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The Naval Service is the naval warfare and maritime organisational structure of the British Armed Forces. It consists of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, and the Naval Careers Service.[1] The term Naval Service should be distinguished from the "UK Naval Services", which consist of the Naval Service and the Merchant Navy. The Naval Service as a whole falls under the command of the Navy Board, which is headed by the First Sea Lord. This position is currently held by Admiral Sir George Zambellas (appointed April 2013).[2] The Defence Council delegates administration of the Naval Service to the Admiralty Board, chaired by the Secretary of State for Defence.

The Naval Service is naturally dominated by the Royal Navy, and operates primarily from three bases in the United Kingdom where commissioned ships are based; Portsmouth, Clyde and Devonport, the latter being the largest operational naval base in Western Europe. The Royal Navy currently accounts for over 80% of Naval Service personnel with a strength of 37,720 sailors and marines in July 2012. Additionally there were 26,520 regular reserves of the Royal Navy.[3][4]

As of 2012, the Naval Service operates a combined total of over 258 vessels[5] (including those of Marine Services). The total displacement of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Fleet Auxiliary is approximately 775,000 tonnes.

Queen's Regulations for the Royal Navy

Current composition

According to the Queen's Regulations for the Royal Navy[1] the Naval Service consists of:

The Naval Service is also supported by Marine Services (currently provided by Serco Denholm under a PFI) which operates a fleet of auxiliaries such as research vessels and ocean-going tugs in support of the Royal Navy. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary also provides support to the Naval Service, although it is considered part of the Ministry of Defence Civil Service.

Former composition

The following services were formerly also components of the Naval Service:

Naval Reserve Forces:

  • The Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (merged with the Royal Naval Reserve in 1958)
    • The Royal Naval Volunteer (Supplementary) Reserve
    • The Royal Naval Volunteer (Wireless) Reserve
    • The Royal Naval Volunteer (Postal) Reserve)
  • The Royal Naval Emergency Reserve (disbanded c. 1959)
  • The Royal Naval Special Reserve (disbanded c. 1960)
  • The Women's Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (renamed the Women's Royal Naval Reserve in 1958, merged into the Royal Naval Reserve in 1993)
    • The Women's Royal Naval Supplementary Reserve
  • The Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service Reserve (incorporated within the Royal Naval Reserve in 2000)

Formerly the Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service, the Royal Fleet Reserve, and the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors were also considered part of the Naval Service.

Composition of the Naval Service

HMS Daring, a Type 45 destroyer.

Royal Marines on exercise.

Mounts Bay, a Bay-class Landing Ship Dock.

Royal Navy

Referred to as the "Senior Service" by virtue of it being the oldest service within the British Armed Forces, the Royal Navy is a technologically sophisticated naval force and forms the core structure of the Naval Service.

The Navy has been structured around a single fleet since the abolition of the Eastern and Western fleets in 1971.[6] Command of deployable assets is exercised by the Commander-in-Chief Fleet, who also has authority over the Royal Marines and the civilian Royal Fleet Auxiliary.[7] Personnel matters are the responsibility of the Second Sea Lord/Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command, an appointment usually held by a vice-admiral.[8]

The United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent is carried aboard the navy's Vanguard-class of four nuclear ballistic-missile submarines. The surface fleet consists of carriers, destroyers, frigates, amphibious assault ships, patrol ships, mine-countermeasures, and miscellaneous vessels.

A submarine service has existed within the Royal Navy for more than 100 years. The service possessed a combined fleet of diesel-electric and nuclear-powered submarines until the early 1990s. Following the Options for Change defence review, the Upholder class diesel-electric submarines were withdrawn and the attack submarine flotilla is now exclusively nuclear-powered.

Royal Marines

The infantry component of the Naval Service is the Corps of Royal Marines. Consisting of a single manoeuvre brigade (3 Commando) and various independent units, the Royal Marines specialise in amphibious, arctic, and mountain warfare.[9]

Contained within 3 Commando Brigade are three attached army units; 1st Battalion, The Rifles, an infantry battalion based at Beachley Barracks near Chepstow (from April 2008), 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, an artillery regiment based in Plymouth, and 24 Commando Regiment Royal Engineers.[10] The Commando Logistic Regiment consists of personnel from the Army, Royal Marines, and Royal Navy.[11]

Royal Fleet Auxiliary

The 19 commissioned ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) primarily serves to replenish Royal Navy warships at sea, and also augments the Royal Navy's amphibious warfare capabilities through its three Bay-class landing ship dock vessels.

It is manned by approx 2,700 civilian personnel and is funded and run by the MoD.


See also


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