Portal:Royal Navy/Selected biography

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Selected biographies


Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, KB (29 September 1758 – 21 October 1805) was an English admiral famous for his participation in the Napoleonic Wars, most notably in the Battle of Trafalgar, where he lost his life. It was as a result of these wars that he became one of the greatest naval heroes in the history of the United Kingdom, eclipsing Admiral Robert Blake in fame. His biography by the poet Robert Southey appeared in 1813, while the wars were still being fought. His love affair with Emma, Lady Hamilton, the wife of the British Ambassador to Naples, is also well-known, and he is honoured by the London landmark, Nelson's Column, which stands in the centre of Trafalgar Square.

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Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Cunningham, 1st Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope, KT, GCB, OM, DSO** (7 January 1883 – 12 June 1963), older brother of General Sir Alan Cunningham, was a British admiral of the Second World War. He is often referred to by his initials "ABC."

Cunningham was born in Dublin on 7 January 1883 and was schooled at several institutions before he was enrolled at a Naval Academy at the age of 10 where his association with the Navy started. After passing out of Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth in 1898 he progressed rapidly in rank. He commanded a destroyer during World War I and through most of the interwar period. For his performance during this time he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Two Bars for action in the Dardanelles and in the Baltic.

In World War II, as Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet Cunningham led British naval forces in several Mediterranean naval battles such as the Battle of Taranto in 1940, the first carrier based air attack in history, and the Battle of Cape Matapan in 1941. In 1943 Cunningham was promoted to First Sea Lord, a position he held until his retirement in 1946. After his retirement Cunningham enjoyed several ceremonial positions including Lord High Steward at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. He died on 12 June 1963.


Admiral of the Fleet John Arbuthnot "Jackie" Fisher, 1st Baron Fisher of Kilverstone, GCB, OM, GCVO (25 January 1841 – 10 July 1920) was a British admiral known for his efforts at naval reform. He had a huge influence on the Royal Navy in a career spanning more than 60 years, starting in a navy of wooden sailing ships armed with muzzle-loading cannon and ending in one of battlecruisers, submarines and the first aircraft carriers. The argumentative, energetic, reform-minded Fisher is often considered the second most important figure of British naval history, after Lord Nelson.



Admiral of the Fleet Prince Louis of Battenberg, GCB, GCVO, KCMG, PC (24 May 1854 – 11 September 1921), later known as Louis Alexander Mountbatten, 1st Marquess of Milford Haven, was a minor German prince who married a granddaughter of Britain's Queen Victoria and pursued a distinguished career in the United Kingdom's Royal Navy, becoming a protégé of his future king, Edward VII.

The Queen and Prince of Wales occasionally intervened in his career—the Queen thought that there was "a belief that the Admiralty are afraid of promoting Officers who are Princes on account of the radical attacks of low papers and scurrilous ones". However, Louis welcomed battle assignments that provided opportunities for him to acquire the skills of war and to demonstrate to his superiors that he was serious about his naval career. Posts on royal yachts and tours actually impeded his progress, as his promotions were perceived as royal favours rather than deserved. However, he rose through the command ranks on his own merit and eventually served as First Sea Lord, the senior uniformed officer in the Royal Navy, from 1912 to 1914 until he was forced to resign when anti-German feeling was running high at the start of World War I.



Skipper Thomas Crisp VC, DSC, RNR (April 28, 1876 – August 15, 1917) was a posthumous English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British military service personnel. He earned his award during the defence of his vessel, the armed naval smack HMS Nelson, in the North Sea against an attack by the German submarine Unterseeboot C-41 in 1917.

Thomas Crisp's self–sacrifice in the face of this "unequal struggle" was used by the government to bolster morale during some of the toughest days of the First World War for Britain, the summer and autumn of 1917, during which Britain was the most active Allied participant and was suffering consequent losses. His exploit was read aloud by David Lloyd George in the Houses of Parliament and made headline news for nearly a week.



Captain Ronald Niel Stuart, VC, DSO, RD, US Navy Cross, RNR (26 August 1886 – 8 February 1954) was a British Merchant Navy Commodore and Royal Navy Captain who was highly commended following extensive and distinguished service at sea over a period of more than thirty five years. During the First World War he received the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Order, the French Croix de Guerre and the United States' Navy Cross for a series of daring operations he conducted while serving in the Royal Navy during the First Battle of the Atlantic.

Stuart's Victoria Cross was awarded following a ballot by the men under his command. This unusual method of selection was used after the Admiralty board was unable to choose which members of the crew deserved the honour after a desperate engagement between a Q-ship and a German submarine off the Irish coast. His later career included command of the liner RMS Empress of Britain and the management of the London office of a major transatlantic shipping company. Following his retirement in 1951, Stuart moved into his sister's cottage in Kent and died three years later. A sometime irascible man, he was reportedly embarrassed by any fuss surrounding his celebrity and was known to exclaim "Mush!" at any demonstration of strong emotion.


Rear Admiral The Honourable Sir Horace Lambert Alexander Hood, KCB, MVO, DSO (2 October 1870 – 31 May 1916) was a British Royal Navy admiral of the First World War, whose lengthy and distinguished service saw him engaged in operations around the world, frequently participating in land campaigns as part of a shore brigade. His early death at the Battle of Jutland in the destruction of his flagship HMS Invincible was met with mourning and accolades from across Britain.

Admiral Hood was a youthful, vigorous and active officer whose service in Africa won him the Distinguished Service Order and who was posthuously raised to a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in recognition of his courageous and ultimately fatal service in the Battle of Jutland, during which his ship was constantly engaged from its arrival at the action and caused fatal damage to a German battlecruiser. He has been described as "the beau ideal of a naval officer, spirited in manner, lively of mind, enterprising, courageous, handsome, and youthful in appearance … His lineage was pure Royal Navy, at its most gallant".

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Rear-Admiral Eric Gascoigne 'Kipper' Robinson, VC, OBE (May 16, 1882 - August 20, 1965) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He earned his award with a string of daring operations whilst a Lieutenant Commander with the fleet stationed off the Dardanelles during the Gallipoli campaign in World War I, including the single-handed destruction of a Turkish naval gun battery and the destruction of a captured British submarine under fire from Turkish shore artillery.

Following these exploits he was badly wounded at the frontline on the Gallipoli Peninsula, but recovered and served continuously for the remainder of the war and into the Russian Civil War. In 1939 aged 57, he again volunteered for military service and spent three more years at war, commanding convoys during the Second battle of the Atlantic. During his lengthy and action filled career, Robinson remained a highly-efficient officer who accomplished meritorious service through four wars and amassed a large collection of awards and honours.



Captain James Cook FRS RN (27 October 1728 (O.S.) – 14 February 1779) was an English explorer, navigator and cartographer. Ultimately rising to the rank of Captain in the Royal Navy, Cook was the first to map Newfoundland prior to making three voyages to the Pacific Ocean during which he achieved the first European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands as well as the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand.

Cook joined the British merchant navy as a teenager, and joined the Royal Navy in 1755. He saw action in the Seven Years' War, and subsequently surveyed and mapped much of the entrance to the Saint Lawrence River during the siege of Quebec. This allowed General Wolfe to make his famous stealth attack on the Plains of Abraham, and helped to bring Cook to the attention of the Admiralty and Royal Society. This notice came at a crucial moment both in his personal career and in the direction of British overseas exploration, and led to his commission in 1766 as commander of HM Bark Endeavour for the first of three Pacific voyages. Cook died in Hawaii in a fight with Hawaiians during his third exploratory voyage in the Pacific in 1779.


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Admiral Alan William John West, Baron West of Spithead, GCB, DSC (born 21 April 1948) is a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the British Home Office, with responsibility for Security, a Security Advisor to Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Prior to his junior ministerial appointment, he was First Sea Lord, the professional head of the Royal Navy, from 2002 to 2006. He is well remembered as the commanding officer of HMS Ardent, which was sunk on 21 May 1982 during the Falklands War. West was the last to leave the sinking ship and was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for his leadership. He is the current Chancellor of Southampton Solent University. On 29 June 2007 he was appointed to his current position at the Home Office in the Government of Gordon Brown, and that same day Brown announced that West was to be created a life peer. On 9 July 2007 he was created Baron West of Spithead, of Seaview in the County of Isle of Wight, and took his seat in the House of Lords.


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Vice-Admiral Kenneth Gilbert Balmain Dewar, CBE, RN (1879 – 8 September 1964) was an officer of the Royal Navy. After specialising as a gunnery officer, Dewar saw extensive service in the First World War and was fortunate in the peace that followed to have active sea-going commands throughout the 1920s.

In 1929 he was at the heart of the "Royal Oak Mutiny", when as Captain of the battleship HMS Royal Oak he and his executive officer dared to criticise their superior officer, Rear-Admiral Collard, to their superiors. All three men were dismissed from the ship, and were subjected to highly publicised Courts-martial or cross-examination in Gibraltar. Collard was forcibly retired, and Dewar survived with a severe reprimand. Having then commanded successively the two oldest capital ships in the fleet, Dewar retired on promotion to Rear-Admiral. His memoirs, published as The Navy from Within in 1939, were a vitriolic indictment of the Navy's practices.