- Home Fleet
Infobox Military Unit
caption=Home Fleet c1909. The warships on the right are
dreadnoughts of the "Bellerophon" and "St Vincent" classes
John Tovey, Bruce Fraser
anniversaries=The Home Fleet is the traditional name of the fleet of the
Royal Navythat protects the United Kingdom's territorial waters.
Pre-First World War
The Channel Fleet is the historical name used for the group of
Royal Navy warships that defended the waters of the English Channelduring the 1600 - 1900 period.
First World War
:"see Grand Fleet for details"During the First World War, the Home Fleet was combined with the
British Atlantic Fleetto form the Grand Fleet.
The greatest engagement by the Grand Fleet during this period was the
battle of Jutland, where it met the full Imperial German High Seas Fleeton the latter's only sortie into the North Sea. Although the British losses were high, the capital ships of the High Seas Fleet never attempted to contest control of the North Sea again.
The name "Home Fleet" was resurrected in 1932, as the new name for the Atlantic Fleet, following the
Invergordon Mutiny. The Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet in 1933 was Admiral Sir John Kelly, GCVO, KCB. The Home Fleet comprised the flagship HMS "Nelson" leading a force of one battle squadron (five more battleships), one battlecruiser squadron (two ships), one cruiser squadron (three), three destroyer flotillas (27), a submarine flotilla (six), two aircraft carriers and associated vessels.
econd World War
The Home Fleet was the Royal Navy's main battle force in
European waters during the Second World War. It comprised the main battle squadrons and the fleet carriers. Its chief responsibility was to keep the German Navy from breaking out of the North Sea. For this purpose the First World War base at Scapa Flowwas reactivated as it was well-placed for interceptions of ships trying to run the blockade.
The two most surprising losses of the Home Fleet during the early part of the war were the sinking of the old battleship "Royal Oak" while supposedly safe in
Scapa Flowand the loss of the pride of the Navy, the battlecruiser"Hood", to the German battleship "Bismarck". After the former loss the Home Fleet temporarily left Scapa Flowand was based at The Tail of the Bankin the upper Firth of Clyde.
The operational areas of the Home Fleet were not circumscribed, and units were detached to other zones quite freely. However the southern parts of the North Sea and the
English Channelwere made separate commands for light forces, and the growing intensity of the Battle of the Atlantic led to the creation of Western Approaches Command. Only with the final disposal of the "Tirpitz" in 1944 did the Home Fleet assume a lower priority, and most of its heavy units were withdrawn to be sent to the Far East.
Its Commanders-in-Chief during the Second World War were:
*Sir Charles Forbes (1939–1940),
*Sir Bruce Fraser (1942–44)
*and Sir Henry Moore (1944–45).
Post-Second World War
After the Second World War, the Home Fleet took back all of its peacetime responsibilities for the Royal Navy forces in home waters and also in the North and South Atlantic. With the
Cold War, greater emphasis was placed on protecting the North Atlanticfrom the Soviet Unionin concert with other countries as part of NATO.
The Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, gained an additional NATO responsibility as Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Atlantic, as part of SACLANT, when the NATO military command structure was established in the early 1950s. During Exercise Mainbrace in 1952, NATO naval forces came together for the first time to practice the defence of northern Europe; Denmark and Norway. The resulting
McMahon Actdifficulties caused by potential British control of the United States Navy's attack carriers armed with nuclear weapons led to the creation of a separate Striking Fleet Atlantic, directly responsible to the commander of the U.S. Navy's Atlantic Fleet, in his NATO position as SACLANT, by the end of 1952. [(Sean Maloney thesis, Securing Command of the Sea, University of New Brunswick, 1992, p.234-247)]
The Home Fleet carried on serving the navy until 1967 when the Mediterranean Fleet was disbanded and its assets transferred to the fleet. With its area of responsibility greatly increased and no longer being just responsible for the defence of home waters of the UK, the name of the fleet was changed to the Western Fleet, consigning the famous, historic name of the Home Fleet to history.
* [http://www.geocities.com/scs028a/HomeFleet.html Home Fleet listing for 1933]
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