About Defence


Queen Elizabeth 1st

Queen Elizabeth I

Northwood lies in an area once covered by vast forests, hunted and fought over by Romans and ancient Britons. The British tribe, the Belgar, who lived in this part of the country, distinguished themselves when, in 54 BC under Cassivellaunus, they almost defeated the Romans under Julius Caesar. Boudicca (Boadicea) is reputed to have died at Stanmore.

In Saxon times Offa, King of the Middle Saxons, entrusted the district to the Abbey of St Albans.

In Norman times, Northwood and Eastcote were hamlets within the manor of Ruislip and references to Northwode and Northwood have been found in old documents.

Not until 1854 did Northwood take on an identity of its own with the building of Holy Trinity Church. At this time only about 200 people lived in Northwood and their occupations were rural. Still a hamlet and a collection of farms on the edge of Rickmansworth, Pinner, Ruislip, Harefield and Watford parishes, it retained its rustic nature until the late 1890s.

The opening of Northwood station in 1887 began the process of gradual change into an urban residential area. In 1894, with the passing of the Local Government Act, people began to claim urban powers. Since then the population has grown rapidly to 80,000 due to the enormous expansion of London.

Local associations in history include that of the only English Pope, Nicholas Breakspear, with Harefield; Cardinal Wolsey and the Duke of Monmouth with Moor Park; Thomas Gray, who wrote Elegy in a Country Churchyard, with Stoke Poges; and Milton, who alternated between boredom and matrimonial strife at Chalfont St Giles.

Finally, it was recorded in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I that "Five Ruislipians and eight Uxbridge men with unknown malefactors to the number of a hundred, assembled themselves and played a certain unlawful game called football, by reason of which there arose a great affray, like to result in homicides and serious accidents."

Eastbury Park Northwood was the home of The Headquarters of Coastal Command, Royal Air Force from 1939 to 1969 and is now the home of its successor HQ 3 Group.

It was in fact the RAF who started going underground to build their Headquarters. In 1953 the Headquarters of the NATO Commander-in-Chief Eastern Atlantic Area was established at Northwood. The Commander-in-Chief was also Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet who flew his flag in HMS TYNE at Portsmouth.

Flags inside the Main Gate

Flags inside the main gate

In 1960 CINC HOME FLEET moved to Northwood and in 1966 the NATO Channel Command (a post also held by CINC Home Fleet) moved to Northwood from Portsmouth. In April 1963 the Naval unit at Northwood was commissioned as HMS Warrior under the command of the then Captain of the Fleet.

In 1966 the command was established for a Commander in Command and in September 1971 the RN took over responsibility for the whole establishment. In 1978 the Flag Officer Submarines who is also COMSUBEASTLANT moved from HMS DOLPHIN at Gosport to Northwood.

HMS WARRIOR was a self-accounting Fleet Establishment, under the command of the Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command. The base at Northwood now accommodates the National Commands of Fleet, the Permanent Joint Headquarters, Flag Officer Submarines and 3 Group, and the NATO Commands of East Atlantic, Submarines East Atlantic and Maritime Air East Atlantic.

In July 1994, as a part of the Defence Costs Study, it was decided to form a Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) at Northwood, to replace the previous approach whereby headquarters staffs were drawn together ad hoc in response to a developing crisis.

The primary role of the PJHQ, therefore, is to be responsible for the planning and execution of UK-led joint, potentially joint, combined and multi-national operations.

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