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Rosyth Dockyard

Coordinates: 56°1′14″N 3°27′12″W / 56.02056°N 3.45333°W / 56.02056; -3.45333
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Rosyth Dockyard in 1975

Rosyth Dockyard /rəˈsθ/ is a large naval dockyard on the Firth of Forth at Rosyth, Fife, Scotland, owned by Babcock Marine, which formerly undertook refitting of Royal Navy surface vessels and submarines. Before its privatisation in the 1990s it was formerly the Royal Naval Dockyard Rosyth. Its primary role now is the dismantling of decommissioned nuclear submarines. It is also the integration site for the Royal Navy's newest aircraft carriers, the Queen Elizabeth class as well as the Type 31 Frigate.


Cranes at the Rosyth Dockyard

Construction of the dockyard by civil engineers Easton, Gibb & Son commenced in 1909. At the time, the Royal Navy was strengthening its presence along the eastern seaboard of Great Britain due to a naval arms race with Germany.[1]

First World War[edit]

In 1903 approval was given with an estimated cost of £3 million for "works" and £250,000 for machinery spread over 10 years. The site consisted of 1,184 acres (479 ha) of land, 285 acres (115 ha) of foreshore, and the main basin would be 52.5 acres (21.2 ha). This was intended to be large enough for 11 battleships or 22 if doubled up.

The yard gained in size and importance during the First World War, with No. 6 Division of the Metropolitan Police set up to patrol it on 1 January 1916 (the Metropolitan Police then provided police for UK dockyards). The first ship to dry dock at Rosyth was the pre-dreadnought battleship HMS Zealandia on 28 March 1916.[2]

Interwar years[edit]

Rosyth Dockyard in 1986

World War II[edit]


The new Goliath crane at the Dockyard, used for the current assembly of the Royal Navy's new 65,000 tonne aircraft carriers.

Babcock Thorn, a consortium operated by Babcock International and Thorn EMI, was awarded the management contract for Rosyth dockyard in 1987; with Rosyth Dockyard becoming a government owned, contractor run facility. This contract was awarded in parallel with Devonport Management Limited's contract to run Devonport Dockyard, Plymouth. In 1993 the Ministry of Defence announced plans to privatise Rosyth. Babcock International, who had bought out Thorn's share of the original Babcock Thorn consortium, was the only company to submit a bid and after protracted negotiations purchased the yard in January 1997.[3]

Nuclear submarine refitting[edit]

In 1984 Rosyth was chosen as the sole location for refitting the Royal Navy's nuclear submarine fleet (a role it was already specialising in), and in 1986 extensive rebuilding commenced to facilitate this new role. However, in 1993, the government switched the refitting role to Devonport Dockyard.[4]

Nuclear submarine decommissioning[edit]

Seven nuclear submarines were stored at Rosyth in 2007.[5] In 2018, the Public Accounts Committee criticised the slow rate of decommissioning of these submarines, with the Ministry of Defence admitting that it had put off decommissioning due to the cost and is currently due to be finalised in 2035.

Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers[edit]

HMS Queen Elizabeth under construction at Rosyth (alongside HMS Illustrious)

The Royal Navy's two Queen Elizabeth-class carriers were constructed across six UK shipyards, with final assembly at Rosyth.[6]


Today, a Ministry of Defence site is based at the former dockyard, MoD Caledonia, which holds a small naval garrison.[7] It was due to close by/in 2022, but its future has now been assured.[8] Babcock are currently building the type 31 frigates at the dockyard.[9][10]

Administration of the dockyard[edit]

The admiral-superintendent was the Royal Navy officer in command of a larger Naval Dockyard. The appointment of admiral-superintendents (or their junior equivalents) dates from 1832 when the Admiralty took charge of the Royal Dockyards. Prior to this larger dockyards were overseen by a commissioner who represented the Navy Board.

Admiral-Superintendent, Rosyth[edit]


Port Admiral, Rosyth[edit]

In the Royal Naval Dockyards, admiral-superintendents ceased to be appointed after 15 September 1971, and existing post-holders were renamed port admirals.[12]

Note: These officers reported to the Flag Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland.


  1. ^ "Records from Rosyth Royal Dockyard show machinery of 250 and 100 ton cantilever cranes". National Archives of Scotland. Archived from the original on 14 April 2016. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  2. ^ Brown, David K (2010). The grand fleet : warship design and development, 1906-1922. Barnsley: Seaforth Pub. ISBN 978-1-84832-085-7.
  3. ^ "Completed acquisition by Babcock International Group plc of Devonport Management Limited" (PDF). Office of Fair Trading. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  4. ^ White, David (25 June 1993). "Shrinking navy prompted great nuclear race: David White tracks the two-year highly politicised battle for the contract to refit Trident submarines". The Financial Times. p. 8.
  5. ^ "Parliamentary Business 27 Jan 2007". Hansard. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  6. ^ "Two carriers take shape at Rosyth". The Engineer. 1 September 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  7. ^ "MOD Caledonia - Rosyth". wikimapia.org. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  8. ^ [1]Rosyth site secure after transfer back to Royal Navy
  9. ^ "MP says closure is 'still on the cards' at HMS Caledonia". Dunfermline Press. 3 November 2020. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  10. ^ "MOD Caledonia". TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  11. ^ Mackie, Colin. "Royal Navy Appointments from 1865" (PDF). gulabin.com. Colin Mackie, p.113, December 2017. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  12. ^ "House of Commons 27 July 1971". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). 27 July 1971.


  • Burt, Walter (2016). Rosyth Dockyard and Naval Base: Through Time (Paperback). Stroud, Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing. ISBN 9781445648965.

External links[edit]

56°1′14″N 3°27′12″W / 56.02056°N 3.45333°W / 56.02056; -3.45333