Britannia Royal Naval College:

Britannia Royal Naval College, commonly known simply as Dartmouth, is the initial officer training establishment of the Royal Navy, and is set on a hill overlooking the town of Dartmouth in Devon.

The training of naval officers there dates back to 1863 when the wooden hulk HMS Britannia was moved from Portland and moored in the River Dart. The following year she was supplemented by HMS Hindustan, another retired wooden ship of the line. Before this, naval officers had been trained at the the Royal Naval College at Portsmouth, from 1733 to 1837.

The foundation stone for the new building was laid down by King Edward VII in March 1902, with the first term of cadets entering in September 1905.

During World War Two, German bombers hit the college, with two bombs penetrating the College's main block, causing damage to the quarterdeck and surrounding rooms. After that, students and staff moved activities to Eaton Hall in Cheshire until the autumn of 1946.

The college was then, and continues to be, one of the most prestigious officer training establishments in the world.



Dolphin, HMS:

“HMS Dolphin” – Fort Blockhouse, today

The seventeenth Royal Navy 'ship' to be named HMS Dolphin was the RN shore establishment sited at Fort Blockhouse in Gosport, where it was to become the home of the Royal Navy Submarine Service from 1904 until it closed in 1998.

The origins of Fort Blockhouse itself date back to the Hundred Years’ War, when, following the burning of Portsmouth money was set aside in 1417 to provide protection for Portsmouth Harbour. The first fortification was built on the Gosport side of the harbour in 1431 after authorisation by Henry VI.



Jutland, Battle of

On the afternoon of May 31, 1916, off the Danish coast, the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet, and the High Seas Fleet of the Imperial German Navy met in what would be the only major surface battle of the First World War I.

Over 250 ships and 100,000 sailors were involved. The outcome was tactically indecisive, but strategically it would put an end to Germany’s naval ambitions.

Admiral Sir John Jellicoe’s Grand Fleet outnumbered the German High Sea Fleet, with 37 capital ships, to Admiral Rheinhard Scheer’s 27. The Royal Navy also had the advantage in cruisers and destroyers – 113 to 72, and it had broken German signal codes.

Alerted to the fact that the German’s had sortied, Jellicoe had steamed from his base at Scapa Flow in Orkney, to intercept.

Phase one of the battle began at 4:48 p.m. when the battlecruiser squadrons of Vice Admirals Sir David Beatty and Franz Hipper encountered each other in murky weather in the Skagerrak. A running gunnery duel at fifteen thousand yards, commenced, with Beatty’s ships scoring a number of hits on the German battlecruisers, severely damaging several. The Germans however, managed to sink three of Beatty’s battlecruisers – prompting Beatty’s immortal quote, “… t]here seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today,”

Beatty then turned north to lure the Germans onto the Grand Fleet, and so began the second phase of the action.

At 7:15 p.m., Jellicoe executed a 90-degree turn to port, presenting a fearsome battle line of capital ships and effectively crossing the High Seas Fleet’s ‘T’.

Scheer’s ships took seventy direct hits, while scoring but twenty against Jellicoe, but Scheer managed to escape by executing three brilliant 180-degree battle turns away. By darkness, at 10:00 pm, it was over, with the Germans racing away through the night. When the sun rose on June 1st, the Grand Fleet was ready to re-commence the action, with at least 24 of its battleships still unscathed. But the High Seas Fleet was already safe behind the protection of their minefields in their base at Wilhelmshaven.

The British had lost 6,784 men and 111,000 tons worth of ships. German losses were 3,058 men and 62,000 tons, but the Germans never again sought a major surface engagement with the Royal Navy. As one American newspaper reported at the time, ‘the prisoner has assaulted his jailer, but he’s still in jail’.


King Alfred, HMS:

HMS King Alfred was a shore establishment, based on a new leisure centre just finishing construction at Hove in Sussex, which had been requisitioned by The Admiralty just nine days after the outbreak of war in 1939.

Under the command of Captain John Pelly, it began receiving the first trainees that same day and by May 1940 1,700 men had passed through the base.

The new establishment trained HO (Hostilities Only) officers commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve on temporary appointments; they were to be released from service on the cessation of hostilities. By the end of the war RNVR officers accounted for over 80% of the officers on active service with the Royal Navy.

The site had been built with a 480-car underground car park which was quickly converted into several different 'parts of the ship', including the officers' mess, trainee accommodation and a ship handling simulator. The swimming pool became the main instructional hall; this pool had been designed with a removable cover, which when put in place over the pool created just over 10,000 square feet of floor space. The second largest room with 4,000 square feet of floor space was a restaurant and dance hall on the west side of the building; this became the Wardroom. Small rooms facing the Kingsway, which were intended to house individual baths, were converted into offices; classroom space was provided by the dressing rooms adjoining the pools. A smaller pool was converted into what would become St Nicholas' Naval chapel.

The first trainees reported in late September 1939. Many of the 2,000 strong RNV(S)R, formed in 1936 for gentlemen who are interested in yachting or similar pursuits and aged between 18 and 39. They were mature, experienced civilian sailors who were fast tracked through King Alfred with an average stay of 10 days before being commissioned.

For the rest, the standard training period was 3 months. The first four classes of 'Officers under training' began instruction in early October, each class comprising of thirty men; two classes of midshipmen – those aged under nineteen-and-a-half – and  two of sub-lieutenants, made up of those older. Upon receiving their commissions the new officers received their badges of rank, midshipmen wore a maroon lapel flash while sub-lieutenants wore a single 'wavy' gold stripe on their jacket cuffs; this led to the RNVR’s nickname 'the wavy navy'.


The Lazaretto

The Lazaretto is a former quarantine facility and hospital on Manoel IslandMalta. It is a complex of various buildings dating back to between the 17th and 19th centuries. Most of the structures still exist, although they are in a bad state due to damage sustained during the Second World War when it served as a base facility for the Royal Navy’s Tenth Submarine Flotilla.

In the previous century it had served as a military hospital for British, French and Italian soldiers during the Crimean War. Several notable figures stayed in the Lazaretto throughout its history, including Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott, and Benjamin Disraeli.



On 3 July 1940. The Royal Navy task force, Force H, attacked a French fleet at anchor in the Algerian ports of Mers-el-Kebir. Some 1,297 French sailors died, and a battleship and five other warships were severely damaged. France and the United Kingdom were not at war but France had just signed an armistice with Germany, and the British government feared the French fleet would fall into Nazi hands

Although French Admiral François Darlan had assured Winston Churchill that the fleet would remain neutral, the British did not believe Darlan's promises.

The tragic events that followed would poison relations between the British and French during the war, and has still not quite been forgiven. A neutral account of what unfolded, written by a former US Navy destroyer sailor, Irwin J. Kappes, appeared on the website in 2003:


Vice Admiral Sir James Somerville, Commanding
1 Aircraft Carrier (HMS ARK ROYAL)
10 Destroyers

Admiral Marcel-Bruno Gensoul, Commanding
2 Battleships (PROVENCE, BRETAGNE)
1 Seaplane Carrier
13 Destroyers
4 Submarines



Narvik, Battle of:

Early morning on 9 April 1940, a total of 58 German ships and 8,850 men attacked Norway at six key locations. One of these was the port of Narvik.

Ten German destroyers were involved in the operations around Narvik, and at 04:15 one of the squadrons came across the Norwegian ironclad PS Eidsvold at the entrance to Narvik harbour. An officer from the destroyer Wilhelm Heidkamp was sent by boat to persuade the Norwegian Captain to surrender in peace, but the attempt was refused. Wilhelm Heidkamp opened fire as soon as the German officer had left the Norwegian ship, and PS Eidsvold sunk after a few seconds, killing 175 men.

Eidsvold's sister ship, the ironclad PS Norge, met the same fate just a few minutes later when she was torpedoed by the German destroyer Bernd von Arnim, killing 101 men. The Germans went ashore without any resistance from the Norwegian garrison, and quickly occupied several strategic positions in Narvik.

When the news of the German landings in Norway reached London and Paris on the morning of 9 April, the War Cabinet in London decided to mount an immediate operation to recapture Narvik.

Early morning on 10 April the British 2nd Destroyer Flotilla commanded by Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee entered the Ofotfjord. Thanks to bad weather and heavy snowfall, the five destroyers led by HMS Hardy managed to reach Narvik unnoticed. The Germans were not expecting the sudden attack, and two of the five German destroyers anchored in the harbour were torpedoed and sunk, whilst the three others were heavily damaged. The British also sunk six merchant ships in the crowded harbour.

On the way back toward the mouth of the fjord, the British fleet met the five German destroyers that had been placed in the neighbouring fjords during the night. Two of the British destroyers were lost and Warburton-Lee died during the battle. He received the Victoria Cross posthumously.The five German destroyers however, were sunk and one was damaged.

The Second Battle of Narvik started noon on the 13 April, preceded by an air strike from the carrier HMS Furious the day before. The British fleet consisted of nine destroyers and the battleship HMS Warspite, under command of Vice Admiral Whitworth.

The German destroyer Erich Koellner was torpedoed by HMS Bedouin and HMS Eskimo while trying to hide in Djupvik. In Narvik harbour another German destroyer was torpedoed whilst a further destroyer was scuttled by the crew after heavy attacks.

HMS Eskimo and three other destroyers followed the remaining German destroyers into the Rombaksfjord. Empty of ammunition, the Germans scuttled all the ships and the crew escaped ashore to later join the German forces in Narvik.

Admiral Whitworth and the British Navy now had full control over the Norwegian fjords, but several German U Boats were expected to be in the area, and about a dozen German airplanes had been spotted. They decided to withdraw from Narvik the next day. In all 10 German destroyers and a U Boat had been sunk, for the loss of two Royal Navy ships.



Port Boris – Basis Nord

Port Boris was located at Zapadnaya Litsa on the westernmost point of the Kola Peninsula in Russia's far north, about 120 kilometers from Murmansk and 45 kilometers from the Norwegian border. Today it is the site of the Russian Navy’s Zapadnaya Litsa Naval Base. A severe climate with changeable temperatures and strong winds, and a long polar night in winter (about 43 days), make the Zapadnaya Litsa region an inhospitable place.

There was no such German base on Soviet soil called “Port Boris” during World War Two – but there was a base, and the Soviet’s ambivalence at playing host to the Nazis was real too. A detailed account of it appears in Laurence Rees’, World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis and the West:

"...this was, for the Soviets, one of the greatest secrets of the war... during the September 1939 meeting with Stalin and Molotov, the German Foreign Minister had asked if the Soviets could provide a base in Murmansk for the repair of U-boats and, in principle, this had been agreed. But from that moment the Soviet authorities were worried that the British - or anyone else - might discover that they were providing military assistance to the Nazis. ...the Soviets offered the nearby bay of Sapadnaja Liza [ Zapadnaya Litsa ] instead... it was henceforth only to be known as 'Basis Nord' (Base North).

“The German supply ship Sachsenwald entered Base North on 1 December 1939, the first of several vessels to be stationed there. ... In mid-April 1940 the Germans were asked to move their base further along the coast to the even more remote Jokanga Bay [mouth of Iokanga River ]. Molotov told the German naval attaché in Moscow that the move was necessary because of Soviet fears that Allied aircraft... might identify the German ships. The story of Base Nord is important because its existence shows the schizophrenic attitude of the Soviets towards assisting the Germans. On the one hand, the Soviets undoubtedly provided the Germans with a military supply base; but on the other, ideologically the Nazis remained a possible enemy. So in effect they were allies, and yet they were potential belligerents.”



Rosyth, HM Dockyard:


Construction of the Rosyth naval dockyard commenced in 1909 following a decision by the British government that the Royal Navy should begin strengthening its presence along the eastern seaboard of Great Britain due to a growing naval arms race with Germany.

In 1903 approval had been given for a site covering 1,184 acres and a main basin of 52.5 acres – large enough for 11 battleships or 22 if doubled up.

After the First World War, trade at the dockyard dwindled and it closed in 1925 and was placed under a care and maintenance order the following year. It  re-opened in 1938, as war was again imminent, and the reactivation of the base and the construction of several new facilities, saw the establishment of HMS Caledonia, a shore based Royal Navy training establishment for artificer apprentice training.



Scapa Flow:


Scapa Flow, from Old Norse Skalpaflói, meaning "bay of the long isthmus’’, is a body of water in the Orkney Islands, covering about 120 square miles.

Viking ships anchored in Scapa Flow more than a thousand years ago, but it is best known as the site of the Royal Navy's chief naval base during the First and Second World Wars.

Historically, Britain’s naval bases were located near the English Channel to better face England's old enemies, France, Spain, and the Netherlands. But in 1904, in response to the build-up of the Germany's naval power it was decided that a northern base was needed to dominate the entrances to the North Sea.

First Rosyth was considered for the base, then Invergordon on Cromarty Firth, but Scapa Flow had been used many times for exercises in the years before the War, and when war broke out, it was chosen for the main base of the Grand Fleet.

Primarily because of its great distance from German airfields, Scapa Flow was again selected as the main British naval base during the Second World War

But its strong defences had fallen into disrepair however; defence against air attack was inadequate and blockships sunk to stop U-boats from penetrating had largely collapsed. While there were anti-submarine nets in place over the three main entrances, they were inadequate.

There was also a severe lack of the patrolling destroyers or any other anti-submarine craft. The full consequences of neglect came home to roost on 14 October 1939, when, under the command of Günther Prien, U-47 penetrated Scapa Flow and sank the R Class battleship HMS Royal Oak. Of the 1,400-man crew, 833 were lost.

New blockships were sunk, booms and mines were placed over the main entrances, coast defence and anti-aircraft batteries were installed at crucial points, and Winston Churchill ordered the construction of a series of causeways to block the eastern approaches to Scapa Flow, known as Churchill Barriers which would improve road access around the Flow, but block it to any shipping.

Some of the most significant naval actions of the Second World War began in Scapa Flow. The hunt for the German battleship Bismarck began from here in 1941, as did aircraft carrier raids against its sister ship the Tirpitz. It was also the base for the Arctic Convoy escort ships that sailed to northern Russia with vital war supplies for the Soviet Union.