|Active||1690 – 5 June 1967|
|Samuel Hood, Horatio Nelson, Andrew Cunningham|
The British Mediterranean Fleet was part of the Royal Navy. The Fleet was one of the most prestigious commands in the navy for the majority of its history, defending the vital sea link between the United Kingdom and the majority of the British Empire in the Eastern Hemisphere. The first Commander-in-Chief for the Mediterranean Fleet may have been named as early as 1665, and the Fleet was in existence until 1967.
Pre-Second World War
The Royal Navy gained a foothold in the Mediterranean Sea when Gibraltar was captured by the British in 1704 during the War of Spanish Succession, and formally allocated to Britain in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. Though the British had maintained a naval presence in the Mediterranean before, the capture of Gibraltar allowed the British to establish their first naval base there. The British also used Port Mahon, on the island of Minorca, as a naval base. However, British control there was only temporary; Minorca changed hands numerous times, and was permanently ceded to Spain in 1802 under the Treaty of Amiens. In 1800, the British took Malta, which was to be handed over to the Knights of Malta under the Treaty of Amiens. When the Napoleonic Wars resumed in 1803, the British kept Malta for use as a naval base. Following Napoleon's defeat, the British continued their presence in Malta, and turned it into the main base for the Mediterranean Fleet. Between the 1860s and 1900s, the British undertook a number of projects to improve the harbours and dockyard facilities, and Malta's harbours were sufficient enough to allow the entire fleet to be safely moored there.
In the last decade of the nineteenth century, the Mediterranean Fleet was the largest single squadron of the Royal Navy, with ten first-class battleships - double the number in the Channel Fleet - and a large number of smaller warships. The Mediterranean was considered a vital trade route between Britain and India. The shortest route to and from India for British merchant ships was to pass through the Suez Canal, which required access to the Mediterranean. Malta also served as an important stop-off for ships on the way to India. Britain saw this sea link as under constant threat from the navies of France and Italy, and thus concentrated a large force in it, turning the Mediterranean Fleet into one of the largest fleets in the world.
On 22 June 1893, the bulk of the fleet, eight battleships and three large cruisers, were conducting their annual summer exercises off Tripoli, Lebanon, when the fleet's flagship, the battleship HMS Victoria, collided with the battleship HMS Camperdown. Victoria sank within fifteen minutes, taking 358 crew with her. Vice-Admiral Sir George Tryon, commander of the Mediterranean Fleet, was among the dead.
Of the three original Invincible-class battlecruisers which entered service in the first half of 1908, two (HMS Inflexible and Indomitable) joined the Mediterranean Fleet in 1914. They and HMS Indefatigable formed the nucleus of the fleet at the start of the First World War when British forces pursued the German ships Goeben and Breslau.
The Mediterranean Fleet achieved an especially high degree of professional excellence under the leadership of Admiral Roger Keyes from 1926 to 1929. He had under his command such strong figures as Dudley Pound as Chief of Staff, Ginger Boyle, commanding a cruiser squadron and Augustus Agar, V.C. commanding a destroyer flotilla.
Second World War
Malta, as part of the British Empire from 1814, was a shipping station and was the headquarters for the Mediterranean Fleet until the mid-1930s. Due to the perceived threat of air-attack from the Italian mainland, the fleet was moved to Alexandria, Egypt shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. This decision contributed to the continuing ability of the Fleet to sustainably fight against the Axis forces.
Sir Andrew Cunningham took command of the fleet from HMS Warspite on 3 September 1939, and under him the major formations of the Fleet were the 1st Battle Squadron (Warspite, Barham, and Malaya) 1st Cruiser Squadron (Devonshire, Shropshire, and Sussex), 3rd Cruiser Squadron (Arethusa, Penelope, Galatea), Rear Admiral, Destroyers, Rear Admiral John Tovey, with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Destroyer Flotillas, and the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious.
In 1940, the Mediterranean Fleet successfully attacked the Italian Fleet at Taranto by air. Other major actions included the Battle of Cape Matapan, and the Battle of Crete. The Fleet had to block Italian and later German reinforcements and supplies for the North African Campaign.
In October 1946, HMS Saumarez hit a mine in the Corfu Channel, starting a series of events known as the Corfu Channel Incident. The channel was cleared in 'Operation Recoil' the next month, involving 11 minesweepers under the guidance of HMS Ocean, two cruisers, three destroyers, and three frigates.
In May 1948, Sir Arthur Power took over as Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean, and in his first act arranged a show of force to discourage the crossing of Jewish refugees into Palestine. When later that year Britain pulled out of the British Mandate of Palestine, HMS Ocean, four destroyers, and two frigates escorted the departing High Commissioner, aboard the cruiser HMS Euryalus. The force stayed to cover the evacuation of British troops into the Haifa enclave and south via Gaza. In July 1947, after the main force, headed by two carriers, Ocean and Triumph, had visited Istanbul, HMS Liverpool, Chequers, and Chaplet visited Sevastopol.
From 1952 until 1967, the post of Commander in Chief Mediterranean Fleet was given a dual-hatted role as NATO Commander in Chief of Allied Forces Mediterranean in charge of all forces assigned to NATO in the Mediterranean Area. The British made strong representations within NATO in discussions regarding the development of the Mediterranean NATO command structure, wishing to retain their direction of NATO naval command in the Mediterranean to protect their sea lines of communication running through the Mediterranean to the Middle East and Far East. When a NATO naval commander, Admiral Robert B. Carney, C-in-C Allied Forces Southern Europe, was appointed, relations with the incumbent British C-in-C, Admiral Sir John Edelsten, were frosty. Edlesten, on making an apparently friendly offer of the use of communications facilities to Carney, who initially lacked secure communications facilities, was met with 'I'm not about to play Faust to your Mephistopheles through the medium of communications!'
From 1957 to 1959, Rear Admiral Charles Madden held the post of Flag Officer Malta, with responsibilities for three squadrons of minesweepers, an amphibious warfare squadron, and a flotilla of submarines stationed at the bases around Valletta Harbour. In this capacity, he had to employ considerable diplomatic skill to maintain good relations with Dom Mintoff, the nationalistic prime minister of Malta.
In the 1960s, as the importance of maintaining the link between the United Kingdom and British territories and commitments East of Suez decreased as the Empire dismantled, and the focus of Cold War naval responsibilities moved to the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean Fleet was gradually drawn down, finally disbanding in June 1967. Eric Groves, in Vanguard to Trident, details how by the mid-1960s the permanent strength of the Fleet was 'reduced to a single small escort squadron [appears to have been 30th Escort Squadron with HMS Brighton, HMS Cassandra, HMS Aisne plus another ship] and a coastal minesweeper squadron.' Deployments to the Beira Patrol and elsewhere reduced the escort total in 1966 from four to two ships, and then to no frigates at all. The Fleet's assets and area of responsibility were given to the new Western Fleet. As a result of this change, the UK relinquished the NATO post of Commander in Chief Mediterranean, which was disbanded.
Commanders in Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet
|Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Saunders||January 1757||May 1757|
|Vice-Admiral Henry Osborn||May 1757||April 1760|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Saunders||April 1760||1763|
|Vice-Admiral Augustus Hervey||1763||?|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Spry||1766||1769|
|Vice-Admiral Earl Howe||1770||c.1776|
|Vice-Admiral Sir John Lindsay||1783||1784|
|Vice-Admiral Phillips Cosby||1785||1789|
|Rear-Admiral Samuel Granston Goodall||1792||1793|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood||February 1793||October 1794|
|Vice-Admiral Lord Hotham||October 1794||November 1795|
|Vice-Admiral Lord Jervis||1796||1799|
|Vice-Admiral Lord Keith||November 1799||1802|
|Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson ||May 1803||January 1805||Died after Battle of Trafalgar|
|Vice-Admiral Lord Collingwood||1805||1810|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Cotton||1810||1811|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Pellew||1811||1814|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Penrose||1814||1815|
|Vice-Admiral Lord Exmouth||1815||1816|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Penrose||1816||1818|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Fremantle||1818||1820|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Graham Moore||1820||1823|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Harry Burrard-Neale||1823||1826|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Codrington||1826||1828|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm||1828||1831|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Hotham ||30 March 1831||19 April 1833||Died 19 April 1833.|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm||3 May 1833||18 December 1833|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Josias Rowley||18 December 1833||9 February 1837|
|Admiral Sir Robert Stopford||9 February 1837||14 October 1841|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Owen||14 October 1841||27 February 1845|
|Vice-Admiral Sir William Parker||27 February 1845||13 July 1846||Parker was briefly First Naval Lord in July 1846 but requested permission to return to the Mediterranean on ground of his health|
|Vice-Admiral Sir William Parker||24 July 1846||17 January 1852|
|Rear-Admiral Sir James Dundas||17 January 1852||1854||Vice-Adm. 17 December 1852|
|Rear-Admiral Sir Edmund Lyons||1854||22 February 1858||Vice-Adm. 19 March 1857|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Arthur Fanshawe||22 February 1858||19 April 1860||Marlborough |
|Vice-Admiral Sir William Martin||19 April 1860||20 April 1863||Marlborough |
|Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Smart||20 April 1863||28 April 1866||Marlborough then Victoria |
|Vice-Admiral Lord Clarence Paget||28 April 1866||28 April 1869||Victoria then Caledonia |
|Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Milne||28 April 1869||25 October 1870||Lord Warden ||Adm. 1 April 1870|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Hastings Yelverton||25 October 1870||13 January 1874||Lord Warden |
|Vice-Admiral Sir James Drummond||13 January 1874||15 January 1877||Lord Warden then Hercules |
|Vice-Admiral Sir Geoffrey Hornby||5 January 1877||5 February 1880||Alexandra ||Adm. 15 June 1879|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Beauchamp Seymour||5 February 1880||7 February 1883||Inconstant and Alexandra ||Adm. 6 May 1882|
|Vice-Admiral Lord John Hay||7 February 1883||5 February 1886||Alexandra ||Adm. 8 July 1884|
|Vice-Admiral H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh||5 February 1886||11 March 1889||Alexandra ||Adm. 18 October 1887|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Anthony Hoskins||11 March 1889||20 August 1891||Alexandra Mar 89 - Dec 89
Camperdown Dec 89 - May 90
Victoria May 90 onwards 
|Adm. 20 June 1891|
|Vice-Admiral Sir George Tryon||20 August 1891||22 June 1893||Victoria ||Died in commission; lost in Victoria|
|Admiral Sir Michael Culme-Seymour||29 June 1893||10 November 1896||Ramillies |
|Admiral Sir John Hopkins||10 November 1896||1 July 1899||Ramillies|
|Admiral Sir John Fisher||1 July 1899||1902||Renown|
|Admiral Sir Compton Domvile ||1902||June 1905||Bulwark|
|Admiral Lord Charles Beresford ||appointed 1 May 1905
assumed command 6 June 1905
|Admiral Sir Charles Drury||appointed 5 March 1907
assumed command 27 March 1907
|Admiral Sir Assheton Curzon-Howe ||appointed 20 November 1908
assumed command 20 November 1908
|Admiral Sir Edmund Poë ||appointed 30 April 1910
assumed command 30 April 1910
|Admiral Sir Berkley Milne ||appointed 1 June 1912
assumed command 12 June 1912
|27 August 1914||Inflexible|
|During World War I, the station was divided up in different ways at different times. There was an overall Allied Commander in Chief, who was from the French Navy and is not listed here. Post titles have been put in bold in the notes column.|
|Admiral Sir Somerset Gough-Calthorpe ||26 August 1917||25 July 1919||Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean|
|Vice Admiral Sir John de Robeck ||26 July 1919||14 May 1922||Iron Duke|
|Vice Admiral Sir Osmond Brock ||15 May 1922||7 June 1925||Iron Duke||Admiral 31 July 1924|
|Admiral Sir Roger Keyes ||8 June 1925||7 June 1928||Warspite|
|Admiral Sir Frederick Field||8 June 1928||28 May 1930||Queen Elizabeth |
|Admiral Sir Ernle Chatfield ||27 May 1930||31 October 1932||Queen Elizabeth |
|Admiral Sir William Fisher ||31 October 1932||19 March 1936||Resolution later Queen Elizabeth |
|Admiral Sir Dudley Pound ||20 March 1936||31 May 1939||Queen Elizabeth|
|During World War II, the Mediterranean Station was split between commands some of the time. Post titles in the notes column.|
|Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham ||1 June 1939
6 June 1939
|March 1942||Warspite August 1939
HMS St Angelo (base, Malta) April 1940
Warspite February 1941
|Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet. Vice-Admiral Cunningham was given acting rank of Admiral on 1 June 1930, and promoted to Admiral on 3 January 1941.|
|Admiral Sir Henry Harwood ||22 April 1942||February 1943||Warspite
HMS Nile (base, Alexandria) Aug 1942
|Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet. Vice-Admiral Harwood was given acting rank of Admiral.|
|Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham ||1 November 1942||20 February 1943||HMS Hannibal (base, Algiers)||Naval Commander Expeditionary Force (NCXF) North Africa and Mediterranean|
|In the first half of 1943 the Mediterranean Fleet Command was split into a command of ships and a command of ports & naval bases:
Mediterranean Fleet: C-in-C Med Fleet, 15th Cruiser Squadron, Cdre. (D)
Levant: C-in-C Levant, Alexandria, Malta, Port Said, Haifa, Bizerta, Tripoli, Mersa Matruh, Benghazi, Aden, Bone, Bougie, Philippeville
Levant was renamed Eastern Mediterranean in late December 1943.
|Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham ||20 February 1943||15 October 1943||HMS Hannibal (base, Algiers/Taranto)||Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet.|
|Admiral Sir John Cunningham ||15 October 1943||February 1946||HMS Hannibal (base, Algiers/Taranto)||Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Station & Allied Naval Commander Mediterranean|
|Admiral Sir John Cunningham ||5 June 1943||August 1943||HMS Nile (base, Alexandria)||Commander-in-Chief, Levant.|
|Vice Admiral Sir Algernon Willis  temporary||14 October 1943||December 1943||HMS Nile (base, Alexandria)||Commander-in-Chief, Levant.|
|Vice Admiral Sir Bernard Rawlings ||28 December 1943||June 1944||HMS Nile (base, Alexandria) April 1944||Flag Officer, Eastern Mediterranean. From 8 June 1944 Sir H. Bernard Rawlings|
|Admiral Sir Algernon Willis||1946||1948||HMS St Angelo (base, Malta)|
|Admiral Sir Arthur Power||1948||1950||HMS St Angelo (base, Malta)||Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean|
|Admiral Sir John Edelsten||1950||1952||HMS St Angelo (base, Malta)||Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean|
|Admiral Earl Mountbatten of Burma||1952||1954||HMS St Angelo (base, Malta)||Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean|
|Admiral Sir Guy Grantham||10 Dec 1954||10 Apr 57||HMS St Angelo (base, Malta)|
|Vice Admiral Sir Ralph Edwards||10 Apr 57||11 Nov 58||HMS St Angelo (base, Malta)|
|Admiral Sir Charles Lambe||11 Nov 58||2 Feb 59||HMS Phoenicia (base, Malta)|
|Admiral Sir Alexander Bingley||2 Feb 59||30 Jun 61||HMS Phoenicia (base, Malta)|
|Admiral Sir Deric Holland-Martin||30 Jun 61||1 Feb 64||HMS Phoenicia (base, Malta)|
|Admiral Sir John Hamilton||1 Feb 1964||5 June 1967||HMS St Angelo (base, Malta)|
- Indexes of men in the Mediterranean Fleet 1881
- Commissioned ships of the Royal Navy, from the Sunlight Almanac, 1895
- Leo Niehorster, Mediterranean Fleet, 3 September 1939, accessed January 2009
- Groves, 1987, p.154
- Sean Maloney, 'To Secure Command of the Sea,' University of New Brunswick thesis, 1991, p.258-261
- Maloney thesis, p.261
- "Obituary: Admiral Sir Charles Madden" by Dan van der Vat The Guardian (May 4, 2001)
- Groves, Vanguard to Trident, 1987, p.297
- William Loney RN: Principal Royal Navy Commanders-in-Chief 1830-1899
- Whitaker's Almanacks 1900 - 1967
- Henry Osborn at ODNB(subscription required)
- Richard Howe at ODNB(subscription required)
- Principal Royal Navy Commanders-in-Chief 1830-1899
- Hotham family tree
- Charles Cotton at ODNB(subscription required)
- Thomas Fremantle at ODNB(subscription required)
- William Parker at ODNB(subscription required)
- Arthur Fanshawe on-line biography
- William Fanshawe Martin on-line biography
- mHistoryHMS Marlborough
- Robert Smart on-line biography
- Lord Clarence Edward Paget on-line biography
- Alexander Milne on-line biography
- Hastings Reginald Yelverton on-line biography
- James Robert Drummond on-line biography
- Geoffrey Thomas Phipps Hornby on-line biography
- Frederick Beauchamp Paget Seymour on-line biography
- Lord John Hay on-line biography
- p222, Parkes, Oscar British Battleships, pub Seeley, 1957, and Naval Institute Press, 1990. ISBN 1-55750-075-4
- p222, 320, 336, Parkes, Oscar British Battleships, pub Seeley, 1957, and Naval Institute Press, 1990. ISBN 1-55750-075-4
- George Tryon on-line biography
- p362, Parkes, Oscar British Battleships, pub Seeley, 1957, and Naval Institute Press, 1990. ISBN 1-55750-075-4
- p232 S.W.C. Pack, Sea Power in the Mediterranean, pub Arthur Baker Ltd 1971, ISBN 0-213-00394-5
- Compton Edward Domville [sic] on-line biography
- Navy List July Dec 1906
- p267 & 282 "Geoffrey Bennett Charlie B, a Biography of Admiral Lord Beresford of Metemmeh and Curraghmore GCB GCVO LLD DCL, pub pub Peter Dawnay, Ltd, 1968.
- p508, Beresford, Lord Charles, The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford, pub Methuen, 1914.
- Navy List July 1908
- Navy List Jan 1909
- Janus: The Papers of Reginald McKenna
- Navy List Jan 1911
- Navy List Feb 1913
- p287,289 & 422 Geoffrey Miller, Superior Force: The conspiracy behind the escape of Goeben and Breslau, pub Hull, 1996, ISBN 0-85958-635-9
- Who's Who: Sir Berkeley Milne First World War.com
- p323 Geoffrey Miller, Superior Force: The conspiracy behind the escape of Goeben and Breslau, pub Hull, 1996, ISBN 0-85958-635-9
p80, Admiral Sir William James, Admiral Sir William Fisher, pub Macmillan, 1943.
Somerset Gough-Calthorpe career
RN World War I Flag Officers gwpda.org
- p85 & 94, Admiral Sir William James, Admiral Sir William Fisher, pub Macmillan, 1943.
John de Robeck career admirals.org
- p92, Admiral Sir William James, Admiral Sir William Fisher, pub Macmillan, 1943.
Osmond de Beauvoir Brock career
- Roger Keyes career
- p121 Admiral Sir William James, Admiral Sir William Fisher, pub Macmillan, 1943.
- Ernle Chatfield career
- Papers of Admiral Fisher
Admiral Sir William James, Admiral Sir William Fisher, pub Macmillan, 1943.
Dudley Pound career history
Admiral Sir William Fisher career
- p121 & 123 Admiral Sir William James, Admiral Sir William Fisher, pub Macmillan, 1943.
- p140 Admiral Sir William James, Admiral Sir William Fisher, pub Macmillan, 1943.
Dudley Pound career history
Andrew Cunningham career
- Andrew Cunningham career
- World War II RN Officers C
- Royal Navy Mediterranean Fleet + Levant/Eastern Mediterranean
- Sir Henry Harwood Harwood career
- Papers of Admiral Sir Algernon U. Willis, accessed June 2008
- List from 1954 to 1964 from list at AFNORTH article
- Eric J. Grove, Vanguard to Trident, Bodley Head, London, 1987, p.297
- Eric J. Grove, Vanguard to Trident, Naval Institute Press/The Bodley Head, London, 1987
- S.W.C. Pack Sea Power in the Mediterranean - has a complete list of fleet commanders