Peter Gretton

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Sir Peter William Gretton
Born(1912-08-27)27 August 1912
Farnham, Surrey
Died11 November 1992(1992-11-11) (aged 80)
Oxford, Oxfordshire
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy
Years of service1930–1963
RankVice Admiral
Commands heldFifth Sea Lord (1962–63)
Flag Officer Sea Training (1960–61)
HMS Saker (1954–55)
HMS Gambia (1952–53)
HMS Chelmer (1943–44)
HMS Vidette (1943)
HMS Duncan (1943)
HMS Wolverine (1942)
HMS Sabre (1941–42)
Battles/warsAbyssinia crisis
Arab rebellion in Palestine
Second World War
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order & Two Bars
Officer of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Service Cross
Mentioned in Despatches
Other workDomestic Bursar of University College, Oxford
Senior Research Fellow
President of the Royal Humane Society

Vice Admiral Sir Peter William Gretton KCB, DSO**, OBE, DSC (27 August 1912 – 11 November 1992) was an officer in the Royal Navy. He was active in the Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War, and was a successful convoy escort commander. He eventually rose to become Fifth Sea Lord and retired as a vice admiral before entering university life as a bursar and academic.

Early career[edit]

Gretton joined the Royal Navy as a cadet at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, Dartmouth.[1] He served in the aircraft carrier Courageous before seeing action in the cruiser HMS Durban during the Abyssinia crisis and the Spanish Civil War.[1] He led a landing party in Haifa during the Arab rebellion in Palestine[1] He attended an anti-submarine course at Portland and, on the outbreak of the Second World War, was assigned to the destroyer HMS Vega as first lieutenant.[1]

Second World War[edit]

After a short period as first lieutenant in the old destroyer HMS Vega, from September 1939 to April 1940, Gretton was appointed at very short notice as first lieutenant in the large modern destroyer HMS Cossack and saw action at the Second Battle of Narvik during the Norwegian Campaign.[1] He was given command of the old destroyer HMS Sabre in 1941 and served in the North Atlantic.[1] Promoted to lieutenant-commander on 1 June 1942, he was given command of the marginally newer destroyer HMS Wolverine and returned to the Mediterranean.[1] He took part in Operation Pedestal, the Malta convoy operation in August 1942, and sank the Italian submarine Dagabur by ramming.[1] Promoted to commander on 31 December 1942, he was given command of the destroyer HMS Duncan, as Senior Officer Escort to Escort Group B7, based in Derry.[1]

Post war[edit]

Promoted to captain on 30 June 1948, Gretton became Naval Assistant to the First Sea Lord and then Chief of Staff to the Senior Naval Officer at the Joint Services Mission in Washington, D.C. before being given command of the Naval task group for Operation Grapple in 1956.[1] Promoted to rear-admiral on 7 July 1958, he became Senior Naval Member of the Directing Staff at the Imperial Defence College in 1958 and Flag Officer Sea Training in 1960.[1] Promoted to vice-admiral on 10 March 1961, he went on to be Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff and Fifth Sea Lord in 1962.[1] He retired through ill-health in 1963.[1]

Gretton served as the Domestic Bursar of University College, Oxford from 1965 until 1971,[2] and became a senior research fellow in 1971.[2] He published widely on defence matters and was the President of the Royal Humane Society. He died on 11 November 1992 at the age of 80.[2]


  • Convoy escort commander (1964; memoirs)
  • Maritime strategy: a study of British defence problems (1965)
  • Former Naval Person: Churchill and the navy (1968) (published as Winston Churchill and the Royal Navy in the US, 1969.)
  • Crisis convoy: the story of HX231. Peter Davies. 1974. ISBN 0-4320-6340-4.


Gretton was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1936[3] and was mentioned in dispatches in 1940.[4] He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1941 Birthday Honours.[5] He received the Distinguished Service Order and Two Bars; the first in 1942 for Operation Pedestal;[6] the second in 1943 for the defence of ONS 5;[7] and the third in late 1943 for the actions as support group leader.[8]

For his postwar career he was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in the 1960 New Year Honours[9] and advanced to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in the 1963 New Year Honours.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Sir Peter Greeton". Aim 25. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Peter Gretton". Retrieved 11 June 2008.
  3. ^ "No. 34338". The London Gazette. 6 November 1936. p. 7122.
  4. ^ "No. 34885". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 June 1940. p. 4000.
  5. ^ "No. 35204". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 June 1941. p. 3737.
  6. ^ "No. 35780". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 November 1942. p. 4879.
  7. ^ "No. 36214". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 October 1943. p. 4613.
  8. ^ "No. 36474". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 April 1944. p. 1775.
  9. ^ "No. 41909". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 1959. p. 3.
  10. ^ "No. 42870". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 December 1962. p. 2.

Further reading[edit]

  • Blair, Clay (1998). Hitler's U-Boat War [Volume 2]: The Hunted 1942–1945. Crown Publications. ISBN 0-304-35261-6.
  • Kemp, Paul (1997). U-Boats Destroyed. US Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-85409-515-3.
  • White, David (2006). Bitter Ocean. Headline. ISBN 0-7553-1088-8.
Military offices
Preceded by
William Crawford
Flag Officer Sea Training
Succeeded by
Horace Law
Preceded by
Sir Laurence Durlacher
Fifth Sea Lord
Succeeded by
Sir Frank Hopkins