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Command structure within Nore Command

Posted: Fri Feb 15, 2019 11:37 pm
by Jeroen
Hello All,

I am trying to find out the command structure of the Coastal Forces within the boundry of the Nore Command. There are a lot of books written about Coastal Forces, but many of them only show operations and personal experiences.

In Footsteps in the Sea by Ann Neve it is written (page 136) that HMS Watchful was under the command of an admiral who directed all naval operations in the town including those of HMS Midge and its MTB's and MGB's.

Somewhere else it is written that the Coastal Forces (within territory of the Nore Command) were under the operational command of the Nore Command.

There also was an Home Waters Coastal Forces HQ, named HMS Hornet in Gosport, but it seems like this was just organisational and not operational.

Reading this I would conclude that HMS Midge (Coastal Forces Gt. Yarmouth) was placed below HMS Watchful (Gt. Yarmouth) in the command structure, which was below the Nore Command.
Something similar would count for the Coastal Forces base in Lowetoft, but in Felixtowe there was no other base than the Coastal Forces base. Was the Coastal Forces base in Felixtowe placed directly under the Nore Command?

I tried to sketch a command structure, based on what i wrote here. I can hardly imagine this is correct and i hope someone can help me to improve it and get it right.
scheme nore command.jpg
scheme nore command.jpg (43.84 KiB) Viewed 11433 times

Re: Command structure within Nore Command

Posted: Sat Feb 16, 2019 2:09 am
by Admin
Hello Jeroen

The command structure of Coastal Forces is a topic which to the best of my knowledge has never really been covered adequately to date, since as you rightly point the emphasis has tended to be one the boats and individual operations of flotillas. Indeed the command structure of Coastal Forces, is Coastal Forces, and is the body bearing the title, and which essentially underpinned all the personnel, all the boats and all the patrols made by those boats and their crews. Coastal Forces for example was responsible for all of the selection and training of its crews, as well as overseeing the construction of its boats, and their operational running once commissioned. This is why there is no such thing as 'German Coastal Forces' or 'Italian Coastal Forces', because it's not about the type of weaponry or technology used, nor the kind of warfare engaged in, it's about a specific organisation, or branch of the Royal Navy bearing the title as the first and only one ever to do so, and initially placed under the command of its own Rear-Admiral, Piers Kekewich, in 1940.

There is some very good stuff on the organisational structure of Nore Command in The Battle of the East Coast by J P Foynes which I will endeavour to scan and send you. Foynes states Watchful was originally the home of an Naval Officer in Charge (NOIC) and minesweepers subject to the First Officer in Charge (FOIC) Harwich, but that in July 1940 it was upgraded to a FOIC's base with Admiral Fullereton in command. Now as to the nature of his command within the port, I couldn't really say, but imagine the day-to-day operations of Coastal Forces and Minesweeping would have been handled by their respective Senior Officers or base commanders, with any overarching concerns of Nore coming through the FOIC, who would naturally have outranked the various base commanders.

Hornet was the first Coastal Forces base to be set up, if you discount the earlier use of Vernon, and definitely was an operational base. I think, and again I'm by no means certain, that it's 'headquarters' status possibly derived from the fact that Hornet was considered the principal Coastal Forces base, where unassigned personnel were sent for the purpose of administration. For example CF personnel returning from operational areas abroad would be posted there, and function as spare crew and the like before being moved on elsewhere.

An interesting subject!


Re: Command structure within Nore Command

Posted: Mon Feb 18, 2019 10:38 pm
by Jeroen
Hallo Admin,

Thank you for your reply. There is not really a lot I can add to it. If you are able to scan some pages about the command structure of the Nore Command, that would be great.

Do you know if it was the responsibility of Nore-Command to protect the convoys? A lot of convoys going to London, were following a route close to the coast.

For example in the night op 24/25 October 1943 there were, according to German reports, over 40 coastal forces ships operating to protect the Convoy-route, roughly between buoy 55A and 57B.
There must have been someone who decided these ships (40 ships, so probably multiple bases involved) had to be there. (There was a convoy out there that night and weather conditions allowed German Schnellboote to operate.)
I can imagine it was Nore Command / Area Combined Headquarters who decided in this case.

For other missions, like mine laying close to the coast of occupied Europe or exploring German defence I can image other people were involved in sending the coastal forces boats out.

It is an interesting subject. I wonder if there would be drawings of the command structure in the Kew archives. The Germans usually made command schemes, which often can be found in the archives.


Re: Command structure within Nore Command

Posted: Thu Feb 21, 2019 10:27 am
by Peter
Another interesting page re Command structure , I attaché the page of my Service sheet showing my route through Coastal Forces of which I am very proud to have been part of.
Basic Seamanship training at HMS Collingwood in Fareham Hants,
Selected for RDF (Radar)training in the Isle of Man HMS Valkyrie
Followed by operational training (RDF) aboard training Ship Isle of Sark
on the River Clyde. This is where my Service sheet and I fall down, my Service shows Mercury. Then into Coastal Forces and HMS Hornet
From then on my main route in CF is fairly clear
Back to HMS Collingwood where it all started and finally to HMS Flycatcher Fleet Air Arm Base in Middle Wallop Hants to bide out my time until de- mobilisation .
So for me my Command Structure and others was the local command
aboard the boats in which we served for me MTB 243 and MGB 647 and all the other boats spread around the Mediterranean as may be the Far East Command

Re: Command structure within Nore Command

Posted: Thu Feb 21, 2019 12:09 pm
by David Carter
Although not Nore Command, since Peter has mentioned the Mediterranean, readers might like to see the Command Structure as in Summer 1944 particularly as applied to West of Italy:

Naval Organisation in Corsica during 1944 – Copied from file ADM/199/2424

Commander in Chief, Mediterranean

Central Mediterranean

Western Italy Sub Area under Flag Officer West Italy (FOWIT)
HQ at Naples, includes Sardinia and Corsica, with minor sub-areas.

Para 17(a) Senior Officer Inshore Squadron (SOIS), Area Combined HQ in Bastia.
SOIS operates all surface light forces in this area against enemy supply lines (under direction of FOWIT) and acts as C in C’s representative in Corsica for purpose of co-operation with French Naval Command in Corsica.

Para 17(b) Naval Officer in Charge Maddalena is in command of all Allied Naval Forces in Sardinia (under FOWIT). This duty will be carried out by Captain (S)* of 10th Submarine Flotilla. He is responsible to C in C for operation of submarines in western basin of Mediterranean, notwithstanding his responsibility to FOWIT for Naval Base at Maddalena.

Para 18 The officer in command of all the sub-areas in the Central Mediterranean will organise local convoy movements and will operate local forces under their command in accordance with the general instructions of C in C.

Re: Command structure within Nore Command

Posted: Sun Apr 14, 2019 4:00 pm
by jpfoynes
Message for Admin.

I'm the Foynes whom you kindly mention. (The book is in print again, though in need of an update.)
Coastal Forces had operational flotillas within the Nore Cmd at Felixstowe, Yarmouth, Lowestoft and for some of the time Sheerness and Grimsby. Kekewich was based at Portland, then North London, moving on to another command in 1943. Early in 1943 a single command was set up at Chatham, attached to the C-in-C Nore there, to plan and coordinate Nore Cmd CF ops, with its own gunnery and operations officers. Construction, fitting out and sea trials for Coastal Forces boats was one of the tasks of "RACF" (Rear-Admiral Coastal Forces), and (within the UK) delegated to four local areas, headquartered at Plymouth, Clyde, Portsmouth and Chatham (later Brightlingsea). Each of its supervising officers was dubbed "Captain ML"--though "ML" here meant all Fairmile craft, which included many MGBs, MTBs and even small landing craft and harbour launches.

But, rather like the Submarine Service, RN Patrol Service, or Fleet Air Arm, CF was not a unified operational entity--i.e, not a "Command" as such. (Some authors and websites are confused about this).
But I've come on re Rear-Adm Kekewich.
I have a rather good photo which, I THINK, shows him. I'm hoping someone else has one I can compare to verify this. I have seen other pictures of him online, but his face seems to vary between them!
Many thanks.

Re: Command structure within Nore Command

Posted: Sun Apr 14, 2019 11:49 pm
by Admin
Message for Admin.

I'm the Foynes whom you kindly mention. (The book is in print again, though in need of an update.)

Greetings! Yes, I recognised the name immediately and thought what a stroke of luck as I was planning to write to you at the address given in your book. I’ll email you later about all your enquiries and such photos of boats I have in my possession. In the meantime there are some excellent photographic portraits of Piers Kekewich in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery available to view online.

Re: Command structure within Nore Command

Posted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 3:50 pm
by jpfoynes
Many thanks on both counts.
My book, by the way, has Appendix on P.377 showing all the Nore Cmd Coastal Force bases (and names). When Harwich (or Felixstowe), Yarmouth, Lowestoft (and later Humber and Sheerness) were given CF flotillas they were given new shore bases and these took new names.
So: Felixstowe CF separated from Badger (Harwich) as Beehive
Lowestoft CF became Minos II (later renamed Mantis) as opposed to Minos
Yarmouth CF= Midge instead of Watchful
...and Dover CF= Wasp instead of Lynx.
As CF at Portsmouth were called Hornet we have a nice run of insect names!
I do have exact locations at these ports if it's of interest.
Minos was not in overall charge, as your contributor suggests--that was Rr-Adm CF for equipping, repairs and manning, C-in-C Nore for operations (later special CF ops, tactics and gunnery staff attached to him at Chatham).

Re: Command structure within Nore Command

Posted: Mon Apr 29, 2019 8:23 pm
by Jeroen
Hello jpfoynes,

Thank you for contributing and answering most of my questions.