Military Wiki
Signal Division
[[file:United Kingdom|180px]]
Division overview
Formed 1914
Preceding Division Signals Section
Dissolved 1964
Superseding agency Communications Division (signals)
Jurisdiction Government of the United Kingdom
Headquarters Admiralty Building
Parent department Admiralty Naval Staff

The Signal Division [1] was the component part of the Admiralty Naval Staff responsible for policy, control and management of all naval communications from 1914 to 1964.


In 1906 the Admiralty set up a Signals Committee to initially investigate signaling between Royal Navy vessels and Merchant Navy vessels,[2] in 1914 the Admiralty War Staff had established an expanded Signal Section [3] to deal with all shore to ship communications following the abolition of the war staff function. The Signal Division was established on the 18 August 1917 [4] the divisions primary role was for receiving and sending signals to ships at sea and stations ashore, but also for the coding or cyphering of the signals. In September 1919 the division was renamed the Communications Division [5] until 1927 when it was again re-styled Signal Section still within the Naval Staff until 1941 when it reverted to Signal Division, it continued as a component part of the Naval Staff until 1964 when the Admiralty Department was abolished and replaced by a new Navy Department within the Ministry of Defence.


As of August, 1917:[6]

  • The Signal Division will be responsible for all Naval, Mercantile, Allied and Naval & Military:-
  • W/T Signalling (including the allocation of all W/T Call Signs other than "commercial").
  • S/T Signalling
  • Visual Signalling (including allocation of all Pendants)
  • Private and Recognition Signals
  • Signal Books
  • Codes
  • Cyphers
  • Methods of Drafting, Coding & Cyphering, and dealing with all messages (whether W/T, S/T, Visual, Land Line or Cable).
  • "S" Orders
  • "SR" Orders
  • The Signal Division is not responsible for either Personnel or Materiel, but will act in an advisory capacity to the departments dealing therewith and should be consulted by them as necessary.
  • All correspondence, and preparing, printing and "establishment" of all the necessary books and Instructions in connection therewith.



  • Rear-Admiral Sydney R. Fremantle, September, 1914 – July, 1915.
  • Captain Christopher R. Payne, January, 1916 – May, 1917.
  • Captain Edward M. Phillpotts, August, 1917 – December 1917.
  • Acting Captain Richard L. Nicholson, January, 1918 – November, 1919.
  • Captain Rudolf M. Burmester: November 1919-April 1920
  • Captain Henry K. Kitson, July, 1921 – February, 1923.
  • Captain Raymond Fitzmaurice: February 1923-February 1925
  • Captain James F.Somerville: February 1925-February 1927
  • Captain Charles E. Kennedy-Purvis: February 1927-March 1930
  • Captain James W.S.Dorling: March 1930-April 1932
  • Captain Arthur J. L. Murray: April 1932-September 1934
  • Captain Guy W.Hallifax: September 1934-October 1935
  • Captain W. Tofield Makeig-Jones: October 1935-September 1937
  • Captain Philip F. Glover: September 1937-March 1942
  • Rear-Admiral Cedric S. Holland: March 1942-November 1943
  • Rear-Admiral Vaughan Morgan: November 1943-October 1945
  • Captain John R.S. Haines: October 1945-April 1947
  • Captain Gilbert R. Waymouth: April 1947-September 1949
  • Captain Ralph G. Swallow: September 1949-December 1951
  • Captain Roy S. Foster-Brown: December 1951-February 1954
  • Captain Alwyn D. Lenox-Conyngham: February 1954-November 1955
  • Captain Robert F. T. Stannard: November 1955-November 1957
  • Captain Christopher A. James: November 1957-November 1959
  • Captain Edward T.L. Dunsterville: November 1959-March 1960
  • Captain W. John Parker: March 1960-November 1961
  • Captain John R.G. Trechman: November 1961-January 1965

Deputy Directors[]


  • Captain Patrick W.B. Brooking: August 1939-July 1941
  • Captain Francis J. Wylie: July 1941-March 1943
  • Captain Charles L. Firth: July 1941-May 1943
  • Captain Sir Philip W. Bowyer-Smith, Bt.: November 1941-October 1943
  • Captain J.Peter L. Reid: March 1943-December 1944
  • Captain Herbert F.H. Layman: February 1944 – 1945
  • Captain Charles L. Firth: December 1944-December 1945
  • Captain Laurence G. Durlacher: December 1945-March 1948
  • Captain Peter Dawnay: March 1948-March 1950
  • Captain Earl Cairns: March 1950-March 1952
  • Captain Edward T.L. Dunsterville: March 1952-March 1954
  • Captain Charles P. Mills: March 1954-April 1956
  • Captain Christopher A. James: April 1956-November 1957
  • Captain Robert R.B. Mackenzie: November 1957-December 1959
  • Captain Ian F. Sommerville: December 1959-February 1961
  • Captain the Hon. David P. Seely: February 1961-August 1963
  • Captain Douglas A. Poynter: August 1963-August 1965


  1. Smith, Gordon; Watson, Dr Graham. "British Admiralty, Shore Establishments, Fleets and Station, World War 1". Gordon Smith, 23 July 2015. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
  2. Mead, Cdr. Hilary P. Retd. R.N. (1957). "Centenary of the International Signal Book". pp. pp. 334–338. 
  3. Hammond Hall, William Palmer; Ingram, Thomas Allen; Price, E. D. (1 January 1917). "The New Hazell Annual and Almanack,Volume 32" (in en). Oxford University Press, p.710. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
  4. Archives, The National. "Admiralty Signal Division: History: Docket entitled "Division of Responsibility for Wireless Telegraphy Work."". National Archives, 1936, ADM 116/3404. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
  5. Brooks, John (Dec 6, 2012) (in en). Dreadnought Gunnery and the Battle of Jutland: The Question of Fire Control. Routledge. p. 266. ISBN 9781135765545. 
  6. Archives, The National. "Admiralty Signal Division: History: Docket entitled "Division of Responsibility for Wireless Telegraphy Work."". National Archives, 1936, ADM 116/3404. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
  7. Mackie, Colin. "Senior Royal Navy Appointments from 1865". Colin Mackie, p.55, January 2017. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
  8. Mackie, Colin. "Senior Royal Navy Appointments from 1865". Colin Mackie, p.55, January 2017. Retrieved 3 March 2017. 


Primary source for this article is by Harley Simon, Lovell Tony, (2017), Signal Division (Royal Navy),,


  • Archives, The National. "Admiralty Signal Division: History", Vol 2. National Archives, 1936 . ADM 116/3404.
  • Archives, The National. "Records of Naval Staff Departments". National Archives, 1883-1978, ADM Division 10.
  • Black, Nicholas (2009). The British Naval Staff in the First World War. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press. ISBN 9781843834427.
  • Mackie, Colin, (2010-2014), British Armed Services between 1860 and the present day — Royal Navy - Senior Appointments,
  • Rodger. N.A.M., (1979) The Admiralty (offices of state), T. Dalton, Lavenham, ISBN 978-0900963940
  • Smith, Gordon (2014), British Admiralty, Part 2 - Changes in Admiralty Departments 1913-1920, Naval-History.Net.

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