Percy Noble (Royal Navy officer)

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Sir Percy Noble
The Royal Navy during the Second World War A17165.jpg
Admiral Percy Noble at his desk when head of the Admiralty Delegation in Washington
Birth name Percy Lockhart Harnam Noble
Born (1880-01-16)January 16, 1880
Died July 25, 1955(1955-07-25) (aged 75)
London, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Years of service 1894-1945
Rank Admiral
Commands held
Relations Allan Noble

Admiral Sir Percy Lockhart Harnam Noble, GBE, KCB, CVO (16 January 1880 – 25 July 1955) was a British Naval Officer who rose to the rank of Admiral and was the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Navy’s Western Approaches Command for two crucial years during the Second World War.

Naval career[edit]

Educated at Edinburgh Academy,[1] he joined the Royal Navy on 15 January 1894,[2] and was promoted to lieutenant on 1 April 1902,[3] when he was posted to the battleship HMS Hannibal serving in the Channel Fleet.[4]

He served in the Grand Fleet during the First World War.[2] From 1918 to 1925 he commanded the cruisers HMS Calliope and HMS Calcutta and then the battleship HMS Barham[2] before being appointed Senior Naval Officer, Harwich in 1925.[2] He then commanded the boys' training establishment at Forton, Gosport from 1927.[2] He was appointed Director of Operations Division at the Admiralty in 1928.[2] He was then Director of Naval Equipment from 1931[2] before returning to sea in command of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron in 1932.[2] He then returned to the Admiralty as Fourth Sea Lord in 1935,[2] before returning as Commander-in-Chief, China Station in 1938.[2]

On his return to Britain, Admiral Noble was appointed Commander-in-Chief, Western Approaches.[2] Admiral Noble commanded Western Approaches from his headquarters at Derby House, Liverpool, during a period stretching from early 1941 to November 1942.[2] His work in reorganising escort groups, and revamping escort training methods are widely regarded as having been crucial foundational elements of the eventual success of the Allied navies in the Atlantic theatre.[5] Noble was remembered by those who worked with him at Derby House as an easygoing commander, and an easy person to work with. Always conciliatory, Noble was an expert at building consensus around his chosen courses of action. Noble was, although not forced, certainly pushed out of Western Approaches to make room for Admiral Max Horton, whose combative personality and experience in the submarine service made him the ideal candidate in the eyes of some to take the war to the U-boats.[5]

Noble became Head of British Naval Delegation in Washington DC from 1942.[2] He retired from the Navy in 1945[2] and was appointed Rear-Admiral of the United Kingdom (an honorary appointment with no practical responsibilities) on 19 June 1945.

Honours and decorations[edit]

Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire 1944
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath 1936 (CB 1932)
Commander of the Royal Victorian Order 1920 (MVO 1901)
Commander, Legion of Merit (United States) 1946
Grand Cross of the Order of St Olav (Norway) 1948
Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour (France)
Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog (Denmark)
Hon.LLDs from Liverpool and Belfast Universities
Rear-Admiral of the United Kingdom 1945


  1. ^ Edinburgh Academy Prospectus
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  3. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27422. p. 2281. 4 April 1902.
  4. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence" The Times (London). Wednesday, 2 April 1902. (36731), p. 8.
  5. ^ a b Ireland, Bernard (2003). Battle of the Atlantic. Barnsley: Pen and Sword. p. 96. ISBN 1-84415-001-1. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Geoffrey Blake
Fourth Sea Lord
Succeeded by
Sir Geoffrey Arbuthnot
Preceded by
Sir Charles Little
Commander-in-Chief, China Station
Succeeded by
Sir Geoffrey Layton
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Sir Dudley Pound
First and Principal Naval Aide-de-Camp
Succeeded by
The Lord Tovey
Preceded by
Sir Hubert Brand
Rear-Admiral of the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
Sir John Edelsten