Max Kennedy Horton
|Admiral Sir Max Kennedy Horton
GCB DSO** SGM
As Commander in Chief Western Approaches in 1943
29 November 1883|
|Died||30 July 1951
|Years of service||1898–1945|
|Commands held||HMS E9
Flag Officer Submarines
Western Approaches Command
|Battles/wars||World War I
- North Sea & Baltic Sea
World War II
- Battle of the Atlantic
|Awards||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath;
Distinguished Service Order & two bars;
Order of St George;
The Board of Trade Medal for Saving Life at Sea;
Croix de Guerre;
Order of St. Vladimir;
Order of St. Anna;
Order of St. Stanislaus;
Order of Orange-Nassau;
Legion of Merit;
Order of St. Olaf
Admiral Sir Max Kennedy Horton GCB DSO** SGM (29 November 1883 – 30 July 1951) was a British submariner in World War I and commander-in-chief of the Western Approaches in the latter half of World War II, responsible for British participation in the Second World War's Battle of the Atlantic.
First World War
Horton joined the Royal Navy officer training ship, HMS Britannia on 15 September 1898. Whilst on HMS Duke of Edinburgh, he was involved in the rescue efforts when SS Delhi ran aground off Cape Spartel and was subsequently awarded the The Board of Trade Medal for Saving Life at Sea in silver.
The outbreak of war saw Lieutenant-Commander Horton in command of one of the first British ocean-going submarines, the 800-ton HMS E9. At dawn on 13 September 1914, he torpedoed the German light cruiser SMS Hela six miles southwest of Heligoland. Hela was hit amidships with the two torpedoes, fired from a range of 600 yards. All but two of her crew were rescued by the U-18 and another German ship. Although pursued most of the day by German naval forces, E9 managed to reach Harwich safely. Entering the port, Horton initiated the tradition of British submariners of hoisting the Jolly Roger after a successful patrol.
Three weeks later, Horton sank the German destroyer S 116 off the mouth of the river Ems. For sinking the cruiser and the destroyer, Horton was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). Sent to the Baltic Sea as part of a British flotilla, Horton sank another destroyer and a number of merchant vessels and damaged the German armoured cruiser SMS Prinz Adalbert. During this period, on 31 December 1914, Horton was promoted to Commander.
In 1917, Horton was awarded the bar to his DSO for long and arduous services in command of overseas submarines. Three years later, as a captain, he was awarded a second bar to his DSO for distinguished service in command of the Baltic submarine flotilla.
During the 1920s, Horton served as captain of HMS Conquest and of the battleship HMS Resolution. Promoted to rear admiral on 17 October 1932, he became Commander of the 2nd Battle Squadron with his flag in the battleship HMS Malaya in December 1933 and Commander of the 1st Cruiser Squadron with his flag in HMS London in 1935. Promoted to vice admiral in 1937, he was given command of the Reserve Fleet that year.
Second World War
With the onset of World War II, Horton was put in command of the so-called Northern Patrol enforcing the distant maritime blockade of Germany in the seas between Orkney and the Faroes. In 1940, he was made commander of all home-seas-based submarines, even though he was far more senior in rank than the Flag Officer Submarines had traditionally been, because of a new Admiralty regulation that the Flag Officer Submarines had to be an officer who had served aboard submarines in the Great War. Horton's biographer, Rear Admiral William S. Chalmers, cites the opinion that this regulation was forced through for the sole purpose of ensuring that Horton was on a very short list of qualifiers for this post, almost ensuring his rapid transfer to Aberdour, so great was the desire of some within the Admiralty to have Horton revitalize the submarine arm.
Horton rather famously moved his headquarters from Aberdour where he was under the thumb of the fleet commanders at Scapa Flow to Northways in north London, officially because he wanted a freer hand in running his command, but purportedly because Northways was located near some of his favorite golf courses. Horton, an avid golfer, is said to have played a round of golf almost every day during the war (since most of the convoy battles took place at night), and was generously handicapped at a "financial 8".
Having been promoted to full Admiral on 9 January 1941, Horton was appointed Commander-in-Chief, Western Approaches Command on 17 November 1942. Here he instituted a series of tactical changes in the way the escort ships were to be used. In addition to the existing escort group system, in which groups of ships were assigned to defend the perimeter of convoy boxes, Horton instituted a system of support groups, who would also travel with the convoys, but have much more freedom in terms of pursuing submarines to the death, even if such action necessitated leaving the convoy for longer periods of time than were considered acceptable for escort groups. Horton's support groups proved to be decisive in the crucial spring of 1943, taking the battle to the U-boats and crushing the morale of the U-boat arm with persistent and successful counterattacks. Horton is widely credited, along with his predecessor, Admiral Sir Percy Noble, as being one of the most crucial figures in the Allied victory in the Atlantic. In August 1945, Max Horton, at his own request, was placed on the retired list in order to facilitate the promotion of younger officers. He was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.
Honours and awards
- Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (14 June 1945, King's Birthday Honours); KCB (2 January 1939, New Year Honours); CB (4 June 1934, Birthday Honours)
- Distinguished Service Order and two bars (21 October 1914, highly successful attacks on German men-of-war; 2 November 1917, for long and arduous services in command of overseas submarines; 8 March 1920, distinguished service in command of the Baltic submarine flotilla)
- Mention in Despatches (11 July 1940)
- The Board of Trade Medal for Saving Life at Sea in silver (1911)
- Order of St. George, 4th Class (Russia) (LG 15 November 1915)
- Grand Officer of the Légion d'honneur (France)
- Croix de Guerre with Palmes (France)
- Order of St. Vladimir 4th Class with swords (Russia)
- Order of St. Anna, 2nd Class with swords and diamonds (Russia)
- Order of St. Stanislaus 2nd Class
- Grand Cross of the Order of Orange-Nassau (Netherlands, 12 May 1942)
- Chief Commander of Legion of Merit (USA, 28 May 1946)
- Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olaf (Norway, 13 January 1948; services to Norway)
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