British ironclad HMS Minotaur as Channel Fleet flagship, c. 1875-1887.
|Garrison/HQ||Torbay, Falmouth and Plymouth.|
The Channel Fleet dates back at least to 1690 when its role was to defend England against the French threat under the leadership of Edward Russell, 1st Earl of Orford who was then the Commander-in-Chief, Channel Fleet. By 1801 its main role was still to stop French ships from the French naval bases at Brest, Le Havre and elsewhere in the Bay of Biscay from entering the English Channel.
During the 19th century, as the French developed Cherbourg as a base for steam-powered ships, the Royal Navy developed Portland Harbour as a base for the fleet. The harbour was built between 1849 and 1872 when the Royal Navy created a breakwater made of blocks from local quarries on the Isle of Portland. The Channel Squadron only became a permanent formation in 1858.
Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson was officially "Senior Officer in Command of the Channel Squadron" from 1901 to 1903. His subordinate flag officer in that squadron was the Second-in-Command, who commanded a division of battleships. On 14 December 1904 the Channel Fleet was re-styled the 'Atlantic Fleet' and the Home Fleet became the 'Channel Fleet'.
The Channel Fleet features in several historical novels about the Royal Navy, notably Hornblower and the Hotspur by C. S. Forester, in which Forester's fictional hero becomes a favourite of the real Channel Fleet commander, Admiral William Cornwallis. The fleet also features in several of the Aubrey-Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian.
In the novel The War of the Worlds, the Channel Fleet protects the huge mass of refugee shipping escaping from the Essex coast in the face of the Martian onslaught. The initial heroic fight of HMS Thunder Child and the subsequent general engagement, is detailed in the chapter entitled "The Thunderchild".
- Vice Admiral Lord Anson (1746–1747)
- Admiral Augustus Keppel (1778–1779)
- Admiral Charles Hardy (1779–1780)
- Admiral Sir Francis Geary (May 1780-September 1780)
- Vice Admiral George Darby (1780–1782)
- Admiral Earl Howe (1782–1783)
- Admiral Earl Howe (1793–1795)
- Admiral Lord Bridport (1795–1800)
- Admiral Lord St Vincent (1800–1803)
- Admiral Sir William Cornwallis (1803–1806)
- Admiral Lord St Vincent (1806–1807)
- Admiral Lord Gardner (1807–1808)
- Admiral Lord Gambier (1808–1811)
- Admiral Sir Charles Cotton (1811–1812)
- Admiral Lord Keith (1812–1814)
- Vice Admiral Sir Edward Codrington (1831)
- Rear Admiral Sir William Parker (1846–1847)
- Rear Admiral Sir Charles Napier (1847–1849)
- Commodore Sir William Martin (1849–1852)
- Rear Admiral Armar Corry (1853–1854)
- Vice Admiral Sir Charles Fremantle (1858–1860)
- Vice Admiral Sir Robert Stopford (1860–1861)
- Vice Admiral Sir Robert Smart (1861–1863)
- Vice Admiral Sir Sydney Dacres (1863–1866)
- Vice Admiral Sir Hastings Yelverton (1866–1867)
- Vice Admiral Frederick Warden (1867–1868)
- Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Symonds (1868–1870)
- Vice Admiral Sir Hastings Yelverton (July 1870-October 1870)
- Vice Admiral Sir George Wellesley (1870–1871)
- Vice Admiral Sir Geoffrey Hornby (1871–1874)
- Vice Admiral Sir Beauchamp Seymour (1874–1877)
- Vice Admiral Lord John Hay (1877–1879)
- Vice Admiral Lord Hood (1880–1882)
- Vice Admiral Sir William Dowell (1882–1883)
- Vice Admiral The Duke of Edinburgh (1883–1884)
- Vice Admiral Sir Algernon de Horsey (1884–1885)
- Vice Admiral Charles Fellowes (1885–1886)
- Vice Admiral Sir William Hewett (1886–1888)
- Vice Admiral Sir John Baird (1888–1890)
- Vice Admiral Sir Michael Culme-Seymour (1890–1892)
- Vice Admiral Sir Henry Fairfax (1892–1894)
- Vice Admiral Sir Robert Fitzroy (1894–1895)
- Vice Admiral Lord Walter Kerr (1895–1897)
- Vice Admiral Sir Henry Stephenson (1897–1898)
- Vice Admiral Sir Harry Rawson (1898–1901)
- Vice Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson (1901–1903)
- Vice Admiral Lord Charles Beresford (1903–1905)
- Vice Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson (1905–1907)
- Vice Admiral Lord Charles Beresford (1907–1909)
- Vice Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly (1914-1915)
- "Admiral Edward Russell, 1st Earl of Orford". The Peerage. 26 May 2012.
- Channel Fleet in 1801 at the Nelson Society Archived February 21, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- Channel Fleet The Heritage Coast
- Portland Harbour Authority: History Archived December 31, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- William Loney RN: Channel Fleet
- National Archives records
- HMS Bulwark Archived August 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
- William Loney RN
- Whitaker's Almanacks 1900 - 1909