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Author Topic: Closure of Sheerness Dockyard (includes mentions of Chatham)  (Read 3325 times)

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Offline kyn

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Closure of Sheerness Dockyard (includes mentions of Chatham)
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2012, 10:19:42 »
11th February, 1958


On the subject of naval shore re-organisation, I circulate for the information of the Cabinet:-
(a)   The text of the announcement which I intend to make to Parliament on 18th February (annex A);
(b)   The relevant section of my Explanatory Statement on the Navy estimates which will be published on the same afternoon (Annex B).
2.   I have consulted those Ministers directly concerned on the terms of these announcements.




With permission I will make a statement about the future of the Royal Dockyards, naval air establishments, and the structure of the Home Commands.
Her Majesty’s Government have decided, with great regret, that the Nore Command should be abolished; that Sheerness and Portland Dockyards, the Air Repair Yard, Donibristle, and certain air establishments, should be closed; and that the Torpedo Experiments Establishment should be transferred from Greenock to Portland.
2.   The decline in naval repair work resulting from the planned reductions in the Fleet will not require the closure of any other dockyard in the United Kingdom.  Singapore and Gibraltar Dockyards will be retained.  The future of Malta Dockyard is still under consideration.
3.   The Nore Command will be abolished by April 1961, and its remaining functions transferred to other authorities.  At Sheerness, the Dockyard will be run down gradually, closing April 1960.  At Chatham, the Dockyard will be retained; but the barracks and other naval establishments will be closed, also by April 1961.
4.   At Portland the dockyard will be reduced by July 1959.  The naval base will be retained.  I have considered with particular care the final stage of the concentration at Portland of underwater research and development and have decided that the Torpedo Experimental Establishment must be transferred there from Greenock in order to achieve the closest co-ordination in the development of underwater weapons.  This move will take place towards the end of 1959.
5.   The tasks of the Home Air Command will be concentrated in larger groups at fewer bases.  The aircraft Repair Yard at Donibristle will be closed by the end of 1959.  The Royal Naval Air Stations at Ford, Bramcote and Eglinton will also be closed in about a year’s time.  The Air Station at Brawdy and the Air Electrical School at Worthy Down will close later.
6.   I am well aware of what these decisions will mean for Chatham men, and for many Fleet Air Arm ratings, of the Royal Navy, and for the civilian employees of the establishments to be closed.  My Right Honourable Friend the Minister of Labour will arrange as necessary to open special employment offices inside these establishments before discharges begin.  With the assistance of Mt Right Honourable Friend the President of the Board of Trade, everything possible will be done to bring the facilities at Sheerness, Donibristle and Greenock to the notice of suitable industrial interests.  We shall enter into consultation immediately with the staff association and trade unions.
7.   Details of these plans, and of their effects, are included in my Noble Friend’s Explanatory Statement on the Navy Estimates, which will be available in the Vote Office later this afternoon.
8.   The result of the re-organisation will be a total reduction of about 2,700 naval posts ashore and of over 7,000 civilian posts.  This more men will be available to serve at sea, and an annual saving of about £7 millions will be achieved.  The Government is confident that, although some hardship will be unavoidable, all those in the Naval Service will appreciate the necessity for these drastic measures for the purpose of maintaining the strength of the sea-going Fleet.

Extract Relating to Parliamentary Announcement on 18 February, 1958

During the last year there has been a thorough review of the future needs of the Navy ashore in order to ensure that the resources of men and money available will be used to the best advantage of the smaller Fleet.
2.   In particular, a most careful examination has been made of the future of the Royal Dockyards and naval air establishments, and of the structure of the Home Commands.  It has been decided that the Nore Command should be abolished; and that Her Majesty’s Dockyards at Sheerness and Portland, and the Royal Naval Aircraft Yard, Donibristle, and five other air establishments, should be closed.
3.   The decline in naval repair work resulting from the planned reductions in the fleet will not require closure of any other Dockyard in the United Kingdom.  The closure of the Hong Kong Dockyard by the end of November, 1959 was announced earlier.  Singapore and Gibraltar Dockyards will be retained.  At Malta the level of naval activity is likely to decline and certain British firms are examining the feasibility of taking over the Dockyard for commercial use.  In the light of the outcome of this examination, the future of the Dockyard will be decided after consultation with the Maltese Government.

The Nore Command and Sheerness Dockyard

4.   The post of Commander-in-Chief, The Nore, and the Nore Command will be abolished.  It is planned that the Commander-in-Chief’s present functions, in both his national and NATO capacities, will be transferred to other authorities by April 1961.  Responsibility for naval establishments remaining in the Command area will be allocated to another Home Command.
5.   Sheerness Dockyard will be run down by April 1960.  IT is hoped to dispose of the yard before closure to industrial or commercial interests.  IT employs some 2,500 industrial and non-industrial staff.  About 1,100 are established, of whom as many as possible will be absorbed into Chatham Dockyard.  The balance of unestablished employees will be reduced by normal wastage and discharge.
6.   At Chatham the Dockyard will be retained; but by April 1961 Her Majesty’s Ships will normally be refitted there with only key personnel on board.  It is planned to close or transfer the barracks and other naval establishments, as shown below.  Deep regret is felt that it is necessary to break the long association in history, going back four centuries, of the Royal Navy with the Medway towns.

Royal Naval Barracks, Chatham:
To be closed by April 1961.

H.M.S. Ceres (Royal Naval Supply and Secretariat School):
To be housed in the Royal Naval Barracks, Chatham, for at least two years; then to be moved, probably to Portsmouth.  (It is not possible to move Ceres straight to its final location.)

Mechanical Training Establishment, Chatham:
To be transferred; probably to Portsmouth by September 1960.

Royal Naval Hospital, Chatham:
To cease to be a naval hospital by April 1961.

H.M.S. Wildfire (Royal Naval Base, Sheerness):
To be closed by April 1960, or as soon as the run-down of Sheerness Dockyard permits.

Chart and Boom Defences Depots:
The Chart Depot at Sheerness and Boom Defence Depots at Sheerness and Queenborough to be closed by 1960.

Royal Naval armaments Depots:
Royal Naval Torpedo Depot, Chatham, and Chatham Gunwharf Workshops – to be closed by end of 1958.
The Depots at Upnor, Lodge Hill and Grain: and Chatham Gunwharf Storehouses – to be closed by 1963.

Other minor Fleet establishments and services at Chatham and Sheerness will also be closed, reduced or transferred as the run-down of the Command progresses.

7.   In the Chatham and Sheerness area as a whole, the total number of industrial and non-industrial employees will be reduced by normal wastage and discharge by about 2,700 over the next three years or so.


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