Commander-in-Chief, North Atlantic

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Commander-in-Chief, North Atlantic
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Navy

The Commander in Chief, North Atlantic was an operational commander of the Royal Navy.[1] His subordinate units, establishments, and staff were sometimes informally known as the Flag Officer Gibraltar and North Atlantic they were charged with the administration of the RN Naval Base, Gibraltar and North Atlantic geographic area.[2]


At the outbreak of the Second World War the Gibraltar command was elevated to North Atlantic Command with responsibility for the sea lanes on either side of the Straits of Gibraltar. Those duties remained in place although the flag officers' mission was often unclear due to the operations of both Force H and Western Approaches Command. It was these ambiguous boundaries of command responsibility between Gibraltar and Force H that led to confusion when conducting naval operations in the stated area.[3] In the book The Royal Navy and the Mediterranean, the author David Brown discusses this problem and the Admiralty's response: The division of responsibility between the Flag Officer North Atlantic Command (FOCNA) and the Flag Officer Force H and the Commander in Chief Mediterranean was defined as follows:[4]

F.O.C.N.A was responsible for preventing the passage of Gibraltar Straight by all enemy vessels and by vessels of other nations as maybe ordered by the Admiralty from time to time.[5]
While Force H was based on Gibraltar, F.O.C.N.A was to call on, Flag Officer, Force H for such assistance as be necessary. Except when directed to carry out specific tasks by the Admiralty.[6]

On 1 January 1941, the Admiralty acted and decided that the command's primary function was to house and then protect convoy escorts; from that point on it became a component area command of the allied naval forces Mediterranean.



Styled as: Rear Admiral Gibraltar then Vice Admiral Gibraltar, then Vice Admiral Gibraltar/North Atlantic Command & Admiral Superintendent Gibraltar Dockyard

Rank Flag Name Term
Commander-in-Chief, North Atlantic
1 Rear-Admiral Flag of Rear-Admiral - Royal Navy.svg Norman Wodehouse May 1939-1 November 1939
2 Vice-Admiral Flag of Vice-Admiral - Royal Navy.svg Sir Dudley North 1 November 1939 – 9 December 1940
3 Vice-Admiral Flag of Vice-Admiral - Royal Navy.svg Sir Frederick Edward-Collins 9 December 1940 – 9 September 1943
4 Vice-Admiral Flag of Vice-Admiral - Royal Navy.svg Sir Harold Martin Burrough 9 September 1943–January 1945


Before 1939, there was a small force of destroyers based at Gibraltar.

Task Forces

  • Force H (see history although stationed at Gibraltar was under the command of Flag Officer, Force H from 1940).

Capital Ships

Squadrons and Flotillas


  • Destroyer Division 25, (assigned to 13th Destroyer Flotilla)
  • Destroyer Division 26, (assigned to 13th Destroyer Flotilla)

Submarine and Minesweepers Groups

Escort Groups were based at Gibraltar (although they were part of Western Approaches Command).


  1. ^ Axelrod, Alan (2007). Encyclopedia of World War II 2-Volume Set. New York: Infobase Pub. p. 402. ISBN 9780816060221.
  2. ^ Axelrod, Alan; Kingston, Jack A. (2007). Encyclopedia of World War II. New York: H W Fowler. p. 402. ISBN 9780816060221.
  3. ^ Watson, Graham. "GIBRALTAR/NORTH ATLANTIC COMMAND 1939-1945". Naval History.Net, 19 September 2015. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  4. ^ Brown, David (2002). The Royal Navy and the Mediterranean: Vol.II: November 1940-December 1941. London: Routledge. p. 41. ISBN 9781136341205.
  5. ^ Brown, David (2002). The Royal Navy and the Mediterranean: Vol.II: November 1940-December 1941. London: Routledge. p. 41. ISBN 9781136341205.
  6. ^ Brown, with an introduction by David (2002). The Royal Navy and the Mediterranean. London: Whitehall History Pub. in association with Frank Cass. p. 42. ISBN 9781136341205.
  7. ^ Government, H.M. (October 1913). "Flag Officers - Vice Admirals". The Navy List. H.M. Stationery Office. p. 87.
  8. ^ Brown, David (2005). The Road to Oran: Anglo-French Naval Relations, September 1939-July 1940. Routledge. ISBN 978-0714654614.
  9. ^ Sutherland, Jonathan; Canwell, Diane (2011). Vichy Air Force at War: The French Air Force that Fought the Allies in World War II. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Casemate Publishers. p. 18. ISBN 9781848843363.
  10. ^ Smith, Donald A. Bertke ; Don Kindell ; Gordon (2009). World War II sea war (1. ed.). Dayton, Ohio: Bertke Publ. p. 202. ISBN 9781937470012.
  11. ^ Whitby, Michael (2006). Commanding Canadians: The Second World War Diaries of A.F.C. Layard. UBC Press. p. 362. ISBN 978-0774811941.


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