The training of naval officers at Dartmouth dates from 1863, when the wooden hulk HMS Britannia was moved from Portland and moored in the River Dart to serve as a base. In 1864, after an influx of new recruits, Britannia was supplemented by HMS Hindostan. Prior to this, a Royal Naval Academy (later Royal Naval College) had operated for more than a century from 1733 to 1837 at Portsmouth, a major naval installation. The original Britannia was replaced by the Prince of Wales in 1869, which was renamed Britannia. The foundation stone for a new building at the college was laid by King Edward VII in March 1902. Sir Aston Webb designed the shore-based college at Dartmouth, which was built by Higgs and Hill and practically completed in 1905.
The first term of cadets entered at the R.N. College Osborne were transferred to Dartmouth in September 1905.