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World War 1 at Sea


by Dr Graham Watson

Links to main World War 1 pages:
- Military & Naval Chronology
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Merchant Navy
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 Adm Hamilton, 2nd Sea Lord 1914-16 and Adm Sturdee, Chief of the War Staff 1914 (click to enlarge)

return to World War 1, 1914-1918



by Dr Graham Watson
retired from the History Department of Cardiff University

The purpose of this page - as with the earlier ones - is to provide a link between the narrative histories of the war at sea, either as a whole or in detail, and the official Navy Lists and Pink Lists which have been published on

The main sources are the Quarterly Navy Lists, various issues of the 'Pink Lists', and Arthur Marder's 5 volume 'From Dreadnought to Scapa Flow'.  More recent work by Nicholas Black was most useful as well.

I am particularly grateful for this work by Graham. After some years exploring World War 1 at sea leading up to the 2014 centenary, understanding the organisation of the Admiralty and Royal Navy has proved difficult. This page has answered many of the questions I had, and in such a clear manner. It would appear to meet a real gap in published information.

My own researches into the World War 1-era Admiralty had only taken me as far as:

It is also good to start putting faces to names by adding photographs of some the Royal Navy's leaders. Many of these images come from a 1917 publication "Admirals of the British Navy, Portraits in Colour" by Francis Dodd, and sent to me by Graham. To see in such human terms, the men who often commanded such powerful fleets and the lives of thousand's of men, is thought-provoking. Some of the other images are from the Library of Congress (LoC) and the others are believed to be in the public domain.

Ship Images are from Cyber-Heritage (CH), Maritime Quest (MQ), Navy Photos (NP) and Photo Ships (PS).

I find one set of photographs particularly impressive - Admirals de Chair of Northern Patrol, Tyrwhitt of Harwich Force,  Bacon of Dover Patrol, and Keyes of Zeebrugge. Although mistakes were made in the most complex of wars up to that time, and the leadership in World War 1 is often criticised, in my opinion there was a galaxy of talent in the Royal Navy. These four admirals were exemplars.

Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net


1. Introduction

The Board
War Staff
Major Posts and Personnel in the Admiralty 1914-1919

Nore Command
Portsmouth Command
Plymouth Command
Irish Coast Command
Scottish Coast Command
Orkneys & Shetlands Command

    Home Fleets (as of August 1914)
    Grand Fleet
    Channel Fleet 1914-1915
    Othe Major Forces in Home Waters
Northern Patrol
Admiral of Patrols/East Coast of England
Harwich Force
Southern Force
Dover Patrol
Submarine Flotillas
'Western Approaches'

     'Atlantic Cruiser Forces'
     The Mediterranean
     'The Eastern Fleet'
East Indies, including East Africa, Red Sea & Egypt
China Station
New Zealand Division
Australian Fleet

6. List of Squadrons and Flotillas 1914-1918

7. Summary of Royal Navy Strength by type of Warship


The purpose of this file is to provide an overview of the fleets, commands, squadrons and flotillas of the Royal Navy during the Great War.

The Board of Admiralty was the highest level of command. From it came the strategic guidance, the manpower, and the resources to prosecute the war. With its guidance, the Royal Navy had two levels of command for the conduct of operations.

- the fleets and stations
- squadrons and flotillas

A major distinction between the two levels of command is the direct link in the chain of command between the Admiralty and the fleets and commands. Squadrons and flotillas, and some 'forces' operated with their assigned fleet or station.

A fleet consisted of the full spectrum of warships designed for major action against an enemy fleet - battleships, cruisers, and destroyers. The fleet would consist of battle squadrons, cruiser squadrons, and destroyer flotillas. There was a standard composition for each of these.

A station was a major geographic command responsible for the conduct of operations within its area. It could have squadrons, flotillas, and individual ships under command.

A battle squadron would consist of eight battleships which would be divided into two divisions of four ships each. The squadron would be commanded by a vice admiral, with a rear admiral as second in command. As the war progressed battle squadron size could increase to nine or ten ships to maintain full strength while ships were under repair or refit.

Each battle squadron was supported by a cruiser squadron of four ships commanded by a rear admiral. As the war progressed the size of the cruiser squadron increased for the same reason as that of the battle squadron. Cruiser squadrons also operated in the more distant stations where their composition varied considerably.

As for the smaller vessels - torpedo boat destroyers, submarines, sloops and minesweepers-originated as 'boats' rather than 'ships', they were organised into flotillas. In the main fleets, destroyer flotillas were allocated initially on the basis of one flotilla per battle squadron. The number of flotillas so allocated increased during the war. The initial composition of a destroyer flotilla was twenty destroyers with the flotilla commander - a captain - embarked on a cruiser.

Submarine flotillas did not have a standard organisation; nor did sloop flotillas. For tactical reasons, minesweeping flotillas needed a standard organisation.

 This guide will look at the three levels of command in turn. Namely,

The Board of Admiralty

The Commands

The major commands
The Grand Fleet
The Channel Fleet
The Third Fleet

The Home Commands
Irish Coast,
Scottish Coast

The Overseas Commands
Atlantic Cruiser Forces
East Indies,

The lower level of command comprised:

1st-9th Battle Squadrons
1st-3rd Battle-Cruiser Squadrons
The Flying Squadron

1st-12th Cruiser Squadrons

1st-8th Light Cruiser Squadrons

1st-15th & 20th Destroyer Flotillas

Local Defence Flotillas

1st-13th & named Submarine Flotillas

1st-4th & 9th-13th Sloop Flotillas
1st-21st Minesweeping Flotillas.

In addition there were a number of named forces which moved between the two levels of command. They will be dealt with where appropriate.

Included are:

Northern Patrol,
Harwich Force,
Dover Patrol,
Eastern Mediterranean Squadron,
British Adriatic Force. 

Not included are the well-known orders of battle for major clashes such as Jutland which are well-known.


Royal Navy campaigns, battles and actions, see the five volume official
"History of the Great War - Naval Operations" by Corbett and Newbolt

Warships and auxiliaries - see Ships of the Royal Navy 1914-1919

Many major warship histories, especially overseas - see Royal Navy Log Books



As constituted on 20th October 1904, the Board was composed of politicians, naval officers, and a civil servant. Each had a specific area of responsibility but all decisions had to be made by the Board.

The chairman of the Board was the First Lord of the Admiralty. He was a member of the Cabinet and responsible to the Parliament for all aspects of the naval service: including policy, senior appointments, budgets and ship building programmes. 

The four naval officers were:

the First Sea Lord whose duty was to ensure the 'fighting and seagoing efficiency of the fleet;

the Second Sea Lord for manpower and training;

the Third Sea Lord for the design and construction of ships and weapons; and

the Fourth Sea Lord for supplies and transport.

Two other politicians were the Civil Lord, responsible for works and buildings, and the Political and Financial Secretary, responsible for the budget.

A second Civil Lord was appointed in 1912 to look after contracts and the dockyards.

Finally, the Permanent Secretary was the lone civil servant.


Lord Fisher

A major aspect of this organisation, which was created by Sir John Fisher when he became First Sea Lord was the absence of any naval staff or machinery for planning naval strategy and for the conduct of naval operations.  This was the prime task of the First Sea Lord who, without any staff or advisers, evolved a naval strategy which remained hidden in his head. To counteract that, a Naval War Staff was created on 8th January 1912. Formed by the enlargement of the Directorate of Naval Intelligence, its Chief supervised directorates on:

mobilisation and

The role of the Chief of the War Staff was to advise the Board on all the matters relevant to the staff. He could not make decisions on the conduct of operations. The relationship between him and the First Sea Lord was ill-defined both by role and by rank.

In August 1914, the Royal Navy went to war with an unclear planning organisation whose problems were compounded by a hyper-active interventionist First Lord - Winston Churchill. The story of the naval staff component within the Admiralty between 1914 and 1918 was to evolve a more effective structure for the conduct of the war at sea. The more traditional view is that the pressure for change came from outside the navy - from press and politicians who had expected a more active and victorious role for the Royal Navy. More recent work suggests that the naval staff grew in ability, size, and effectiveness through its own efforts.

The basic structure of the Admiralty remained largely unchanged until the spring of 1917. By then the disappointment over Jutland merged with alarm at the success of the German U-boats against the trade routes reached such a level in the press and in parliament that change had to occur, There were two basic changes. The War Staff was developed into a properly organised naval staff and placed under the command of the First Sea Lord who became First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff. As such he had the executive authority - free from the Board - to conduct naval operations.

To balance this change of role, the Admiralty was effectively divided into two bodies. The operations staff was the naval staff while the administrative staff dealt with non-operational matters. A new post, that of Controller was created to co-ordinate the work of the other Sea Lords whose duties wre more clearly defined by changes of title. The Controller was a civilian businessman. The first occupant of the new post was Sir Eric Geddes who went on to become First Lord of the Admiralty.      


First Lord of the Admiralty
Winston Churchill
25.05.15-Arthur Balfour
11.12.16-Sir Edward Carson
20.07.17-Sir Eric Geddes
16.01.19-Walter Long

Naval Secretary to the First Lord [advises on matters such as officer promotions and appointments]
Rear Admiral Dudley de Chair
8.14-Rear Admiral Horace Hood
10.14-Rear Admiral Henry Oliver
11.14-Commodore Charles de Bartoleme
12.16-Commodore Alan Everett
10.18-Commodore Rudolph Bentinck

First Sea Lord to 30th April 1917
Admiral Prince Louis of Battenburg
29.10.14-Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fisher
15.05.15-Admiral Sir Henry Jackson
10.12.16-Admiral Sir John Jellicoe ("The Crisis of the Naval War" by Adm Jellicoe)

Admiral Lord Battenberg Admiral Lord Fisher Admiral Jackson Admiral Jellicoe
The First Sea Lords

Chief of the War Staff to 30.4.1917
Vice Admiral Doveton Sturdee
00.11.14-Vice Admiral Henry Oliver

Capt, later Admiral Hall, Intelligence Admiral Leveson, Operations Admiral Paine, Naval Air
War Staff Directors

Directors in the War Staff to 4.17:

Director of Naval Intelligence

Rear Admiral Henry Oliver
11.14-Commodore Reginald Hall

Director Operations Division

Rear Admiral Arthur Leveson
1.15-Rear Admiral Thomas Jackson

Director Mobilisation Division
Rear Admiral Alexander Duff
10.14-Captain Hugh Sinclair
6.16-Rear Admiral Michael Culme-Seymour

Director Trade Division

Captain Richard Webb

Director Anti-Submarine Division from 12.16-

Rear Admiral Alexander Duff

under First Sea Lord

Director Naval Air Division 1.17-Fifth Sea Lord
Commodore Murray Seuter
1.17-Rear Admiral Geoffrey Paine

Retired flag officer 'attached' to War Staff/Naval Staff

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Arthur Wilson 8.14-11.18 [a former First Sea Lord]

Vice Admiral Sir Edmund Slade 4.15-11.18
Vice Admiral Sir Douglas Gamble 7.15-5.17
Vice Admiral Sir Robert Ommanney 8.15-12.18

The Naval Staff 30.4.1917-31.3.19

The structure of the staff was established in May 1917 and changed in October 1917:

1. May -October 1917

First Sea Lord & Chief of the Naval Staff

Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff

Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff (ACNS)


Operations Div.,   Mobilisation Div., Intelligence Div.,     Trade Div., Anti-Sub. Div., Minesweeping Div.

From "The Crisis of the Naval War" by Admiral Jellicoe. Note: at this time, Signals and Convoys were Sections

2. October 1917-March 1919

First Sea Lord & Chief of the Naval Staff
Intelligence Div.,      Training & Staff Duties Div.

Deputy First Sea Lord (D1SL) [Policy & Overseas matters]
Operations Div. [Foreign]

Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff (DCNS) [Home waters]
Signal Div.,   Operations Div [Home],  Plans Div.,  Air Div., 

Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff (ACNS) [Trade Protection]
Trade Div.,  Mercantile Movements Div., Minesweeping Div., Anti-Sub. Div. 

From "The Crisis of the Naval War" by Admiral Jellicoe
. Note: this is the final organisation under Admiral Wemyss in 1918. Admiral Jellicoe's for the latter part of 1917 was slightly different. See "Changes in Admiralty Departments" 1913-1920.

The two most important changes were the allocation of specific divisions to DCNS, ACNS and the new post of D1SL
(Deputy First Sea Lord).  Created with two purposes - to take the administrative burden off Admiral Jellicoe [a persistent centraliser and micro-manager] and to address the anomaly that, under the old system, the First Sea Lord's deputy was the Second Sea Lord. By this stage of the war, the Second Sea Lord had no experience of operational management.

With the effective division of the Admiralty into an operations division and a 'maintenance' division, the Second Sea Lord would never have the experience to deputise for the First Sea Lord.

Chief post holders of the Naval Staff 4.17-3.19
First Sea Lord & Chief of the Naval Staff
Admiral Sir John Jellicoe
27.12.17-Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss -11.19

Director of Naval Intelligence
Rear Admiral Reginald Hall

Director Training & Staff Duties
1.18-Rear Admiral James Ley
4.18-Captain Herbert Richmond

Deputy First Sea Lord (D1SL)
10.17-Vice Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss
12.17-Rear Admiral George Hope

Director Operations [Foreign]
1.18-Captain C R Coode

Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff (DCNS)
Vice Admiral Henry Oliver
1.18-Rear Admiral Sydney Fremantle

Director Plans Division
6.17-Rear Admiral Roger Keyes
1.18-Captain C M T Fuller

Director Operations Division  1.18-Director Operations Division [Home]
4.17-Rear Admiral George Hope
1.18-Captain Dudley Pound

(Air Division) Fifth Sea Lord & Chief of Naval Air Service -31.3.18
Rear Admiral Geoffrey Paine
1.18-Captain F S Scarlett

Signals Section, upgraded to Signals Division, 9.17
9.17-Captain Richard Nocholson

Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff
Rear Admiral Alexander Duff [1.18-Vice Admiral]

Director Anti-Submarine Division
Captain W W Fisher

Director Mercantile Movements
Captain B Smith

Director Minesweeping Division 23.5.17-
Captain L G Preston

Director Trade Division
Rear Admiral Richard Webb
10.17-Captain A Hotham

Director Mobilisation Division [place in structure uncertain]
Rear Admiral Michael Culme-Seymour
9.18-Rear Admiral Edmund Hyde-Parker

Director Artillery & Torpedoes 6.18- [place in structure uncertain]
6.18-Captain F Dreyer
Note: almost all the above attained high positions in the Royal Navy 1919-1939 [note Dudley Pound, First Sea Lord, 1939-43]

As well as these re-organisations, the size of the naval staff increased substantially between 1914 and 1918. In July 1914 the staff totalled 13 flag officers and 15 captains. In September 1918 the numbers were seven  flag officers (actually a reduction in this case) and 40 captains. In addition, one major general RM and two brigadier generals RM served on the naval staff. 
In contrast to the evolution of the naval staff, what might be referred to as the administrative components of the Admiralty remained relatively unchanged in terms of structure and the allocation of duties. The major change came with the appointment of Sir Eric Geddes as Controller in May 1917 [he insisted on the honorary rank of Vice Admiral which irritated the admirals].

The principal officers were-

under First Sea Lord
Director, Navigation
Captain Nelson-Ward
8.16-Captain J A Webster

Captain J Parry

Second Sea Lord & Chief of Naval Personnel
12.12-Vice Admiral Sir John Rushworth Jellicoe, Dec 1912 -Jul 1914
7-14-Vice Admiral Frederick Hamilton
6.16-Rear Admiral Somerset Gough-Calthorpe
12.16-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney
8.17-Vice Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss
10.17-Vice Admiral Herbert Heath

Admiral Hamilton Admiral Gough-Calthorpe Admiral Burney
Second Sea Lords

Director, Training
16-Rear Admiral Cecil Hickley
Admiral commanding Reserves
Vice Admiral Arthur Farquhar
6.15-Vice Admiral Alexander Bethell
9.16-Rear Admiral Somerset Gough-Calthorpe
7.17-Vice Admiral Cecil Thursby
7.18-Admiral Sir Dudley de Chair
President Royal Naval College, Greenwich
Vice Admiral F W Fisher
10.14-Vice Admiral Alexander Bethell
1.15-Vice Admiral Lewis Bayly
1.17-Admiral Sir Henry Jackson
Adjutant-General Royal Marines
General Sir William Nicholls
.16-Major General David Mercer

Third Sea Lord & Chief of Naval Materiel [& Chief of Naval Training 5.17- & Controller 6.18-]
6.12-Rear Admiral Archibald  Moore
8.14-Rear Admiral Frederick Tudor

5.17-Rear Admiral Lionel Halsey
6.18-Rear Admiral Charles de Bartoleme

Admiral Tudor Cdre, later Admiral Halsey
Third Sea Lords

Director Naval Ordnance
Rear Admiral Morgan Singer
3.17-Captain F Drury
6.18-Captain H R Crooke
Director Torpedoes & Mines
4.17-Captain F Field

Director Naval Construction
E H Tennyson D'Eyncourt

Engineer Vice Admiral Sir Henry Oram
6.17-Engineer Rear Admiral George Goodwin
Deputy Engineer-in-Chief
Engineer Rear Admiral George Goodwin
6.17-Engineer Rear Admiral E Gaudin

Controller 5.17-6.18
5.17-Sir Eric Geddes
7.17-Sir Alan Anderson

Fourth Sea Lord & Chief of Supplies & Transport
Rear Admiral Cecil Lambert
12.16-Rear Admiral Lionel Halsey
7.17-Rear Admiral Hugh Tothill

Director Naval Equipment
Rear Admiral Arthur Waymouth
12.14-Captain C Greatorex
10.17-Captain E Philpott
Director Dockyards
Sir James Marshall
.17-Rear Admiral Laurence Power


Three major home commands were:

Nore Command

Portsmouth Command
Plymouth Command

Commanded by very senior officers, each command had a range of functions:

- A manning divisions of ratings, responsible for the recruiting, training, and manning of the fleet.

- Training establishments for the instruction of ratings in a range of trades.
- Dockyards and bases within each command provided the essential repair and maintenance of the fleet.
- Local defence forces.

During the war each of these commands was focused on their primary administrative and support role with comparatively limited activity in the conduct of naval operations.

The Nore Command, in particular, would seem to be in an ideal position to control operations in the southern North Sea. Naval operations in its area, however, were allocated to forces which obtained their orders from either the Admiralty or the Grand Fleet. These included:

the Dover Patrol,

the Harwich Force,
the Southern Forces, and
the Patrol Forces.

Plymouth Command had an increasing role in the war against the German submarines from mid-war onwards. In this task it was secondary to the role of the Irish command.

Two major geographic commands existed in 1914. The major difference between them and the three traditional commands is that they were not involved in the tasks of manning and training. Their initial task was to support naval operations in their respective areas through the creation and operation of base and dockyard facilities. They were:

Irish Coast

Scottish Coast

The Irish command, with its headquarters at Queenstown rapidly transformed into an active command as the threat from German submarines increased. By 1917, it assumed leadership of the anti-submarine war.

The Scottish command - or Rosyth Command as it became - was responsible for the development of bases for the Grand Fleet in the Firth of Forth and at Cromarty. Of these the most important was the new dockyard at Rosyth which opened in 1916. The defence of those bases from the submarine and mine threats became more important as the ships of the Grand Fleet moved southwards. From April 1918 Rosyth was the main base of the Grand Fleet.

The Orkneys and Shetlands Command was established at the outbreak of hostilities to establish and maintain the  Grand Fleet's principal base at Scapa Flow. This included the local defence forces for the base. The Northern Patrol operated within this command but its relationship to this shore command is unclear.

In fact, the relationship between the various shore commands and the operational forces, and between the components of the seagoing forces is not always clear. So each will be examined separately.

Admiral Callaghan
Admiral Meux
Admiral Colville
Admiral Warrender
Main Home Command C-in-C's


The original boundaries of the Nore Command extended from the eastern English Channel to the Tees. Before the war, the task of defending the east coast of England had been given to the Admiral of Patrols whose chain of command was to the Grand Fleet. After the outbreak of the war, further erosion came about with the establishment of the Southern Force, the Harwich Force, and the Dover Patrol. Effectively this meant that the command was a provider of shore support rather than a command with operational responsibilities.
Admiral Sir Richard Poore
1.15-Admiral Sir George Callaghan
3.18-Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee

Commodore RN Barracks, Chatham
Commodore E F Gaunt
8.15-Commodore S E Erskine
7.18-Commodore H Skipwith

Admiral Superintendent, Chatham Dockyard
Rear Admiral Charles Anson
8.15-Rear Admiral Arthur Ricardo
SNO Sheerness
Captain R Prendergast
9.15-Captain Edmund Hyde-Smith

SNO Harwich
Captain G Cayley [later Rear Admiral]
4.18-Rear Admiral Cecil Hickley  [also Director of Training]

In 1914, its main bases were Chatham Dockyard and Sheerness Dockyard with a range of training establishments. These were:

HMS Pembroke - Base and RNB Chatham
HMS Wildfire - Base at Sheerness
HMS Actaeon - Torpedo School at Sheerness
HMS Ganges - Boys training establishment at Shotley, near Harwich

Battleship HMS Vengeance was attached as gunnery training ship.

In active commission were 12 torpedo boat destroyers and 20 torpedo boats on local defence duties. The local defence flotilla (LDF) was operational throughout the war.

The administrative division of the pre-war Second and Third Fleets placed 6 battleships, 12 cruisers and 2 minelayers under its jurisdiction - they were mobilised in July 1914.

During the war, the following were allocated to the command:

5th Submarine Flotilla, Sheerness 8.14-retitled 4th Submarine Flotilla 8.16 and disbanded 9.17
3rd Battle Squadron, ex Grand Fleet 5.16-disbanded 4.18


Responsible for the central part of the English Channel across which many of the BEF's supply lines extended.
Admiral Sir Hedworth Meux
2.16-Admiral Sir Stanley Colville

Commodore RN Barracks, Portsmouth
Commodore C Vaughan Lee
12.14-Commodore J Eustace
6.16-Commodore H Pelly
11.18-Commodore A G Smith

Admiral Superintendent, Portsmouth Dockyard
Rear Admiral Herbert Heath
8.15-Rear Admiral Arthur Waymouth
1.17-Rear Admiral C Vaughan Lee
SNO Portland
Captain J R Bridson
2.15-Captain F Ryan
9.16-Captain R Harbord
11.17-Rear Admiral Vivian Bernard

In 1914 its main assets were the base and dockyard at Portsmouth, several training establishments at Portsmouth, and the base and smaller dockyard at Portland.  The establishments were:

HMS Victory - HQ, base and RN Barracks, Portsmouth
HMS Excellent - gunnery school, Whale Island
HMS Vernon - torpedo school
HMS Fisgard - mechanical engineering school
HMS Dolphin - submarine school
Navigation School
Several warships were attached as tenders to these establishments.

Local defence forces consisted of 10 torpedo boat destroyers, 18 torpedo boats, and 4 submarines. The LDF remained operational throughout the war.

In addition, the command administered 4 battleships, 9 cruisers, and 3 minelayers on behalf of the Second and Third Fleets until July 1914.

The following flotillas served with the command during the war. They were:

Portsmouth Escort Flotilla 1.16-retitled 1st Destroyer Flotilla 1.18-1.19
1st Destroyer Flotilla, 4.17-1.18
4th Destroyer Flotilla, 12.16-3.17
part 5th Destroyer Flotilla, 11.14-4.15
2nd Submarine Flotilla 8.14- retitled 6th Submarine Flotilla 8.16-11.18
9th Minesweeper Flotilla pre 6.18-


Responsible for the western channel and Bristol Channel, the command became heavily involved in the war against the German submarines, especially 1917-1918. Its role in that task will be assessed in the later section on the submarine war.
Admiral Sir George Egerton
3.16-Admiral Sir George Warrender
9.16-Admiral Sir Alexander Bethell
9.18-Admiral Sir Cecil Thursby

Commodore RN Barracks, Devonport
Commodore D J Sheppard
12.14-Commodore J Hutchison
1.17-Rear Admiral Charles  Corbett

Admiral Superintendent Devonport Dockyard
Rear Admiral Godfrey Mundy
12.16-Rear Admiral Arthur Heniker-Hughan

The principal asset of this command was the naval base and dockyard at Devonport, with the much smaller
and secondary dockyard at Pembroke. A number of training establishments with seagoing tenders attached were in service in 1914.  They were:

HMS Vivid - Flag, base and RNB Devonport
HMS Defiance - Torpedo training school
HMS Indus - Mechanical training school
HMS Impregnable - boys training
HMS Powerful - attached to HMS Impregnable

Battleship HMS Exmouth was attached for gunnery training.

Local defence forces consisted of 3 torpedo boat destroyers, 6 torpedo boats, and 2 submarines at Devonport, and 4 torpedo boats at Pembroke. The local defence flotilla remained active until 1918.

The command administered 10 battleships, and 11 cruisers at Devonport, and 4 battleships at Pembroke under the pre-war fleet structure until July 1914.

During the war, the following flotillas operated within the command:

2nd Destroyer Flotilla, 4.16-9.17*
4th Destroyer Flotilla, 3.17-11.18*
1st Submarine Flotilla 8.14-2.16
Ambrose Submarine Flotilla 1918*
15th Minesweeping Flotilla 1918 [at Falmouth]
18th Minesweeping Flotilla 1918
* for anti-submarine operations - see later section.

Admiral Bayly
Cdre, later Admiral Bruce
Rosyth Dockyard
Admiral Colville
Orkneys & Shetlands
Admiral Frederick Brock
Orkneys & Shetlands
Other Home Command C-in-C's and Commanders


With headquarters at HMS Colleen, Queenstown, this relatively minor peacetime command grew to become responsible for anti-submarine operations in the Western Approaches, Irish Sea, and Irish Coast.

By 1918, it included a substantial US Navy component to protect the convoys bringing American troops to Europe.
Vice Admiral Sir Charles Coke
7.15-Vice Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly

SNO South Irish Coast
6.15-Rear Admiral John Elliott- .18?

SNO North Irish Coast
5.17-Vice Admiral F S Miller

Flag Officer, Milford Haven
2.15-Admiral [ret] Charles Dare

Apart from a small dockyard at Haulbowline, there were no major shore facilities in 1914. The command relied on docks and facilities in Great Britain for repairs and maintenance. Equally there were no major manning depots or training establishments.

In 1914, the base at Queenstown hosted the recently formed Training Squadron composed of 8 cruisers of the Edgar class. All left for the Northern Patrol in August 1914. This left 4 torpedo boats for local defence at Queenstown.

Small groups of destroyers were assigned to patrol duties in various ports on either side of the Irish Sea. But, it was not until 1916, that major flotillas began to arrive, They were:

2nd Destroyer Flotilla, Londonderry 11.17-2.19

Platypus (depot ship) Submarine Flotilla 1917-
Vulcan (depot ship) Submarine Flotilla 1917-
1st Sloop Flotilla, Queenstown 1917-
2nd Sloop Flotilla, Londonderry 1918-
8th Minesweeping Flotilla, Queenstown 1918
11th Minesweeping Flotilla, Liverpool 1918
16th Minesweeping Flotilla, Kingstown 1918
19th Minesweeping Flotilla, Swansea 1918


Establishment of this command began in 1913 in anticipation of the opening of the dockyard at Rosyth - which did not happen until 1916. The main purpose of the command was the provision of the required infrastructure to support the fleet in northern waters. In addition, it provided for local defence from the Moray Firth to the Tyne. As a new organisation it did not have either shore establishments or a local defence flotilla in 1914.

Vice Admiral Sir Robert Lowry
6.15-Admiral Sir Frederick Hamilton  [died 10.17]
13.10.17-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney

Admiral Superintendent, Rosyth Dockyard
5.15-Rear Admiral Henry Bruce

Flag Officer, West Coast of Scotland-3.15
Rear Admiral Reginald Tupper

Flag Officer, Stornoway
3.16-Rear Admiral Robert Boyle
Flag Officer. Cromarty
8.14-Rear Admiral Edmund Pears

During the course of the war, the construction of the dockyard at Rosyth was finished, a major base for destroyers was built at Port Edgar, and extensive repair facilities created at Invergordon.

From 1915 substantial elements of the Grand Fleet were based in the Firth of Forth which became the main base for the fleet on 12th April 1918.

The forces allocated to the command contained a mixture of those needed for support of the Grand Fleet, and  those to provide the northern wing of the Admiral of Patrols domain. They included:

8th Destroyer Flotilla 8.14- .17
9th Destoyer Flotilla, Tyne 8.14-1917
Methil Convoy Flotilla 1918
7th Submarine Flotilla 8.16-retitled 1st Submarine Flotilla until disbanded 3.18
10th Submarine Flotilla, Tyne  .14-retitled 3rd Submarine Flotilla 8.16-3.17
3rd Sloop Flotilla, Dundee 1918
12th Minesweeper Flotilla, Granton 1918
16th Minesweeper Flotilla, Granton 1918

On the west coast of Scotland, there were:

9th Submarine Flotilla 8.14- retitled 3rd Submarine Flotilla 8.16-1.17
13th Minesweeper Flotilla, Oban 1918
14th Minesweeper Flotilla, Oban 1918


Established in August 1914 with the sole purposes of creating, operating and defending the fleet base at Scapa Flow. Apart from the Grand Fleet, the ships of the Northern Patrol were based here.
Commander in Chief
8.14-Vice Admiral Stanley Colville
2.16-Vice Admiral Frederick Brock
 1.18-Vice Admiral Herbert King-Hall
SNO Scapa
Rear Admiral F S Miller
 5.16-Rear Admiral Robert Prendergast

FO Shetlands
10.17-Rear Admiral Clement Greatorex
As with Rosyth, it is sometimes difficult to establish which flotillas and ships operated under the Orkneys and Shetlands Command, as opposed to the Grand Fleet or the Northern Patrol. The following seem more likely than not to be base forces:

Scapa Local Defence Flotilla 1914-1918
21st Minesweeper Flotilla 1918 

The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Minesweeper Flotillas were listed as an integral part of the Grand Fleet.


A number of tasks faced the Royal Navy in Home Waters 1914-1918 which required a number of different types of commands, fleets, squadrons and flotillas. Often these tasks overlapped in the sense that the same formation could contribute to operations in pursuit of that task.

The tasks were:

Fleet Action - the need to bring the German High Seas Fleet into battle. Victory would free resources for other operations. Until this was achieved a very large fleet - the Grand Fleet - had to be maintained in readiness for battle. It required a smaller, more agile, component of the Grand Fleet in the southern North Sea for observation duty - this was the Harwich Force.

Blockade - the exits from the North Sea via northern waters, and the English Channel, had to be controlled. This would deny Germany imports of raw materials, food, and militarily useful goods, and so cripple its economy. This required a substantial force of cruisers - the Northern Patrol. Later, the Northern Mine Barrage was created in 1917-1918.

Support for the British Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders. Protection of the cross-channel sea-routes from attack by German surface vessels and submarines was the principal task of the Dover Patrol. Added to this was the coastal bombardment of German positions in Flanders.

German invasion of eastern England. A possibility which needed the Patrol Flotillas with their destroyers and submarines to act as the first line of defence.

Trade protection became of crucial importance as evidence of the German submarine threat became more apparent. This brought about a substantial increase in the numbers of destroyers and sloops, and aircraft, especially in the Western Approaches.

Freedom of movement on the surface required a very considerable effort to cope with the menace of the mine. Mines were used for offensive purposes in the North Sea to restrict the movement of German ships and submarines.

There was no overall naval commander for warfare in Home Waters. The allocation of resources, and the co-ordination of operations was the main task of the Admiralty.

The following notes will deal with each of the major elements of British naval power in Home Waters, beginning with the Grand Fleet.

A resume of those major elements in 1914 will set the scene for a more detailed examination.

Summary of Naval Strength in Home Waters, August 1914


First Fleet [ships in full commission] [one dreadnought as fleet flagship]

1st Battle Squadron [8 dreadnoughts]

2nd Battle Squadron [8 dreadnoughts]
3rd Battle Squadron [8 pre-dreadnoughts]
4th Battle Squadron [3 dreadnoughts/1 pre-dreadnoughts] * forming
1st Battle-Cruiser Squadron [4 battlecruisers]

2nd Cruiser Squadron [4 armoured cruisers]

3rd Cruiser Squadron [4 armoured cruisers]

1st Light Cruiser Squadron [4 light cruisers]

1st Destroyer Flotilla [1 scout cruiser, 20 destroyers]

2nd Destroyer Flotilla [1 scout cruiser, 20 destroyers]
3rd Destroyer Flotilla [1 scout cruiser, 15 destroyers] * forming
4th Destroyer Flotilla [1 destroyer leader, 20 destroyers] 

5 minesweeping gunboats
Second Fleet [reduced complements]

5th Battle Squadron [9 pre-dreadnoughts]

6th Battle Squadron [6 pre-dreadnoughts]

5 armoured cruisers, 1 light cruiser [for 5th & 6th CS's]

Minelaying Squadron [7 ships]

Third Fleet [in reserve]

7th Battle Squadron [8 pre-dreadnoughts]

8th Battle Squadron [6 pre-dreadnoughts]

7th Cruiser Squadron [5 armoured cruisers]

9th Cruiser Squadron [8 armoured/protected cruisers]
10th Cruiser Squadron [7 protected cruisers] -from Training Squadron at Queenstown
11th Cruiser Squadron [5 protected cruisers]
12th Cruiser Squadron [4 protected cruisers]

Admiral of Patrols

6th Destroyer Flotilla [3 scout cruisers, 22 destroyers]

7th Destroyer Flotilla [1 scout cruiser, 21 destroyers, 12 torpedo boats]
8th Destroyer Flotilla [1 scout cruiser, 12 destroyers, 12 torpedo boats]
9th Destroyer Flotilla [2 scout cruisers, 16 destroyers]
plus 8 destroyers detached to CinC Home Fleets

4th Submarine Flotilla [7 boats]

5th Submarine Flotilla [6 boats]
6th Submarine Flotilla [6 boats]
7th Submarine Flotilla [12 boats]
8th Submarine Flotilla [13 boats]
9th Submarine Flotilla [3 boats]

The Home Fleets were distributed in accordance with Admiralty Fleet Order dated 8th August 1914

The Grand Fleet

1st Battle Squadron

2nd Battle Squadron
3rd Battle Squadron [included 3 pre-dreadnoughts from disbanded 6BS]
4th Battle Squadron
1st Battle-Cruiser Squadron

2nd Cruiser Squadron

3rd Cruiser Squadron

1st Light Cruiser Squadron

2nd Destroyer Flotilla [Acorn/H class]
4th Destroyer Flotilla [Acasta/K class]

Cruiser Force B [Northern Patrol]
6th Cruiser Squadron
10th Cruiser Squadron

Harwich Flotillas
1st Destroyer Flotilla [Acheron/I class]
3rd Destroyer Flotilla [L class]

Cruiser Force C  [ex 7CS], Southern North Sea

Dover Patrol

6th Destroyer Flotilla [Tribal & 30kts tbd]
3rd & 4th Submarine Flotillas
Minelayer Squadron

Cruiser Force E - 11th Cruiser Squadron [Irish Sea]

The Channel Fleet

5th Battle Squadron

8th Battle Squadron [amalgamation of 7BS & original 8BS]
Cruiser Force G - 12th Cruiser Squadron

Patrol Flotillas
7th Destroyer Flotilla, Humber
8th Destroyer Flotilla, Forth
9th Destroyer Flotilla, Tyne
5th Submarine Flotilla, Harwich
6th Submarine Flotilla, Grimsby
7th Submarine Flotilla, Forth
8th Submarine Flotilla, Harwich

A series of Cruiser Forces are listed 5th August 1914 but some are not included in above list. They were:

Cruiser Force A - 1BCS, 2CS, 3CS, 6CS, 1LCS [the Grand Fleet]

Cruiser Force B - 10CS [Northern Patrol]
Cruiser Force C - 7 CS [North Sea]
Cruiser Force D - 5 CS [Atlantic]
Cruiser Force E - 11 CS [Irish Sea]
Cruiser Force F - 2, ex-7CS
Cruiser Force G - 12 CS [Western Channel]
Cruiser Force H - ? [Atlantic]
Cruiser Force I - 9 CS [Gibraltar]


The principal battle fleet assembled for operations with a new name and a new commander. The First Fleet became the Grand Fleet and Admiral Sir John Jellicoe succeeded Admiral Sir George Callaghan (below), four months before the latter's tenure was due to end.

02.08.14-Admiral Sir John Jellicoe [Flag in HMS Iron Duke] ("Grand Fleet 1914-1916" by Adm Jellicoe)
27.11.16-Admiral Sir David Beatty [Flag transferred to HMS Queen Elizabeth 2.17]

Chief of Staff
08.14-Rear Admiral Charles Madden
11.16-Rear Admiral Osmond de B Brock

Admiral Callaghan Admiral Jellicoe
Admiral Beatty Admiral Madden
Admiral Osmond Brock
The C-in-C's and Chiefs of Staff, The Grand Fleet. Note: Home Fleets under Adm Callaghan

The fleet's main base was at Scapa Flow until 20th April 1918 when it moved to Rosyth. The pressure to move south was largely due to the need to be closer to both the east coast and to the German fleet bases. Until Rosyth was ready in terms of facilities and defences, the fleet remained in the Orkneys with two exceptions - the early move of 3rd Battle Squadron and 3rd Cruiser Squadron during August 1914, and the subsequent movement of the battle-cruisers there at the end of 1914.

The fleet retained a hierarchy of battle squadrons, cruiser squadrons, and destroyer flotillas throughout the conflict. From 1917 it included submarines flotillas, and then a 'flying' squadron. In June 1916, there was a major re-organisation of the battle and cruiser squadrons. The number of destroyer flotillas increased from three to seven by 1918.

Admiral Evan-Thomas, 5BS Admiral De Robeck, 2BS
Admiral Sturdee, 4BS
Battle Squadron Commanders

The battle squadrons were:

1st Battle Squadron

In June 1916 the ships of the 1st Battle Squadron were transferred to the 4th Battle Squadron: and the ships of the 4th Battle Squadron became the 1st Battle Squadron.

Vice Admiral Lewis Bayly
12.14-Vice Admiral Cecil Burney [& 2i/c GF]
12.16-Vice Admiral Charles Madden [& 2i/c GF]
Rear Admiral Hugh Evan Thomas
8.15-Rear Admiral Ernest Gaunt
6.16-Rear Admiral Alexander Duff
12.16-Rear Admiral William Nicholson 
Composition 8.14-6.16
Marlborough [F]
Superb 1.15 to 4BS
St Vincent
5.16-Royal Oak
Composition 6.16-3.19
Marlborough [F]
Emperor of India
2.17-Iron Duke
Royal Oak
6.16-Royal Sovereign

2nd Battle Squadron

The composition of this squadron remained fairly constant throughout the war.

Vice Admiral George Warrender
12.15-Vice Admiral Martyn Jerram
12.16-Vice Admiral John de Robeck
Rear Admiral Robert Arbuthnot
1.15-Rear Admiral Arthur Leveson
12.16-Rear Admiral William Goodenough
King George V [F]
Audacious - lost 27.10.14

HMS King Edward VII (MQ)

HMS Dreadnought (MQ)

HMS King George V (PS)

3rd Battle Squadron-29.4.16

Composed of the pre-dreadnoughts of the King Edward VII class, this squadron was stationed in the Forth for most of its time with the Grand Fleet. In April 1916 it moved to Sheerness and became an independent command until disbanded in April 1918.

Commanders while with the Grand Fleet
Vice Admiral Edward Bradford-6.16

Rear Admiral Montague Browning
7.15-Rear Admiral Sydney Fremantle
3.16-Rear Admiral Cecil Dampier
Commanders while at Sheerness
6.16-Vice Admiral John de Robeck
11.16-Vice Admiral Herbert Heath
9.17-Vice Admiral Dudley de Chair -4.18

Second in command-
Rear Admiral Cecil Dampier
3.17-Rear Admiral Douglas Nicholson-9.17
Composition 8.14-4.16
King Edward VII [F] - lost 6.1.16
Hibernia [det Med. 11.15-5.16]
Zealandia [det Med 11.15-5.16]
Composition 5.16-4.18
Dreadnought [F] 3.18 to 4BS/GF
Africa 9.16 to Med
Britannia 9.16 to Med
Commonwealth 8.17 to gunnery tg ship
Dominion 4.18 p/o
Hibernia 10.17 p/o
Hindustan 2.18 p/o
Zealandia 9.17 p/o 

4th Battle Squadron

This squadron was not at full strength at the outbreak of the war. It was planned to reach full strength and be deployed to Gibraltar/Malta in 1915. The ships of the squadron were transferred to 1st Battle Squadron in 6.16 and replaced by ships from that squadron.

Vice Admiral Douglas Gamble
2.15-Vice Admiral Doveton Sturdee
2.18-Vice Admiral Montague Browning
Rear Admiral Alexander Duff
6.16-Rear Admiral Ernest Gaunt
6.17-Rear Admiral Roger Keyes
9.17-Rear Admiral Douglas Nicholson 
Composition 8.14-6.16
Dreadnought [F]
8.14-Agincourt -11.15
8.14-Erin -1.15
11.14-Emperor of India
Composition 6.16-11.18
Superb 10.18 to Med
Temeraire 10.18 to Med
St Vincent
Vanguard lost 9.7.17

5th Battle Squadron

Composed of the new Queen Elizabeth class as a 'fast wing'. 5BS was never a full strength squadron.

10.15-Rear Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas
10.18-Rear Admiral Harold Leveson

5.15-Queen Elizabeth 2.17 to Fleet Flagship
10.15-Barham [F]

6th Battle Squadron

Rear Admiral Stuart Nicholson

The 6th Battle Squadron was disbanded in August 1914 and the following three ships were transferred to Grand Fleet and attached to the 3rd Battle Squadron.

Albemarle   -1.16 to Archangel
Exmouth    -5.15 to Med.
Russell    -11.15 to Med.

USS New York, Flag

USS Wyoming, 1919 (PS)

6th Battle Squadron (USN) 1917-1918

In December 1917 a squadron of United States Navy battleships joined the Grand Fleet, and for tactical purposes, they were designated as the 6th Battle Squadron.

Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman USN

USS New York [F]
USS Wyoming
USS Arkansas
USS Florida
USS Texas

A further division of USN battleships arrived in European waters in the autumn of 1918. Stationed at Berehaven, they were never part of the Grand Fleet.

USS Utah
USS Oklahoma

USS Nevada

The Grand Fleet battle squadrons had one scout cruiser attached to each of them. Its purpose was either to repeat signals from the flagship, or retrieve the squadron commander from a damaged or sinking flagship.

At the beginning of hostilities, only the 1st Battle-Cruiser Squadron was an integral part of the Grand Fleet: the other battle-cruisers were either in the Mediterranean or in the Australian Navy. Shortly after the move of 1st Battle-Cruiser Squadron to Cromarty in August 1914, the term 'Battle-Cruiser Force' was adopted.

When the Force moved to the Forth at the beginning of 1915 it was described as the 'Battle-Cruiser Fleet'. This description remained current throughout the remainder of the war, even though it was officially subordinate to the CinC Grand Fleet. The use of the term was perhaps justified because it included three battle-cruiser squadrons from the beginnning of 1915 until the battle of Jutland on 31st May 1916. In the post-battle re-organisation of the Grand Fleet, its was reduced to two battle-cruiser squadrons.

Admiral Beatty Admiral Pakenham Admiral Phillimore
Battle-Cruiser Force/Fleet Commanders

Battle-Cruiser Force/Fleet Commander

8.14-Vice Admiral David Beatty [and Cmdr 1BCS 8.14-2.15]
12.16-Rear Admiral William Pakenham
12.18-Rear Admiral Henry Oliver

Force/Fleet Flagship:

Organisation 1914-6.1916

1st Battle-Cruiser Squadron
2.15-Rear Admiral Osmond Brock

Princess Royal
Queen Mary -lost 31.5.16
New Zealand -1.15
2nd Battle-Cruiser Squadron
1.15-Rear Admiral Archibald Moore
2.15-Vice Admiral George Patey
3.15-Rear Admiral William Pakenham

Indefatigable -lost 31.5.16
New Zealand
3rd Battle-Cruiser Squadron
5.15-Rear Admiral Horace Hood [KIA 31.5.16]

Invincible -lost 31.5.16

HMS Invincible (PS)

HMS Queen Mary (PS)

HMS Repulse (PS)

Organisation 6.16-11.18

1st Battle-Cruiser Squadron
Rear Admiral Osmond de Brock
11.16-Rear Admiral Richard Phillimore*
3.18-Rear Admiral Henry Oliver

Princess Royal
2nd Battle-Cruiser Squadron
Rear Admiral William Packenham
12.16-Rear Admiral Arthur Leveson
9.18-Rear Admiral Lionel Halsey

New Zealand

* also Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers 1.17-11.18 [an independent command from 3.18]

An aviation element was present in the Grand Fleet from 10.15; and 'Flying Squadron' under Rear Admiral Richard Phillimore was formed in 3.18. It consisted of-

Campania  [lost 5.11.18],

HMS Campania (MQ)

HMS Argus (NP/Mark Teadham)

The cruiser forces of the Grand Fleet were made up of Cruiser Squadrons and Light Cruiser Squadrons. The former consisted of armoured cruisers, and the latter of more modern, lighter and more agile light cruisers. As the war progressed the number of cruiser squadrons decreased as the age and vulnerability of the armoured cruisers became more evident. The number of light cruiser squadrons increased correspondingly.

Admiral Moore, 1CS Admiral Napier, 1CS (ii)
Admiral Grant, 3CS
Adm Alexander-Sinclair, 1LCS
Cruiser and Light Cruiser Squadron Commanders

1st Cruiser Squadron

12.14-Rear Admiral Archibald Moore
1.15-Rear Admiral Robert Arbuthnot-31.5.16 KIA

Joined Grand Fleet from Mediterranean. Three of four ships (including Black Prince) sunk at Jutland - squadron disbanded.

1st Cruiser Squadron [ii]

1.17-Rear Admiral Trevelyan Napier  [also Commander Light Forces]

Formed to command HMS Courageous and HMS Glorious

2nd Cruiser Squadron

Rear Admiral Somerset Gough-Calthorpe;
5.16-Rear Admiral Herbert Heath;
1.17-Rear Admiral Sydney Fremantle;
12.17-Rear Admiral Reginald Tupper;
2.18-Rear Admiral Edward Bruen

Served in the Grand Fleet throughout the war.

HMS Hampshire lost 5..6.16 whilst conveying Lord Kitchener to Russia

HMS Hampshire (PS)

HMS Black Prince (CH/Terry Phillips)

HMS Glorious (PS)

3rd Cruiser Squadron

Rear Admiral William Pakenham;
3.15-Rear Admiral Lowther Grant
11.15-Rear Admiral Montague Browning

Served in the Grand Fleet until 6.16 - often assigned to accompany 3rd Battle Squadron.
HMS Argyll wrecked 28.10.15

6th Cruiser Squadron

Rear Admiral Lowther Grant

Squadron dispersed 2.15 but individual ships remained with Grand Fleet until 10.15

7th Cruiser Squadron

Rear Admiral Arthur Waymouth
4.15-Rear Admiral Loftus Tottenham;
10.15-Rear Admiral Herbert Heath

Reformed in Grand Fleet 1.15. Disbanded 5.16

HMS Lowestoft, 1 & 2LCS (PS)

HMS Galatea, 1LCS (PS)

HMS Cambrian, 4LCS (PS)

1st Light Cruiser Squadron

Commodore William Goodenough;
1.15-Commodore Edwyn Alexander-Sinclair;
7.17-Rear Admiral Walter Cowan.

Served in Grand Fleet 8.14-11.18. Town class until 2.15 then Galatea/C classes

2nd Light Cruiser Squadron

12.14-Commodore Trevelyan Napier;
1.15-Commodore William Goodenough;
12.16-Rear Admiral Cecil Lambert;
2.18-Rear Admiral Michael Culme-Seymour;
5.18-Rear Admiral James Fergusson

Formed with Town class cruisers 1.15. Re-organised 2.15 with ships from 1LCS.

3rd Light Cruiser Squadron

1.15-Commodore Trevelyan Napier;
1.17-Commodore Alan Hunt

Formed with Town class cruisers 1.15

4th Light Cruiser Squadron

6.15-Commodore le Mesurier
8.17-Commodore Rudolph Bentinck;
10.18-Rear Admiral Alan Everett

Formed with mixture of Galatea and C class cruisers 6.15

6th Light Cruiser Squadron

Rear Admiral Edwyn Alexander-Sinclair

Formed with C class cruisers 6.17

7th Light Cruiser Squadron

Rear Admiral George Borrett

Formed with Galatea class and C class cruisers 3.18

HMS Acheron, 1 & 2DF (PS)

HMS Oak, attached Grand Fleet flagship (PS)

HMS Whitley, 13DF (PS)

1st Destroyer Flotilla

20 Acheron [I class] which served with the Grand Fleet 8.14-11.16.

In 6.16, 8 destroyers were detached to the Nore to protect 3BS - they became the new 1DF at Harwich 11.16. The rest of the flotilla either went to 2DF at Devonport or 6DF at Dover in 11.16

2nd Destroyer Flotilla

20 Acorn [H class] which served in the Grand Fleet until 4.16. Goldfinch was lost 18.2.15.

In 12.15-1.16 8 destroyers left for the Mediterranean. The remainder re-located to Devonport 4.16

3rd Destroyer Flotilla

18 L class which went to Harwich on mobilisation. 

3rd Destroyer Flotilla

reformed 3.18 with M class destroyers (new flotilla with old number)

4th Destroyer Flotilla

20 Acasta [K class] which served in the Grand Fleet until 9.16. Lynx was lost 9.8.15.

The flotilla lost five members at Jutland - Ardent, Fortune, Shark, Sparrowhawk and Tipperary. The remainder transferred to the Humber 9.16

11th Destroyer Flotilla

Formed 8.15 with 16 M class-with some R class later. Losses were Marmion 21.10.17; Setter 17.5.18; Tornado 23.12.17.

Most members were replaced by 12 V& W types during 1918.

12th Destroyer Flotilla

Formed 11.15 with M class which were replaced during 1918 with 13 S class and 6 V & W class.

Losses were Nessus 8.9.18; Opal 21.1.18; Mary Rose 17.10.17; and Strongbow 17.10.17

13th Destroyer Flotilla

Formed 4.16 with M class which were replaced gradually by 10 R class and 28 V & W class 1917-18

Losses were Nestor 31.5.16; Nomad 31.5.16; Negro 21.12.16; Narborough 21.1.18.

14th Destroyer Flotilla

Formed 6.16 with M class to which were added some S class and V&W class late 1918.

Losses were Partridge 12.12.17; Simoon 23.1.17

15th Destroyer Flotilla

Formed 9.16 with R class 9.16. Losses were Pheasant 1.3.17; Ulysses 29.10.18

HM S/M K.15, 12SF (PS)

HMS Atherstone, 3M/SF (PS)

HMS Jed, River-class (PS)

The 12th and 13th Submarine Flotillas of K class boats served at Rosyth for service with the Grand Fleet 1917-1918. [see Submarine Flotilla section for more details].

The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Minesweeping Flotillas served with the Grand Fleet from 1915.

The Scapa Local Defence Flotilla [River and 30kt tbd's] served in the area throughout the conflict.


On 8th August 1914, ships from the pre-war Second and Third Fleets were organised into the Channel Fleet. The task of this fleet was to deny German access to the English Channel, and, in so doing, protect the lines of communication of the British Expeditionary Force. Under the terms of the naval agreement with France, the Channel Fleet would protect the French coast as well. The Fleet carried out these tasks until it became clear that there was no threat of German heavy ships entering the Channel. Equally important, the demands for battleships in the eastern Mediterranean brought about its demise in early 1915.

Vice Admiral Cecil Burney [former Commander 2nd & 3rd Fleets]
12.14-Vice Admiral Lewis Bayly
1.15-Vice Admiral Alexander Bethell -3.15

Effectively the 2nd Fleet became the Channel Fleet; and the 3rd Fleet ceased to exist on mobilisation

Eventually, two battle squadrons were formed on 8th August from the battle squadrons of the 2nd and 3rd Fleets, which went through the following stages:

The 5th Battle Squadron [2nd Fleet] received the two Lord Nelson class.

Most ships of the 6th Battle Squadron [2nd Fleet] was dispersed to other squadrons: only three remained to join the Grand Fleet.

The 7th and 8th Battle Squadrons [3rd Fleet]  were amalgamated into a new 8th Battle Squadron.

The plan to form a 9th Battle Squadron from 3rd Fleet ships was abandoned, and the ships were sent to the Humber for guardship duties.

The new 8th Battle Squadron was broken up on 20th August when most of its ships were sent overseas to reinforce cruiser squadrons on trade protection duties.  Consequently, the only effective battle squadron was the 5th:

5th Battle Squadron

Vice Admiral Currey, with Rear Admiral Cecil Thursby as 2i/c

Lord Nelson [FF]
Prince of Wales
Formidable - lost 1.1.15
Bulwark -lost 26.11.14

all the surviving ships arrived in the Mediterranean between February and May 1915.

HMS Agamemnon, 5BS (MQ)

HMS Venerable, 5BS (PS)

HMS Cressy, 7CS (CH/Trevor Phillips)

In a similar manner, the cruiser squadrons which were listed as components of the Second and Third Fleets were dispersed in the following manner.

5th Cruiser Squadron

Rear Admiral Archibald Stoddart

Deployed to Atlantic as Cruiser Force D and dispersed during 9.14

6th Cruiser Squadron

Rear Admiral Lowther Grant

joined Grand Fleet on mobilisation

7th Cruiser Squadron

Rear Admiral Henry Campbell

Joined Southern Force in North Sea as Cruiser Force C. Disbanded after loss of three cruisers on 22.9.14

8th Cruiser Squadron

not formed

9th Cruiser Squadron

Rear Admiral John de Robeck

Deployed to Gibraltar and then West Africa as Cruiser Forces H [?] and I. Remained there until 11.11.18

10th Cruiser Squadron

Rear Admiral Dudley de Chair

Formed by redesignation of the Training Squadron at Queenstown. As Cruiser Force B it became the nucleus of the Northern Patrol.

11th Cruiser Squadron

Rear Admiral Robert Phipps Hornby
9.14-Rear Admiral Loftus Tottenham

Became Cruiser Force E for service off the west coast of Ireland. Dispersed by 1.15

Admiral R S P Hornby (Eleanor Williams)

12th Cruiser Squadron

Rear Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss

As Cruiser Force G, served in the western Channel as part of the Channel Fleet until 2.15


Admiral de Chair
Northern Patrol
Commodore Tyrwhitt
Harwich Force
Admiral Bacon
Dover Patrol
Cdre Keyes as Admiral
Dover Patrol
Other Home Waters Commanders

The Northern Patrol

HMS Crescent, Edgar-class (PS)

SS Digby in civilian service (Furness Lines)

HMS Avenger, AMC

8.14-Rear Admiral Dudley de Chair [also 10 Cruiser Squadron]

3.16-Vice Admiral Reginald Tupper

A major strategic requirement of the naval war against Germany was to institute and maintain a blockade of Germany which would deny German use of the high seas for trade. The advent of the mine and the submarine made the close blockade [virtually outside German ports] of previous wars impossible. A distant blockade between the Orkneys and Norway was required.

To enforce the blockade, all ships destined for Germany and other northern European ports had to stopped, searched, and seized if necessary. The force given this duty was the 10th Cruiser Squadron. Initially composed of cruisers of the Edgar class, the squadron was enlarged to include a significant number of armed merchant cruisers
(AMC, including Digby and Avenger). After the Edgars were withdrawn in spring 1915 for service in the eastern Mediterranean, armed merchant cruisers  continued with this duty until December 1917. In January 1915, 23 armed merchant cruisers were in service, and this had increased to 26 by January 1917.

The entry of the USA into the war eliminated the need to stop many of the neutral merchant ships. The main task of the navy in northern waters was then to impede access of German submarines into the Atlantic - this was the aim of Northern Mine Barrage, in which the US Navy played a major role. 

Admiral of Patrol/East Coast of England

HMS Earnest, 7DF (PS)

HM S/M C.12, 6th then 2S/MF (NP)

HMS Vanoc, 20DF (PS)

Rear Admiral George Ballard
5.16-Rear Admiral Stuart Nicholson
7.18-Rear Admiral Edward Charlton

Established prior to the war to command the patrol flotillas of destroyers and torpedo boats which were formed at various bases down the east coast of Britain, from the Forth to the Humber. The force would provide a more immediate defence against a descent by German forces on that coast. This task was carried out throughout the war. The major components were:

6th Destroyer Flotilla, Dover - until 11.10.14 when it became the Dover Patrol.
7th Destroyer Flotilla, Humber 8.14-11.18  [11 torpedo boat destroyers]
8th Destroyer Flotilla, Firth of Forth 8.14- .17 [8 torpedo boat destroyers]
9th Destroyer Flotilla, Tyne 8.14-7.15 [merged into 7 DF] [14 River class]

They were supported by the relatively brief stay in the Humber of 4th Destroyer Flotilla 9-12.16.

Submarine Flotillas were stationed at Blyth, Middlesbrough and Immingham. These will be described in the later section on submarine flotillas.

The 20th Destroyer Flotilla [13 ships] was formed at Immingham to provide a fast minelaying capacity on the eastern side of the North Sea.

Harwich Force

HMS Meteor, 10DF (PS)

HMS Canterbury, 5LCS (PS)

HMS Engadine, seaplane carrier (PS)

Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt 8.14-11.18

On mobilisation of the First Fleet, it was decided to send two of its destroyer flotillas to Harwich. They were 1st DF and the 3rd DF - the latter re-equipping with L class destroyers. It seems that only the 3rd DF actually went to Harwich, where it was joined by the 8th Submarine Flotilla. Out of this the Harwich Force was formed as a southern wing of the Grand Fleet. The intention was to provide light forces which could impede any movement by German surface forces into the North Sea towards the east coast of England, or the Straits of Dover. The Harwich Force grew in size as the war progressed. Its main components were:

5th Light Cruiser Squadron: formed 9.14 with Galatea class ships to which were added many C class cruisers, and several D class cruisers in 1918.

3rd Destroyer Flotilla 8.14 - which became 9th Destroyer Flotilla 7.15-. 4.17 [22 L class]

10th Destroyer Flotilla 11.14-11.18 [M class - later R class]

1st Destroyer Flotilla 11.16-4.17 [9 Acheron class]

The main submarine force was the 8th Submarine Flotilla which became the 9th Submarine Flotilla in 8.16.

Up to five seaplane carriers served with the Force 1914-1915 to enhance its ability to discover enemy shipping. [Riviera, Engadine, Empress, Ben-my-Chree, Vindex]

Some indication of the size of the Force can been seen below:

1.1915 1.1916 1.1917 1.1918 11.1918
1 cruiser
30 destroyers
3 seaplane carriers
15 submarines
6 cruisers
36 destroyers
19 submarines
1seaplane carrier
9 cruisers
30 destroyers
18 submarines
1 seaplane carrier
10 cruisers
25 destroyers
25 submarines
1 seaplane carrier
8 cruisers
28 destroyers
18 submarines

Southern Force

Rear Admiral Arthur Christian

A short-lived attempt to deploy the 7th Cruiser Squadron on patrol off the Dutch coast. It could draw up support from the Harwich Force. Abandoned after the loss of three cruisers on 22.9.14

Dover Patrol

HMS Zulu, 6DF (NP)

HM Monitor M.26 (PS)

HMS Sir John Moore, monitor (PS)

11.10.14-Rear Admiral Horace Hood
4.15-Vice Admiral Reginald Bacon ("Dover Patrol" by Adm Bacon)
12.17-Rear Admiral Roger Keyes

Formed by detaching responsibility for the Straits of Dover from the Admiral of Patrols.

The principal unit throughout the war was the 6th Destroyer Flotilla. Apart from those lost, the 12 Tribal class destroyers served at Dover throughout the war. They were joined by 11 30kt torpedo boat destroyers in August 1914.

Further additions were 10 Acheron and Acasta class in 11.16; 17 L class between 1.17 and 3.17; 10 M class in 3-5.17; 6 M class in 2-4.17; 2 T class in 11.17, two old tbd's in 3.18; and 3 S class by 7.18. Together with 11 destroyer leaders this meant that 84 destroyers served at Dover, of these 8 were lost.

A new task emerged in 1915 with the creation of a force of monitors to conduct bombardments on German positions on the coast of Flanders. In all 12 monitors conducted such operations from Dover.

The 10th Minesweeper Flotilla served at Dover in 1918.

Submarine Flotillas

HM S/M B.4 - 4, 9, 7S/MF (NP)

HM S/M E.1, incl 8S/MF (NP)

R-class, Platypus Flotilla (PS)

8.14-Commodore Roger Keyes (also above)
2.15-Commodore Sydney Hall

The Commodore [S] was responsible for operations at Harwich, and later, from other east coast bases. He was not concerned with flotillas elsewhere. But this is a suitable place to provide a brief outline of all the submarine flotillas which operated in Home Waters.  Flotillas were re-numbered in August 1916: they are listed in accordance with the first number allocated.

1st Submarine Flotilla, Devonport 8.14-2.16 disbanded 
2 very old A class for training

2nd Submarine Flotilla, Portsmouth 8.14- 6th Submarine Flotilla, Portsmouth-11.18
a varied mixture of coastal boats and experimental boats for trials
3rd Submarine Flotilla, Devonport  8.14-Yarmouth -1.15 disbanded
B & C class for coast defence

3rd Submarine Flotilla, Immingham 9.16-3.17
D class for offensive patrols

4th Submarine Flotilla, Dover 8.14- 5th Submarine Flotilla, Dover 8.16-2.18 disbanded
Mainly C class for local defence

5th Submarine Flotilla, Sheerness 8.14-4th Submarine Flotilla, Sheerness 8.16-9.17 disbanded
C class for coast defence

6th Submarine Flotilla 8.14-2nd Submarine Flotilla 8.16-3rd Submarine Flotilla 2.17- all Humber
C class for coastal defence

7th Submarine Flotilla 8.14-Forth & Tyne 12.14-split into 7 SMF, Forth & 10 SMF. Tyne
7SMF became 1st Submarine Flotilla 8.16-3.18 disbanded
C class for coastal defence

8th Submarine Flotilla, Harwich 8.14- 9th Submarine Flotilla, Harwich 8.16-11.18
Mainly E class for offensive operations in North Sea - later some G, H & L class boats

8th Submarine Flotilla, Yarmouth 8.16-11.18
Mainly H class for offensive operations

9th Submarine Flotilla, Ardrossan 8.14- 7th Submarine Flotilla,Ardrosssan 8.16-1.17
Old boats - eventually became Clyde Periscope School

10th Submarine Flotilla, Tyne 12.14- 3rd Submarine Flotilla, Tyne 8.16-1.17 disbanded
Mainly C class for coastal defence

10th Submarine Flotilla, Tees 9.16-11.18
G class and later some E and L class boats for offensive patrols

11th Submarine Flotilla, Blyth 11.15-11.18
G class and then J class for offensive patrols

12th Submarine Flotilla,Rosyth 1.17-3.19
K class for work with the Grand Fleet

13th Submarine Flotilla, Rosyth 5.127-3.19
K class for work with the Grand Fleet

Vulcan Flotilla, Killybegs 3.17- Rathmullin 7.17-Killybegs 8.17- Berehaven 9.17-1.18
D, E & H boats for ASW patrols

Vulcan Flotilla, Kingstown 3-10.18
H class for ASW patrols in Irish Sea

Vulcan Flotilla, Blyth 11.18-3.19
H class for offensive patrols

Platypus Flotilla, Queenstown 4.17- Killybegs 6.17-Campbeltown 2.18-Pembroke Dock12.18-2.19
D class then E & R class for ASW patrols

Ambrose Flotilla, Berehaven 12.17-Portsmouth 3.18- Devonport 11.8-3.19
L class and some E & H class boats for ASW patrols.

This is an appropriate point to mention the Baltic Flotilla.

Between November 1914 and mid 1916 6 E class boats and 5 C class boats were sent to the Baltic to operate with the Imperial Russian Navy. Two were lost and the remainder scuttled at Helsingfors to prevent them falling into Bolshevik hands on 4.4.18  
'Western Approaches'

HMS Attack, 2DF (PS)

HMS Crocus, 1Sl/F (PS)

USS Allen, Queenstown-based. A reminder of Atlantic conditions (PS)

Unlike World War Two there was no Western Approaches Command to co-ordinate the campaign against the German submarines. Although a general lead was given by the Irish Command, other commands involved were Plymouth Command and Portsmouth Command. An additional factor was the presence of the United States Navy during 1917 and 1918.

The major Royal Navy units were:

Portsmouth Escort Flotilla 1.16- retitled 1st Destroyer Flotilla 1.18
2nd Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport 4.16- then Londonderry from 11.17
4th Destroyer Flotilla. Devonport from 3.17
-these flotillas were not of conventional size and should be regarded as administrative rather than as tactical organisations.

The Irish Sea Hunting Flotilla had small groups of old torpedo boat destroyers at Liverpool, Larne, Londonderry, Holyhead and Kingstown.
1st Sloop Flotilla, Queenstown
2nd Sloop Flotilla, Londonderry

An overall impression of the total numbers involved can be seen in the following table:

Base January 1916-
January 1917- January 1918- November 1918-
Queenstown 12 sloops
19 sloops
37 USN destroyers
8 sloops
24 USN Destroyers
13 destroyers 6 destroyers

Devonport 10 destroyers 14 destroyers 39 destroyers
28 destroyers

24 destroyers 20 destroyers
8 sloops
32 USN destroyers
Totals 22 46 106 120

In addition to the submarines of the Vulcan, Platypus and Ambrose Flotillas, seven USN submarines were stationed at Berehaven.  



HMS Suffolk, NAWI (PS)

HMS Carmania, AMC, 9CS in action (CH)

HMS Glasgow, battles of Coronel & Falklands (PS)

This heading in the Navy List covers all forces operating in the North Atlantic, West Indies, Mid-Atlantic, West Africa, South America and South Atlantic: from Newfoundland to the Cape of Good Hope. The purpose of this was to indicate the composition of various geographically spread forces - mainly cruisers and armed merchant cruisers - engaged in the same task. Their role was to protect the sea routes from attacks by German surface forces. This was to be accomplished by the formation of 'cruiser forces' which would be formed from units of the 2nd and 3rd Fleets.

Operations in the this area can be divided into three phases:

The active hunting down of German cruisers between August 1914 and January 1915. This phases included the defeat at Coronel [1.11.14] and the victory over Admiral Graf Spee's squadron at the battle of the Falklands [8.12.14].

There followed a relatively quiet phase in 1915 and 1916.

From 1917 onwards there was a greater concentration of forces - of 4th and 9th Cruiser Squadrons - for Atlantic convoy duty. This task was carried out in conjunction with the US Navy's 'Cruiser-Transport Force'.

In August 1914, the only forces in the area were:

4th Cruiser Squadron [Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock] - 5 cruisers. The 4CS had occupied a unique place since 1905. It was based in the West Indies during the summer months, and at Devonport in the winter. It was a training squadron used part-time to show the flag.

West Africa & South Atlantic -1 cruiser

Cape of Good Hope - 3 cruisers

The consequent distribution of forces can been seen in a series of snapshots:

Note: after the defeat at Coronel 1.11.14, a force of two battle-cruisers was sent out from the UK. They were Inflexible and Invincible under command of Vice Admiral Doveton Sturdee, as CinC South Atlantic.

November 1914 March 1915 January 1916   January 1917 April 1918
North Atlantic NAWI
1 battleship
5 cruisers
1 battleship
4 cruisers

Cruiser Force E/11CS

3 cruisers

Cruiser Force I/9CS

3 cruisers
5 AMC's

Cruiser Force G/12CS

2 cruisers
1 battleship
7 cruisers
3 AMC's

Cruiser Force D

1 cruiser
1 battleship
8 cruisers
2 AMC's

Cruiser Force D

1 cruiser

Cruiser Force I/9CS

1 battleship
3 cruisers
2 AMC's
1 battleship
11 cruisers

9 Cruiser Squadron

2 battleships
1 cruiser
3 AMC's

Ocean Escort Force

21 AMC's
7 Commissioned Escort ships
Mid-Atlantic West Africa
2 cruisers
Cruiser Force D
1 cruiser

West Africa

1 cruiser
West Africa
2 cruisers
West Africa
2 cruisers
South Atlantic South-East America
1 battleship
7 cruisers
5 AMC's

1 battleship
2 cruisers
2 AMC's
South America
7 cruisers
4 AMC's


1 battleship
1 cruiser
2 AMC's
South America
2 cruisers
3 AMC's


1 battleship
1 cruiser
2 AMC's
South America
2 cruisers
3 AMC's


2 cruisers
South America
2 cruisers
2 AMC's



Flag Officers

CinC North America & West Indies
3.15-Vice Admiral George Patey
9.16-Vice Admiral Montague Browning
2.18-Vice Admiral Lowther Grant
9th Cruiser Squadron 9.14-Rear Admiral.John de Robeck
2.15-Rear Admiral A Moore
  .15-Rear Admiral Thomas Shepard
12.17-Rear Admiral Morgan Singer
CinC Cape- V.Ad. Herbert King Hall
1.16-Rear Admiral. Edward Charlton
5.18-Vice Admiral. Edward Fitzherbert


HMS Ocean, lost Dardanelles (PS)

HMS Amethyst (Cyber-Heritage)

HMS Ark Royal (PS)
all served in Aegean/Dardanelles

The Royal Navy took part in a rather disjointed allied effort to secure the Mediterranean for the strategic requirements of France, Italy and the United Kingdom. As a result Britain's naval forces operated in a confused inter-national command structure.

French battleship Bouvet, also lost at Dardanelles (PS)

As a result of an understanding between Britain and France, a strategic assignment of commands and ships was implemented in 1913. The naval agreement of that year assigned the Channel coast of France to the Royal Navy. In turn the French Navy assumed responsibility for any maritime war in the Mediterranean. This enabled Britain to concentrate naval strength against Germany; and for France to concentrate its fleet against two potential enemies - Austria-Hungary and Italy.

The French battle squadron at Brest moved to Toulon, and the British battle squadron moved to Gibraltar and then to the UK. Concerns about British weakness in the Mediterranean brought up the partial return of the Royal Navy to Malta in the autumn of 1913 when a battle-cruiser squadron and an armoured cruiser squadron were sent out from Britain.

As a result, the British force in the Mediterranean, under the command of Admiral Sir Berkeley Milne, consisted of:

2nd Battle-Cruiser Squadron [3 ships on station]
1st Cruiser Squadron [4 ships]
4 light cruisers
5th Destroyer Flotilla [16 G class]

The battle-cruisers and armoured cruisers were withdrawn within the first three months of the conflict. Admiral Milne was recalled after the 'Goeben affair' and not replaced. There would not be another Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, until August 1917 when Vice Admiral Somerset Gough-Calthorpe took up the position in a more limited role. Throughout the war years, the CinC of the 'Armee Navale' was the titular allied naval commander. Until August 1917, British forces operated in largely geographically separate self-contained commands.

At first allied operations were made easier by the Italian decision to remain neutral. Only Austria-Hungary remained as the naval opposition. British mishandling of relations with Turkey in part brought about that country's entry into the war on 31st October 1914. This created a threat to British interests in the Suez Canal and Red Sea [which were handled by the East India Station until August 1917.] The Turkish declaration of war opened up an opportunity for Britain and France to use their naval power to seize the Dardanelles, Bosphorus and Constantinople and so establish a martime link with Russia. The British response was to create the Eastern Mediterranean Squadron [later British Aegean Squadron] which became the largest British force in the Mediterranean for the rest of the war.

The entry of Italy into the war on the allied side in May 1915 may have brought its fleet into the war against Austria-Hungary but it did create a command problem.  The Italian CinC - the Duke of Abruzzi - was more than a little reluctant to put his ships under French command. The result was the French fleet operating out of Malta, and then from Corfu and Brindisi, and the Italian Fleet operating from Taranto with little co-ordination between them. In response to an allied agreement the Royal Navy established the British Adriatic Squadron at Taranto.

The three fleets failed to close the Otranto straits at the southern end of the Adriatic to Austrian and German submarines. This failure, compounded by the failure of British forces at Gibraltar to stop the entry of German submarines into the Mediterranean created a crisis in the early summer of 1917 which brought about the final organisation of British naval forces in the Mediterranean.

An earlier arrangement [1.1.16] had divided the Mediterranean into areas of responsibility for anti-submarine warfare had failed because of boundary problems. Britain had been made responsible for the areas around Gibraltar, Malta, Egyptian coast, and Aegean. A new arrangement was made in the summer of 1917 by which Vice Admiral Somerset Gough-Calthorpe became CinC. He would have a co-ordinating role in the war against the submarines, and would command all British forces in the Mediterranean. He would NOT be the Allied CinC - that remained in the hands of the French, and he would fly his flag ashore in Malta. The previously assigned Admiral of Patrols would be his deputy for British efforts. An Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer flotilla [1 cruiser & 12 destroyers] joined the British forces at this time

As a result, the British naval forces consisted of a number of sub-commands:

British Adriatic Squadron,
British Aegean Squadron, and the
Egyptian Division. 

After the Turkish surrender, a Black Sea & Marmora Force was formed.

A further major complication in tracing the employment and organisation of the Royal Navy was the lack of identified squadrons and flotillas. Apart the 5th Destroyer Flotilla, the only identified formation was the 8th Light Cruiser Squadron in the Adriatic in the autumn of 1918.

As a consequence, there follows two sections on RN participation:
list of relevant flag officers; snapshots of distribution at a variety of dates

Relevant flag officers

as of August 1914

Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean
Admiral Sir Berkeley Milne
8.17-Vice Admiral Somerset Gough-Calthorpe

1st Cruiser Squadron 8.14 only-
Rear Admiral Ernest Troubridge

Vice Admiral Frederick Brock
27.10.15-Vice Admiral Bernard Currey
7.17-Vice Admiral Heathcoat Grant

Rear Admiral Sackville Carden [Superintendent Malta Dockyard]
9.14-Rear Admiral Arthur Limpus  [ex Head of Commission to Turkish Navy]
10.16-Vice Admiral George Ballard  [& Admiral of Patrols]
11.18-Rear Admiral Brian Barttelot

added subsequently

CinC Eastern Mediterranean/Aegean Squadron
10.14-Vice Admiral Sackville Carden
3.15-Rear Admiral John de Robeck  [2 i/c 2-3.15]
5.16-Rear Admiral Cecil Thursby
8.17-Rear Admiral Sydney Fremantle
1.18-Rear Admiral Arthur Hayes-Sadler
2.18-Rear Admiral Cecil Lambert
9.18-Rear Admiral Michael Culme-Seymour

SNO Mudros
3.15-Rear Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss
11.15-Rear Admiral Arthur Christian

Commander British Adriatic Squadron
5.15-Rear Admiral Cecil Thursby
5.16-Rear Admiral Mark Kerr
3.18-Rear Admiral Algernon Heneage

Egyptian Division [& Red Sea]
5.17-Rear Admiral Thomas Jackson

Admiral of Patrols
9.17-Rear Admiral James Fergusson-4.18

Light Cruiser Squadron, Adriatic [later 8LCS]
9.17-Rear Admiral Howard Kelly

Distribution at a variety of dates

August 1914 November 1914 March 1915
June 1915 September 1915
*then Eastern Mediterranean
3 battle-cruisers
1st Cruiser Squadron
4 light cruisers
5th Destroyer Flotilla [16]
2 battle-cruisers
1 armoured cruiser
2 light cruisers
5th Destroyer Flotilla [16]
3 submarines
*13 battleships
1 battle-cruiser
4 light cruisers
1 seaplane carrier
5th Destroyer Flotilla [16]
6 submarines
8 battleships
7 cruisers
2 seaplane carriers
21 destroyers
7 submarines
10 battleships
15 cruisers
2 seaplane carriers
20 monitors
4 sloops
5th Destroyer Flotilla [31]
13 submarines

4 cruisers
1 destroyer
2 sloops


3 battleships
1 cruiser
3 destroyers
2 submarines

*then British Adriatic Sqn

4 battleships
3 cruisers
*5 battleships
7 cruisers
3 submarines

January 1916  May 1916 January 1917  September 1917 April 1918  December 1918
Eastern Mediterranean, *then
Med. Fleet
12 battleships
10 cruisers
2 seaplane carriers
19 monitors
6 sloops
5th Destroyer Flotilla [23]
4 submarines
4 battleships
12 cruisers
1 seaplane carrier
14 monitors
7 sloops
5th Destroyer Flotilla [31]
6 submarines
5 battleships
11 cruisers
2 seaplane carriers
13 monitors
8 sloops
29 destroyers
6 submarines
*5th Destroyer Flotilla [33]
6 submarines
and Malta
1 cruiser [F]
5th Destroyer Flotilla [42]
22 sloops
British Aegean Sqn, from old Eastern Med.

2 battleships
12 cruisers
12 monitors
7 sloops
2 battleships
10 cruisers
10 monitors
1 seaplane carrier
6 sloops
2 submarines
3 cruisers
1 seaplane carrier
6 monitors
8 sloops
[4 destroyers from 5DF]
Gibraltar Minor patrol craft Minor patrol ships 1 cruiser
4 sloops

3 cruisers
2 destroyers
7 sloops
3 submarines
1 seaplane carrier
1 destroyer
11th Sloop Flotilla [7]
1 submarine
Malta 1 battleship
3 cruisers
5 destroyers
1 sloop
8 submarines
1 monitor
9 sloops 1 battleship
1 cruiser
10 destroyers
14 sloops
2 submarines
1 monitor
8 destroyers
11 sloops
12 IJN destroyers
(see Med. Fleet)
1 battleship [FF]
1 cruiser
5th Destroyer Flotilla [36]
12th Sloop Flotilla [5]
5 submarines
British Adriatic Sqn 4 battleships
5 cruisers
5 submarines
5 battleships
5 cruisers
10 submarines
4 battleships
4 cruisers
4 destroyers
2 submarines
1 battleship
6 cruisers
2 monitors
3 submarines
1 battleship
8th Light Cruiser Sqn [4]
2 monitors
1 seaplane carrier
6 submarines 
1 battleship
8th Light Cruiser Sqn [6]
2 monitors
12th Sloop Flotilla [2]
Egyptian Division

1 battleship
5 cruisers
3 monitors
3 sloops
1 battleship
4 cruisers
2 seaplane carriers
14 sloops
1 battleship
3 cruisers
1 monitor
13th Sloop Flotilla [9]
  3 Red Sea sloops
Black Sea & Marmora Division

3 battleships
7 cruisers
3 seaplane carriers
7 monitors
6 sloops
[8 destroyers from 5DF]


HMAS Sydney, Australian Fleet (PS)

HMS Triumph, China Station (PS)

HMS Firefly,  Mesopotamia (PS)

Prior to August 1914, the Navy List grouped three stations together under the heading of 'The Eastern Fleet'. One of the three - the Australian Station moved out from this listing and was identified separately as the 'Australian Fleet'. In its place the listing was:

'East Indies Squadron',
'China Squadron' and
'New Zealand Division'

This is evidence of the pre-war plan to create an Eastern Fleet if and when the need arose. During the war, the differences of commitment between all four of the above elements became more obvious.

By March 1915, the listing had changed to become:

'East Indies & Egypt',
'East Coast of Africa',
'China Station',
'Australia' and

This method of listing remained in the Navy List until 1918, when 'Cape of Good Hope' replaced 'East Coast of Africa'.

The principal role of these various squadrons/stations was to 'show the flag' in distant waters and protect British commerce from German surface raiders - the latter was a major priority in 1914-1915.

As the China Squadron 'lost' its main area of concern when Admiral Graf Spee's Far East Squadron sailed eastwards across the Pacific, the East Indies Squadron gained enhanced responsibilities. It supported operations off German East Africa; and the Turkish entry into the war gave it the task of protecting the Suez Canal and Red Sea, and then providing support for the military campaign in Mesopotamia.

In each squadron, the number of warships allocated remained comparatively small in comparison with the resources allocated to European waters.

The principal flag officers were:

Commander-in-Chief, East Indies
Rear Admiral Richard Peirse [10.14-Vice Admiral]
1.15-Vice Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss
7.17-Vice Admiral Ernest Gaunt

Commander-in-Chief, China
Vice Admiral Martyn Jerram
11.15-Vice Admiral Lowther Grant
6.17-Vice Admiral Francis Tudor

SNO, Hong Kong
Rear Admiral Robert Anstruther
5.16-Commodore H Sandeman
5.18-Commodore Victor Gurney

Commander, Australian Fleet
Vice Admiral George Patey -3.15

The changing strength of these various commands can be illustrated by the following snap shots:

East Indies, including East Africa, Red Sea & Egypt when indicated

1914 1915 1916 1917 1918
1 battleship-Swiftsure
[in reserve]
2 cruisers
4 sloops
4 cruisers
3 light cruisers
3 sloops
4 AMC's
6 RIM ships

East Africa
4 cruisers

1 battleship
9 cruisers
7 sloops
2 seaplane carriers
5 AMC's
3 gunboats
5 RIM ships

East Africa
3 cruisers
2 monitors
2 battleships
5 cruisers
6 monitors
10 sloops
4 seaplane carriers
20 gunboats
6 RIM ships

East Africa
4 cruisers
2 AMC's
2 monitors
1 kite balloon ship
4 cruisers
1 monitor
12 sloops
24 gunboats
6 RIM ships

East Africa
3 cruisers
2 monitors
1 sloop
1 gunboat
7 cruisers
4 gunboats
5 RIM vessels

3 cruisers
4 gunboats
2 RIM ships
1 seaplane carrier

China Station 

1 battleships-Triumph
[in reserve]
2 armoured cruisers
2 light cruisers
8 E class destroyers
3 old destroyers
3 C class submarines
10 river gunboats
1 sloop
4 old destroyers
3 submarines
river gunboats (decommissioned)

No changes
4 cruisers
2 AMC's
2 sloops
3 destroyers
3 submarines
1 cruiser
3 destroyers
3 submarines
3 gunboats
1 cruiser
1 sloop
3 destroyers
3 submarines
9 gunboats

2 cruisers
5 sloops
3 destroyers
3 submarines
11 gunboats

New Zealand Division

3 cruisers & 1 sloop listed 8.14 - none thereafter [in Australian or Pacific lists?]

Australian Fleet

1 battle-cruiser-Australia
3 cruisers
3 destroyers
2 submarines 
1 cruiser
3 destroyers
1 submarine

1 cruiser
3 destroyers
1 cruiser
4 destroyers
4 cruisers
4 cruisers
1 sloop

4 cruisers
1 sloop


2 sloops [RCN]
2 cruisers [1 RCN]
1 sloop [RCN]

3 cruisers [1RCN]
2 AMC's
2 sloops [RCN]
3 cruisers [1 RCN]
3 AMC's
2 sloops [RCN]
2 cruisers [1 RCN]
3 AMC's
1 cruiser
2 AMC's

1 cruiser


Battle Squadrons

1 BS Grand Fleet 8.14-11.18
2 BS Grand Fleet 8.14-11.18
3 BS Grand Fleet 8.14- Sheerness 5.16-4.18d
4 BS  Grand Fleet 8.14-11.18
5 BS Channel Fleet 8.14-3.15
5 BS Grand Fleet 10.15-11.18
6 BS dispersed 8.14
6 BS USN Grand Fleet 12.17-111.8
7 BS dispersed 8.14
8 BS Channel Fleet 8.14-8.14 dispersed
9 BS planned formation abandoned 8.14

Battle-Cruiser Squadrons

1 BCS Grand Fleet 8.14-11.18
2 BCS Med 8.14- Grand Fleet 1.15-11.18
3 BCS Grand Fleet 2.15-6.16

Cruiser Squadrons

1 CS Mediterranean 8.14- Grand Fleet 10.14-6.16
1 CS Grand Fleet 1.17-11.18
2 CS Grand Fleet 8.14-11.18
3 CS Grand Fleet 8.14-6.16
4 CS NAWI 8.14-11.18
5 CS Channel Fleet 8-9.14
6 CS Grand Fleet 8.14-10.15
7 CS North Sea 8-9.14
7 CS Grand Fleet 1.15-5.16
8 CS not formed
9 CS Gibraltar/West Africa 9.14-11.18
10 CS Northern Patrol 8.14-12.17
11 CS Channel 8.14-dispersed
12 CS Channel 8.14-dispersed

Light Cruiser Squadrons

1 LCS Grand Fleet 8.14-11.18
2 LCS Grand Fleet 1.15-11.18
3 LCS Grand Fleet 2.15-11.18
4 LCS Grand Fleet 6.15-11.18
5 LCS Harwich 9.14-11.18
6 LCS Grand Fleet 6.17-11.18
7 LCS Grand Fleet 3.18-11.18
8 LCS  Adriatic .18-11.18

Destroyer Flotillas

1 DF Grand Fleet 8.14- Harwich 11.16- Portsmouth 4.17-11.18
2 DF Grand Fleet 8.14- Devonport 4.16-Londonderry 11.17-11.18
3 DF Harwich  8.14-4.17
3 DF Grand Fleet 3.18-11.18
4 DF Grand Fleet 8.14- Humber 9.16- Portsmouth 12.16- Devonport 3.17-11.18
5 DF Mediterranean 8.14-11.18
6 DF Dover 8.14-11.18
7 DF Humber 8.14-11.18
8 DF Forth 8.14-  .17
9 DF Tyne 8.14-7 .15
9 DF Harwich 7.15-4.17
10 DF Harwich 11.14-11.18
11 DF Grand Fleet 9.15-11.18
12 DF Grand Fleet 11.15-11.18
13 DF Grand Fleet 4.16-11.18
14 DF Grand Fleet 6.16-11.18
15 DF Grand Fleet 9.16-11.18
16-19 DFs not formed
20 DF Humber  .18-11.18

Submarine Flotillas

Sloop Flotillas 1918

1 SlF Queenstown

2 SlF Londonderry
3 SlF Dundee
4 SlF Granton
5-9 Sloop Flotillas not formed
10 SlF Adriatic
11 SlF Gibraltar
12 SlF Malta
13 SlF Egypt
Minesweeping Flotillas

1 MSF Grand Fleet 8.14-11.18
2 MSF Grand Fleet .15-11.18
3 MSF Grand Fleet .16-11.18
4 MSF not formed
5 MSF not formed
6 MSF Harwich 1918
7 MSF Grimsby 1918
8 MSF Queenstown 1918
9 MSF Portsmouth 1918
10 MSF Dover 1918
11 MSF Liverpool 1918
12 MSF Clyde 1918
13 MSF Oban 1918
14 MSF Oban 1918
15 MSF Falmouth 1918
16 MSF Granton 1918
17 MSF Portland 1918
18 MSF Plymouth 1918
19 MSF Swansea 1918
20 MSF Felixstowe 1918
21 MSF forming at Kirkwall 11.18


Type of warship Total 4.8.14 Total 11.11.18
Retained for postwar service
Light Cruisers
Aircraft carriers
Flotilla Leaders
Torpedo Boats
Old Sloops
Sweeper Sloops
P & PC boats

617 1261 441

plus Auxiliary Patrol (c4478 - including Fishery Reserve - but not all completed by war's end) and Support and Harbour Vessels


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revised 27/10/15