Wrecks over 100 years old and archaeological objects found underwater are protected under the National Monuments (Amendment) Acts 1987 and 1994.  Significant wrecks less that 100 years old can be designated by Underwater Heritage Order (UHO) on account of their historical, archaeological or artistic importance as is the case with the wreck of the RMS Lusitania lost off the Old Head of Kinsale in 1915.  UHOs can also be used to designate areas of seabed or land covered by water to more clearly define and protect wreck sites and archaeological objects .  /  /  site first uploaded 24th September 2002
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Shipwreck List

Harbour History

Irish Naval Service

Royal Navy in Cork

US Navy in Cork

USN Air Service in Cork

The Training Ships

The Prison Hulk

Cruise Ships and Liners

Martello Towers

The Hospital Ships

Harbour Views

The Spit Bank Lighthouse

Lough Mahon Lighthouse



The Royal Navy in Cork

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.

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.     In 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 posting to Cork was seen as a step backwards,  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.    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 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, and 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 of call 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 posting to Cork was seen as a step backwards, in terms of a career move.

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, Q-ships,  rescue tugs, naval trawlers, requisitioned trawlers , drifters, and motor launches.   Cork Harbour 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  converted trawler to a cuiser.. With the end of Word War One, the build-up of naval forces had dwindled by December 1918.

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.

Cork Harbour, circa 1830

Admiralty House, in 1903

HMS victorious leaving Cork harbour

HMS Howe Guard Ship and Flagship, Queenstown

Haulbowline Island, 1903


WW1 Convoys from Queenstown

List of Admirals Commanding in Ireland

The Queenstown Q-Ships

WW1 British Submarines based in Ireland

Royal Navy Ships in Cork

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