Ralph Seymour (Royal Navy officer)

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Commander Ralph Frederick Seymour, RN, CMG, DSO, born 6 January 1886, d. 4 October 1922, was a British naval officer. Throughout the First World War he served as Flag Lieutenant to Admiral Sir David Beatty, despite the fact that he did not possess a full training in signalling. During the Battle of Dogger Bank and the Battle of Jutland he was responsible for sending flag signals so ineptly worded that, after the event, they were considered to have diminished the British success in those conflicts. A badly-worded signal he sent during the German battlecruiser raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby on 16 December 1914 also caused Beatty's scouting forces to break off contact with the enemy, thus prematurely ending the pursuit.[1] Beatty remained loyal and supportive of Seymour during and after the war, and took him to the Admiralty when he became First Sea Lord. After this, however, when Beatty's actions at Jutland began to receive hostile scrutiny, his attitude to Seymour changed and became much more negative. Seymour suffered a nervous breakdown, and was invalided out of the Navy in 1922. He committed suicide by jumping off Black Rock, Brighton, a landmark near his home since redeveloped into Brighton Marina.[2]

Family[edit]

Seymour was the fourth child and first son of Sir Horace Alfred Damer Seymour, KCB (1843-1902) and Elizabeth Mary Romilly (1859-1950). His father had been private secretary to Gladstone during 1880-1885, a Commissioner of Customs and Deputy Master of the Mint. The family had numerous aristocratic connections. Ralph was a nephew by marriage of the 5th Earl Spencer, First Lord of the Admiralty in the 1890s and was thus also distantly related to Winston Churchill; his eldest sister Horatia (?-1966) was one of the closest friends of Churchill's wife Clementine. It has been suggested[3] that it was the Churchill connection that brought Lieutenant Seymour to the attention of Beatty, who had been Churchill's Naval Secretary in 1912.


  1. ^ Andrew Gordon, The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command (Naval Institute Press, 2000), pp. 93-4.
  2. ^ Gordon (2000), pp. 543-4.
  3. ^ Gordon (2000), pp. 384-5.