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The Importance of Portsmouth

Portsmouth has served the Royal Navy since King Richard I ordered the building of the first dock in the town in 1194. Its close proximity to France, the historical rivals of Britain, made Portsmouth a strategically important port for the Royal Navy. In addition Portsmouth possessed a large natural harbour with the Isle of Wight providing shelter from the open waters of the English Channel.

As one of the Home Commands Portsmouth, like Plymouth and the Nore, had a Commander in Chief which ran operations in its home waters. Portsmouth was a ‘home port’ for sailors recruited from the area. From 1903 the Royal Naval Barracks at Portsmouth, HMS Victory, served as the depot ship for the Portsmouth Command.

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Admiral Sir Frank Twiss on the policy of home ports and how it affected the camaraderie of the ships in the fleet. (RNM)

To read a transcript of this oral history follow the link.

Due to the home port system, as a naval base Portsmouth Command also included many other establishments - the Torpedo School HMS Vernon and Gunnery Training School HMS Excellent were adjacent to the Dockyard. The Command also had many satellite sites including HMS Daedalus, the Fleet Air Arm Air Station in Lee on Solent and HMS Dolphin, the former submarine base in Gosport.