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HMS Excellent is a Royal Navy "stone frigate" (shore establishment) sited on Whale Island near Portsmouth in Hampshire.

Navy Command Headquarters and HMS King Alfred

Navy Command Headquarters and HMS King Alfred on Whale Island.

HMS Excellent is itself part of the Maritime Warfare School, with a Headquarters at HMS Collingwood, although a number of lodger units are resident within the site, the principal of which is the Headquarters of Commander in Chief Fleet (Navy Command Headquarters).

MWS elements within the site are:

  • Phoenix school of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defence, damage control and fire fighting
  • South East Naval Military Training Centre
  • Defence Diving School Boat Section
HMS Bristol alongside Whale Island

HMS Bristol alongside Whale Island.

HMS Excellent also provides administrative and infrastructure support to the Maritime Warfare School elements at Defence Diving School, Horsea Island, and small arms ranges at Tipner.

Lodger units are:


Whale Island in 1833

Whale Island in 1945

Whale Island is predominantly reclaimed land, using the deposits dredged from Portsmouth harbour during the Victorian era, increasing the land area by around 125%.

Excellent was originally built as the Queen Charlotte at Deptford Dockyard in May 1810 and was a 1st rate ship of the line 190 feet long by 53½ feet wide. In December 1859 the Queen Charlotte was renamed Excellent when she took over the function from the original Excellent of being the Royal Navy's gunnery training ship permanently moored in Portsmouth. Until the establishment of Excellent the Royal Navy did not have any formal system of teaching gunners on its ships the science of gunnery and much was left to individual captains to train their own gun crews. At HMS Excellent the men practised as teams, firing guns and loading shot on a range laid out from Excellent. Firing of the guns took place over mudflats uncovered at low tide and a local family would collect the shot from the mudflats to sell it back to the Navy. Within the Navy training at Excellent was popular and Excellent was also used as a boys' training ship and a mizzen mast was kept rigged for sail training. Excellent held approximately 600 men under training together with some 200 Royal Artillery instructors. The trainees lived on the lower deck messing between the 32-pdr cannon just as in a sea going ship.

It has served as a training facility since that time, predominantly in gunnery and the associated discipline of Parade Training leading to the situation where Gunnery Instructors (GIs) were responsible for Parade Training throughout the fleet. This situation persists with the successors to the Gunnery branch, the Above Water Weapons branch, retaining the responsibility for Parade Training and generally retaining the form of address, GI.

The establishment was recommissioned in 1994 following the closure of the old HMS Phoenix, school of Fire Fighting and Damage Control, in nearby Tipner and Horsea Island. It also served as home for the recently closed RN School of Leadership and Management which had moved from HMS Royal Arthur near Corsham in Wiltshire.

The Portsmouth Field Gun Crew, competing in the Royal Navy field gun competition at the Royal Tournament, was based at the site. CINCFLEET staff have subsequently competed in the Brickwoods field gun competition at HMS Collingwood.

November Ceremonies

The Royal Navy parties which participate in the Remembrance Sunday ceremonies in Whitehall, London conduct training at HMS Excellent for four weeks in advance of the event.

Participation in events at Whitehall and elsewhere is known as November Ceremonies within the Naval Service. Personnel are drawn from volunteers throughout the service.

Coordinates: 50°49′09″N 1°05′48.5″W / 50.81917°N 1.096806°W / 50.81917; -1.096806


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