HMNB Portsmouth

HMNB Portsmouth

Her Majesty's Naval Base (HMNB) Portsmouth (HMS "Nelson"), is one of three operating bases for the Royal Navy (the others being HMNB Clyde and HMNB Devonport). Portsmouth naval base is located on the eastern shore of Portsmouth Harbour and is part of the city of Portsmouth and is situated north of the Solent and Isle of Wight. The base is home to the oldest Drydocks, as well as being a base port for 66% of the Royal Navy's surface fleet. The base is home to a number of commercial shore activities including shipbuilding, ship repair, naval logistics, accommodation and messing (delivered by BVT Surface Fleet); and personnel support functions (eg medical and dental; education; pastoral and welfare) provided by the Ministry of Defence. The base is the oldest in the Royal Navy, has been a vital part of its history and the defence of the British Isles for centuries and was at its height the largest industrial site in the world [ ABROAD AGAIN IN BRITAIN, BBC ] . The Naval Base is also home to "Portsmouth Historic Dockyard" which allows members of the public to visit important maritime attractions such as the Mary Rose, HMS Victory and HMS Warrior.

In 2006 the Ministry of Defence announced that a review would be undertaken to examine the future of the three Naval Bases. The Naval Base Review was seeking to examine the long term future needs of the Royal Navy, with the most likely outcome being either retaining the three current Naval Bases, but with reduced capacity in each, or closing one of the two on the south coast of England. The results of the review, released in 2007, have stipulated no base closures.

The base commander is Commodore David Steel RN

The harbour is under the control of the Queen's Harbour Master, currently Commander S O Hopper RN, who is the regulatory authority of the Dockyard Port of Portsmouth, an area of approximately 50 square miles that encompasses Portsmouth Harbour and the Eastern Solent. Shipping movements are handled by a team of admiralty pilots headed by the Chief Admiralty Pilot, Anthony Bannister.

Portsmouth naval base is home to 2/3 of the Royal Navy's surface ships, including the two aircraft carriers (HMS "Illustrious" and HMS "Ark Royal"). The naval base employs 17,200 people.

Functioning base

It plays host to a large part of the surface fleet of the Royal Navy including "Invincible"-class aircraft carriers, Type 42 destroyers, the majority of the Type 23 frigates, fishery protection vessels and a squadron of mine counter-measures vessels (minesweepers and mine hunters). Most of the vessels based in Portsmouth form part of the Portsmouth Flotilla, under the Fleet First reorganisation which saw the three (Portsmouth,Devonport and Faslane) port flotillas replace the frigate and destroyer squadrons and other groupings.

In total some 17,300 people work in the base. Until recently it was the base of the Second Sea Lord who flies his flag in HMS "Victory", which is the oldest commissioned warship in the world (although it was originally built at Chatham Dockyard). The Second Sea Lord is now at William Leach Building on Whale Island, which is the headquarters of the Commander in Chief Fleet..

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

In addition to "Victory", a portion of the base serves as a maritime museum (now called Portsmouth Historic Dockyard) and plays host to:
* the raised wreck of the Tudor carrack "Mary Rose"
* HMS "Warrior"
* HMS "M33", a WWI monitor
* the Royal Naval Museum
* Action Stations - featuring "InterAction"
* Portsmouth Harbour Tours
* The Trafalgar Sail - foretop sail of "Victory" from the Battle of Trafalgar 1805

Across the harbour in Gosport are:
* Explosion! Museum of Naval Firepower, at Priddy's Hard and
* The Royal Navy Submarine Museum at Haslar.


.Along with Chatham, Woolwich, Plymouth and Deptford, it has been one of the main dockyards for the Royal Navy throughout its history. The Portsmouth Royal Dockyard Historical Trust was established in 1994 to foster and promote the history and industrial archaelogy of this great organisation and a more detailed history may be found at: [ Portsmouth Royal Dockyard Historical Trust] .

The Tudors

The wreck of the Mary Rose is on display in a purpose built museum. The oldest Drydocks in the world were built by Henry VII in 1495. Ships from Portsmouth were a key part of the fleet that drove off the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Napoleonic Wars

During this period, this (like the other dockyards underwent reforms proposed by Sir Samuel Bentham, Inspector-General of Naval Works. Among his innovations were Portsmouth Block Mills, an early example of truly industrial scale production.

From here Nelson, embarking on HMS "Victory", left Britain for the final time before his death at the Battle of Trafalgar.


HMS "Warrior" The first ocean going Ironclad is moored in the dockyard.

20th Century

The first modern warship HMS Dreadnought was built in 1906

First World War

HMS "M33", a WWI monitor

Second World War

The destroyer flotillas (the capital ships having been evacuated to Scapa Flow) were essential to the defence of the English Channel particularly during Operation Dynamo and against any potential German Invasion and the base itself served a major refit and repair role. The German military realised this importance and the city and base in particularly was heavily bombed as a result.

Portsmouth and the Naval Base itself were the headquarters and main departure point for the military and naval units destined for Sword Beach on the Normandy coast as a part of Operation Overlord and the D-Day Landings on June 6 1944. Troops destined for each of the landing beaches left from Portsmouth aboard vessels such as the armed merchant cruisers HMCS Prince Henry and HMCS Prince David, escorted by the destroyers HMCS Algonquin and HMCS Sioux. The majority of the naval support for the operation left from Portsmouth, including the Mulberry Harbours.

Post Second World War

=Falklands Task Force=Main|Falklands WarIn 1982 Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. In response a task force of British military and merchant ships was dispatched from Portsmouth Naval Base (and other naval bases) to the islands in the South Atlantic to reclaim them for the United Kingdom.

The task force consisted of the following ships:
* Two Aircraft Carriers
* Two Landing Ship Docks
* Eight Destroyers
* Fifteen Frigates
* Three Patrol Ships
* Five Submarines
* Three Survey Vessels
* Five Minesweepers
* Ten Fleet Tankers
* Six Logistic Landing Ships
* Five Supply Ships
* One Helicopter Supply ship
* Eighteen Merchant ships including troop/cruise ships such as RMS Queen Elizabeth 2

Following some losses, the majority of these ships returned to Portsmouth later that year.

Trafalgar 200

In the summer of 2005 Portsmouth Naval Base and the Solent played host to two special events organised as part of the Trafalgar 200 commemorations recognising the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. These were the International Fleet Review and the International Festival of the Sea.

Naval Establishments in the Portsmouth area

*HMS Nelson - HM Naval Base Portsmouth, encompassing both the dockyard and the Naval Personnel Centre on Queen Street.
*HMS Excellent - Whale Island, Portsmouth. Including the HQ of Commander in Chief Fleet (CinC FLEET); the Second Sea Lord (2SL); Naval Training facilities operated by FLAGSHIP Ltd)
*HMS Temeraire - Portsmouth. Training of Naval Physical Training Instructors and sports grounds and facilities for Portsmouth based personnel
*HMS Collingwood - Fareham. Naval training provided mainly under contract to FLAGSHIP Ltd
*HMS Sultan - Gosport. Naval (and tri-service) training, home of centre of excellence for mechanical and electrical engineering


*HMS Dryad
*HMS Dolphin diesel electric submarine base
*HMS Vernon
*HMS Daedalus Fleet Air Arm base
*Haslar Royal Military Hospital
*RMB Eastney
*Forton Barracks


Further reading

* Stephen Courtney, Brian Patterson - "Home of the Fleet: A Century of Portsmouth Royal Dockyard in Photographs" (Sutton Publishing, 2005) ISBN 0-7509-2285-0

External links

* [ HMNB Portsmouth web page]
* [ Portsmouth Royal Dockyard Historical Trust website]
* [ Portsmouth Historic Dockyard website]
* [ Portsmouth D-Day Museum]
* [ Queen's Harbour Master, Portsmouth]

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