Site Records

Site Name: Plymouth Maritime Headquarters
                    (Mount Wise)

Richmond Walk
Mount Wise
Plymouth, Devon
OS Grid Ref: SX458540

Sub Brit site visit 13th December 2004

[Source: Bob Jenner]

By the mid 1980's it was recognised that the MHQ was completely out of date with regard to modern NBC standards and consideration was given to completely rebuilding the PUE as a modern self-contained state of the art complex. Investigations showed that the cost of this would be prohibitive therefore the existing MHQ would undergo a complete overhaul and update to modern standards.

Photo:During the 1990/91 refit two new generators were installed in one of the PUE tunnels
Photo by Nick Catford

But first, starting in 1985, an interim upgrade was commenced with a new computer based system replacing the old WW2 wall maps and plotting practices. During this period the two level joint operations room was reduced to one level by the insertion of a false ceiling and the blanking off of the glass fronted cabins known as the 'Eagles Nest'. Further updates of the computers occurred during 1988.

It was during 1990/91 that major building work was undertaken. New diesel generators, fuel tanks and electrical services were re-sited in the unused tunnels of the PUE with new modern ventilation, air conditioning and filtration plant being located between the MHQ and the PUE. This resulted in the old generator plant room at the end of the C in C's garden becoming disused. Also at this time, the entrance tunnel that emerged outside Hamoaze House was blocked and sealed along with several areas of the tunnels that had become unsafe, backed filled and secured from the complex.

Photo:During the 1985 refit the old two level joint operations room was reduced to single level by inserting a false ceiling - the area above becoming a 'void' space with no access.
Photo by Nick Catford

Post war, the MHQ remained the HQ of the C in C Plymouth until that post, together with that of C in C Portsmouth, was subsumed into the post of C in C Naval Home Command based in Portsmouth. The two C in C posts were re-graded as Flag Officers. The C in C Home Fleet had moved ashore to HMS Warrior at the old RAF Coastal Command HQ at Northwood on the outskirts of West London. The C in C Home Fleet was re-titled C in C Western Fleet before becoming, in 1971, C in C Fleet. In 2004 C in C Fleet relocated from Northwood, which by now become UK Permanent Joint Headquarters, to a brand new purpose built HQ on Whale Island (HMS Excellent) in Portsmouth Harbour thus drawing previously dispersed elements together on one site. This new HQ is an administration HQ. Command remains at Northwood.

Upon the abolition of the post of C in C Plymouth, the MHQ became the HQ of Flag Officer Plymouth until, in turn this post went and the whole of the dockyard and barracks become HM Naval Base, Plymouth, under the command of a Commodore, who is answerable to the Chief of Fleet Support at Bath. The naval base is also known as HMS Drake, previously the name of the barracks only.

Other users of the base are:

  • Flag Officer, Sea Training (FOST), responsible to C in C Fleet
  • Commodore, The Development Flotilla, local representative of C in C fleet
  • Captain, 2nd Submarine Squadron (SM2) with 7 Trafalgar class submarine answerable to Flag Officer, Submarines at Northwood
  • Southern Diving and Explosive Disposal Unit
Photo:The radio room after the 1985 refit
Photo by Nick Catford

Various lodger units have occupied the MHQ since the 1950's, including RAF Rescue and Coordination Centre (South). This unit also occupied its own HQ at RAF Mount Batten. HMS Vivid relocated to its present location, within the dockyard walls at Granby Gate in 1996.

A military Nuclear Reporting Cell was established in the 1960's, staffed by RAF/ROC personnel; it provided fallout information to the MHQ and remained in operation until about 1993.

During May 2003 the Devonport Communications Centre (Commcen) made a temporary move into the MHQ to enable their dockyard base to be refurbished and modernised.

When they returned to the dockyard at the end of 2004 the MHQ finally became empty and surplus to requirements and was handed over to Defence Estates for disposal and through whose good offices our visit was arranged.

For further pictures and a description of Mount Wise in 2004 click here

[Source: Bob Jenner]

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