Commander-in-Chief Fleet

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Office of the Commander-in-Chief Fleet
Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Ensign of the Royal Navy
Ministry of Defence
Member ofAdmiralty Board
Reports toFirst Sea Lord
NominatorSecretary of State for Defence
AppointerPrime Minister
Subject to formal approval by the Queen-in-Council
Term lengthNot fixed (typically 2–4 years)
Inaugural holderAdmiral Edward Ashmore

The Commander-in-Chief Fleet (CINCFLEET) was the admiral responsible for the operation, resourcing and training of the ships, submarines and aircraft, and personnel, of the British Royal Navy until April 2012. CINC was subordinate to the First Sea Lord, the professional head of the Naval Service. In April 2012, the role was re-designated Fleet Commander and Deputy Chief of Naval Staff.


After the Second World War, the Royal Navy re-established its pre-war command structure, mainly using geographic commands. Each command usually consisted of either fleets, flotillas, squadrons and individual ships. Between 1954 and 1971 these commands were either abolished or merged into fewer but larger commands.[1]

After 1951 the term flotilla applied to the higher command organisation of squadrons in the Home and Mediterranean Fleets. The squadrons of the Home Fleet were grouped under a Flag Officer, Flotillas, Home Fleet becoming the main seagoing flag officer. A similar arrangement applied to the Flag Officer, Flotillas, Mediterranean Fleet.[1] In the Far East the Flag Officer 5th Cruiser Squadron became Flag Officer 2nd in Command with similar seagoing duties.[1] Increasingly the term 'Submarine Flotilla' was used to describe the squadrons under command of the Flag Officer, Submarines.[1] In 1967 the Home and Mediterranean Fleets were merged to form the Western Fleet.[2]

By the end of 1969 the posts of Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth and Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth were unified into the single Commander-in-Chief, Naval Home Command (CINCNAVHOME). The office was originally held by a four star admiral, responsible for administering all naval units that were not ships or submarines such as naval bases and establishments, and staff under the post.

In November 1971, further consolidation by the Ministry of Defence resulted in the Western Fleet being amalgamated with the Far East Fleet to form a single seagoing command, commonly known as Fleet Command or FLEET. It was commanded by a four star admiral who held the title Commander-in-Chief Fleet,[3] with his headquarters at the Northwood Headquarters, Middlesex, England. Between 1971 and 2002 the fleet was divided into five major sub-commands administered by five flag officers, Flag Officer, Carriers and Amphibious Ships (previously known as Flag Officer, Aircraft Carriers), Flag Officer, First Flotilla, Flag Officer, Second Flotilla, and Flag Officer, Third Flotilla.[1] In 1992 Fleet Headquarters moved to Portsmouth.


Structure of Navy Command

Full command of the Fleet and responsibility for the Fleet element of military operational capability including the Royal Marines and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, was delegated to Commander-in-Chief Fleet,[4] with his Command Headquarters in the Navy Command Headquarters Building at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth[4][dead link] and his Operational Headquarters at Northwood, in the London Borough of Hillingdon, co-located with the Permanent Joint Headquarters.[4][dead link]

CINCFLEET was supported by:[4][dead link]

  • Second Sea Lord, based in HMS Excellent, who is the Principal Personnel Officer for the Royal Navy
  • Deputy CINCFLEET, based in HMS Excellent, who directs the work of the Fleet Headquarters
  • Commander Operations, based at Northwood, who is responsible for the conduct of Fleet operations
  • Commander UK Amphibious Force, who is Commandant General Royal Marines
  • Commander UK Maritime Forces (previously known as Commander UK Task Group),[5] who oversees the commander of the UK Task Group (COMUKTG)(including the newly formed UK Response Force Task Group) The COMUKTG will soon be known as the COMATG[6][7][8] and COMUKCSG.

Collectively, COMUKMARFOR, COMUKAMPHIBFOR, Commander UK Task Group (COMUKTG) and 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines comprised the "Fleet Battle Staff".[9]

NATO commitment[edit]

The post also came with various NATO appointments including that of Commander-in-Chief Eastern Atlantic (CINCEASTLANT) and Commander-in-Chief Channel (CINCHAN).[10] On 1 July 1994, the Channel Command was disestablished: however most of its subordinate commands remained in existence although reshuffled: most of the headquarters were absorbed within Allied Command Europe particularly as part of the new Allied Forces Northwestern Europe.[11]

Commanders-in-Chief Fleet[edit]

Commanders-in-Chief have included:[12]

Fleet headquarters[edit]

Deputy Commanders, the Fleet[edit]

Deputy Commanders have included:[12]

Second Sea Lord[edit]

Note: 2SL was subordinate of Vice-Admiral rank from 2005 to 2012.

Chief of Staff, Fleet[edit]

The Commander-in-Chief, Fleet's principal staff officer responsible for coordinating the supporting staff of Fleet Headquarters from November 1971 to February 1990.
Operational and shore sub-commands (1971 to 2012)[edit]

At various times included:[15][16][17][18][19]

Chaplain of the Fleet and Director-General Naval Chaplaincy Services[edit]
Chief of Staff (Capability)[edit]
Chief of Staff (Personnel)[edit]
Command Secretary[edit]
Commandant General Royal Marines[edit]
Commander British Forces Gibraltar[edit]
Commander Operations[edit]
Commander UK Amphibious Forces[edit]
Commander United Kingdom Maritime Forces[edit]
Flag Officer, Carriers and Amphibious Ships[edit]
Flag Officer First Flotilla[edit]
Flag Officer, Second Flotilla[edit]
Flag Officer, Third Flotilla[edit]
Flag Officer, Surface Flotilla[edit]
Flag Officer Gibraltar and Gibraltar Naval Base Commander[edit]
Flag Officer Scotland, Northern England, Northern Ireland[edit]
Flag Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland[edit]
Flag Officer Plymouth[edit]
Flag Officer Sea Training[edit]
Flag Officer Submarines[edit]
Flag Officer Naval Air Command[edit]

Fleet structures[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Smith, Gordon (12 July 2015). "Royal Navy Organisation and Ship Deployment 1947–2013: Summary of Fleet Organization 1972–1981". Gordon Smith. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  2. ^ Roberts, John (2009). Safeguarding the Nation: The Story of the Modern Royal Navy. Barnsley, England: Seaforth Publishing. p. 62. ISBN 9781848320437.
  3. ^ "Maritime Affairs". The Army Quarterly and Defence Journal. 101: 404. 1971.
  4. ^ a b c d "Navy Command Headquarters". Royal Navy. Archived from the original on 29 May 2010.
  5. ^ "Fleet Battle Staff Headquarters". Archived from the original on 13 February 2011.
  6. ^ "Commander UK Maritime Force". Archived from the original on 11 February 2011.
  7. ^ "Cougar". Archived from the original on 11 December 2010.
  8. ^ "New Admiral Visits Fleet Flagship". Archived from the original on 12 June 2011.
  9. ^ "Commander UK Amphibious Force". Archived from the original on 16 March 2011.
  10. ^ NATO Handbook07. March 25, 1993.
  11. ^ Young, Thomas-Durrell (1 June 1997). "Command in NATO After the Cold War: Alliance, National, and Multinational Considerations". U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute. p. 11. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  12. ^ a b c "Royal Navy Senior Appointments" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 March 2012.
  13. ^ "Admiral Sir Trevor Soar takes up Navy fleet position". Portsmouth News. 11 June 2009. Retrieved 12 June 2009.
  14. ^ "Admiral George Zambellas takes up role as CinC Fleet". British Forces News. 6 January 2012. Archived from the original on 3 February 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  15. ^ Paxton, J. (2016). The Statesman's Year-Book 1987-88. Springer. p. 1303. ISBN 9780230271166.
  16. ^ Brown, David (1987). The Royal Navy and Falklands War. Pen and Sword. p. 53. ISBN 9781473817791.
  17. ^ Eberle, Sir James (2007). Wider horizons: naval policy & international affairs. Roundtuit Publishing. p. 16. ISBN 9781904499176.
  18. ^ Roberts, John (2009). Safeguarding the Nation: The Story of the Modern Royal Navy. Seaforth Publishing. p. 236. ISBN 9781848320437.
  19. ^ Paxton, J. (2016). The Statesman's Year-Book 1990-91. Springer. p. 1315. ISBN 9780230271197.