East Indies Station

The East Indies Station was a formation and command of the British Royal Navy created in 1744, it was defined so by the Admiralty to identify the geographical area jurisdiction of the Commander-in-Chief, East Indies.[1]

East Indies Station
HMS Swiftsure at gunnery practice on the East Indies Station in the summer of 1913
Active1744–1958
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Navy
TypeFleet
Part ofAdmiralty
Garrison/HQTrincomalee

Even in official documents, the term East Indies Station was often used. In 1941 the ships of the China Squadron and East Indies Squadron were merged to form the Eastern Fleet under the control of the Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Fleet.[2] The China Station then ceased as a separate command. The East Indies Station and its shore establishments continued until disbandment in 1958.

For both strategic reasons and identifying areas of jurisdiction the Royal Navy was distributed around the world, separated into various fleets or squadrons operating from a number of regional stations, also known as commands.[3][4]

It encompassed Royal Navy Dockyards and bases in East Africa, Middle East, India and Ceylon, and other ships not attached to other fleets. Command-in-Chief of the command was usually vested in an Admiral or a Vice-Admiral.

History

The East Indies Station was established as a Royal Navy command in 1744. From 1831–1865, the East Indies and the China Station were a single command known as the East Indies and China Station.[5] The East Indies Station, established in 1865, covered the Indian Ocean (excluding the waters around the Dutch East Indies, South Africa and Australia) and included the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea.[6] These responsibilities did not imply territorial claims but rather that the navy would actively protect British trading interests. From 1913 the station was renamed the Egypt and East Indies Station until 1918.[7][8]

The East Indies Station had bases at Colombo, Trincomalee, Bombay, Basra and Aden. In response to increased Japanese threats, the separate East Indies Station was merged with the China Station in December 1941, to form the Eastern Fleet.[9]

In early May 1941, the Commander-in-Chief directed forces to support the pursuit of Pinguin, the German raider that eventually sank after the Action of 8 May 1941 against HMS Cornwall.

On 7 December 1941, cruisers on the station included the heavy cruisers Cornwall, Dorsetshire, and Exeter; the light cruisers Glasgow, Danae, Dauntless, Durban, Emerald and Enterprise (some sources also place the heavy cruiser Hawkins as being on station on that date, while others report her being under refit and repair in the UK between early November 1941 & May 1942), and six armed merchant cruisers. Also assigned to the station was 814 Naval Air Squadron at China Bay, Ceylon, which unit was at that time equipped with Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers.[10][10][11]

The last flagship of the station, in 1957-58, was HMS Gambia.[12] In 1958 the station closed and was replaced by the Arabian Seas and Persian Gulf Station.[1]

In Command

Commander-in-Chief, East Indies

Prior to 1862 flag officers were appointed to coloured squadrons command flags shown below. see: Royal Navy ranks, rates, and uniforms of the 18th and 19th centuries
Post holders included:[13][14]
RankEnsignNameTermRef
Commander-in-Chief, East Indies Station
1CommodoreCurtis Barnett(1744–1746)[15]
2CommodoreThomas Griffin(1746–1748)[16][lower-alpha 1]
3Rear-AdmiralEdward Boscawen(1748–1750)[17][18]
4Rear-AdmiralCharles Watson(1754–1757)[19][20][lower-alpha 2]
5Vice-AdmiralGeorge Pocock(1757–1759)[21][lower-alpha 3]
6CommodoreCharles Steevens(1760–1761)[22][lower-alpha 4]
7Rear-AdmiralSamuel Cornish(1761–1763).[23][24][lower-alpha 5]
8CommodoreJohn Byron(1764)[25][lower-alpha 6]
9CommodoreJohn (later Sir John) Lindsay(1769–1772)[26]
10Rear-AdmiralSir Robert Harland, 1st Baronet(1771–1775)[27][28]
11CommodoreEdward Hughes(1773–1777)[29]
12CommodoreSir Edward Vernon(1776–1780)[30][lower-alpha 7]
13Rear-AdmiralSir Edward Hughes(1780–1784)[29][lower-alpha 8]
14Vice-AdmiralSir Hyde Parker, 5th Baronet(1782)[31][32][lower-alpha 9]
15CommodoreAndrew Mitchell(1784–1785)[33]
16CommodoreWilliam Cornwallis(1788–1794)[34]
17CommodorePeter Rainier(1794–1805)[35]
18Vice-AdmiralSir George Keith Elphinstone(1795)[36][37][lower-alpha 10]
19Rear-AdmiralSir Edward Pellew, 1st Baronet(1804–1809)[38][39][lower-alpha 11]
20Rear-AdmiralSir Thomas Troubridge, 1st Baronet(1805–1807)[40][41][lower-alpha 12]
21Rear-AdmiralWilliam O'Bryen Drury(1809–1811)[42]
22Vice-AdmiralSir Samuel Hood, 1st Baronet(1811–1814)[43][lower-alpha 13]
23CommodoreGeorge Sayer(1814)[44]
24Rear-AdmiralSir Richard King, 2nd Baronet(1816–1820)[45][lower-alpha 14]
25Rear-AdmiralSir Henry Blackwood, 1st Baronet(1820–1822)[46][lower-alpha 15]
26CommodoreCharles Grant(1822–1824)
27CommodoreSir James Brisbane(1825–1826)[47]
28Rear-AdmiralJoseph Bingham(1825)[48][lower-alpha 16]
29Rear-AdmiralWilliam Hall Gage(1825–1829)[49]
30Rear-AdmiralEdward Owen(1829–1832)[50]

Commander-in-Chief, East Indies and China Station

Note: for the period 1832–1865.

Commander-in-Chief, East Indies & Cape of Good Hope Station

Post holders included:[51]

RankFlagNameTerm
Commander-in-Chief, East Indies & Cape of Good Hope Station
1CommodoreFrederick Montresor(1865) [5]
2CommodoreCharles Hillyar(1865–1867) [5]

Commander-in-Chief, East Indies Station

[5][52][53]

RankFlagNameTerm
Commander-in-Chief, East Indies Station
1Rear-AdmiralLeopold Heath(1867–1870)
2Rear-AdmiralJames Cockburn(1870–1872)
3Rear-AdmiralArthur Cumming(1872–1875)
4Rear-AdmiralReginald Macdonald(1875–1877)
5Rear-AdmiralJohn Corbett(1877–1879)
6Rear-AdmiralWilliam Gore Jones(1879–1882)
7Rear-AdmiralWilliam Hewett(1882–1885)
8Rear-AdmiralFrederick Richards(1885–1888)
9Rear-AdmiralEdmund Fremantle(1888–1891)
10Rear-AdmiralFrederick Robinson(1891–1892)
11Rear-AdmiralWilliam Kennedy(1892–1895)
12Rear-AdmiralEdmund Drummond(1895–1898)
13Rear-AdmiralArchibald Douglas(1898–1899)
14Rear-AdmiralDay Bosanquet(1899–1902)
15Rear-AdmiralCharles Drury(1902–1903)[54]
16Rear-AdmiralGeorge Atkinson-Willes(1903–1905)
17Rear-AdmiralEdmund Poë(1905–1907)
18Rear-AdmiralSir George Warrender(1907–1909)
19Rear-AdmiralEdmond Slade(1909–1912)
20Rear-AdmiralAlexander Bethell(1912-1913)

Commander-in-Chief, East Indies and Egypt Station

Note:The post was sometimes styled as Senior Naval Officer, Egypt and Commander-in-Chief, East Indies Station.[55]

RankFlagNameTerm
Commander-in-Chief, East Indies and Egypt Station
1Rear-AdmiralRichard Peirse(1913–1915) [56]
2Rear-AdmiralRosslyn Wemyss(1916–1917) [57]

Commander-in-Chief, East Indies Station

RankFlagNameTerm
Commander-in-Chief, East Indies Station
21Rear-AdmiralErnest Gaunt(1917–1919)
22Rear-AdmiralHugh Tothill(1919–1921)
23Rear-AdmiralLewis Clinton-Baker(1921–1923)
24Rear-AdmiralHerbert Richmond(1923–1925)
25Rear-AdmiralWalter Ellerton(1925–1927)
26Rear-AdmiralBertram Thesiger(1927–1929)
27Rear-AdmiralEric Fullerton(1929–1932)
28Rear-AdmiralMartin Dunbar-Nasmith(1932–1934)
29Vice-AdmiralFrank Rose(1934–1936)
30Vice-AdmiralAlexander Ramsay(1936–1938)
31Vice-AdmiralJames Somerville(1938–1939)
32AdmiralSir Ralph Leatham(1939–1941)
33Vice-AdmiralGeoffrey Arbuthnot(1941–1942)[10]
34AdmiralSir Geoffrey Layton(1942–1944)
35Vice-AdmiralSir Arthur Power(1944–1945)
36AdmiralSir Arthur Palliser(1946–1948)
37Vice-AdmiralSir Charles Woodhouse(1948–1950)
38AdmiralSir Geoffrey Oliver(1950–1952)
39AdmiralSir William Slayter(1952–1954)
40Vice-AdmiralSir Charles Norris(1954–1956)
41Vice-AdmiralSir Hilary Biggs(1956–1958)

Fleet headquarters

Chief of Staff

Included:[58]

RankFlagNameTerm
Chief of Staff, East Indies Station/Eastern Fleet
1CaptainFrederick Rodney Garside3 January 1939 - June 1941 [59]
2Rear-AdmiralArthur F. E. PalliserJune - December 1941

Note: Under East Indies Station briefly when the Eastern Fleet its established Rear-Admiral Palliser becomes COS to C-in-C, Eastern Fleet.

Operational and shore sub-commands

Flag Officer, East Africa

Originally established by the Royal Navy as East Coast of Africa Station (1862–1919) was administered by the Flag Officer, East Africa and a sub-command of the East Indies Station then later Eastern Fleet from 1862 to 1962.

Within the Eastern Fleet command from April 1942 to September 1943 then transferred back under East Indies Station

RankFlagNameTermNotes/Ref
Flag Officer, East Africa
1Rear-AdmiralCharles G. StuartSeptember, 1943 – 11 January 1944.[60]
4Rear-AdmiralRichard Shelly Benyon11 January 1944 - November 1944[61]
5CommodoreSir Philip BowyerNovember 1944 - 1945
Royal Indian Navy

The Royal Indian Navy (RIN) was the naval force of British India and the Dominion of India from 1 May 1830 – 26 January 1950. It came under the East Indies Station at the outbreak of World War Two on 3 September 1939 [62] until December 1941 transfers to Eastern Fleet command.

Flag Officer Commanding, Royal Indian Navy
RankFlagNameTermNotes/Ref
Flag Officer Commanding, Royal Indian Navy
1Vice-AdmiralSir Herbert FitzherbertSeptember 1939 - December 1941
Red Sea Station

The Red Sea Station was one of the geographical divisions into which the Royal Navy divided its worldwide responsibilities for most of its existence was a sub-command of the East Indies Station.

Senior Naval Officer, Red Sea

Base afloat:HMS HMS Egret

Senior Naval Officer, Red Sea Force

On 21 October 1941 the title was changed to Flag Officer, Red Sea and his command but now reporting to the Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean Fleet until 17 May 1942.[63] On 18 May 1942 the title is changed again to Flag Officer, Commanding Red Sea and Canal Area and transferred again to the Eastern Fleet.

Persian Gulf

The Royal Navy's presence in the Persian Gulf was originally located at Basidu, Qishm Island in Persia (c. 1850-1935) then later Juffair, Bahrain. It was commanded by the Senior Naval Officer, Persian Gulf. It included a naval base, depot and naval forces known as the Persian Gulf Patrol, then the Persian Gulf Squadron later called the Persian Gulf Division. It was a sub-command of the East Indies Station until 1958 when it merged with the Red Sea Station to create the Arabian Seas and Persian Gulf Station of the new Middle East Command.

#LocationIn commandDatesNotes
1AdenNaval Officer-in-Charge, Aden1839 to 1917, 1921 to 1943, 1945naval base/shore establishment
2Addu AtollNaval Officer in Charge, Addu Atoll1942 to 1945fleet base [64]
3CalcuttaNaval Officer in Charge, Calcutta1939 to 1945during WW2 only normally under FOCOMM, Royal Indian Navy
4ColomboGeneral Staff Officer, Colombo1938 to 1939
5Diego SuarezNaval Officer in Charge, Diego Suarez1935 to 1945fleet base [65]
6Kilidini, MombasaSenior British Naval Officer, Kilindini1935 to 1945shore establishment
7Port LouisNaval Officer-in-Charge, Port Louis18shore establishment
8Port SudanNaval Officer-in-Charge, Port Sudan1935 to 1945
9SeychellesNaval Officer-in-Charge, Seychelles1915 to 1945fleet base [65]
10Lake Tanganyika, AfricaNaval Officer-in-Charge, Tanganyika1915 to 1945
11TrincomaleeCaptain-in-Charge, Ceylon1915 to 1945
12ZanzibarNaval Officer-in-Charge, Zanzibar1915 to 1945

Various units that served in this command included:

Naval UnitsBased atDateNotes
4th Cruiser SquadronColombo/Trincomalee, CeylonAugust to December, 1916
4th Light Cruiser SquadronColombo/Trincomalee, CeylonNovember 1918 to April 1919
Arabian Bengal Ceylon Escort Force (ABCEF )Aden, Colony of Aden1941 to 1942Under the Eastern Fleet command from April 1942 to November 1943.[66]
East Indies and Egyptian Seaplane SquadronPort Said, Egypt1916 to 1918Royal Navy's first carrier squadron
Red Sea DivisionPort Tawfik, EgyptAugust 1914 to November 1918
Red Sea ForcePort Tawfik, EgyptApril 1940 to 1944Naval base HQ Red Sea Force [66]
Persian Gulf DivisionBasidu, Persia,(1818-1935), Ras Al-Jufair, Bahrain1885 to 1958
Persian Gulf SquadronBasidu, Persia/ Ras Al-Jufair, Bahrain1818 to- 1885

Establishments and facilities in this command

#Unit nameLocationDatesNotes
1Admiralty HouseTrincomalee, Ceylon1813 to 1958Official residence of the Commander-in-Chief
2HM Naval Dockyard, TrincomaleeTrincomalee, Ceylon1813 to 1939, 1945-1958Headquarters East Indies Station
3HMS Gloucester IIHM Naval Office, Colombo, Ceylon1939-1945Headquarters East Indies Station [67] Also linked to Navy House, Colombo, Official residence of the Commander-in-Chief in Colombo.
4HM Naval Dockyard, MadrasMadras, India1796 to 1813Headquarters, East Indies Station [68]
5HMS AndersonColombo, Ceylon1939 to 1949Listening (station of the Far East Combined Bureau built on Anderson Golf Club and reverted to previous use after war.
6HM Naval Base, BasraBasra1939 to 1949Naval base
7HM Naval Dockyard, BombayBombay, India1811 to 1958naval base during WW2 known as HMS Braganza
8HM Naval Base, CalcuttaCalcutta, India1811 to 1958Naval base during WW2 known as HMS Braganza
9HMS LankaColombo, Ceylon1939 - 1958Naval base and shore station
10HMS MauritusTombeau Bay, Mauritius1810 to 1958Telegraphic then Wireless Station [69]
11HM Naval Base, Port Jackson [70]Port Jackson, New South Wales1785 to 1865Naval base transferred to China Station
12Port LouisPort Louis, Mauritius1810 to 1968Naval base
13HM Naval Base, Port TawfikPort Tawfik, Red Sea, EgyptAugust 1914 to 1944Naval base HQ Red Sea, Patrol/Division/Force
14HMS ShebaSteamer Point (now Tawahi) in AdenExampleNaval and shore base till 1958
15RNAS China BayTrincomalee, Ceylon1938 to 1945Air Station HMS Bambara
16RNAS Colombo RacecoursePrince of Wales Island, George Town, Penang1943 to 1945Naval air station - HMS Bherunda
17RNAS KatukurundaKatukurunda, Ceylon1938 to 1945Naval air station - HMS Ukussa
18RNAS Mackinnon RoadMackinnon Road, Kenya, East Africa1942 to 1944Naval air station - HMS Tana then HMS Kipanga II [71]
19RNAS PuttalamPuttalam Ceylon1942 to 1944Naval air station - HMS Rajaliya [72]
20RNAS Port ReitzPort Reitz, Mombasa, Kenya1942 to 1944Naval air station, Aircraft Repair Yard, Reserve aircraft storage - HMS Tana then HMS Kipanga II HQ of Commdre-in-Charge, NAS, (Eastern Stations.).
21RNAS TangaTanga, Tanzania1942 to 1944Naval air station - HMS Kilele [73]

See also

Notes

  1. Thomas Griffin promoted later Rear- then Vice-Admiral
  2. Charles Watson promoted later to Vice-Admiral
  3. George Pocock appointed Vice-Admiral of the White, February 1757, Ref:Harrison. Simon, (2010-2018)
  4. Charles Steevens promoted later to Rear-Admiral
  5. Samuel Cornish promoted later to Vice-Admiral
  6. Byron's appointment was initially a subterfuge, designed to provide apparent legitimacy for a voyage along the coast of Spanish South America and around the Cape of Good Hope. Byron's true mission was to establish a British naval presence on an uninhabited island off Spanish South America, which he achieved via landings on the Falkland Islands in December 1764.[25]
  7. Edward Vernon promoted later to Rear-Admiral
  8. Edward Hughes, second term as Commander-in-Chief
  9. Hyde Parker appointed 1782 but lost at sea on his way out
  10. Elphinstone went to capture the Dutch East Indies in 1795 but Rainier had already done it
  11. Pellew was later promoted to Rear-Admiral of the Red, 9 November 1805
  12. Troughbridge served jointly with Edward Pellew
  13. Samuel Hood appointed Vice-Admiral of the White, 4 June 1814, Harrison, 2010-2018
  14. Richard King appointed Rear-Admiral of the White, 4 June 1814 ref: Harrison, Simon (2010-2018)
  15. Henry Blackwood appointed Rear-Admiral of the Blue, July 1819 ref: Harrison, Simon (2010-2018)
  16. Joseph Bingham appointed 1825 but died before taking up post

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Further reading

  • Peter A. Ward, British Naval Power in the East, 1794-1805: The Command of Admiral Peter Rainier, Boydell Press
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