Martin Dunbar-Nasmith

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Sir Martin Eric Dunbar-Nasmith
VCMartinEricNasmith.jpg
Martin Eric Nasmith
Born 1 April 1883
Barnes, Surrey, England
Died 29 June 1965 (aged 82)
Elgin, Elginshire, Scotland
Buried at Elgin Cemetery, Linkwood Road, New Elgin, Elgin
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Years of service 1898 - 1946
Rank Admiral
Commands held

East Indies Station (1932-1935)
Plymouth Command (1938-1941)
Western Approaches Command (1939-1941)
Flag Officer-In-Charge, London (1942-1945)

Vice-Admiral of the United Kingdom (1954-1962)
Battles/wars

World War I
World War II

Awards Victoria Cross
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George
The Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav
Polonia Restituta (Poland)
Legion of Honour (France)
Order of Orange Nassau (Netherlands)
Croix de Guerre (France)
Cross of Liberty II/2 (Estonia)
Relations Sir James Dunbar-Nasmith (son)
Rear Admiral David Dunbar-Nasmith (son)
Other work

Vice Chairman, Imperial War Graves Commission (1948-1954)

Deputy Lieutenant and Vice-Lord Lieutenant, Morayshire

Admiral Sir Martin Eric Dunbar-Nasmith VC KCB KCMG (1 April 1883 – 29 June 1965), was a Royal Navy officer who was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was born Martin Eric Nasmith, adding "Dunbar" to his surname in 1923.[1]

Early career[edit]

Educated at Eastman's Royal Naval Academy in Winchester and HMS Britannia at Dartmouth, Nasmith joined the Royal Navy in 1898.[2]

One early event in his career often gave him pause to ponder in later life.[3] In May 1912, King George V was in HMY Victoria and Albert III in Weymouth Bay to witness Fleet manoeuvres. Because of heavy fog, the programme was disrupted, and the King expressed the desire to dive in a submarine. On Wednesday 8 May, he embarked on HM Submarine D4, under then Lieutenant Nasmith's command, and (in the words of The Times of May 10) "made a lengthy run in her when she was submerged." What made the occasion all the more remarkable was the presence on board of his second son, Prince Albert, who was to become King George VI, of Winston Churchill, (First Lord of the Admiralty and future World War II Prime Minister), and of then Captain Roger Keyes, Inspecting Captain of Submarines, who was to become the first Director of Combined Operations (the Commandos) in the early part of World War II. Former Prime Minister Arthur Balfour was also embarked, but the then Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, who had been with the King's party earlier in the day, had had to return to London on urgent business and did not dive in D4. Nasmith's diary records that "We remained under water for ten to 15 minutes, during which time he showed great interest in the proceedings, periscope in particular." The Navy News article,[3] from July 2012, by Commander William Corbett R.N. (at whose parents' wedding Nasmith had proposed the toast to the health of the bride and groom), records that Nasmith often wondered what would have happened to the course of 20th century history had he sunk that day, a not unreasonable thought, given that he had very nearly sunk in the Solent in 1905 whilst in command of HM Submarine A4.

World War I[edit]

He was 32 years old, and a Lieutenant-Commander in the Royal Navy during World War I, when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.[4]

During the period 20 May–8 June 1915 in the Sea of Marmara, Dardanelles, Turkey, Lieutenant-Commander Nasmith, in command of H.M. Submarine E.11, destroyed one large Turkish gunboat, two transports, one ammunition ship, three store ships and four other vessels.

When he had safely passed the most difficult part of his homeward journey he received information that a cargo of coal was heading towards Istanbul from the Black Sea. Realising that coal was essential for the morale of the besieged city, Nasmith turned back.

When the coal-carrying ship came into sight of the docks, a welcoming committee of municipal grandees soon formed, along with a happy crowd – water, electricity and rail transport had all suffered due to a lack of coal. Hardly had the ship berthed than it mysteriously blew up before the eyes of the astounded crowd. Nasmith successfully slipped out again.

Nasmith conducted combat operations in the Sea of Marmara for a three month period. When his torpedoes ran low, he set them to float at the end of their run, so that he could recover them should they fail to hit a target. At one point, he captured a sailing dhow, and lashed it to the conning tower of E11 as camouflage, and went on to capture an ammunition ship using small arms. His penetration of the Golden Horn was the first time an enemy ship had done so in over 500 years. He also attacked a railway viaduct. [5]

Nasmith's First Lieutenant, Guy D'Oyly-Hughes, and Second Lieutenant, Robert Brown, were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, and all the rest of the crew were awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.[6] Nasmith was promoted to Commander immediately[7] and to Captain a year later.[8]

Later naval career[edit]

Later in the war, Nasmith was in charge of the Seventh Submarine Flotilla in the Baltic and Senior Naval Officer at Reval (later Tallinn), and was appointed CB in 1920 for that service.[9] He was captain of HMS Iron Duke 1921–24. He was appointed Commandant of the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, in 1926 and then became Rear Admiral Submarines in 1929.[4] He became Commander-in-Chief of the East Indies Station in 1932 and Second Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Personnel in 1935.[4] He was Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth from 1938 and then Commander-in-Chief of Plymouth and Western Approaches Command from the outbreak of war in September 1939.[4] He served as Flag Officer in charge of London from 1942 and retired in 1946.[4]

In retirement he became Vice Chairman of the Imperial War Graves Commission.[4] He was also appointed Vice-Admiral of the United Kingdom, a ceremonial position, and he became President of the Royal Naval Benevolent Trust.

Nasmith's grave in Elgin Cemetery, Linkwood Road, New Elgin, Elgin, Moray

Family[edit]

In 1920 he married Beatrix Justina Dunbar-Dunbar-Rivers; they had two sons (Rear-Admiral David Dunbar-Nasmith and the architect Professor Sir James Dunbar-Nasmith) and a daughter.[2]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Eric Fullerton
Commander-in-Chief, East Indies Station
1932–1934
Succeeded by
Sir Forrester Rose
Preceded by
Sir Dudley Pound
Second Sea Lord
1935–1938
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Little
Preceded by
Sir Reginald Plunkett
Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth
1938–1941
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Forbes
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Sir Montague Browning
Vice-Admiral of the United Kingdom
1945–1962
Succeeded by
Sir John Edelsten