Western Approaches Command

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Western Approaches Command
HMS Drake (1939-1941)
HMS Eaglet (1941-1945)
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
CountryUnited Kingdom
AllegianceBritish Empire
BranchRoyal Navy
TypeNaval Command
Part ofDepartment of Admiralty
HQ and Naval BasePlymouth Dockyard (1939-1941)
Derby House, Liverpool (1941-1945)
FirstAdmiral Sir Martin Dunbar-Nasmith
LastAdmiral Max Kennedy Horton

The Western Approaches Command was a major operational command of the Royal Navy during World War II. The command was responsible for the safety of British shipping in the Western Approaches.


Operations Room Western Approaches Command Liverpool July 1941. Source:© IWM A 4527 https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205138797 Imperial War Museums London England

In 1919 the Coast of Ireland Station was renamed the Western Approaches Station at the same time the title of the commanding flag officer Commander-in-Chief, Coast of Ireland was altered to Commander-in-Chief, Western Approaches. The Western Approaches Station remained active until 1922 when it was deactivated.[1][2]

On the outbreak of world war two in September 1939 the Plymouth Station was renamed Western Approaches Command and subsequently the title of Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth Station was changed to Commander-in-Chief the Western Approaches. After the fall of France in June 1940, the main North Atlantic convoy routes were diverted around the north of Ireland through the north-western approaches. By late 1940, the location of the command’s headquarters at Plymouth was increasingly untenable.

On 7 February 1941, Western Approaches Command was divided and its headquarters was moved from Plymouth to Derby House, Liverpool. The headquarters of Royal Air Force’s Coastal Command moved to Liverpool at the same time. The former Plymouth Station was revived and Admiral Admiral Dunbar-Nasmith as Commander-in-Chief the Western Approaches was reappointed Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth.

On 17 February Admiral Sir Percy Noble was appointed as the new Commander-in-Chief, Western Approaches Command in Liverpool, a responsibility that included command over the Newfoundland Escort Force at the Canadian end of the Atlantic convoy route.

Western Approaches Command was responsible for the defence of the main North Atlantic convoys which passed out into the North Atlantic through the south-western approaches south of Ireland. Over the next two years, Admiral Noble built up the bases for the North Atlantic escort groups at Greenock on the Clyde, Londonderry and Liverpool and set up the training facilities that were the foundations for eventual victory in the Battle of the Atlantic. On 19 November 1942, Admiral Noble was replaced by Admiral Max Kennedy Horton, who was Commander-in-Chief from that day until Western Approaches Command closed on 15 August 1945, after the end of the war.

Naval HQ

Commander-in-Chief, Western Approaches

Chief of Staff to Commander-in-Chief, Western Approaches


  1. "The Royal Navy in Cork Ireland". web.archive.org. Shipwrecks of Cork. 2 August 2018. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  2. Naval Command Changes (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Thursday, 27 March, 1919. Issue 42059, col F, p. 13.