The Navy in Queensferry

There are many who will remember Port Edgar prior to 1975 when the Royal Navy was in residence.

This collection of dates and events is intended to inform and remind people of the history that was made at Port Edgar, and its contribution to the nation in war and peace.

1850’s – Royal Naval guardships are regularly stationed off Queensferry. Port Edgar pier in use as a Fleet landing place.

1878– The North British Railway open a rail ferry link between the west breakwater at Port Edgar and the Town Pier at North Queensferry. Completing the Edinburgh to Dunfermline line. The Royal Navy are later to make full use of the rail head. It’s existence is vital in shaping Port Edgar’s future.

1891-1906 – HMS CALEDONIA, a boy cadet training ship is moored off Port Edgar. A total of 600 boys could be accommodated.

1905 – The Royal Naval Hospital South Queensferry is commissioned at Butlaw.

The Royal Naval Hospital at Butlaw.

1909 – Work commences on the construction of Rosyth Naval Base.

1916 – The Admiralty acquire Port Edgar and adjacent land. Site is developed as a Torpedo Boat Destroyer Depot. Complete with its own oil fuelling and repair facility. After the Battle of Jutland, the dead and wounded personnel are landed at the base. To see graves and Memorial visit local cemetery in Kirkliston Road.

Air view of Port Edgar.

1917 – Port Edgar is commissioned as HMS COLUMBINE , under the command of Captain Cherry R. N. A total of 66 destroyers can be accommodated in the pens. Grand Fleet destroyers include ‘M’, ‘R’ and ‘V’ and ‘W’ classes. November – Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet engage warships of the German High Seas Fleet , Port Edgar based destroyers in action.

1918 – The surrendered German High Seas Fleet is escorted into the Firth of Forth in preparation for internment at Scapa Flow. Port Edgar destroyers provide escort for 50 German destroyers.

1919 – A mutiny takes place aboard destroyers of the First Flotilla. Crews object to conditions of service in the North Russia campaign, and refuse to set sail. Port Edgar crews assemble at Edinburgh Waverley in an attempt to travel to London and see the Prime Minister. A number are arrested and later court martialled.

1924-1926 – Captain Andrew Browne Cunningham as Commanding Officer at Port Edgar. Later to take his place in history as Commander in Chief Naval Forces Mediterranean during World War Two, and later Admiral of the Fleet.

1928-1938 – HMS COLUMBINE, destroyer base and the naval hospital at Butlaw are closed. Port Edgar is placed under care and maintenance. Closure of base is unpopular as a number of local people make their living at the base. In 1938 a hospital is established in the ex destroyer base barracks.

1939 – Following the outbreak of war, Port Edgar base is brought alive again as HMS LOCHINVAR, a training establishment for officers and men of the R.N. Patrol Service.
October – German air force attacks shipping in the Firth Of Forth. The first air raid on British mainland of the war. Near miss on the Forth Bridge, three warships are damaged and sustain casualties. The naval hospital at Port Edgar treats wounded personnel.

King George IV visits South Queensferry in 1940.

1943 – The base commissions as HMS HOPETOUN, a Combined Operations Training Centre. HMS LOCHINVAR minesweeping training transfers to Granton Harbour, Edinburgh. Port Edgar is packed with landing craft their crews training with Force ‘S’ in preparation for the Normandy landings of June 1944.

1946 – HMS LOCHINVAR returns to Port Edgar. Mine clearance of the Firth of Forth and the east coast is coordinated and carried out from the base.

1948 – The base becomes a minesweeping Trials and Experimentation Establishment.

1958 – The Fishery Protection Squadron is moved from the River Humber to Port Edgar.

1960 – As HMS LOCHINVAR, the base becomes responsible for all minesweeping training.

During the 1960’s a number of live minesweeping operations are carried out by Port Edgar based vessels, off mainland Europe clearing up the legacy of WWII minelaying.

1962 – His Majesty King Olav of Norway visits Queensferry and Port Edgar he reviews ships of the Scottish Command . During World War Two King Olav whilst in exile, led his navy from Queensferry, their HQ being the current Council Offices in the High Street.

1974 – Port Edgar based vessels engaged in mine clearance of the Suez Canal following the Arab Israeli War.

1975 – The new Fleet base opens at Rosyth Naval Base. After almost 75 years service Port Edgar base is closed down. HMS LOCHINVAR, Port Edgar vessels and personnel transfer across to Rosyth.

1978 – Lothian Regional Council purchase site from the Ministry of Defence, site is developed as a Marina. Today Port Edgar continues as a large watersports centre. It is managed by Edinburgh Leisure on behalf of Edinburgh City Council. There have been plans to further develop Port Edgar these have been met with some controversy. The debate continues. Meanwhile enjoy its history.

Memorial remembers the Algerines.

‘Let there be a way through the water’

The cairn situated at the foot of the main jetty was erected by the Algerines Association in 1988. Algerines were a class of fleet minesweeper, many sailed from Port Edgar during and after World War Two. The cairn is dedicated to the men and ships of the Royal and Allied Navies who learned their trade at HMS LOCHINVAR. Port Edgar and Granton. Also to those who served 1945 To 1975, in the Minewarfare and Fishery Protection Services.

V W Class Destroyer painting, by permission of artist Jim Rae.
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