Charles Forbes (Royal Navy officer)

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Sir Charles Forbes
Charlesforbes1.JPG
Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles Forbes
Born 22 November 1880
Colombo, Ceylon
Died 28 August 1960
Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital, London
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
Years of service 1894 - 1943
Rank Admiral of the Fleet
Commands held HMS Galatea
HMS Queen Elizabeth
HMS Iron Duke
1st Battle Squadron
Home Fleet
Plymouth Command
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles Morton Forbes GCB, DSO (22 November 1880 – 28 August 1960) was a Royal Navy officer. He served in the First World War seeing action in the Dardanelles Campaign and at the Battle of Jutland and, as captain of a cruiser, was present at the surrender of the German fleet. During the Second World War he served initially as Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet: his fleet sufferred heavy losses including the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious and nine destroyers during the Norwegian Campaign in Spring 1940. He went on to be Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth in May 1941 and in that capacity he organised the defence of Plymouth from air attack, prosecuted attacks on enemy shipping using the harbour at Brest as well as other ports along the French coast, and also initiated the St Nazaire Raid in March 1942 before retiring in August 1943.

Naval career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Born the son of James Forbes and Caroline Forbes (née Delmege), Forbes was educated at Dollar Academy and Eastman's Royal Naval Academy.[1] He joined the training ship HMS Britannia as a cadet in 15 July 1894.[2] He was promoted to midshipman on 15 July 1896 and posted to the battleship HMS Magnificent in the Channel Fleet in September 1896 and to the armoured cruiser HMS Imperieuse on the Pacific Station in January 1898.[3] Promoted to acting sub-lieutenant on 15 January 1900,[4] he returned to the United Kingdom for his promotion courses.[3] Promoted to lieutenant on 15 January 1901,[5] he was appointed to the battleship HMS Royal Oak in the Mediterranean Fleet.[3]

In early April 1902 Forbes transferred to the armoured cruiser HMS Aboukir, also serving in the Mediterranean Fleet.[6] After attending the gunnery school HMS Excellent in 1903, he was assigned to Directing Staff at the gunnery school HMS Cambridge in June 1904.[3] He then became gunnery officer in the armoured cruiser HMS Carnarvon in the Mediterranean Fleet in May 1905 and gunnery officer in the battleship HMS Dominion in the Channel Fleet in May 1908.[7] After joining the staff of the Inspectorate of Target Practice in October 1910, he became gunnery officer in the battleship HMS Superb in the Home Fleet in February 1911 and then, having been promoted to commander on 31 December 1912,[8] he returned to the gunnery school HMS Excellent in early 1913.[7]

First World War[edit]

The cruiser, HMS Galatea, commanded by Charles Forbes during the First World War

Forbes served in the First World War as Executive Officer in the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth in the Mediterranean Fleet from November 1914 and saw action in the Dardanelles Campaign in April 1915.[3] He became Flag Commander to Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, in the battleship HMS Iron Duke in October 1915 and saw action at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916 for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order on 15 September 1916.[9] He moved on to become Flag Commander to Admiral Sir Charles Madden, Second-in-Command of the Grand Fleet, in the battleship HMS Revenge in February 1917.[7] Promoted to captain on 30 June 1917, he was given command of the cruiser HMS Galatea in the Grand Fleet in July 1917 and was present at the surrender of the German fleet in November 1918.[1]

The inter-war years[edit]

After the end of the war Forbes served as Naval Member of the Ordnance Committee from October 1919 and then, after attending the Senior Officers' course at the Royal Naval War College, he served as Deputy Director of the Royal Navy Staff College from August 1921.[7] He became Flag Captain to the Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet in the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth in June 1923, Flag Captain to the Flag Officer Commanding the 3rd Battle Squadron in the battleship HMS Iron Duke in October 1924 and Director of Naval Ordnance at the Admiralty in June 1925.[7] Promoted to rear admiral on 5 October 1928 and appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath on 3 June 1929,[10] he became Rear Admiral commanding the Destroyer Flotillas in the Mediterranean Fleet with his flag in the cruiser HMS Coventry in August 1930 and Third Sea Lord and Controller of the Navy in March 1932.[7] Promoted to vice admiral on 21 January 1933, he became Vice Admiral commanding 1st Battle Squadron and Second in Command of the Mediterranean Fleet with his flag in the battleship HMS Revenge in April 1934.[7] Advanced to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath on 3 June 1935,[11] he re-deployed his fleet from Malta to Alexandria to avoid attack by the Italian Navy at the start of the Second Italo-Ethiopian War in October 1935.[7] Promoted to full admiral on 19 August 1936, he became Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet with his flag in the battleship HMS Nelson in April 1938.[12]

The Second World War and retirement[edit]

ship at 45 degree angle showing damage caused by German gunfire and impact with the dock
HMS Campbeltown wedged in the dock gates during the St Nazaire Raid

Forbes served in the Second World War initially as Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet in which role he transferred his flag to the battleship HMS Rodney in December 1939.[12] His fleet sufferred heavy losses including the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious and nine destroyers during the Norwegian Campaign in Spring 1940.[12] He was on board HMS Rodney when she came under air attack and was hit by a 500 kg (1,103 lb) bomb that pierced the armoured deck on 9 April 1940.[12] Promoted to Admiral of the Fleet on 8 May 1940 and advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath on 11 July 1940,[13] he became Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth in May 1941.[12] In that capacity he organised the defence of Plymouth from air attack, prosecuted attacks on enemy shipping using the harbour at Brest as well as other ports along the French coast, and also initiated the St Nazaire Raid in March 1942.[1]

After retiring on 24 August 1943, Forbes persued his interests in golf and lived at Cawsand Place at Wentworth in Surrey.[12] He died at the Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital in London on 28 August 1960.[12]

Family[edit]

In 1909 Forbes married Agnes Millicent Ewen; they had a son and a daughter.[7] Following the death of his first wife, he married Marie Louise Berndtson in 1921; they had one daughter.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Forbes, Sir Charles Morton". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/33190.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ "Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles Forbes". Admirals.org. Retrieved 7 September 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Heathcote, p. 84
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27300. p. 2195. 29 March 1901. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27372. p. 7146. 5 November 1901. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  6. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence" The Times (London). Thursday, 13 March 1902. (36714), p. 10.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Heathcote, p. 85
  8. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28677. p. 6. 31 December 1912. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  9. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29751. p. 9071. 15 September 1916. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  10. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 33501. p. 3667. 31 May 1929. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  11. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 34166. p. 3594. 31 May 1935. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Heathcote, p. 86
  13. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 34893. p. 4243. 9 July 1940. Retrieved 7 September 2014.

Sources[edit]

  • Heathcote, Tony (2002). The British Admirals of the Fleet 1734 – 1995. Pen & Sword Ltd. ISBN 0-85052-835-6. 
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Roger Backhouse
Third Sea Lord and Controller of the Navy
1932–1934
Succeeded by
Sir Reginald Henderson
Preceded by
Sir Roger Backhouse
Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet
1939–1940
Succeeded by
Sir John Tovey
Preceded by
Sir Martin Dunbar-Nasmith
Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth
1941–1943
Succeeded by
Sir Ralph Leatham