Scilly Islands

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Scilly Islands
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
AllegianceFlag United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.gif United Kingdom
BranchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
TypeNaval Base

The Scilly Islands was a naval command of the Royal Navy as one of the geographical divisions into which the Royal Navy divided its worldwide responsibilities.


Situated some 48km west-south-west of Land’s End, the Isles of Scilly are England’s most southern and westerly outpost. Its strategic importance was summed up in 1602 by Sir Francis Godolphin (1540-1608) who stated “no other place can so aptly permit or restrain the traffic of Ireland and the north of Scotland with France or Spain.” And from the middle of the 16th century onwards, national government realised the strategic significance of the islands, heralding 4 centuries of military history, a history that can be traced to this day.[1]

During the first Civil War (1642-46), the Scilly Isles were in Royalist hands, under the governorship of another Sir Francis Godolphin (1605-1667, grandson of the builder of Star Castle). From here a small fleet of Royalist privateers operated and following the final surrender of Royalist forces in the south-west of England in March 1646.[2]

Scilly became a major privateering base, preying on both Dutch and Commonwealth (declared in 1649 following the execution of Charles I) vessels. The Dutch took this threat more seriously than the Commonwealth and a fleet under the command of Admiral Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp was dispatched to deal with the islands. In 1707 the British Mediterranean Squadron, under Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, was returning to England from an attack on the French port of Toulon. On 22nd October 1707, the fleet found itself in the treacherous waters off Scilly where six ships struck the Western Rocks and Association, Eagle, Romney and Firebrand were lost, and with them at least 1,450 sailors.[3]

During the early 20th century Scilly would find itself on the front line against a new foe and in a totally new form of warfare where the island’s location made them of strategic importance in this war against the U-boats. It wasn’t long before the Admiralty established a base for its anti-submarine patrols, with a flotilla of tugs and armed trawlers. In World War One it was also used as a satellite base for the vessels covering Auxiliary Patrol Area XIV.[4]

In Command

Commander in Charge of Sub-Base, Scilly Islands

  1. Commander William Omer Oliver, c. March, 1915 – c. July, 1918
  2. Commander Herbert Watson Randall, R.N.R. July, 1918 – c. March, 1919


  1. Bowden, Mark and Brodie, Alan. (2011) Defending Scilly. English Heritage. pp. 1-3.
  2. Bowden, Mark and Brodie, Alan. pp. 1-3.
  3. Bowden, Mark and Brodie, Alan. pp. 1-3.
  4. Bowden, Mark and Brodie, Alan. pp. 1-3.