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Sealife of Cork Harbour

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The Royal Navy in Cork, Ireland


HMS Imperieuse, leaving Cork Harbour

There is documentary evidence of British naval activity in Cork from the 15th Century. Under a charter of Edward IV, the Lord Mayor of Cork was created Admiral of the Port, though this was largely a ceremonial office.

Kinsale to the west of Cork Harbour, was considered the chief naval port of Ireland until the late 18th Century. In 1805 the Cove of Cork was made station of a Port Admiral, under Rear Admiral Drury. From then onwards, Cork Harbour eclipsed Kinsale. The size of Cork Harbour, meant that it had far greater capacity for mooring merchant ships and naval vessels.


View of Naval Base, circa 1840


Admiralty House, Queenstown, 1890

The Admiral Commanding in Ireland was based in Cove from 1797 to 1922.  There was no Admiral in port between June 1831 and June 1843. From 1919 to 1922 the command name was changed to Commander in Chief, Western Approaches. For a complete list of Commanders click HERE.

The Royal Navy still had ships stationed in Cork, as part of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, until the handing over of the harbour forts to the Irish Government in 1938.

Even after WW2, there were four British minesweepers stationed here in 1946 and 1947 dealing with post-war mine clearance.

HMS Victorious, (Channel Fleet), leaving Cork Harbour


I
n the 18th and 19th Centuries, there was only a limited naval presence, including a port guard ship/flagship, a training ship with a roving training fleet, as well as smaller craft including coastguard vessels.  


There was also the static static hulk of the prison ship HMS Surprise, for both political prisoners and others.


From the later 19th Century ,there would have been a significant turnover of ships using Haulbowline Dockyard for repairs and refitting. This Royal Dockyard, however did not fulfil it’s potential until the  outbreak of World War One



There would also have been occasional visits from the Atlantic and Channel Fleets on manoeuvres. For young officers however, a postiHMS Victorious leaving Cork Harbour (circa 1910)ng to Cork was seen as a step back, in terms of a career move.

There were increases to the amount of naval ships stationed in Cork periodically. These were usually during times of crisis, or perceived threat.
Examples included-

The various wars with France, Spain and Holland.
The American War of Independence,
The American Civil War,
A squadron of provisioning ships during the Irish Famine.
The Fenian Uprising,
World War One,
The Irish War of Independence
The Irish Civil War.

Cork was a principal provisioning port of the Royal Navy.

HMS Howe, Flagship, 1897 to 1901

HMS Black Prince, with yards manned

Cork was valuable as a training base,In the early part of the 19th Century, the training brig HMS Wizard was based here.


From  1897  the iron clad HMS Black Prince was used as a floating training establishment, providing boys for the British Navy. This ship was permanently moored in Monkstown Bay, and had it's own pier built from the Ringaskiddy shore.


There was also a training/sports ground constructed in Ringaskiddy for the boys of the Black Prince. The Black Prince/Emerald, was used in tandem with a training squadron, usually a collection of elderly/obsolete ships.


 The Black Prince was renamed HMS Emerald in March 1904. By 1910 demand for places had dropped, so the Emerald was relocated to Plymouth.  The training squadrons continued to use Cork as a regular port, until the outbreak of World War One.



World War One brought an unprecedented increase in  naval forces in the harbour, especially from 1915 onwards. Based here was the flagship HMS Adventure, minesweepers,submarines  rescue tugs, naval trawlers, requisitioned trawlers , drifters, and motor launches.

It provided a harbour of refuge for many other types of warship and merchant ships.

From May 1917 there were also destroyers, subchasers and support ships of the US Navy based in the harbour.

From August 1917 to February 1918 Cork  was an important assembly point for convoys. Large amounts of merchant ships would gather in the harbour, awaiting their escorts, which could be anything from a cruiser to an armed converted liner.


White Star Liner Celtic, as a war time transport
photographed in Cork Harbour

Royal Sovereign Class Battleship,
probably HMS Empress of India

White Star Liner Celtic as a wartime transport in Cork Harbour

After Ireland’s independence, the Royal Navy presence generally consisted of two destroyers, with one usually anchored in the Cobh roads, opposite Haulbowline, and another  either on roving patrol, or moored at Berehaven. These 'guard ships' were withdrawn in 1938.


Evidence of the Royal Navy is still visible throughout the harbour, including the various structures on Haulbowline, the armoury on Rocky Island, and Admiralty House in Cobh.


A list of Royal Navy vessels either based or stationed in Cork has been populated largely from primary sources and is a 'work in progress', this list is available HERE. See Separate Lists For Q-SHIPS of WW1 and SUBMARINES of WW1

Royal Navy Ships stationed in Cork, Ireland.

WW1 Convoys from Queenstown

List of Admirals Commanding in Ireland

The Queenstown Q-Ships

WW1 Submarines stationed in Ireland


HMS Triumph, Flagship Queenstown, (1890 to 1892)


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Site first uploaded 24th September 2002