Commander-in-Chief, China

The Commander-in-Chief, China, was a senior officer position of the Royal Navy. The officer in this position was in charge of the Navy's vessels and shore establishments in China from 1865 to 1941. He thus directed a naval formation, which was often known, even in official documents, as the China Station.

Commander-in-Chief, China
British Warship inside Admiralty IX Floating Doc Sept 1941
A British warship inside the Admiralty IX floating dry dock at Singapore Naval Base in September 1941
Country United Kingdom/British Empire
BranchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
Part ofAdmiralty
Garrison/HQSingapore Naval Base (1865–1942, 1945–1971)
HMS Tamar (1865–1941, 1945–1997)
Wei Hai Wei station on Liugong Island (1898–1930)


Navy Office Singapore
Navy Office, Singapore

From 1831 to 1865, the East Indies Station and the China Station were a single command known as the East Indies and China Station.[1] The China Station, established in 1865, had as its area of responsibility the coasts of China and its navigable rivers, the western part of the Pacific Ocean, and the waters around the Dutch East Indies.[2] The navy often co-operated with British commercial interests in this area.

The formation had bases at Singapore (Singapore Naval Base), HMS Tamar (1865–1941 and 1945–1997) in Hong Kong and Wei Hai (at Liugong Island) (1898–1940). The China Station complement usually consisted of several older light cruisers and destroyers, and the Chinese rivers were patrolled by a flotilla of suitable, shallow-draught gunboats, referred to as "China gunboats".[3] Ships on this station usually had a distinctive livery of white hull and superstructure and dark funnels. In response to increased Japanese threats, the separate China Station was merged with the East Indies Station in December 1941 to form the Eastern Fleet.[4]


Dates Admiral Commanding[1][5]
1865–1867 Vice-Admiral Sir George King
1867–1869 Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Keppel
1869–1871 Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Kellett
1871–1874 Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Shadwell
1874–1877 Vice-Admiral Sir Alfred Ryder
1877–1878 Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Hillyar
1878–1881 Vice-Admiral Robert Coote
1881–1884 Vice-Admiral Sir George Willes
1884–1885 Vice-Admiral Sir William Dowell
1885–1887 Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Hamilton
1887–1890 Vice-Admiral Sir Nowell Salmon
1890–1892 Vice-Admiral Sir Frederick Richards
1892–1895 Vice-Admiral Sir Edmund Fremantle
1895–1897 Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Buller
1897–1901 Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Seymour
1901–1904 Vice-Admiral Sir Cyprian Bridge
1904–1906 Vice-Admiral Sir Gerard Noel
1906–1908 Vice-Admiral Sir Arthur Moore
1908–1910 Vice-Admiral Sir Hedworth Meux
1910–1913 Vice-Admiral Sir Alfred Winsloe
1913–1915 Vice-Admiral Sir Martyn Jerram
1916–1917 Vice-Admiral Sir William Grant
1917–1919 Rear-Admiral Sir Frederick Tudor
24 July 1919 – 1922 Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Duff
10 September 1922 – November 1924 Admiral Sir Arthur Leveson
November 1924 – 1925 Rear Admiral Sir Allan Everett
1925 Rear Admiral David Anderson (acting)
22 April 1925 – 8 November 1926 Vice-Admiral Sir Edwyn Alexander-Sinclair
8 November 1926 – 28 November 1928 Vice-Admiral Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt
28 November 1928 – 28 February 1931 Vice-Admiral Sir Arthur Waistell
28 February 1931 – 11 March 1933 Vice-Admiral Sir Howard Kelly
11 March 1933 – 11 January 1936 Admiral Sir Frederic Dreyer
11 January 1936 – 5 February 1938 Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Little
5 February 1938 – 1940 Admiral Sir Percy Noble
September 1940 – November 1941 Vice Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton
November – 2 December 1941 Admiral Sir Tom Phillips [6]

See also


  1. ^ a b William Loney RN
  2. ^ Royal Navy Foreign Stations
  3. ^ HMS Falcon Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ The sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse
  5. ^ Paul Bevand; Frank Allen (21 October 2007). "Commander-in-Chief, China Station". Royal Navy Fleet Officers, 1904–1945. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 4 July 2008.
  6. ^ Jackson, Ashley (2006). The British Empire and the Second World War. London, England: A&C Black. pp. 288–289. ISBN 9780826440495.
Alexander Buller

Admiral Sir Alexander Buller (30 June 1834 – 3 October 1903) was a Royal Navy officer who went on to be Commander-in-Chief, China Station.

Alexander Duff (Royal Navy officer)

Admiral Sir Alexander Ludovic Duff (20 February 1862 – 22 November 1933) was a Royal Navy officer who served as Commander-in-Chief, China Station.

Alfred Ryder (Royal Navy officer)

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Alfred Phillipps Ryder (27 June 1820 – 30 April 1888) was a Royal Navy officer. As a junior officer he undertook the role of transporting Pedro de Sousa Holstein, 1st Duke of Palmela, the Portuguese ambassador, back home to Lisbon and then delivering the Percy Doyle, the British ambassador to the Republic of Mexico, to Mexico City. He then led a naval brigade dispatched to Nicaragua to deal with the unlawful detention of two British subjects. He pursued the Nicaraguan commander, a Colonel Salas, for 30 miles up the San Juan River and captured the fort at Serapique.

Ryder became commanding officer of the frigate HMS Dauntless in which he saw action in the Black Sea and then took part in the Battle of Kinburn during the Crimean War. He went on to be Controller of the Coastguard, Commander-in-Chief, China Station and then Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth. In retirement he was an active member of the Church of England Purity Society. He suffered from depression and died after falling into the River Thames at the Vauxhall steamboat pier.

Alfred Winsloe

Admiral Sir Alfred Leigh Winsloe (25 April 1852 – 16 February 1931) was a Royal Navy officer who went on to be Commander-in-Chief, China Station.

Arthur Leveson

Admiral Sir Arthur Cavenagh Leveson GCB (27 January 1868 – 26 June 1929) was a senior officer in the Royal Navy. He was the Rear Admiral Commanding His Majesty's Australian Fleet from 9 January 1917 to 3 September 1918 and later Commander in Chief, China Station from 10 September 1922 to 22 April 1925.

Charles Hillyar

Admiral Sir Charles Farrell Hillyar (bapt. 19 December 1817 – 14 December 1888) was a Royal Navy admiral who went on to be Commander-in-Chief, China Station.

Charles Shadwell (Royal Navy officer)

Admiral Sir Charles Frederick Alexander Shadwell, (31 January 1814 – 1 March 1886) was a Royal Navy officer who went on to be Commander-in-Chief, China Station.

Edward Seymour (Royal Navy officer)

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Edward Hobart Seymour, (30 April 1840 – 2 March 1929) was a Royal Navy officer. As a junior officer he served in the Black Sea during the Crimean War. He then took part in the sinking of the war-junks, the Battle of Canton and the Battle of Taku Forts during the Second Opium War and then saw action again at the Battle of Cixi during the Taiping Rebellion.

Seymour went on to be Second-in-Command of the Channel Squadron and then Admiral Superintendent of Naval Reserves. After that he became Commander-in-Chief, China Station. During the Boxer Rebellion, he led an expedition of 2,000 sailors and marines from Western and Japanese warships to relieve the besieged diplomatic legations in Peking. The expedition was defeated by Chinese and Boxer forces and had to return to Tianjin. Although the mission had failed, when Seymour arrived back at Portsmouth he and his men were welcomed by thousands of people lining the beach and pier.

George King (Royal Navy officer)

Admiral Sir George St Vincent King (15 July 1809 – 18 August 1891) was a Royal Navy officer who went on to be Commander-in-Chief, China Station.

George Willes

Admiral Sir George Ommanney Willes (19 June 1823 – 18 February 1901) was a Royal Navy officer who went on to be Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth.

Gerard Noel (Royal Navy officer)

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Gerard Henry Uctred Noel, (5 March 1845 – 23 May 1918) was a Royal Navy officer. As a junior officer he commanded a naval brigade which took part in the capture of Kumasi in February 1874 during the Second Anglo-Ashanti War.

Noel went on to be Second-in-Command of the Mediterranean Fleet: during this tour, following the murder of the British vice-consul in Heraklion and an attack on the Customs House there, Noel landed a force in Crete to court-martial the terrorists and generally restore order. After that he became Admiral Superintendent of Naval Reserves and was given the additional responsibility of Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet. He then became Commander-in-Chief, China Station: at the time relations between the United Kingdom and Russia were strained as the United Kingdom expressed its considerable dissatisfaction in relation to Russian aggression at the start of the Russo-Japanese War. His last appointment was as Commander-in-Chief, The Nore.

Henry Kellett

Vice Admiral Sir Henry Kellett, (2 November 1806 – 1 March 1875) was a British naval officer and explorer.

Henry Keppel

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Keppel (14 June 1809 – 17 January 1904) was a Royal Navy officer. His first command was largely spent off the coast of Spain, which was then in the midst of the First Carlist War. As commanding officer of the corvette HMS Dido on the East Indies and China Station he was deployed in operations during the First Opium War and in operations against Borneo pirates. He later served as commander of the naval brigade besieging Sebastopol during the Crimean War. After becoming second-in-command of the East Indies and China Station, he commanded the British squadron in the action with Chinese pirates at the Battle of Fatshan Creek when he sank around 100 enemy war-junks. He subsequently took part in the capture of Canton during the Second Opium War.

Keppel went on to be Commander-in-Chief, Cape of Good Hope and West Coast of Africa Station, then Commander-in-Chief, South East Coast of America Station, Commander-in-Chief, China Station and finally Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth.

Howard Kelly (Royal Navy officer)

Admiral Sir William Archibald Howard Kelly (6 September 1873 – 14 September 1952) was a Royal Navy officer who went on to be Commander-in-Chief, China Station.

Martyn Jerram

Admiral Sir (Thomas Henry) Martyn Jerram, (6 September 1858 – 19 March 1933) was a Royal Navy officer who went on to be Commander-in-Chief, China Station.

Nowell Salmon

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Nowell Salmon (20 February 1835 – 14 February 1912) was a Royal Navy officer. As a junior officer he served in the naval brigade and took part in the Siege of Lucknow during the Indian Mutiny. He was a member of the force defending the Residency when he volunteered to climb a tree near the wall of the Shah Nujeff mosque to observe the fall of shot, despite being under fire himself and wounded in the thigh. He and his colleague, Leading Seaman John Harrison, were awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces for this action.

A few years later Salmon was dispatched from Belize to take custody of William Walker, an American citizen who had briefly been president of Nicaragua, but who was now attempting further conquests in Central America. The British Government regarded Walker as a menace to its own affairs in the region. Salmon captured Walker and delivered him to the authorities in Honduras, who promptly had him court-martialed and shot.

Salmon went on to be Commander-in-Chief, Cape of Good Hope and West Coast of Africa Station, then Commander-in-Chief, China Station and finally Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth.

Percy Noble (Royal Navy officer)

Admiral Sir Percy Lockhart Harnam Noble, GBE, KCB, CVO (16 January 1880 – 25 July 1955) was a Royal Navy officer who served in both World Wars.

Noble rose to the rank of Admiral and was Commander-in-Chief, Western Approaches for two crucial years during the Second World War, before being posted to the United States as Head of the RN Admiralty Delegation.

Reginald Tyrwhitt

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Reginald Yorke Tyrwhitt, 1st Baronet, (; 10 May 1870 – 30 May 1951) was a Royal Navy officer. During the First World War he served as commander of the Harwich Force. He led a supporting naval force of 31 destroyers and two cruisers at the Battle of Heligoland Bight in August 1914, in which action the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron under Sir David Beatty sunk three German cruisers and one German destroyer with minimal loss of allied warships. Tyrwhitt also led the British naval forces during the Cuxhaven Raid in December 1914, when British seaplanes destroyed German Zeppelin airships and at the Battle of Dogger Bank in January 1915, in which action Tyrwhitt again supported Beatty's powerful battlecruiser squadron.

After the war, Tyrwhitt went on to be Senior Naval Officer, Gibraltar, commander of the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean Fleet and then Commander-in-Chief, Coast of Scotland. He also served as Commander-in-Chief, China during a period of disturbances and tension with the Nationalist Government. His last appointment was as Commander-in-Chief, The Nore.

Robert Coote (Royal Navy officer)

Admiral Robert Coote (1 June 1820 – 17 March 1898) was a Royal Navy officer who went on to be Commander-in-Chief, China Station.

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