Open main menu

Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic

  (Redirected from South Atlantic Station)

The Commander-in-Chief South Atlantic was an operational commander of the Royal Navy from 1939.

Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic
HMS Bermuda.jpg
HMS Bermuda, flagship of the Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic in the early 1950s
Active1914, 1939–1967
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Navy
Typemilitary formation
Garrison/HQFreetown, Simonstown, and Port Stanley

Immediately before the outbreak of the Second World War, the designation of Commander-in-Chief, Africa was changed to Commander-in-Chief South Atlantic, '..and the Admiral transferred his flag from Simonstown to Freetown, Sierra Leone, and assumed general naval control over British movements in the whole of the South Atlantic Ocean. At the same time the South Atlantic Division of the America and West Indies Squadron, comprising the cruisers Exeter and Ajax, was transferred to the new South Atlantic Station.'[1] It was sometimes referred to as the South Atlantic Station.


The South Atlantic Station existed during and after the Second World War having been redesignated from the Commander-in-Chief, Africa. Its area of responsibility covered the Atlantic Ocean south of a line drawn between the northern French West African (now Mauritanian) border and French Guiana and the Southern Ocean and Indian Ocean east of a line drawn south from the western entrance to the Magellan Strait and west of a line drawn south from the South African/ Mozambican border.[2] The South Atlantic Station had bases at Freetown and Simonstown.[3]

On 3 September 1939, Leo Niehorster's site lists the force as comprising the South American Division under Commodore Henry Harwood comprising HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax, and HMS Cumberland; the 6th Cruiser Squadron, comprising only HMS Neptune, Vice Admiral George Lyon's flagship; the 9th Cruiser Squadron, with HMS Dispatch, HMS Dauntless, Danae and HMS Durban (D99); the seaplane carrier HMS Albatross (1938), en route to Freetown from Lee-on-Solent; the 7th Submarine Flotilla, of two boats on their way from Gibraltar to Freetown; four destroyers, all at Freetown; six miscellaneous craft and two harbour vessels, all at Freetown; and the Gambia and Gold Coast Naval Volunteer Forces.[4]

On 2 October 1939, HMS Achilles, then operating with the liner Orduna north of Callao off the west coast of South America, was instructed that after fuelling from the fleet tanker RFA Orangeleaf, she was to proceed south about to the South Atlantic. "The Achilles was to show herself at Chilean ports as considered desirable and refuel at the Falkland Islands. The passage was to be made with moderate despatch and on arrival the cruiser was to come under the orders of the Commander-in-Chief, Africa."[5] Thus Achilles arrived in the South Atlantic and joined Commodore Harwood's force, later to take part in the Battle of the River Plate against the Graf Spee.

In 1955 the new Simonstown Agreement on naval cooperation between the UK and the Union of South Africa was agreed after much discussion. It was planned to include:

  • the combined use of Simon's Town by the Royal Navy and South African Navy in peace and in war (even if South Africa were neutral in some non-Communist war, a most remote contingency), on the understanding that the base would also be available in war to the allies of the United Kingdom;[6]
  • the gradual assumption of responsibility by the South African Navy for the operation and administration of the base for combined use;
  • the assumption by South Africa of responsibility in war for the operational and administrative control of a local sub-area of a South Atlantic Strategic Zone; and
  • that a Royal Navy officer would continue as Commander-in-Chief South Atlantic in peace, with headquarters and communications at the Cape, and that his designation in war would be Commander of the South Atlantic Strategic Zone.

The Leopard-class frigate Lynx served as Vice Admiral Talbot's flagship in the 1960s. She was the last ship remaining on the station and returned home after April 1967 and the abolishing of the CINCSASA post.[7] It was planned that the Commander-in-Chief was to haul down his flag on 11 April 1967 and to leave Cape Town the following day.[8] The station was abolished/absorbed into the Western Fleet that year, when Western Fleet assumed responsibility for all ships "West of Suez".[9]

After 11 April 1967, a Senior British Naval Officer South Africa with the rank of Commodore remained at Afrikander (at Youngsfield, a suburb just south of Cape Town),[10] who quickly became responsible to Commander-in-Chief Western Fleet. (Home Fleet was succeeded by Western Fleet on 5 June 1967.) By 1971, the post was at times filled by rear-admirals; Rear Admiral Nigel Cecil filled the post from 1971 to 1973.[11] Officers continued to be posted there until February 1976 when the post was disestablished and HMS Afrikander closed.[12] Commodore A F C Wemyss OBE was the last incumbent.[13]


Commanders-in-Chief have included:

Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic and PacificEdit

Commander-in-Chief, South AtlanticEdit

Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic and South AmericaEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Royal New Zealand Navy, Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, Chapter 2: Outbreak of War: Cruise of HMS Achilles, Historical Publications Branch, Wellington, 1956 (hardcopy page 29).
  2. ^ a b "Home Fleet, Mediterranean Fleet, China Station, September 1939".
  3. ^ "Africa Command / South Atlantic Command, 1939-1942". Naval History. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  4. ^ "South Atlantic Command, Royal Navy". Leo Niehorster. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  5. ^ The Royal New Zealand Navy, Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, Chapter 2: Outbreak of War: Cruise of HMS Achilles, Historical Publications Branch, Wellington, 1956.
  6. ^ "ADM 116/6027, Letter 32/54 from the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to the Prime Minister on Simon's Town and Naval Cooperation with the Union of South Africa" (PDF). 1 December 1954.
  7. ^ du Toit in Hore 2012, 204, as well as Cats and Cathedrals website.
  8. ^ "Royal Navy (South Africa) – Hansard".
  9. ^ Royal Navy (Command System) Hansard, 5 June 1967
  10. ^ "FCO 25/656 JS 10/10, "Withdrawal of the British Commander-in-Chief from South Africa."" (PDF). The National Archives. p. 96.
  11. ^ "Rear-Admiral Sir Nigel 'Os' Cecil – obituary". 12 April 2017 – via
  12. ^ du Toit in Hore 2012, 210.
  13. ^ "Bridge Watchkeeping Proficiency Trophy".
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "King's Collections : Archive Catalogues : Military Archives".
  15. ^ S. W Roskill, The War at Sea, Vol.1, p.275
  16. ^ Whitaker's Almanack 1956


  • Rear Admiral Allan du Toit, RAN, 'Simon's Town and the Cape Sea Route,' in Captain Peter Hore, RN (ed), 'Dreadnought to Daring: 100 Years of Comment, Controversy, and Debate in the Naval Review,' Seaforth Publishing, Barnsley, 2012.