THE ROYAL & NAVAL DOCKYARDS
Brief History of
The Royal Dockyards of the British Isles
Notes on Admiralty
Royal and Naval
Dockyards in 1914 – Home and Abroad
Part 3. ROYAL & NAVAL DOCKYARDS WORLDWIDE
The Royal Navy's Role in Warship Research, Building,
Repair & Maintenance World-wide
BRIEF HISTORY of THE ROYAL DOCKYARDS of the BRITISH ISLES
(from north to south, west to east; in operation in
World War 1 in bold;
capital ships in italics launched pre-war)
Rosyth Royal Dockyard, on Firth of Forth (N), Fifeshire - not a building
yard, still in operation
Haulbowline Royal Dockyard, in Cork Harbour, Queenstown, Co Cork - not a
building yard, transferred to Irish Free State Government 1921
Wales & SW England
Royal Dockyard, in Milford Haven (S), Pembroke, Pembrokeshire, SW Wales -
Milford Royal Dockyard founded 1794, moved to Pembroke Dock 1814, closed 1926
ships built during the war, larger vessels with launch date
C-type light cruisers
Cambrian (3.3.16), Cordelia (23.2.14), Curacoa (5.5.17)
(15.11.18), H.52 (31.3.19), J.3 (4.12.15), J.4 (2.2.16)
Royal Dockyard (from 1824), on River Tamar (E), Devonport, South Devon - founded
as Plymouth Dockyard 1690's, still in operation
Dreadnoughts Temeraire (Bellerophon-class,
24.8.07) Collingwood (St Vincent-class, 7.11.08), Centurion (King
George V-class, 18.11.11), Marlborough (Iron Duke-class, 24.10.12), Warspite
(Queen Elizabeth-class, 26.11.13),
Royal Oak, (Revenge-class, 17.11.14)
(Indefatigable-class, 28.10.09), Lion (Lion-class, 6.8.10)
Cavendish-class cruiser Frobisher
Submarines J.5 (9.9.15), J.6
(9.9.15), J.7 (21.2.17), K.6 (31.5.16), K.7 (31.5.16)
S & SE England
Harwich Royal Dockyard, in Harwich Harbour, Harwich, Essex - founded 1650,
Royal Dockyard, on River Medway (E), Sheerness, Kent - founded 1667, not a
building yard by WW1, closed 1960
Royal Dockyard, on River Medway (S), Chatham, Kent - founded 16th cen,
submarines etc in WW1, closed 1984
C-type light cruiser
Submarines E.12 (5.9.14),
E.13 (22.9.14), F.1 (31.3.15), G.1 (14.8.15), G.2 (23.12.15), G.3 (22.1.16), G.4
(23.10.15), G.5 (23.11.15), R.1 (25.4.18), R.2 (25.4.18), R.3 (8.6.18), R.4
Deptford Royal Dockyard, on River Thames (S), Greenwich (opposite Isle of Dogs),
London - founded 16th Cen, finally closed 1869
Woolwich Royal Dockyard, on River Thames (S), Woolwich, Kent - founded 16th cen,
Royal Dockyard, in Portsmouth Harbour (S), Portsmouth, Hampshire - founded 16th
cen, still in operation
(10.2.06), Bellerophon, (Bellerophon-class, 27.7.07), St Vincent, (St
Vincent-class, 10.9.08), Neptune (30.9.09), Orion (Orion-class, 20.8.10), King
George V (King George V-class, 9.10.11), Iron Duke (Iron Duke-class, 12.10.12),
Queen Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth-class, 16.10.13), Royal Sovereign
Submarines J.1 (6.11.15),
J.2 (6.11.15), K.1 (14.11.16), K.2 (14.10.16), K.5 (16.12.16)
NOTES ON ADMIRALTY RESEARCH ESTABLISHMENTS
Most of the following information is taken (with
many thanks) from the National Archives research guide for Royal Naval Research
and Development (Military Records Information 38). The full list, which
can be found on the
National Archives site, includes references to all the archives held.
1. Admiralty Records
"Historically, naval research and development has taken the form of a
partnership between the Admiralty and private industry, the former providing the
patronage necessary for the implementation of new ideas. With the accelerating
pace of technological advance in the nineteenth century, individual departments
of the Royal Navy, in particular those of the Engineer-in Chief and of the
Director of Naval Construction, worked together with private firms and
individuals to develop new inventions, such as the Parsons marine turbine and
the Whitworth self-propelling torpedo.
There was also an Admiralty
Awards Council which recommended awards to inventors."
4. Naval Ordnance
"The development of naval ordnance was the responsibility of the Board of
Ordnance, until its abolition in 1855.
In 1855, the War Office took over
control of ordnance and the Admiralty did not establish its own Naval Ordnance
Department until 1891.
Ordnance Board's (work included)
Naval Anti-Aircraft Gunnery Committee (1919-1921) and Naval Cordite
7. 1914-1918 War - The Board of Invention and
"Although the Admiralty had established an Experimental Works of its own in the
1870s, the Navy possessed no central research establishment. However the
outbreak of the First World War gave a powerful stimulus to naval research and
development, with the realisation that technological superiority in mechanical
and chemical science was essential to success. Particularly important was the
threat to British naval supremacy posed by the new technology of the submarine
and the urgent need for a submarine detection device.
In July 1915, the
Admiralty established the Board of Invention and Research "for the purpose of
securing for the Admiralty, during the continuance of the war, expert assistance
in organising and encouraging scientific effort in relation to the requirements
of the Naval Service". It consisted of a central committee under Admiral of the
Fleet, Lord Fisher, and including Sir Charles Parsons; a consulting panel of
scientific experts, including Sir Ernest Rutherford, and a secretariat. Its role
was to assess invention proposals made by the general public and transmit those
of use to the war effort to the Admiralty technical departments, which did not
have the manpower to do this. Senior naval officers were invited to submit any
"problems connected with the scientific side of the Navy". Numerous
sub-committees were established, ranging from Airships to Internal Combustion
Engines and Oil Fuel.
experimentation, it drew on the resources of private industry; the National
Physical Laboratory and a number of Admiralty establishments.
(was) carried out by the National Physical Laboratory on behalf of the
Admiralty, during and after the war."
8. Directorate of Scientific Research and
"The Board was dissolved in January 1918 and a
Director of Experiments and Research was appointed for co-ordination of the
various experimental stations, run by the technical Departments of the
Admiralty, that had proliferated during the war. On the Admiralty Board, the
Third Sea Lord (Controller) was responsible for naval research and development
in general. The Directorate of Scientific Research and Experiment ran the
Admiralty Research Laboratory and subsequently the Royal Navy Physiological
Laboratory and the Services Electronics Research Laboratory. It also looked
after the administration of scientific finance, contracts, patents and technical
The technical departments of the Navy retained responsibility
for research, development and production within their own fields. The
directorate of Naval Construction ran the Admiralty Experiment Works and the
Naval Construction Research Establishment and ..... include(d) research
testing. The Engineer-in-Chief ran the Admiralty Fuel Experiment Station and the
Admiralty Engineering Laboratory. The Director of Underwater Weapons was
responsible for the Torpedo Experiment Establishment; the Admiralty Mining
Establishment; the Underwater Detection Establishment and the Underwater
(presumably post-World War 1 and into World War 2).
9. Royal Naval Scientific Service
1946, the Department of Scientific Research was re-organised to form the Royal
Naval Scientific Service ........"
11. Naval Research Establishments and
Only those which appear to encompass World War 1
work are included. Establishments identified as existing in WW1 are in
"Admiralty Chemical Department - an Admiralty Chemist was first appointed in
1870 and subsequently an Admiralty Chemical Department developed at Portsmouth.
In 1965, it was amalgamated with the Central Metallurgical Laboratory to form
the Central Dockyard Laboratory .......
Admiralty Compass Observatory
- in 1842, the Admiralty Compass Branch was established, in association with the
Hydrographic Department. Its observatory moved to Slough in 1917 and became part
of the Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment in 1971.
- established in 1917, at the City and Guilds College, South Kensington to
develop diesel engines for submarines, it moved to West Drayton in 1920 where it
was joined by the laboratory for electrical experiments that had been set up in
1919. They remained as a separate Mechanical Engineering Department and
Electrical Engineering Department, testing commercial engines and equipment for
naval use, with limited research functions. In 1977, the laboratory was absorbed
by the National Gas Turbine Establishment.
Admiralty Experiment Works - In 1870, the Admiralty granted £2,000 to
William Froude to build the world's first model experiment ship tank at Torquay
and run it for 2 years. Experiments into the stability and propulsion of ships
began in 1872 and when the site proved too small, it moved to Haslar, Gosport in
1886. Its work expanded to cover all types of naval vessel, including the
submarine, and the testing of oils and oil fuel.
Experimental Station - established in 1902, at Haslar, to research into the
naval use of oil fuel in boilers, it was subsequently absorbed into the
Admiralty Marine Engineering Establishments.
Establishment - originally the Fire Control Group within the Admiralty
Research Laboratory, it functioned as a separate establishment 1943-1959.
Admiralty Hydrographic Department - ..... at Taunton.
Mining Department - see Underwater Countermeasures Establishment."
Admiralty Research Laboratory - During the First World War, the
Anti-Submarine Division of the Admiralty had established experimental
stations at Hawkcraig (Aberdour) and
Parkeston Quay, Harwich, with out-stations at Dartmouth and Wemyss Bay,
to work on submarine detection methods. The Admiralty also established an
experimental station at Shandon, Dumbartonshire, working with the
Lancashire Anti-Submarine Committee and the Clyde Anti-Submarine Committee,
which subsequently moved to Teddington in 1921, becoming the Admiralty Research
Laboratory. Its main fields of research expanded to include oceanography;
electromagnetics; underwater ballistics; visual aids; acoustics; infra-red
radiation; photography and assessment techniques.
Note: The ARL was based at Teddington, Middlesex, so
that it could benefit from the expertise of the National Physical Laboratory,
founded in 1900 by the government under the auspices of the Royal Society, and
opened in 1902 to promote links between science and industry. No 1 Ship Tank was
completed in 1910, and was also known as the Yarrow Tank.
Admiralty Signals and Radar Establishments - see below.
Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment - research into radio
communications began at Portsmouth before the First World War and, based at the
Signals School there from 1917, expanded into the development of radar. In
1959, the Signals and Radar Establishments was amalgamated with the Gunnery
Establishment to become the Surface Weapons Establishment for research into new
weapons systems and their evaluation for procurement.
Development Unit - During the First World War, experiments on dropping
torpedoes from aircraft were carried out by the Fleet Air Arm at Gosport. The
experimental section came under the control of the Ministry of Aircraft
Production in 1941 .....
Anti-Submarine Experimental Establishment
- see Underwater Detection Establishment.
Laboratory - established at Portsmouth c.1936 to investigate naval
metallurgical problems, it acquired a number of outstation laboratories.....
Naval Ordnance Inspection Department - established in 1922 to test guns
and ammunition and subsequently torpedoes and mines.
Royal Greenwich Observatory - although established in 1695, it did
not become the responsibility of the Hydrographer of the Navy until 1820, taking
over the role of the Board of Longtitude. It passed out of naval control in 1965
Torpedo and Anti-Submarine School - HMS Vernon, fitted out as a
Torpedo Instruction School in 1876, subsequently came to house the Admiralty
Signals School and a diving school. ..... experiments (included)
torpedoes, mines, depth-charges, anti-submarine measures and chemical warfare.
Torpedo Experimental Establishment - Tests for protection against
torpedoes had been carried out as early as 1886 by Sir William White and during
the First World War a large barge, known as the Chatham Float, was used
for experiments with energy absorbing devices. However, a research establishment
was not set up until in 1943, at the Royal Naval Torpedo Factory at Greenock.
Underwater Countermeasures and Weapons Establishment - established in
1951, inheriting the role of the Admiralty Mining Department that had
been established at HMS Vernon, Portsmouth in 1915, it was closed in 1959.
Underwater Detection Establishment - an ASDIC Research and
Development unit was established at HMS Osprey (Portland Naval Base) in 1927,
moving to Fairlie as the Anti-Submarine Experimental Establishment in 1940 .....
Underwater Weapons Launching Establishment - design and production of
torpedo and mine launching equipment was based at Portsmouth Dockyard from the
First World War. In 1947, design was made the responsibility of the Underwater
Weapons Launching Establishment,....."
12. Further Reading
Brown, A Century of Naval Construction 1883-1983 (Conway Maritime Press, 1983)
M M Postan, D Hay, & J P Scott Design and Development of Weapons (HMSO,
B Ranft (ed.), Technical Change and British Naval Policy 1860-1939 (1977)
ROYAL and NAVAL DOCKYARDS in 1914 - HOME and ABROAD
Information and charts from 1914 Jane's Fighting
Ships, plus wartime additions from later editions.
Click to enlarge
The really excellent Charts are copyright Stanford's
Geographical Establishment, who no longer appear to be in existence. It has not
been possible to locate the present copyright holder
provide a sheltered, non-tidal mooring place: where there is not enough depth of
water at all states of the tide to accommodate ships e.g. non-tidal quays
Basin, with entrance lock to allow ships to enter and leave and retain depth of
repair and maintain the submerged part of a ship's hull, including propellers
Graving & dry-docks - words used interchangeably, permanent, excavated
installations, require emptying by pumping & filling, also dock gates to keep
out water/let in ship
Floating docks - often built in towable sections, flexible, location can be
changed, need pumping up and flooding-down
1. DEVONPORT and KEYHAM
Devonport - two big building slips, three small. Dry docks: No. 3, could just
take Duncan class, size 430x93ft, and three others, of which one (Long Dock) can
take a second class cruiser; other two suitable for small craft only.
- No building slips. New basin, 35 acres, depth, 32ft. Tidal basin, 10 acres,
in New Extension:-
lock 730x95ft), all can take Dreadnought and Inflexible
old part of the yard there are three docks, of which one (Queen's) can take a
second class cruiser; the others small craft only. Total employees for the two
yards, about 6000.
Chart No.1267. Rise of Spring Tide 15 1/2 feet (Dockyard)
for building battleships or cruisers up to 750 feet.
Three large and one small basins.
dock, 680x113ft (33,000 tons).
14 565x82ft, enlarging to 700x100ft (later to 770ft)
employees, about 8000 normally, probably 16,000 by 1918.
Chart No.2631-2045. Rise of Spring Tide 13 1/2 feet (Dockyard)
Aircraft base at Calshot, Southampton before the war. By the end of 1913, 17 oil
reservoirs were built.
By 1918, the Deep, North and South Lock dry docks were no longer listed. Instead
they were identified as Lock A (461x80ft), Lock B (461x81ft), Lock C (850x110ft)
and Lock D (850x110ft). Presumably one was lengthened and a fourth built
Three building slips. Three large closed basins.
four other docks suitable only for small. craft (Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4).
Total employees, about 6000 (12,000, by 1918)
Chart No.1834-1607-1185. Rise of Spring Tide 18 1/4 feet
Also floating docks by 1918
(see chart above)
docks:- Five, all small, and able to take small craft only
dock, 680x113ft (33,000 tons).
Chart No.1833. Rise of Spring Tide 16 feet
By 1918, 2,500 employees. Flying school and aircraft base at Isle of Grain
before the war.
British Naval Ports and Harbours
Aircraft base at Carlinghouse before war
1918 - plus PORT EDGAR. Rosyth - third dock of 850x110x36ft completed,
also floating docks.
Entrance, size 720x94ft.
(b) No 1
, 608x94ft (lengthened 1911)
Employees, 1000, more by 1918
2,500 employees by 1918
acres of enclosed harbour; minimum depth, 30 feet.
station. N. and E. entrances 700 feet wide.
Floating dock suitable for destroyers by 1918
harbour, 610 acres; E. entrance, 1 cable; W. entrance, 800 feet.
for 16 battleships, 5 large cruisers, 7 Counties, 4 small cruisers, and for
at entrance is very strong making ingress difficult).
Floating dock for destroyers added by 1918
Other Naval Harbours and Anchorages Used by Fleets
(from north to south, west to east)
SHETLANDS, by 1918
FLOW (chart following)
EWE, by 1918
Gareloch, by 1918 - Anti-Submarine Station for experiments and training
CAMPBELTOWN, by 1918 - submarine training station
(Scotland, E Coast), Cromarty is being fortified. (chart right. By 1918,
Fleet Anchorage. Also East Sutor known as North Sutor, and West Sutor as South
by 1918 - dockyard, three floating docks - Number One, 680x113x36ft for 33,000
ton dreadnoughts, Number Two, also for dreadnoughts, Number Three, for light
cruisers, TBD's, submarines (also right)
FIRTH, by 1918
SWILLY and BUNCRANA. Very moderately fortified. Good anchorage.
KINGSTOWN (Dublin), the only one with any forts
BEREHAVEN. Good anchorage.
by 1918 - for repairs
HARWICH, by 1918 - base for torpedo craft, submarines etc (chart right)
ISLAND, River Blackwater, by 1918 - CMB base
Anchorage is moderately good. The entrance is very narrow, difficult and
dangerous. Fortifications were being erected, but work now stopped.
Private Dry/Graving Docks at Home
able to take Dreadnoughts.
complete in 1916
OVERSEAS DOCKYARDS AND HARBOURS
No building slips.
No.1 (Prince of Wales), 850x90ft
No.2 (Queen Alexandra), 550x90ft
No.3 (King Edward), 450x90ft
There is another dock (No. 4) for torpedo craft.
Area of harbour, 450 acres. Well fortified - guns
mounted 1000 feet above water.
Proposed East Harbour (not yet built). (Projected).
No. 1 dry dock, able to take any warship, size 850x90ft. Area of harbour, 400
acres. (Note: Never built)
Nos.2 & 1 combined 536x73ft
(No.1 (double) by 1918)
No.3 (Somerset) 468x80ft
(No.3, no change)
No.4 (Hamilton), size, 520x94ft
(No.2 (Hamilton) by 1918)
Nos.5-6 (double) 770x95ft
(No.4 (double) by 1918)
No.7 (single) 550x95ft
(No.5 (single) by 1918)
Area of war harbour, about 100 acres. New mole in
progress. New works completed 1908. Well fortified. Good anchorage. Base for
By 1918, 4,000 or more employees
By 1918, Private Docks:
PORT SAID, floating dock, 295x61ft
ALEXANDRIA, Naval and Military base during
Dry dock, 553x64ft
SUEZ CANAL, 90 miles long, 31ft deep, 108ft
wide at bottom
N. AMERICA AND WEST INDIES
(British Columbia). Formerly dockyard.
450x65ft. (Taken over by the Canadian Navy, together will all Canadian Docks by
a private dock here, 569x85ft (dreadnought if lightened)
(Nova Scotia). Formerly Dockyard. Coaling station.
floating dock, 545x100ft (Dreadnought, 17,500 tons)
dockyard by 1918
(Barbados). Coaling. Open roadstead.
a small dock here, able to take vessels drawing up to 14 feet.
TRINIDAD, by 1918, 4,000t floating dock, 365x65ft
Map of Royal Navy Stations and Bases worldwide