Admiralty Compass Observatory
Compass Department
Preceded by None
Country United Kingdom
Founded 1842
Abolished 1971
Headquarters Ditton park, England
Head Superintendent of Compasses
Deputy Head Assistant Superintendent of Compasses
Role Marine Secretariat
Affiliations Royal Navy
Parent Department Navy Department
Succeeded Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment

The Admiralty Compass Observatory, also known as the Compass Department and originally known as the Compass Branch, was established in 1842 to provide the Royal Navy with services for the design, development, inspection, testing and repair of compasses and certain other instruments. It subsequently undertook requirements for the other services as appropriate. It existed until 1971 when it was absorbed within the Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment.

1) History

In 1795 The post of Hydrographer of the Navy was created. He became responsible to the First Sea Lord for producing charts, 'Sailing Directions', 'Notices to Mariners', tide tables and light lists and for supplying chronometers, compasses and other scientific instruments to HM ships. He was also responsible for naval meteorology and for the Admiralty's links with the Meteorological Office. In 1820 the Hydrographer was been responsible for the Observatory, being advised by a Board of Visitors. In 1842 a Compass Branch as part of the Hydrographic Department was established. In 1911 The Compass Branch was affiliated to the Controller of the Navy's Department. Its work in connection with terrestrial magnetism was transferred to the Royal Observatory Greenwich when it was renamed the Compass Observatory. In 1917, it moved to Ditton Park and used the house and its immediate grounds when the compass branch was elevated to a department. The Radio Research Station of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research was co-located at Ditton Park, and provided basic information in this field. In 1971, it was merged as part of the Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment (ASWE) within the navigation division. The site was later renamed as Admiralty Research Establishment (ARE) Slough, and in its final years its became part of the Defence Research Agency (DRA) from 1991, and the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) from 1995. After its release from Defence use, the whole site was bought by Computer Associates (now CA Technologies) in 1997.

2) Head of Branch/Department

2.1) Superintendent of Compasses

Incomplete list of post holders included:

  1. 1842-1843 Commander Edward John Johnson
  2. 1844-1847 Captain Edward John Johnson
  3. 1855-1860 Captain Sir Frederick John Owen Evans
  4. 1860 Captain Edward John Johnson
  5. 1868-1885 Captain Ettrick William Creak
  6. 1914-1919 Captain Frank O. Creagh-Osborne (rtd).

2.1.1) Assistant Superintendent of Compasses

  1. 1868-1867, Lieutenant E. W. Creak
  2. 1909-1913 Commander Frank Osborne Creagh-Osborne
  3. 1913-1915 Commander Stanley B. Norfolk

3) Sources

  3. Compass Observatory, 1842-1971
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