. Violent action came in 1940 after the fall of France. Portland was now in the front line and the recipient of fierce German air attack. The anti-aircraft ship HMS Foylebank was sunk in the harbour in July after a mass attack by Germana dive bombers.

Perhaps the most memorable event in the history of the harbour came in 1944 when it became the embarkation port for thousands of Americans of the US 1st Division (part of Force O) on their way to Omaha beach on D-day. After the war Portland, with its quick in and out facility, became responsible for sea training for the navy. From 1958 the base served as the main center for all sea training in the Royal Navy headed by the Flag Officer, Sea Training who was headquartered here, his joint role was as Naval Base Commander, Portland until 1995 when he moved to Devonport Naval Base.

With the advent of the helicopter and its importance as an antisubmarine weapon an airfield was built at Chesil with a fleet of helicopters stationed there. It was also a preferred base for ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary who carried the supplies of the fleet. With the reduction of the Royal Navy in the 1990s there was not enough money in the defence budget to maintain more than a few bases so the naval facilities at Portland were dispersed and the harbour became a civilian facility.

Support facilities for the fleet were also added over time, including a canteen and recreation ground. The nearby Royal Naval Hospital, Portland in Castletown served the naval base from 1904 (replacing an earlier small hospital) until 1957, when it was handed over to the NHS. Various Royal Navy research and training facilities were also based at Portland.

In Command

Map of Portland Harbour World War One courtesy of Gordon Smith. Source:https://www.naval-history.net/

Captain-in-Charge, Portland (1902-1907)

  1. Captain (retired) Henry B. Anson, 7 December, 1902 – 16 September, 1907 (as King's Harbour Master, Portland).[1]

Commodore-in-Charge, Portland (1908-1917

  1. Captain Charles E. Anson, 20 October, 1908 – 9 June, 1911.[1]
  2. Captain Owen F. Gillett, 6 June, 1911 – 1 September, 1913.[1]
  3. Rear-Admiral Gerald C. A. Marescaux, 21 August, 1913 – 21 April, 1914.[1]
  4. Commodore, Second Class Joseph R. Bridson, 21 April, 1914 – 10 February, 1915.[1]
  5. Captain Frank E. C. Ryan, 5 February, 1915 – 28 September, 1916.[1]
  6. Rear-Admiral Richard M. Harbord, 14 September, 1916 – 27 November, 1917.[1]

Naval Transport Officer in Charge, Portland (1915-1916)

  1. Commander John B. Hancock, April, 1915 – 30 January, 1916. (retd).[1]

Senior Naval Officer, Portland (1917-1919)

  1. Rear-Admiral Vivian H. G. Bernard, 27 November, 1917 – 27 November, 1919.[1]

Rear-Admiral, Reserve Fleet, Portland (1919-1920)

  1. Rear-Admiral Douglas R. L. Nicholson, 1 November, 1919 – 1 April, 1920.[1]

Captain in Charge, Portland (1920-1925)

  1. Captain James R. P. Hawksley, 1 April, 1920 – 4 April, 1922.[1]
  2. Captain Arthur C. S. H. D'Aeth, 4 April, 1922 – 31 March, 1923 (and King's Harbour Master, Portland).[1]
  3. Captain Humphrey H. Smith, 29 March, 1923 – May, 1925, (and King's Harbour Master, Portland).[1]

Commodore-in-Charge, Portland (1925-1940)

  1. Captain Charles T. Hardy, 5 May, 1925 – 8 July, 1926 (and as King's Harbour Master, Portland).[1]
  2. Captain Arthur G. Craufurd, 8 July, 1925 – 16 January, 1928 (and as King's Harbour Master, Portland).[1]
  3. Captain Leonard L. P. Willan, 16 January, 1928 – 23 April, 1929 (and as King's Harbour Master, Portland).[1]
  4. Captain Ernest W. Leir, 23 April, 1929 – 23 April, 1931 (and as King's Harbour Master, Portland).[1]
  5. Captain Hugh S. Shipway, 23 April, 1931 – 1 July, 1932 (and as King's Harbour Master, Portland).[1]
  6. Captain Arthur M. Lecky, 1 July, 1932 – 2 April, 1933 (and as King's Harbour Master, Portland).[1]
  7. Captain John H. K. Clegg, 6 May, 1933 – 6 May, 1935 (and as King's Harbour Master, Portland).[1]
  8. Captain Edward B. Cloete, 9 May, 1935 – 21 July, 1936 (and King's Harbour Master, Portland).[1]
  9. Captain James Powell, 21 July, 1936 – 5 September, 1939 (and King's Harbour Master, Portland).[1]
  10. Captain Colin S. Thomson, 5 September, 1939 – 21 October, 1940 (and King's Harbour Master, Portland).[1]

Flag Officer-in-Charge, Portland (1940-1945)

Captain-in-Charge, Portland (1945-1946)

  1. Captain Mervyn Somerset Thomas, August, 1945 - April, 1946.[2]

Captain-in-Charge, HM Naval Base, Portland (1946-1947)

  1. Captain Mervyn Somerset Thomas, April, 1946 - 21 August, 1947.[3]

Flag Officer-in-Command, Portland Naval Base (1958-1969)

Naval Base Commander. Portland (1969-1995)

  1. Rear-Admiral J. Anthony R. Troup, May 1969-March 1971
  2. Rear-Admiral E. Gerard N. Mansfield, March 1971-October 1972
  3. Rear-Admiral John O. Roberts, October 1972-April 1974
  4. Rear-Admiral James H. F. Eberle, April 1974-April 1975
  5. Rear-Admiral John R.S. Gerard-Pearse, April 1975-November 1976
  6. Rear-Admiral Gwynedd I. Pritchard, November 1976-November 1978
  7. Rear-Admiral Anthony J. Whetstone, November 1978-September 1980
  8. Rear-Admiral David M. Eckersley-Maslin, September 1980-April 1982
  9. Rear-Admiral John M. Webster, April 1982-May 1984
  10. Rear-Admiral Michael H. Livesay, May 1984-December 1985
  11. Rear-Admiral Barry N. Wilson, December 1985-June 1987
  12. Rear-Admiral John F. Coward, June 1987-June 1988
  13. Rear-Admiral Roy T. Newman, June 1988-December 1989
  14. Rear-Admiral A. Bruce Richardson, December 1989-July 1991
  15. Rear-Admiral Michael C. Boyce, July 1991-September 1992.[4]
  16. Rear-Admiral John G. Tolhurst, September 1992-22 July 1995.[5]

Additional Notes and Joint Titles

The Flag Officer-in-Command, Portland Naval Base then later Naval Base Commander. Portland additionally held the joint title of Flag Officer, Sea Training from 1958 to 1995.[6]

Components under this Command

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 Formations Allocated by Date

Unit Dates Notes/Ref
1 1st Anti-Submarine Flotilla 1939-1945 [7]
2 4th Minesweeping Flotilla Apr-Dec 1944 [8]
3 3rd Mine-Countermeasures Squadron 1962-1971 [9]
4 17th Minesweeping Flotilla 1918 [10]
5 6th Submarine Flotilla 1919-1939 [11]
6 2nd Training Squadron 1949-1962 [12]
7 Portland Anti-Submarine Flotilla 1931-1938 [13]
8 Portland Hydrophone Flotilla 1917-1918 [14]
9 Portland Local Defence Flotilla 1918-1926
10 Portland Training Squadron 1946-1958

Naval Establishments & Facilities

Unit From To Notes/Ref
Portland Anti-Submarine Warfare School 1924, 1941 1946, 1999 HMS Osprey.[15]
Portland Dockyard 1845 1959
Royal Naval Air Station, Portland 1917 1999
Royal Naval Coaling Station, Portland 1890 1914
Royal Naval Hospital, Portland 1906 1957

Other Units/Formations Based at Portland

These include formations based at Portland but not under this command.

Unit Dates Notes/Ref
1 Channel Force 1939 [16]
2 Home Fleet Training Squadron 1947-1954 [17]

References

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony (15 June 2020). "Portland - The Dreadnought Project". www.dreadnoughtproject.org. England: Harley and Lovell. Retrieved 21 July 2020.
  2. Houterman and Koppes
  3. "Thomas, Captain Mervyn Somerset, (30 Aug. 1900–21 Aug. 1947), Royal Navy; commanding HMS Boscawen and as Captain-in-Charge, HM Naval Base, Portland, Dorset". WHO'S WHO & WHO WAS WHO (2020). Oxford, England.: A & C Black and Oxford University Press. 1 December 2007. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u232577. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  4. "Patron of the Submariners Association Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Boyce K.G. G.C.B. O.B.E. D.L." submarinersassociation.co.uk. Submariners Association. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  5. Bennett, Will (22 July 1995). "Portland's naval history ends as last warship sails". The Independent. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  6. Government, H. M. (23 July 2002). "MOD ANNOUNCES NEW CHIEF OF DEFENCE STAFF". www.wired-gov.net. Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  7. Watson, Dr Graham (27 October 2015). "Royal Navy Organisation and Ship Deployment, World War Two 1939-1945". www.naval-history.net. Gordon Smith. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  8. Watson. Royal Navy Organisation and Ship Deployment, World War Two 1939-1945.
  9. Watson, Dr Graham (27 October 2015). "Royal Navy Organisation and Ship Deployment, Post 1945". www.naval-history.net. Gordon Smith. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  10. Watson, Dr Graham (27 October 2015). "Royal Navy Organisation and Ship Deployment, World War One 1914-1918". www.naval-history.net. Gordon Smith. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  11. Watson, Dr Graham (27 October 2015). "Royal Navy Organisation and Ship Deployment, Inter War Years 1919-1939". www.naval-history.net. Gordon Smith. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  12. Watson. Royal Navy Organisation and Ship Deployment, Post 1945.
  13. Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony (17 July 2018). "First Anti-Submarine Flotilla (Royal Navy) - The Dreadnought Project". www.dreadnoughtproject.org. England: Harley and Lovell. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  14. Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony (3 August 2017). "Portland Hydrophone Flotilla - The Dreadnought Project". www.dreadnoughtproject.org. England: Harley and Lovell. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  15. Watson, Dr Graham (27 October 2015). "Royal Navy Organisation and Ship Deployment, Inter War Years 1919-1939". www.naval-history.net. Gordon Smith. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  16. Niehorster, Dr. Leo. "Channel Force, Royal Navy, 3.09.39". niehorster.org. Leo Niehorster, 1 May 2001. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  17. Watson

Attribution

  1. Map of Portland Harbour World War One courtesy of Gordon Smith. Source:https://www.naval-history.net.