John Henry Godfrey

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John Henry Godfrey
Vice Admiral Godfrey WWII IWM A 20777.jpg
Godfrey as a Rear Admiral during World War II
Born10 July 1888 (1888-07-10)
Died29 August 1970 (1970-08-30) (aged 82)
Allegiance United Kingdom
 British India
Service/branch Royal Navy
 Royal Indian Navy
Commands heldHMS Kent
HMS Suffolk
HMS Repulse
Royal Indian Navy
Battles/warsFirst World War
Second World War
AwardsCompanion of the Order of the Bath

Admiral John Henry Godfrey CB (10 July 1888 – 29 August 1970) was an officer of the Royal Navy and Royal Indian Navy, specialising in navigation. Ian Fleming is said to have based James Bond's boss, "M", on Godfrey.

Life and career[edit]

Godfrey was born in Handsworth, Staffordshire, in 1888. He was the son of Godfrey Henry Godfrey, he was educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham; Bradfield College;[1] and HMS Britannia. In 1921 he married Bertha Margaret Hope,[2] (1901–1995), who had studied at Girton College, Cambridge and was the daughter of Donald Hope, managing director of Henry Hope & Sons Ltd, window-frame manufacturers, of Birmingham. The couple had three daughters,[3] the eldest, Kathleen Margaret Godfrey (1922–2015) (married names Kinmonth, then Warren) became a Women’s Auxiliary Air Force officer and a Bletchley Park code breaker.[4] Mrs Margaret Godfrey Hope was very active and supportive of her husband's career, assisting the establishment of the Bletchley Park set up at the end of 1939, compiling maps and data for the Admiralty from 1940, and was head of the Indian Women's Voluntary Service during the time they were stationed there.[4]

During the First World War, Godfrey served on HMS Euryalus in the Dardanelles Campaign in 1915, and was present at the re-occupation of Sollum, during the bombardment of Smyrna, and in the Red Sea operations in support of the Arab forces. From 1916 to 1919 he was on the staff of the Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, and then from 1921 to 1931 he was Deputy Director at the Royal Naval Staff College.

From 1931 to 1933 he commanded the ships HMS Kent and HMS Suffolk on the China Station, before serving as Deputy Director, Plans Division at the Admiralty from 1933 to 1935. He commanded the battle-cruiser HMS Repulse from 1936 to 1939, then served as Director of Naval Intelligence from 1939 to 1942.[5] From 1943 to 1946 he was Flag Officer Commanding Royal Indian Navy. He was commanding the Royal Indian Navy during the Royal Indian Navy mutiny and went on air with his order to "Submit or perish".

Godfrey was made Captain in 1928, Rear-Admiral in 1939, Vice-Admiral in 1942 and Admiral on the retired list in 1945. As well as being made a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1939, he was also awarded the Order of the Nile of Egypt and made a Chevalier of the French Legion d'Honneur.[1]

After his retirement, Godfrey was Chairman of the Chelsea Hospital Management Committee from 1949 to 1960, and was a sometime member of the Board of Governors of Queen Charlotte's Hospital and the Chelsea Hospital for Women, and of the Council of King Edward's Hospital Fund for London and Roedean School. He founded the Centre for Spastic Children, Chelsea. Ian Fleming—who served under Godfrey in Naval Intelligence during World War II—based M,[6] the fictional head of MI6 and James Bond's superior, on him; Godfrey complained that Fleming "turned me into that unsavoury character, M".[7]

In 1966 and 1967 Godfrey gave his memoirs to Churchill College, Cambridge. These contain many unpublished sources and are based in part on an official history of the Naval Intelligence Division which he had written at the end of the war. Godfrey died in Eastbourne in 1970.


  1. ^ a b "The Papers of Admiral John Henry Godfrey". Archivesearch. Churchill Archives Centre. Retrieved 5 October 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ "The Ladies who Secretly won the War". Written by Margy Kinmonth, about her grandmother, mother and grandfather Admiral Godfrey, who all worked secretly at Bletchley Park during WW2. Article features never before published personal correspondence, bundles of handwritten letters, private diaries and family photos. 19 July 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ "Obituary of Kathleen Kinmonth Warren". The Times. 7 November 2015. Retrieved 14 April 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ a b Beesly, Patrick, ed. (2004). "Godfrey, John Henry (1888–1971), naval officer and intelligence officer". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/31153. ISBN 978-0-19-861412-8. Retrieved 15 August 2022. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ "Secret Admiral". Illustrated talk about Admiral Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence 1939 to 1941, by Margy Kinmonth, at the Celebrating Bletchley Park two-day Festival, at Firle Place on March 20th 2016. The talk featured previously unseen material unearthed in the preparation of the biography film "Secret Admiral” directed by Margy Kinmonth. Other speakers included Sir Dermot Turning (Alan Turing’s nephew) and Baroness Trumpington.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "Very Special Admiral". Illustrated talk by Margy Kinmonth, about her grandfather Admiral Godfrey, immortalised as “M” in the James Bond books written by Ian Fleming, his wartime assistant. The event was held at Wilmington, Folkington and Milton Street Village Club, Sussex on 6 March 2016, in the village where Godfrey lived from 1948 to 1980. The talk featured readings from his unpublished memoirs, previously unseen family photos, along with official wartime portraits by Cecil Beaton and society photographer Dorothy Wilding. 6 March 2016. Retrieved 14 April 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ Macintyre, Ben (5 April 2008). "Was Ian Fleming the real 007?". The Times. Retrieved 8 March 2011.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by Director of Naval Intelligence
Succeeded by
Preceded by Flag Officer Commanding Royal Indian Navy
Succeeded by