OLD DEVONPORT . UK
www.olddevonport.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: February 09 2016.
Webpage updated: March 29, 2017

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THE ROYAL NAVY IN OLD DEVONPORT  |  ROYAL NAVAL BARRACKS

HMS "DRAKE"

Old aerial view of the Royal Naval Barracks at Devonport.
From a postcard.

Shortly after the men from HMS "Royal Adelaide" entered the newly built Royal Naval Barracks at Keyham it took the name of HMS "Vivid", the Commander-in-Chief's yacht.

At the first ever Drake Dinner held in the wardroom the suggestion was made that the Base should take the name of the famous local sailor and seafarer, Sir Francis Drake, rather than the rather non-descript "Vivid".  Clearly the idea was well received because it was put before the Admiralty, who gave its approval.  On Monday January 1st 1934 HMS "Vivid" gave place to HMS "Drake" and new cap ribbons were issued on Friday January 19th 1934.  Only five years later the Second World War was declared and many men and ships from Devonport left the port for their arduous duties.

During April 1941 the Boscawen accommodation block was destroyed by a bomb, which resulted in the deaths of 113 sailors.  The Prime Minster, Mr Winston Churchill, accompanied by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, and Lady Nancy Astor MP, visited the Barracks in May 1941 and saw the gymnasium filled with coffins and met some forty injured sailors who had survived the air raid, the two groups separated only be a low curtain.

At the dedication service for the Book of Remembrance it was stated that 273 Devonport based craft never returned to their port and that 13,837 sailors and officers never saw HMS "Drake" again.

Demobilization began in 1945 and the following year the Royal Naval Demobilization Centre was set up.  Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, presented new Queen's Colours in 1953.  Two new accommodation blocks (the Cunningham and Fraser Blocks) were opened in 1955 and the Navy "Piped Over the Side" its last horse.  In 1961 the Royal Naval Barracks title was officially dropped in favour of HMS "Drake" and with the detonation of a thunder flash the Hawkins Block was demolished.  The Women's Royal Naval Service moved into new accommodation within the Barracks in 1969 but moved again in 1973.  The Benbow Block was opened in 1975 and the Rodney and Armada Blocks sometime later while in the local press there was a long debate over the origin of the Devonport base's nickname of "GUZZ".