Commander-in-Chief, The Nore

The Commander-in-Chief, The Nore, was an operational commander of the Royal Navy. His subordinate units, establishments, and staff were sometimes informally known as the Nore Station or Nore Command. The Nore is a sandbank at the mouth of the Thames Estuary and River Medway.[1]

Commander-in-Chief, The Nore
Peter Monamy - The flagship Royal Sovereign saluting at the Nore.jpg
The flagship HMS Royal Sovereign saluting at the Nore
Country United Kingdom
BranchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
TypeCommand (military formation)
Garrison/HQChatham, Kent
John Tovey


The Admiral's House, Chatham

The origins of the Commander-in-Chief's post can be traced to the first area naval commander, then known as the Commander-in-Chief, Thames from 1695 to 1696.[2]

From 1698 to 1699 the appointment was known as Commander-in-Chief, Medway. In 1707 the post holder was known as Commander-in-Chief, Thames and Medway and between 1711 and 1745 the office was known as the Commander-in-Chief, Thames, Medway and Nore. In 1745 the post for the first time was simply called the Commander-in-Chief, Nore established at Chatham[3] and became responsible for sub-commands at Chatham, London less the Admiralty, Sheerness, Harwich and Humber.[1] A. Cecil Hampshire writes that in 1752 Isaac Townsend, Admiral of the Blue, was appointed as "Commander-in-Chief of HM Ships and Naval Vessels in the Rivers Thames and Medway and at the Buoy of the Nore."[4]

From 1827 the Commander-in-Chief was accommodated in Admiralty House, Sheerness, built as part of the renewal of Sheerness Dockyard. From 1834 to 1899 his appointment was known as the Commander-in-Chief, Sheerness.[5]

After the dissolution of the Home Fleet in 1905, remaining ships at a lesser state of readiness were split between three reserve divisions: Nore Division plus the Devonport Division and the Portsmouth Division.[6] In 1909 the division was brought out of reserve status, and became operational as part of the 3rd and 4th Division of the Home Fleet.[7]

In 1907 the Commander-in-Chief moved to a new Admiralty House alongside the naval barracks (HMS Pembroke) in Chatham, the Sheerness house being given over to the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet.[8] The Dover Patrol, Harwich Force, and Humber Force operated in the Channel during the First World War, but were responsible to the Admiralty in London; the Nore was effectively a provider of shore support rather than a command with operational responsibilities.[9]

In 1938 an underground Area Combined Headquarters was built close to Admiralty House to accommodate the Commander-in-Chief together with the Air Officer Commanding No. 16 Group RAF, Coastal Command, and their respective staffs;[10] similar headquarters were built close to the other Royal Dockyards. During the Second World War, the Nore assumed great importance: it was used to guard the east coast convoys supplying the ports of North Eastern England.[1]

During the Second World War, the Commander-in-Chief at the Nore, at Chatham, included eight sub commands, each of which usually commanded by a Flag Officer either a Rear Admiral or Vice Admiral. They included Brightlingsea station, Harwich, Humber, London (not including the Admiralty), Lowestoft, Sheerness, Southend and Yarmouth.[11] These sub-commands were then sub-divided into Base areas usually commanded by a Naval Officer in Charge (NOIC) or a Residential Naval Officer (RNO) these included HM Naval Bases at Boston, Burnham-on-Crouch, Felixstowe, Gravesend, Grimsby, Immingham, and Queensborough.[12]

With the onset of the Cold War, the Nore diminished in importance as the navy decreased in size. Between 1952 and 1961 the Commander-in-Chief, The Nore was double-hatted as Commander, Nore Sub-Area, of NATO's Allied Command Channel.[13]

Cecil Hampshire writes that the appointment of Commander-in-Chief finally lapsed as part of the "Way Ahead" economies. The closing ceremony took place on 24 March 1961, when the station's Queen's Colour was formally laid up in the presence of members of the Admiralty Board, several former Commanders-in-Chief, other civilian and military figures, "..and the Commander-in-Chief of the Netherlands Home Station flying his flag in the new Dutch destroyer Limburg who had been invited to attend."[14] The Commander-in-Chief's appointment was finally discontinued on 31 March 1961.[15] Cecil Hampshire writes that from 1 April 1961, the area was divided between the Commander-in-Chief Portsmouth and the Flag Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland, the demarcation line being "roughly at The Wash." For purposes of administration from that date onward, the Admiral Superintendent Chatham also took the title of Flag Officer Medway.[16]

The underground headquarters went on to serve as HMS Wildfire, a Royal Naval Reserve training and communications centre, from 1964 to 1994.[1]



Chatham Dockyard was a Dockyard located on the River Medway in Kent. Established in Chatham in the mid-16th century, the dockyard subsequently expanded into neighbouring Gillingham. At its most extensive, in the early 20th century, two-thirds of the dockyard lay in Gillingham, one-third in Chatham. The senior officer was a Captain-Superintendent, Chatham Dockyard or the Admiral-superintendent Chatham

In the early 20th century the Rear Admiral Commanding, Chatham Sheerness Reserve Division, was established and became responsible eventually to the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet(s). Post holders included Rear Admirals Walter H. B. Graham, 3 January 1905 – 3 January 1906; Charles H. Adair 3 January 1906 – 3 January 1907; and Frank Finnis 3 January 1907 – 4 January 1909.[17]

The Royal Naval Barracks, Chatham were purpose-built to provide accommodation and training facilities for the men of the reserve fleet who were waiting to be appointed to ships. Designed by Colonel Henry Pilkington, construction of the barracks began in 1897 and completed in December 1902.[18]

Sheerness DockyardEdit

Sheerness Dockyard was a Royal Navy Dockyard located on the Sheerness peninsula, at the mouth of the River Medway in Kent. It was opened in the 1660s and closed in 1960.

It was directed by the Admiral-Superintendent, Sheerness.

Sub-areas during First and Second World WarsEdit

At various times during the First and Second World Wars, up to nine sub-areas were established. These were usually administered by either a retired vice or rear admiral, or an active captain, who were appointed as Senior Naval Officers or Flag Officers.[19]

Sub-Area Flag Ship or Ships borne in Flag Officers/Officers commanding Dates Ref
Brightlingsea HMS Wallaroo; HMS City of Perth then HMS Nemo Senior Naval officer, Brighlingsea 1914–1945 [20][21][22]
Dover HMS Nemo Naval Officer-in-Charge, Dover & CO HMS Lynx 1945–1946 [23]
Harwich HMS Badger Flag Officer-in-Charge, Harwich 1914–1944
Humber HMS Beaver Flag Officer-in-Charge, Humber 1939 – 1946 [21]
London HMS Yeoman Flag Officer-in-Charge, London 1938–1946 Rear Admiral Edward Courtney Boyle[24] 1939-42
Admiral Martin Dunbar-Nasmith 1942-46
Lowestoft HMS Minos Naval Officer-in-Charge, Lowestoft 1914–1918,[21] 1942–1946
Southend HMS Leigh Commander-in-Charge, Southend 1914–1918,[21] 1942–1946
Yarmouth HMS Watchful Flag Officer-in-Charge, Yarmouth 1942–1945 [21]

Other installations:

Facility Based at Date Notes
HM Naval Base, Immingham Immingham 1914–1918 chain of command was to the SNO/FO, Humber Station
RNTE Shotley Chatham 1914–1918 Shotley Training Establishment

Seagoing formationsEdit

Various units that served in this command included:[25][26][27]

Naval Units Based at Date Notes
Reserve Fleet Chatham 1900–1905 4 protected cruisers
Reserve Fleet Chatham 1906–-1914 13 cruisers from the Aeolus, Arrogant, Astraea, Diadem, Eclipse, Edgar classes.
Reserve Fleet Chatham 1939 inc: 6 cruisers, 15 destroyers, and 5 minesweepers
3rd Battle Squadron Chatham May 1916–April 1918 ex Grand Fleet
2nd Cruiser Squadron Chatham 1939–1940
5th Cruiser Squadron Chatham 1908–1909
7th Cruiser Squadron Chatham 1912
HMS Curacoa (D41) Chatham 1939 C-class cruiser (light)
HMS London (69) Chatham 1939 County-class cruiser
1st Destroyer Flotilla Harwich December 1939–June 1940
4th Destroyer Flotilla Humber August – December 1916
5th Destroyer Flotilla Chatham 1939–1940
7th Destroyer Flotilla Humber/Chatham August 1914 – November 1918, 1939–1940 WWI part of AOPs
8th Destroyer Flotilla Chatham 1911–1914 1 cruiser leader, 2 scout cruisers and 24 torpedo boat destroyers
9th Destroyer Flotilla Nore 1911–1914 1 cruiser leader, 2 scout cruisers and 27 destroyers
16th Destroyer Flotilla Harwich June 1940–May 1945
18th Destroyer Flotilla Harwich June–December, 1940 disbanded
19th Destroyer Flotilla Chatham September–October, 1939 transferred to Dover Command
20th Destroyer Flotilla Immingham 1914–1918, 1941
21st Destroyer Flotilla Sheerness July 1940–May 1945 formed the southern force for the escort of east coast convoys
22nd Destroyer Flotilla Harwich November–December, 1939 inc: renamed 1st Destroyer Flotilla
Nore Flotilla Harwich 1895–1909 43 torpedo boat destroyers
Nore Local Flotilla Harwich 1912–1914 was a Destroyer Flotilla
20th Minelaying Destroyer Flotilla Harwich 1939–1940
4th Minesweeper Flotilla Harwich September 1939–July 1942
5th Minesweeper Flotilla Harwich September 1939–April 1941 absorbed into 4MSF
6th Minesweeper Flotilla Harwich May–September 1940
7th Minesweeper Flotilla Harwich March 1944–January 1945
8th Minesweeper Flotilla Chatham 1939
10th Minesweeper Flotilla Chatham April 1945
11th Minesweeper Flotilla Chatham April 1945
15th Minesweeper Flotilla Chatham February 1944
18th Minesweeper Flotilla Chatham May 1943
40th Minesweeper Flotilla Harwich 1945
44nd Minesweeper Flotilla Harwich August 1944
117 Minesweeper Flotilla Sheerness 1944
133 Minesweeper Flotilla Sheerness 1944
140 Minesweeper Flotilla Sheerness & Harwich 1944 divided between two naval bases
163 Minesweeper Flotilla Lowestoft 1944
202 Minesweeper Flotilla Lowestoft 1944
203 Minesweeper Flotilla Harwich 1944
5th Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla Immingham 1939 – 1941
11th Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla Felixstowe 1944
21st Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla Felixstowe 1944
22nd Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla Felixstowe 1944
29th Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla Felixstowe 1939
2nd Submarine Flotilla Immingham August 1916 – February 1917 coastal defence C Class
3rd Submarine Flotilla Immingham/Humber/Harwich September 1916 – 1918, October 1939-May 1940
4th Submarine Flotilla Sherness August 1916–September 1917 Disbanded
5th Submarine Flotilla Sherness August 1914–August 1916 renamed 4th Submarine Flotilla
6th Submarine Flotilla Humber August 1914 – August 1916


Commanders-in-Chief have included:[28][29][30]

Commander-in-Chief Thames (1695–1696)Edit

Commander-in-Chief, Medway, (1698–1699)Edit

Commander-in-Chief, Thames and Medway, (1707–1711)Edit

Commander-in-Chief, Thames, Medway and Nore, (1711–1745)Edit

Commander-in-Chief, Nore, (1745–1747)Edit

Post holders included:[35]

  • Vice-Admiral Edward Durnford King 1745–1747

Commander-in-Chief, Medway and at the Nore, (1747–1797)Edit

Commander-in-Chief, Nore, (1797–1834)Edit

Post holders included:[5]

Commander-in-Chief, Sheerness, (1834–1899)Edit

Post holders included:[43]

Commander-in-Chief, Nore, (1899–1961)Edit

Post holders included:[44]

Senior staff officersEdit

Flag Captain, the NoreEdit

Post holders supporting the senior naval officer at the Nore included:[45]

  • Captain William G. Luard: July 1860–July 1863
  • Captain John Fulford: July 1863–April 1866
  • Captain Donald McL. Mackenzie: April 1866–June 1869
  • Captain Thomas Miller: June 1869–June 1870
  • Captain John C. Wilson: June 1870–January 1872
  • Captain George W. Watson: January 1872–January 1875
  • Captain Charles T. Curme: January 1875–February 1876
  • Captain St. George C. D'Arcy-Irvine: February 1876–September 1877
  • Captain Thomas B. Lethbridge: September 1877–January 1879
  • Captain Thomas B.M. Sulivan: January 1879–July 1881
  • Captain John D’Arcy: July 1881–September 1883
  • Captain James A. Poland: September 1883–September 1886
  • Captain Frederick C.B. Robinson: September 1886–July 1887
  • Captain Arthur C. Curtis: July 1887–July 1890
  • Captain Leicester C. Keppel: July 1890–August 1892
  • Captain Henry H. Boys: August 1892–October 1894
  • Captain William H.C. St.Clair: October 1894–February 1896
  • Captain James L. Hammet: February 1896–January 1898
  • Captain William F.S. Mann: January 1898–July 1899
  • Captain Charles Campbell: July–October 1899
  • Captain Henry C. Bigge: October 1899–February 1901
  • Captain Archibald Y. Pocklington: February 1901–December 1902
  • Captain Arthur Y. Moggridge: January 1907–April 1908
  • Captain Clement Greatorex: April–December 1908
  • Captain Henry J. L. Clarke: December 1908–August 1911
  • Captain Philip H. Colomb: August 1911–January 1915
  • Captain Ernest A. Taylor: January 1915–May 1916
  • Captain William Bowden-Smith: May–July 1916
  • Captain Alexander V. Campbell: July 1916–April 1918
  • Captain Cecil M. Staveley: April–October 1918

Chief of Staff, the NoreEdit

Post holders supporting the CINC, Nore included:[45]

  • Captain Theobald W.B. Kennedy: October 1918–May 1921
  • Captain Wilfred Tomkinson: May 1921–June 1923
  • Captain Herbert W.W. Hope: June 1923–December 1924
  • Captain the Hon. William S. Leveson-Gower: December 1924–May 1927
  • Captain the Hon. E. Barry S. Bingham: May 1927–May 1929
  • Captain Douglas B. Le Mottee: May 1929–May 1931
  • Captain Reginald V. Holt: May 1931–August 1933
  • Captain Hector Boyes: August 1933–November 1934
  • Captain Robert B. Ramsay: November 1934-December 1935
  • Captain Reginald B. Darke: December 1935–August 1937
  • Captain Philip Esmonde Phillips: August 1937–July 1938
  • Captain the Hon. George Fraser: July 1938–May 1940
  • Rear-Admiral Alfred H. Taylor: May 1940–March 1943
  • Commodore George H. Creswell: March–October 1943
  • Commodore Robert G.H. Linzee: October 1943–April 1946
  • Captain Albert L. Poland: April 1946–July 1948
  • Captain Lennox A. K. Boswell: July 1948–May 1949
  • Captain Arthur M. Knapp: May 1949–June 1951
  • Captain Herbert F.H. Layman: June 1951–January 1953
  • Captain Ronald E. Portlock: January 1953–December 1954
  • Captain John A. W. Tothill: December 1954–July 1956
  • Captain William A.F. Hawkins: July 1956–December 1957
  • Captain Roger B.N. Hicks: December 1957–April 1960
  • Captain Barry J. Anderson: April 1960–March 1961

Offices under the Chief of StaffEdit


  • Deputy Chief of Staff
  • Assistant Secretary
  • Duty Staff Officer
  • Flag Lieutenant-Commander
  • Secretary to Chief of Staff
  • Staff Officer (Minesweeping)
  • Staff Officer A/P & Deputy Staff Officer (Minesweeping)
  • Staff Officer (Convoys)
  • Staff Officer (Intelligence)
  • Staff Officer (LD)
  • Staff Officer (Operations)
  • Staff Officer (Plans)
  • Staff Signal Officer
  • Staff Torpedo Officer
  • Maintenance Captain


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External linksEdit