Department of Admiralty
Department of Admiralty
Type Government Office and Military Command
Preceded by Admiralty and Marine Affairs Office
Country United Kingdom
Founded 1707
Abolished 1964
Headquarters Whitehall, London, England
Head First Lord of the Admiralty
Deputy Head First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff
Role Naval Administration & Operations
Affiliations English Navy
Parent command H.M. Government
Succeeded by navy-department-mod

The Department of Admiralty or simply the Admiralty, and previously known as the Admiralty and Marine Affairs Office, was the government department chiefly responsible for the command of the HM Naval Service first in the Kingdom of Great Britain, the former British Empire and finally the United Kingdom . The Department was controlled by a government minister and member of the cabinet called the First Lord of the Admiralty who was additionally the President of the Board of Admiralty the commission that administered this department of state. In 1964, the Department of Admiralty was merged within a larger Ministry of Defence where it became the Navy Department. The Navy Department was administered by a new Admiralty Board, which is a committee of the joint-services Defence Council of the United Kingdom.

1) History

The office of High Admiral of England (later Lord Admiral, and later Lord High Admiral) was created in 1385 ; there had previously been five different Regional Admiralty's established and then de-established between 1294 and 1413. In 1414 the last of this admiralty's was unified into a single Admiralty Office it remained responsible for the direction of naval affairs of the Kingdom of England until 1546 when it was renamed the Admiralty and Marine Affairs Office. To provided logistical support to this office King Henry VIII established the Council of the Marine in 1545 to oversee administrative affairs of the naval service. In 1576 the Council of the Marine was renamed the Navy Office that was administered by the Navy Board. Operational control of the Royal Navy remained the responsibility of the Lord High Admiral, who was one of the nine Great Officers of State until 1628 when King Charles I put the office of Lord High Admiral into commission, and control of the Royal Navy passed to a committee in the form of the Board of Admiralty. The office of Lord High Admiral passed a number of times in and out of commission until 1709, after which the office was almost permanently in commission (the last Lord High Admiral being the future King William IV in the early 19th century). In 1832 the Navy Office and subsequently Navy Board was abolished as a separate entity and its duties and responsibilities were given over to the Department of Admiralty. In In 1964, the Admiralty—along with the War Office and the Air Ministry—were abolished as separate departments of state, were amalgamated into a single but much larger Ministry of Defence. The Admiralty continued within the (MOD) as the Navy Department it is currently administered by the Admiralty Board which is supported by a sub-committee the Navy Board responsible for day-to-day management of the Royal Navy

2) Function and organization

The Admiralty is the department of State responsible for the Naval Service, which includes everyone and everything controlled by the Admiralty, paid for out of the Navy’s share of Government expenditure and concerned with the planning, making and running of the Royal Navy. It formulates the advice given to Her Majesty’s Government on all defence matters which involve the employment of maritime forces, and takes executive action when necessary in defence matters, consulting the Air Ministry on any question which involves the employment of R.A.F. aircraft. In wartime, the Admiralty is also responsible for the safety of all British merchant ships at sea, and takes over control of their movements between their ports of departure and their destinations. It also co-ordinates and supervises the arrange- ments for merchant ship-building and repair. Planning for these wartime responsibilities is carried on in peace.

3) The Structure of the Department of Admiralty

In the 20th century the structure of the Admiralty was broadly divided broadly into four parts :—

  1. The Board of Admiralty, which directs and controls the whole machine.
  2. The Admiralty Naval Staff, which advises and assists the Board in strategic and operational planning, in disposing the Fleet and in formulating broad policy on tactical doctrine and requirements of men and material. Sections of the Naval Staff are known as Divisions.
  3. The Admiralty Departments, which provides the men, ships, aircraft and supplies to carry out the approved policy. The departments are superintended by the the various offices of the Sea Lords.
  4. The Department of the Permanent Secretary which is the general co-ordinating agency, regulates finance, provides advice on policy, conducts all correspondence on behalf of the Board and maintains records. Its primary component to deliver this is the Admiralty Secretariat, sections of the Secretariat (other than those which provide Common Services) are known as Branches.

2.1) Board of Admiralty

When the office of Lord High Admiral was in commission, as it was for most of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, until it reverted to the Crown, it was exercised by a Board of Admiralty, officially known as the Commissioners for Exercising the Office of Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, &c. (alternatively of England, Great Britain or the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland depending on the period).

The Board of Admiralty consisted of a number of Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. The Lords Commissioners were always a mixture of admirals, known as Naval Lords then later Sea Lords and Civil Lords, normally politicians. The quorum of the Board was two commissioners and a secretary.

The President of the Board of Admiralty was known as the First Lord of the Admiralty who was sometimes a serving sea-going flag officer or a member of the civil service, who was a member of the Cabinet. After 1806, the First Lord of the Admiralty was always a civilian, while the professional head of the navy came to be (and is still today) known as the First Sea Lord.

2.2) Key officials

Note: civilian is denoted (+) military is denoted (++)

Minister of State for the Department of Admiralty, President of the Board of Admiralty and Senior Government Adviser for Naval Affairs to the British Government.

  1. First Lord of the Admiralty (+)

Chief Naval Adviser to the First Lord of the Admiralty and Professional Head of HM Naval Service.

  1. First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff (++)

3) Structure of the Admiralty by period

For a more detailed look at the organisation and structure of the Department of Admiralty and how it evolved over specific time periods see the main articles below.

  1. Department of Admiralty (1707 1799)
  2. Department of Admiralty (1800 1900)
  3. Department of Admiralty (1900 1964)

4) Sources

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License