Henry Oliver

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Sir Henry Oliver
Vice-admiral Sir Henry Francis Oliver, Kcb, Mvo Art.IWMART1763.jpg
1917 portrait by Francis Dodd
Born (1865-01-22)22 January 1865
Kelso, Scotland
Died 15 October 1965(1965-10-15) (aged 100)
London, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Years of service 1878–1933
Rank Admiral of the Fleet
Commands held HMS Mercury
HMS Achilles
HMS Thunderer
1st Battlecruiser Squadron
2nd Battle Squadron
Home Fleet
Reserve Fleet
Atlantic Fleet
Battles/wars Second Boer War
First World War
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George
Member of the Royal Victorian Order

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Francis Oliver, GCBKCMGMVO (22 January 1865 – 15 October 1965) was a Royal Navy officer. After serving in the Second Boer War as a navigating officer in a cruiser on the Cape of Good Hope and West Coast of Africa Station, he became the first commanding officer of the new navigation school HMS Mercury in the early years of the 20th century. He went to be commanding officer first of the armoured cruiser HMS Achilles and then of the new battleship HMS Thunderer before becoming Director of the Intelligence Division at the Admiralty.

During the First World War, Oliver was sent to Antwerp where, with Belgian support, he blew up the engine rooms of 38 stranded German merchant vessels. He became Naval Secretary to Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, and then Chief of the Admiralty War Staff before serving as Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff and in that capacity was closely involved in directing the allied forces at the Battle of Jutland. He served as Commander of the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron in the Grand Fleet in the last year of the War.

After the war Oliver became Commander of the 2nd Battle Squadron, Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet and then Commander-in-Chief of the Reserve Fleet. After that he became Second Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Personnel and in that capacity implemented the extensive expenditure cuts recommended by the Committee on National Expenditure chaired by Sir Eric Geddes and the large reductions in numbers of ships which were agreed under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty. His last appointment was as Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet.

Naval career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Born the fifth son of Robert Oliver and Margaret Oliver (née Strickland),[1] Oliver joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in the training ship HMS Britannia on 15 July 1878.[2] He joined the armoured frigate HMS Agincourt, flagship of the Second-in-Command of the Channel Squadron, in September 1880 and, having promoted to midshipman on 21 January 1881, he transferred to the corvette HMS Amethyst on the South America Station in March 1882.[3] Promoted to sub-lieutenant on 21 January 1885, he joined the battleship HMS Triumph, flagship of the Pacific Station, in October 1886.[3] Promoted to lieutenant on 30 June 1888,[4] he joined the survey ship HMS Stork and then qualified as a navigator.[3] He then became navigating officer in the cruiser HMS Wallaroo on the Australia Station in February 1894, navigating officer in the cruiser HMS Blake in the Channel Squadron in January 1898 and navigating officer in the cruiser HMS Niobe on the Cape of Good Hope and West Coast of Africa Station in December 1898 in which he saw action during the Second Boer War.[3] Promoted to commander on 31 December 1899,[5] he became navigating officer on the battleship HMS Majestic, flagship of the Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Squadron, in September 1900.[3]

The cruiser HMS Niobe in which Oliver saw action during the Second Boer War

Promoted to captain in 30 June 1903,[6] Oliver became the first commanding officer of the new navigation school HMS Mercury in late 1903.[3] Appointed a Member of the Royal Victorian Order on 11 August 1905,[7] he went on to be commanding officer of the armoured cruiser HMS Achilles in the Home Fleet in February 1907 and then became Naval Assistant to the First Sea Lord in November 1908.[3] After that he became commanding officer of the new battleship HMS Thunderer in 1912 and was appointed a naval aide-de-camp to the King on 2 March 1913.[8] Appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath on 3 June 1913,[9] he was promoted to rear-admiral on 7 December 1913[10] and became Director of the Intelligence Division at the Admiralty later that month.[3]

First World War[edit]

In August 1914, just after the outbreak of the First World War, Oliver was sent to Antwerp where, with Belgian support, he blew up the engine rooms of 38 stranded German merchant vessels.[3] He became Naval Secretary to Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, in October 1914 and Chief of the Admiralty War Staff in November 1914.[3] He was advanced to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath on 1 January 1916.[11] When Admiral Sir John Jellicoe was appointed First Sea Lord in December 1916, Oliver became Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff and a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty and in that capacity was closely involved in directing the allied forces at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916.[12] Appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George on 12 January 1918,[13] he became Commander of the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron in the Grand Fleet with his flag in the battlecruiser HMS Repulse in March 1918.[12]

The battleship HMS Repulse, Oliver's flagship as Commander of the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron in the last year of the First World War

After the war[edit]

Promoted to the rank of vice-admiral on 1 January 1919,[14] Oliver became Commander of the 2nd Battle Squadron in March 1919. When the Grand Fleet was disbanded in April 1919, the older ships were reformed as the Home Fleet and placed under Oliver's command with his flag in the battleship HMS King George V.[1] Then in Autumn 1919 the Home Fleet was re-designated the Reserve Fleet and remained under Oliver's command.[12] He became Second Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Personnel in September 1920 and in that capacity implemented the extensive expenditure cuts recommended by the Committee on National Expenditure chaired by Sir Eric Geddes in January 1922 and the large reductions in numbers of ships which were agreed under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty in February 1922.[12] Promoted to full admiral on 1 November 1923,[15] he became Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet in August 1924.[12] He was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet on 21 January 1928[16] and advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath on 4 June 1928[17] before retiring in January 1933.[18] He attended the funeral of King George V in January 1936.[19]

In retirement Oliver became Deputy Chairman of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.[12] When he reached the age of 100 in January 1965 it was estimated that during his thirty-year period of retirement he had received £76,000 in retired pay.[20] He died at his home in London on 15 October 1965.[12]

Family[edit]

In June 1914 Oliver married Beryl Carnegy White (later Dame Beryl Oliver); they had no children.[1]

Honours and awards[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Henry Oliver". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Heathcote, p. 201
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Heathcote, p. 202
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 25837. p. 3826. 13 July 1888. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27150. p. 3. 2 January 1900. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27572. p. 4187. 3 July 1903. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  7. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 27826. p. 5532. 11 August 1905. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  8. ^ The London Gazette: no. 28699. p. 1961. 14 March 1913. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  9. ^ a b The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28724. p. 3903. 30 May 1913. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  10. ^ The London Gazette: no. 28780. p. 9083. 9 December 1913. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  11. ^ a b The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29423. p. 80. 31 December 1915. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Heathcote, p. 203
  13. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 30484. p. 992. 18 January 1918. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  14. ^ The London Gazette: no. 31112. p. 364. 7 January 1919. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  15. ^ The London Gazette: no. 32878. p. 7658. 9 November 1923. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  16. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33354. p. 856. 7 February 1928. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  17. ^ a b The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 33390. p. 3847. 1 June 1928. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  18. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33905. p. 524. 24 January 1933. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  19. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 34279. p. 2782. 29 April 1936. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  20. ^ "The Admiral Who is 100 Tomorrow" (News). The Times (London). Thursday, 21 January 1965. (56225), col G, p. 14.
  21. ^ The London Gazette: no. 30494. p. 1229. 25 January 1918. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  22. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30363. p. 11322. 30 October 1917. Retrieved 18 October 2014.

Sources[edit]

  • Heathcote, Tony (2002). The British Admirals of the Fleet 1734 – 1995. Pen & Sword Ltd. ISBN 0-85052-835-6. 

Further reading[edit]

  • James, Admiral Sir William, G.C.B. (1956). A Great Seaman: The Life of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry F. Oliver, G.C.B, K.C.M.G., M.V.O., L.L.D. London: H. F. & G. Witherby, Ltd. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Horace Hood
Naval Secretary
October 1914 – November 1914
Succeeded by
Charles de Bartolomé
Preceded by
New Post
Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff
1917–1918
Succeeded by
Sir Sydney Fremantle
Preceded by
New Post
Vice-Admiral, Reserve Fleet
1919–1920
Succeeded by
Sir Richard Phillimore
Preceded by
Sir Montague Browning
Second Sea Lord
1920–1924
Succeeded by
Sir Michael Culme-Seymour, Bt
Preceded by
Sir John de Robeck
Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet
1924–1927
Succeeded by
Sir Hubert Brand