Rear Admiral Submarines

Rear-Admiral, Submarines is a post in the Royal Navy which involves command of the Royal Navy Submarine Service. It evolved from the post of Inspecting Captain of Submarines in 1901 and would later evolve to become the post of Flag Officer Submarines in 1944.

Rear-Admiral Submarines
Ensign of the Royal Navy
Rear-Admiral John Weale

since 2015
Ministry of Defence
Member ofBoard of Admiralty, Admiralty Board
Reports toFleet Commander
NominatorSecretary of State for Defence
AppointerPrime Minister
Subject to formal approval by the Queen-in-Council
Term lengthNot fixed (typically 2–3 years)
Inaugural holderRear-Admiral Douglas Dent


In 1904 the Admiralty created the post of Inspecting Captain of Submarines which lasted until August 1912 when Captain Roger J. B. Keyes was appointed Commodore, Submarine Service. He held that position until February 1919[1] when the post holder was renamed Chief of the Submarine Service. It was for many years located at HMS Dolphin in Hampshire.[2]

On 30 August 1939 Rear Admiral Submarines, Rear Admiral Bertram Watson, moved his headquarters from Gosport to Aberdour, Scotland, though the administrative staff remained at Gosport. The RN started the Second World War with 60 submarines.[3] On 31 August 1939 the Second Submarine Flotilla at Dundee (Forth and ten submarines) and the Sixth Submarine Flotilla at Blyth (Titania and six submarines) were part of the Home Fleet. The submarines Clyde and Severn, part of the Seventh Submarine Flotilla, were at Freetown under the orders of the Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic. Ten submarines were in the Mediterranean along with the depot ship Maidstone (First Submarine Flotilla); and the submarine depot ship Medway and the Fourth Submarine Flotilla were under the Commander-in-Chief, China, split between Singapore and Hong Kong.[4] Roskill writes that the effective naval strength of the British Empire on the outbreak of war included 38 submarines.

During the war the major operating arenas were the Norwegian waters; the Mediterranean where the Tenth Submarine Flotilla fought a successful battle against the Axis replenishment route to North Africa; and the Far East where Royal Navy submarines disrupted Japanese shipping operating in the Malacca Straits.[5]

In January 1940, Vice-Admiral Max Horton was made Rear Admiral Submarines. Horton's biographer, Rear Admiral William S. Chalmers, cites the opinion that a new regulation, which required the post holder to be an officer who had served aboard submarines in the Great War, was forced through for the sole purpose of ensuring that Horton was on a very short list of qualifiers for this post, almost ensuring his rapid transfer to Aberdour, so great was the desire of some within the Admiralty to have Horton revitalize the submarine arm.[6]

From 1953 the Flag Officer Submarines was dual-hatted as NATO Commander Submarine Force Eastern Atlantic (COMSUBEASTLANT) under Commander Submarine Allied Command Atlantic (COMSUBACLANT), a major command of Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic. Flag Officer Submarines moved from Dolphin to the Northwood Headquarters in 1978.[7] From 1993 the post of Flag Officer Submarines was dual-hatted with the post of Commander Operations.[8]


The submarine force has many traditions that are not found in the surface fleet. These include slang unique to submariners (such as referring to the torpedo storage compartment as the Bomb Shop and the diesel engine room as the Donk Shop[9]), a special communications code known as the Dolphin Code and the entitlement of a sailor to wear Dolphins upon entering the service. These are only awarded after completion of training and qualification in ships' systems during the first submarine posting (Part III training).

Problems with alcohol use while on shore leave were highlighted in the inquest following the murder on board Astute in April 2011. In February 2013 there had been over 300 disciplinary incidents in the previous three years on the RN's 13 submarines, of which 42 were substance abuse-related.[10]

Current status

In 2015, Rear Admiral John Weale was appointed Rear Admiral Submarines/Assistant Chief of Naval Staff Submarines, while Rear Admiral Robert Tarrant is Commander Operations (Royal Navy), two distinct posts from 2015.[11][8]


Post holders have included:[8]

Inspecting Captain of Submarines

  • Captain Reginald H. S. Bacon, 20 August, 1901 – 21 October, 1904 [12]
  • Captain Edgar Lees, 21 October, 1904, (later RAdm.) [13]
  • Captain Sydney S. Hall, 12 November, 1906 – 14 November, 1910 (later Adm.) [14]
  • Captain Roger J. B. Keyes, 14 November, 1910 - July 1912 [15]

Commodore Submarine Service

Chief of the Submarine Service

Rear-Admiral Submarines

Flag Officer Submarines

Rear-Admiral Submarines current


  1. Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony. "Inspecting Captain of Submarines - The Dreadnought Project". Harley and Lovell, 3 November 2015. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  2. "Submarine School". Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  3. "Royal, Dominion & Allied Navies in World War II: Beginning and End, 1939 and 1945". 2010.
  4. Roskill, Stephen W. (1954). "Chapter 4: Allied and Enemy War Plans and Dispositions". History of the Second World War: The War at Sea 1939-1945: The Defensive. London: HMSO. pp. 47–49.
  5. "Submarine History: Submarine Service: Operations and Support". Royal Navy. 2008. Archived from the original on 13 September 2008.
  6. Chalmers (1954), Chapter X.
  7. Conley, p. 136
  8. "Senior Royal Navy Appointments" (PDF). Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  9. Jolly, Rick (2000). Jackspeak: A Guide to British Naval Slang & Usage. FoSAMMA. ISBN 0-9514305-2-1.
  10. Rosenbaum, Martin (15 February 2013). "Submariners punished for drunken misconduct". BBC Online. Archived from the original on 15 February 2013. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  11. "Rear Admiral John Weale" (PDF). Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  12. Harley and Lovell. 2015
  13. Harley and Lovell. 2015
  14. Harley and Lovell. 2015
  15. Harley and Lovell. 2015
  16. Harley and Lovell. 2015


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