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Her Majesty's Naval Base (HMNB) Devonport (HMS Drake), is one of three UK operating bases for the Royal Navy (the others being HMNB Clydemarker and HMNB Portsmouthmarker). HMNB Devonport is located in Devonportmarker, in the west of the city of Plymouthmarker in Devonmarker, Englandmarker. It is the largest naval base in Western Europe and is the sole nuclear repair and refuelling facility for the Royal Navy. The collocated Royal Dockyard is owned and operated by the Marine division of Babcock International Group (BM), who took over the previous owner Devonport Management Limited (DML) in 2007. The BM operation is commonly called Devonport Dockyard.

The Naval base at Devonport is nicknamed Guz by naval ratings. This refers to a Guz, which is an obsolete unit of length used in parts of Asia. It is a regionally variable measurement, corresponding culturally to the yard. Thus; Guz = Yard (Dockyard).

In 2006 the Ministry of Defence announced that a review would be undertaken to examine the future of the three naval bases. The Naval Base Review was seeking to examine the long term future needs of the Royal Navy, with the most likely outcome being either retaining the three current naval bases, but with reduced capacity in each, or closing one of the two on the south coast of England. The results of the review, released in 2007, have stipulated no base closures.

HM Naval Base Devonport is the home port of the Devonport Flotilla which includes the largest ship in the Royal Navy HMS Ocean and the Trafalgar Class submarines.


Devonport Dockyard in 1909, courtesy WW1 Archive.

In 1588, the ships of the English Navy set sail for the Spanish Armada through the mouth of the River Plym, thereby establishing the military presence in Plymouth. Sir Francis Drake is now an enduring legacy in Devonport, as the naval base has been named HMS Drake.

In 1689 Prince William of Orange became William III and almost immediately he required the building of a new dockyard. The town of Plymouth he dismissed as inadequate. Edmund Dummer a Naval Officer travelled the West Country searching for an area a dock yard could be built; he sent in two estimates for sites in Plymouth, Cattewatermarker and Hamoazemarker, which is a section of the River Tamar, in the parish of Stoke Damerelmarker. On 30 December 1690, a contract was let for a dock yard to be built in the Hamoaze area, which was the start of the Devonport Royal Dockyards.

At Devonport, Dummer was the designer of the first successful stepped stone dry dock in Europe. Previously the Navy Board had relied upon timber as the major building material, which resulted in high maintenance costs and was also a fire risk. The docks Dummer designed were stronger with more secure foundations and stepped sides that made it easier for men to work beneath the hull of a docked vessel. These innovations also allowed rapid erection of staging and greater workforce mobility. He discarded the earlier three-sectioned hinged gate, which was labour intensive in operation, and replaced it with the simpler and more mobile two-sectioned gate. He wished to ensure that naval dockyards were efficient working units that maximized available space, as evidenced by the simplicity of his design layout for Plymouth. He introduced a centralized storage area and a logical positioning of buildings, and his double rope-house combined the previously separate tasks of spinning and laying while allowing the upper floor to be used for the repair of sails.


The Royal Navy Dockyard consists of 14 dry docks (Docks Numbered 1 to 15, but there is no 13 Dock) , four miles (6km) of waterfront, 25 tidal berths, five basins and an area of 650 acres (2.6 kmĀ²). It is the base for seven of the Trafalgar class nuclear powered hunter killer submarines and the main refitting base for all Royal Navy nuclear submarines. Work was completed by Carillion in 2002 to build a refitting dock to support the Vanguard class Trident missile nuclear ballistic missile submarines.

Locals and tourists have long been able to visit the Dockyard during "Navy Days", a two day event where visitors can tour the facility, go aboard active naval ships and watch various displays of naval prowess. Among the most popular attractions is the nuclear powered submarine HMS Courageousmarker, used in the Falklands War.

Devonport serves as headquarters for Flag Officer Sea Training, which is responsible for the training of all the ships of the Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, along with many from foreign naval services.

Plymouth Naval Base Museummarker is a maritime museum under development at Devonport.

Devonport Flotilla

Ships based at the port are known as the Devonport Flotilla. This includes the Navy's assault ships HMS Ocean, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark. It also serves as home port to most of the hydrographic surveying fleet of the Royal Navy and a substantial number of Type 22 and Type 23 frigates. The previous Commodore of the Devonport Flotilla was Commodore Peter Walpole ADC who assumed command in September 2005.

Amphibious assault ships

Type 22 frigates

Type 23 frigates

Trafalgar class submarines

Surveying squadron

Other ships based at Devonport

Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service

  • A186 Salmaster
  • Y33 Moorfowl
  • A224 Adept
  • A227 Careful
  • A221 Forceful
  • A147 Frances
  • A170 Kitty
  • A172 Lesley
  • A191 Bovisand
  • A192 Cawsand
  • A216 Bee
  • A250 Sheepdog
  • A201 Spaniel
  • A309 Instow
  • A311 Ironbridge
  • A393 Dunster
  • A1768 Harlech

Other units based at Devonport

Navy Days

Navy Days happens once every two years when for two days at the end of the summer a large percentage of Devonport Dockyard is open to the general public. There is an opportunity to view the facilities at the naval base as well as the large number of Royal Navy and allied naval vessels present. There are a large number of stands and displays present which provide a large amount of information on some of the less well known aspects of the Royal Navy, for example the Royal Navy submarine rescue service.


  1. HMNB Devonport : Naval Bases & Air Stations : Establishments : Operations and Support : Royal Navy
  4. Plymouth Naval Base Museum website
  5. Biography of Commodore Peter Walpole ADC

External links

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