Herbert Annesley Packer
|Sir Herbert Packer|
|Born||9 October 1894
|Died||23 September 1962 (aged 67)
Cape Town, South Africa
|Years of service||1907–1953|
|Commands held||HMS Calcutta
2nd Cruiser Squadron
South Atlantic Station
|Battles/wars||First World War
Second World War
|Awards||Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Admiral Sir Herbert ("Bertie") Annesley Packer KCB, CBE (9 October 1894 – 23 September 1962) was an officer in the British Royal Navy and ended his career as an Admiral and Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic.
Packer joined the Royal Navy in 1907. He left Dartmouth Naval College with the King's "dirk and gold medal" for outstanding qualities of leadership and joined HMS St. Vincent as a midshipman. In 1913 he invented an "uncle" in Australia and was chosen from a score of volunteers to sail the new battle-cruiser HMAS Australia to Sydney.
As the First World War broke out, Packer stayed on HMAS Australia and his first action in combat was off the Falkland Isles as part of a boarding party that captured the German S.S. Elaenor Woermann from Hamburg. His ability to speak fluent German (and French) allowed him to interrogate the crew. The captured ship was scuttled.
After the Battle of Jutland in 1916, Packer was mentioned in dispatches for firing 12 rounds (though all fell short of their target) at the line of German High Seas Fleet's battleships under local control. The Warspite was heavily damaged and direction and gunnery control was disabled. Bertie Packer was also made a Lieutenant R.N.
In the years between the wars, Packer served in HMS Dublin, HMS Excellent, married South African author and journalist Joy Petersen in 1924, served in HMS Warspite, HMS Valiant and HMS Queen Elizabeth in the Mediterranean Sea, qualified as a Naval Interpreter in French, took a course at the RN Staff College,and then joined the crew of the cruiser HMS Kent as Fleet Gunnery Officer of the China Station in Wei Hai Wei.
Second World War
On 24 August 1939 Packer was appointed to command the cruiser HMS Calcutta. In February 1940 the Calcutta and the destroyer HMS Cossack chased the German supply-ship Altmark. Captain Philip Vian of the Cossack led a boarding party, in still-neutral Norwegian waters and freed the 300 captive British sailors on board.
As captain of HMS Manchester Captain Packer was involved in the Battle of Cape Spartivento. On 27 November 1940 the 18th. Cruiser Squadron attacked and dispersed a superior Italian fleet off the Sardinian coast. Captain Packer, an aggressive commander, suggested in his report that the Admiralty "stow more ammunition for the forward turrets, possibly at the expense of the after turrets" as it was "an experience common to many, if not all, of H.M. ships in action, both in this war and the last, and I am willing to prophesy that it is a situation that is likely to continue, that the foremost turrets fired many more rounds than the after turrets".
In the spring of 1943 Captain Packer was put in command of his first battleship - the veteran HMS Warspite. The battleship was the H.Q. of Rear Admiral A.W. la Touche Bisset and part of Force H. The 15-inch (381 mm) guns bombarded Catania and supported the Allied landings on Sicily and the Italian mainland. HMS Warspite was shelling Salerno on 15 September 1943 when a new German weapon was aimed at her. Wireless bombs, the Fritz X, controlled by an aircraft at 6000 meters high, crashed through the decks and one of them exploded in the boiler room. Captain Packer managed to bring the crippled ship, under tow, back to Malta and was once again Mentioned in Despatches. He has the rare honour of having been so honoured for his conduct on the same ship in two different wars.
For planning the amphibious operations in Sicily and Southern France Rear-Admiral Packer was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire in January 1945. Later in that year he was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath for his conduct in Italy.
Rear Admiral Sir Herbert Packer hoisted his flag in HMS Superb, and commanded the 2nd Cruiser Squadron. In 1948 he became Fourth Sea Lord and Chief of Supplies and Transport.
For his services to the United Kingdom he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath and he and his wife were therefore henceforth "Sir Herbert and Lady Packer".
Sir Herbert Packer retired in Cape Town and died in September 1962, aged 67. He left a wife and a son, the surgeon Piet Packer who emigrated to Australia. The ashes of Herbert Packer were scattered from the side of the frigate HMSAS Good Hope near Cape Point where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet.
Packer played a single first-class cricket match in 1920, appearing for a Royal Navy cricket team against Cambridge University; he batted as a tail-ender in the match, scoring 0 and 3, and took two catches as wicketkeeper.
- Joy Packer, Deep as the sea 1976
- Janus: The Papers of Admiral Sir Herbert Packer
- Unit Histories: Royal Navy (RN) Officers - provides information regarding Packer's career
- CricketArchive: Herbert Packer
Sir Douglas Fisher
|Fourth Sea Lord
Sir Desmond McCarthy
|Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic Station
Sir Peveril William-Powlett