Hydrographic Department
Hydrographic Department
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Type Department
Preceded by Hydrographic Office
Country United Kingdom
Founded 1831
Abolished 1994
Headquarters London, England
Role Hydrographic Service
Part of Department of Admiralty (1831-1964)
Part of navy-department-mod (1964-1998)
Succeeded by United Kingdom Hydrographic Office

The Hydrographic Department of the Admiralty was established in 1831 it replaced the earlier Hydrographic Office. The department was responsible conducting surveying in order to produce nautical charts it was administered by the Hydrographer of the Navy. For a brief period the department was amalgamated with the Harbour Department when it was known as the Hydrographic and Harbour Department from (1856-1862). The department existed until 1994 when its remit was expanded and it was replaced by the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office.

1) History

The Hydrographic Office of the Admiralty was established in 1795 following the creation of the post of Hydrographer to the Board of the Admiralty by an Order in Council. Although the Order contained no instructions regarding the prosecution of surveys, it was intended that the Hydrographer would supply charts to the Royal Navy either by purchase from external publishers or by constructing them from the survey material already available in the Admiralty. Rear Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort, appointed 1829, supervised the transfer of the the Hydrographic Office into the full status of an Admiralty department with responsibility for its own programme of work and financial estimates. Through the proliferation of surveys by the British Navy all over the world to expand and improve coverage, and by establishing the principle of thorough checking of detail before publication of a chart, Francis Beaufort laid the foundations of a word-wide surveying service renowned for its accuracy, and which subsequently emerged as the model on which other foreign governments shaped their hydrographic service. By 1855, the Chart Catalogue listed 1,981 charts, with 64,000 copies issued to the Navy. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the skills of surveying and chart production were consolidated and world coverage increased. The change from sail to steam (1860-1914), affecting the capabilities and thus the output of the survey ships, and the abolition of the Indian Navy in 1862 (when all hydrographic duties connected with India were transferred to the Hydrographic Department), were influences on the subsequent survey and scientific exploration programmes. Rear Admiral Sir J F Parry, Hydrographer from 1914, fostered co-operation and information exchange with overseas hydrographic services and was the first presiding director of the International Hydrographic Bureau, established following an International hydrographic Conference held in London in 1920. During the twentieth century, the demands of two World Wars gave impetus to technical innovations in instruments and techniques. Between the wars, the Hydrographic Office took on new commitments in Oceanography and Naval Meteorology. Developments such as the Echo Sounder in the 1930s and Sonar in the 1960s brought great advances in the charting of the seabed. In 1994 the department was replaced by the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office.

The department consisted of a number of specialist subsidiary branches, offices and departments

2) Head of Department

2.1) Hydrographer of the Navy

  1. 1831 - 1855 Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort
  2. 1855 - 1863 Rear Admiral John Washington
  3. 1863 - 1874 Vice Admiral Sir George Richards
  4. 1874 - 1884 Captain Sir Frederick Evans
  5. 1884 - 1904 Rear Admiral Sir William Wharton
  6. 1904 - 1909 Rear Admiral Arthur Mostyn Field
  7. 1909 - 1914 Rear Admiral Herbert Purey-Cust
  8. 1914 - 1919 Rear Admiral Sir John Parry
  9. 1919 - 1924 Vice Admiral Frederick Learmonth
  10. 1924 - 1932 Vice Admiral Percy Douglas
  11. 1932 - 1945 Vice Admiral Sir John Edgell
  12. 1945 - 1950 Rear Admiral Arthur Norris Wyatt
  13. 1950 - 1955 Vice Admiral Sir Archibald Day
  14. 1955 - 1960 Rear Admiral Kenneth Collins
  15. 1960 - 1966 Rear Admiral Sir Edmund Irving
  16. 1966 - 1971 Rear Admiral George Ritchie
  17. 1971 - 1975 Rear Admiral Geoffrey Hall
  18. 1975 - 1985 Rear Admiral Sir David Haslam
  19. 1985 - 1990 Rear Admiral Roger Morris
  20. 1990 - 1994 Rear Admiral John Myres CB

2.1.1) Assistant Hydrographer of the Navy

Incomplete list

  1. 1907-1909, Captain Herbert E. Purey-Cust
  2. 1909, September-November, Captain Charles E. Monro (temporary)
  3. 1909-1910, Captain Charles E. Monro
  4. 1910-1912, Captain John F. Parry
  5. 1912-1914, Captain Philip Nelson-Ward, 11 December
  6. 1914-1919, Captain Ernest C. Hardy, 1 September
  7. 1919-1921, Captain Henry P. Douglas, 1 February, 1919
  8. 1921-1924, Rear-Admiral Robert W. Glennie
  9. 1924-1931, Captain John D. Nares
  10. 1931-1932, Captain John A. Edgell
  11. 1932-1936, Captain Arthur L. Jackson
  12. 1936-1939, Captain Edward F. B. Law
  13. 1939-1942, Captain Arthur L. Jackson
  14. 1942-1945, Vice-Admiral (retired) John D. Nares (serving in rank of Captain)
  15. 1966-1970? Captain D. W. Halsham

2.1.2) Chief Civil Assistant to the Hydrographer

Incomplete list

  1. Fleet Paymaster George W. Underhill, – 18 June, 1897
  2. Commander George C. Frederick, 18 June, 1897

2.1.3. Naval Assistant to the Hydrographer

  1. Lieutenant Llewellyn S. Dawson, 1 October, 1876
  2. Staff Captain (retired) Henry R. Harris, 3 February, 1874 – 7 November, 1893
  3. Commander George Pirie, 7 November, 1893 – 1 July, 1894
  4. Commander Morris H. Smyth, 1 July, 1894 – 1 July, 1897
  5. Captain (retired) Cecil F. Oldham, 1 July, 1897 – 4 September, 1904
  6. Commander Robert W. Glennie, 1 April, 1904[27] – 1 February, 1905
  7. Lieutenant Vivian R. Brandon, 12 June, 1906 – 26 September, 1906
  8. Captain (retired) Lewis F. Blackburn, 8 July, 1907 – 15 January, 1909
  9. Commander Guy M. Marston, 2 January, 1908 – 10 November, 1910
  10. Commander Philip C. Pearson, 11 February, 1908 – 11 October, 1914
  11. Lieutenant Vivian R. Brandon, 18 March, 1909 – 11 May, 1909
  12. Lieutenant-Commander Vivian R. Brandon, 11 July, 1910 – 27 January, 1911
  13. Captain Robert W. Glennie, 7 November, 1913[29][30] – 16 December, 1913
  14. Commander John D. Nares, 1 March, 1914[32] – 17 February, 1915[33]
  15. Commander Oswald T. Hodgson, 21 February, 1915 – 28 January, 1916 (temporary until 9 July, 1915)
  16. Captain (retired) Arthur W. Torlesse, 24 February, 1917[34] – 1 May, 1919[35]
  17. Commander Oswald T. Hodgson, 20 January, 1920 – 5 July, 1920
  18. Captain Charles W. Tinson, 28 October, 1925 – 4 August, 1926 (became ill with career-ending lung condition)
  19. Captain Arthur P. M. Lewes, 4 August, 1926 – 19 April, 1934 (temporarily, initially, while Tinson was ill)
  20. Commander Patrick S. E. Maxwell, 11 July, 1931 – 15 April, 1936
  21. Captain Sidney A. Geary Hill, 15 December, 1927[36] – 5 August, 1943[37] (this was extended repeatedly)
  22. Vice-Admiral John D. Nares, 1 August, 1940[38] – 14 January, 1942[39] (serving in rank of Commander)

2.2.4) Superintendent of Charts

Incomplete list

  1. Captain Frederick C. Learmonth, 24 April, 1908
  2. Commander Henry P. Douglas, 11 July, 1910 – 11 February, 1915
  3. Commander John D. Nares, 17 February, 1915 – 1 September, 1917
  4. Commander John A. Edgell, 1 September, 1917 – 1 November, 1920
  5. Captain John D. Nares, 1 November, 1920 – 1 March, 1923
  6. Captain John A. Edgell, 1 March, 1923 – 1 April, 1925
  7. Commander Francis E. B. Haselfoot, – 26 April, 1927
  8. Commander Patrick S. E. Maxwell, 26 April, 1927 – 8 February, 1929

3) Component Elements of the Hydrographic Department

3.1) Compass Branch

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 until 1911.
Main Article Compass Branch

3.2) Navigation Department

The Navigation Department was established in 1912 under the Director of Navigation in 1945 whilst part of this department it also became a staff division of the Admiralty Naval Staff.
Main article: Navigation Department

3.3) Hydrographic Supplies Establishment

The Hydrographic Supplies Establishment was established in > under the Chief Superintendent Hydrographic Supplies.
Main article: Hydrographic Supplies Establishment

4) Sources

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrographer_of_the_Navy
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_Hydrographic_Office
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