Henry Harwood

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Sir Henry Harwood Harwood
Henry Harwood.jpg
Harwood is greeted by the British Minister to Uruguay, Mr E Millington-Drake after his arrival at Montevideo after the Battle of the River Plate
Born (1888-01-19)19 January 1888
St George Hanover Square, London
Died 9 June 1950(1950-06-09) (aged 62)
Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
Buried at Goring-on-Thames parish churchyard[1]
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Years of service 1904 - 1945
Rank Admiral
Commands held HMS Cumberland (Jun 1927-Jun 1928)
HMS Warwick & 9th Destroyer Division (Aug 1929-Apr 1930)
HMS London (Mar 1932-Jan 1934)
HMS Exeter (Sep 1936-Aug 1939)
South American Division of the North America and West Indies Station (25 Aug 1939-Apr 1940)
a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty (Dec 1940-Apr 1942)
Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Station (renamed Levant)
Flag Officer commanding Orkneys and Shetlands (Apr 1944-Mar 1945)
Battles/wars World War II
- River Plate

KCB (1939
OBE (1919)
MID (1941)
War Cross (Greece) (1943)
Gold Medal of Concepcion (Chile) (1939)

Grand Officer, Order of Merit (Chile) (1940)
Relations Kate Harwood

Admiral Sir Henry Harwood Harwood, KCB, OBE (19 January 1888 – 9 June 1950), was a British naval officer who won fame in the Battle of the River Plate.

Early life[edit]

Following education at Stubbington House School Harwood entered the Royal Navy in 1904[2] and specialized in torpedoes.[3] He served in World War I.[2] In 1919 he served on the battleship HMS Royal Sovereign, 1st Battle Squadron. By 1929 he had been promoted to captain and become the Commanding Officer of the destroyer HMS Warwick and Senior Officer of the 9th Destroyer Division.

In 1931 and 1932, Harwood attended the Imperial Defence College.[2] Upon completion of the course in March 1932 he became Flag Captain of the heavy cruiser HMS London whilst at the same time serving as Chief Staff Officer to the Rear-Admiral Commanding the 1st Cruiser Squadron. From July 1934 until 1936 Harwood served on the staff of the Royal Naval War College at Greenwich (HMS President).

In September 1936 Harwood was appointed Commodore and given command of the South American Division of the America and West Indies Station, whilst at the same time serving as Commanding Officer of the cruiser HMS Exeter.[2] At the outbreak of the Second World War, command of HMS Exeter passed to Captain F.S. Bell.

Second World War[edit]

Harwood commanded the squadron consisting of the heavy cruisers HMS Cumberland and HMS Exeter, and the light cruisers HMS Achilles and HMS Ajax, which flew his broad pennant in the action against the Admiral Graf Spee at the River Plate.[2]

Vice-Admiral Harwood inspects ratings at HMS Canopus, the Royal Navy training base in Alexandria, in September 1942

Unable to divide his force, Harwood suspected that the raiding Admiral Graf Spee would try to strike next at the merchant shipping off the River Plate estuary between Uruguay and Argentina. With HMS Cumberland being absent for repairs at the Falklands, the three other cruisers were gathered off the estuary on 12 December and conducted manoeuvres. In the ensuing battle, HMS Exeter was severely damaged and forced to retire, while all other ships received moderate damage. HMS Ajax and HMS Achilles then shadowed the Graf Spee which entered the neutral Uruguayan capital Montevideo. After a tense period, the captain of the Graf Spee, Hans Langsdorff, scuttled his ship rather than face the overwhelmingly superior British force which he believed had been assembled.[4] For this action, known as the Battle of the River Plate, Harwood was promoted to Rear-Admiral and knighted. In the 1956 film, The Battle of the River Plate, Harwood was played by Anthony Quayle.

From December 1940 to April 1942, Rear-Admiral Harwood served as a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty and Assistant Chief of Naval Staff.[2] In April 1942, Harwood was promoted to Vice-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet, and flew his flag at HMS Nile.[2] The Command was later split and he became Commander-in-Chief, Levant in February 1943,[2] during which year he engaged in flank support and seaborne supply of the British Eighth Army.

In April 1945, Sir Henry Harwood became Flag Officer Commanding the Orkneys and Shetlands[2] (HMS Prosperine) until he retired from the service on 15 August 1945 with the rank of Admiral, having been declared medically unfit for further duty.[2]

Sir Henry Harwood died in Goring-on-Thames in 1950.


Midshipman 1904
Acting Sub-Lieutenant 1907-07-30
Sub-Lieutenant 1908-04-09, seniority 1907-07-30
Lieutenant 1908-07-30
Lieutenant-Commander 1916-07-30
Commander 1921-06-30
Captain 1928-12-31
Commodore 2nd class 1936-09-17?
Commodore 1st class 1939-08-25?
Rear-Admiral 1939-12-13
Acting Admiral 1942-04-22?
Vice-Admiral 1942-02-06
Admiral (retired) 1945


Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath 1939-12-23 action with the Admiral Graf Spee 1939-12-13
Officer of the Order of the British Empire 1919-07-17 ?
Mentioned in Despatches 1941-01-01 New Year 1941
Greek War Cross[5] 1943-04-17 services to the Greek Navy
Gold Medal of Concepcion (Chile) 1939? Concepcion earthquake 1939-01-24
Grand Officer, Order of Merit (Chile) 1940-09-06 Concepcion earthquake 1939-01-24


  1. ^ Noomen, E.J. (1998–2010). "Graves of World War II personalities". Retrieved 3 May 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  3. ^ Houterman, Hans. "Royal Navy (RN) Officers 1939-1945 (HARV to HAYW)". Unithistories. Retrieved 3 May 2010. 
  4. ^ Battle of the River Plate, December 1939 Naval History
  5. ^ Greek War Cross

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Andrew Cunningham
Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet
April 1942–February 1943
Succeeded by
Sir Andrew Cunningham
Preceded by
New Post
Commander-in-Chief, Levant
February 1943–June 1943
Succeeded by
Sir John Cunningham