Algernon Charles Fieschi Heneage

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Admiral Sir Algernon C. F. Heneage.
Image: Department of National Defence.

Admiral SIR Algernon Charles Fiesché Heneage, G.C.B., Royal Navy (19 March, 1833 – 10 June, 1915) was an officer of the Royal Navy. Nicknamed "Pompo" Heneage by those who served under him, he has attained some notoriety for his punctilious manner. Andrew Gordon describes Heneage as "a historical tourist attraction", though cautioning that he lived in a far "less self-analytical age."[1]

Life & Career

Heneage was appointed to the Carysfort in 1846. In 1848 he was appointed to the Hastings, and was appointed Mate on 20 March, 1852.

Heneage was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 8 March, 1854.[2]

In a biography of Admiral Sir Henry Keppel, the author noted Heneage's dress sense and how he had heard criticism of it, "but let them hear a story told of him by Harry Keppel, and they will, when they next meet him, take their hat off to him, as I always do."

Heneage was promoted to the rank of Commander on 10 January, 1861.[3]

On February 11, 1861, Commander Fitzroy having died of fever, Heneage was appointed to the 'Falcon,' which was lying in the river, where there was nothing above the surface to be seen moving but sharks' fins. The new Commander was well got-up, as was his wont, even to kid gloves. Just as his four-oared gig was getting alongside one of the boys missed his footing and disappeared. In a moment Heneage unbuckled his sword, dived, and saved the boy. He read his commission at the capstan in his muddy suit—a good beginning—and returned on board the 'Forte' to dine with his old chief.[4]

For this action, on the River Gambia at Sierra Leona, he was awarded the Royal Humane Society's Silver Medal.[5]

Heneage was promoted to the rank of Captain on 26 June, 1866.[6]

As Captain of the ironclad Achilles he was described by Vanity Fair caricaturist 'Spy' (Sir Leslie Ward) as "certainly the beau of the combined fleets. The immaculate appearance of this distinguished officer in these days at sea was certainly one of the distractions of the voyage, and as Admiral Sir Algernon Heneage, he is still to be seen in the West End, an ornament and a great favourite in London Society. Eventually he came to my studio and I made a characteristic drawing of him."[7]

When a muzzle-loading gun aboard the ironclad Thunderer exploded in January 1879 during gunnery practice, Heneage dispatched a medical party to that ship, then ordered Achilles's gun crews to resume firing, "loading full charges to forestall any nonsense about jinxed guns," in the words of Andrew Gordon. George Tryon did likewise.[8]

On 3 January, 1881, Heneage was appointed Captain of the ironclad Hercules.[9]

Flag Rank

Heneage was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral on 7 July, 1884, vice Somerset.[10] On 3 July, 1885, he was appointed Second-in-Command in the Channel Squadron, flying his flag in H.M.S. Agincourt. He assumed command on 5 July.[11]

When in the Channel he is credited with a remarkable feat of seamanship, bringing "the Channel Squadron under full sail to a running moor in Vigo harbour in half a gale of wind." Officers of the Spanish Navy who witnessed the sight are said to have "never stopped talking of it."[12]

He was appointed Commander-in-Chief on the Pacific Station on 20 September, 1887, and assumed command on 11 November, flying his flag in the Triumph.[13] It is often claimed that, as Commander-in-Chief, Heneage tormented the ship's Commander, Francis Bridgeman-Simpson, to the point that he "retired to his cabin and remained there until the fleet surgeon invalided him home for a 'slight rupture'."[14] The source for this story would appear to be a mention in the memoirs of Henry F. Oliver, a Sub-Lieutenant in Triumph, that was subsequently embellished to the point of absurdity:

At sail drill the Admiral sent a rude message through the Captain to the Commander, Bridgeman-Simpson. The Commander sent for the First Lieutenant to carry on and walked off below and went on the sick list and the Fleet Surgeon invalided him, he had a slight rupture. He went home later from Panama and Dick, the First Lieutenant, became Acting Commander.[15]

He was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral on 29 November, 1889, vice Howard.[16]

On the occasion of the Queen's birthday, Heneage was appointed an Ordinary Member of the Second Class, or Knight Commander, in the Military Division of the Order of the Bath (K.C.B.) on 25 May, 1892.[17]

Heneage was promoted to the rank of Admiral on 9 December, 1894, vice Ward.[18]

In accordance with the provisions of the Order in Council of 22 February, 1870 and 5 August, 1875, Heneage was placed on the Retired List on 19 March, 1898.[19]

On 17 January 1901 the aforementioned caricature by 'Spy' appeared in Vanity Fair, naturally titled "Pompo". It was No. 799 in the journal's Men of the Day series.

Heneage was appointed an Additional Member of the First Class, or Knight Grand Cross, in the Military Division of the Order of the Bath (G.C.B.) on 26 June, 1902.[20]

See Also


  • "Death of Admiral Sir A. Heneage" (Obituaries). The Times. Saturday, 12 June, 1915. Issue 40879, col B, p. 9.
  • Bonnett, Stanley (1968). The Price of Admiralty. An Indictment of the Royal Navy, 1805-1966. London: Robert Hale Limited.
  • Gordon, Andrew (2005). The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command. London: John Murray (Publishers). ISBN 0719561310. (on and
  • Lowis, Commander Geoffrey (1959). Fabulous Admirals and Some Naval Fragments: Being a Brief Account of some of the Froth on those Characters who Enlivened the Royal Navy a Generation or Two Ago. London: Putnam.
  • Ward, Sir Leslie (1915). Forty Years of 'Spy'. London: Chatto & Windus.
  • West, The Right Hon. Sir Algernon, G.C.B. (1905). Memoir of Sir Henry Keppel. G.C.B.: Admiral of the Fleet. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

Service Records

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
William N. W. Hewett
Captain of H.M.S. Achilles
26 Mar, 1878[21] – 31 Aug, 1880
Succeeded by
Edward Kelly
Preceded by
Edward H. Howard
Captain of H.M.S. Hercules
3 Jan, 1881[22]
Succeeded by
Robert G. Douglas
Preceded by
William H. Whyte
Second-in-Command, Channel Squadron
3 Jul, 1885[23] – 7 Aug, 1886[24]
Succeeded by
The Hon. Edmund R. Fremantle
Preceded by
Sir Michael Culme-Seymour, Bart.
Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Station
20 Sep, 1887[25]
Succeeded by
Charles F. Hotham
Preceded by
Charles T. Curme
Commander-in-Chief at the Nore
27 Feb, 1892[26] – 10 Dec, 1894[27]
Succeeded by
Sir Richard Wells


  1. Gordon. p. 175.
  2. Heneage Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/36/1596. f. 622.
  3. Heneage Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/36/1596. f. 622.
  4. West. p. 120.
  5. The Royal Navy List (July, 1884). p. 372.
  6. The London Gazette: no. 23132. p. 3736. 29 June, 1866.
  7. Ward. p. 259.
  8. Gordon. p. 176.
  9. The Navy List. (April, 1883). p. 216.
  10. The London Gazette: no. 25375. p. 3175. 11 July, 1884.
  11. The Navy List. (October, 1885). p. 188.
  12. Lowis. p. 32.
  13. The Navy List. (February, 1888). p. 187.
  14. Bonnett. p. 142.
  15. Recollections. I. Oliver Papers. f. 125. National Maritime Museum OLV/12.
  16. The London Gazette: no. 25998. p. 6928. 3 December, 1889.
  17. The London Gazette: no. 26291. p. 3137. 25 May, 1892.
  18. The London Gazette: no. 26578. p. 7278. 11 December, 1894.
  19. The London Gazette: no. 26950. p. 1866. 22 March, 1898.
  20. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 27448. p. 4189. 26 June, 1902.
  21. The Navy List. (July, 1878). p. 191.
  22. The Navy List. (April, 1883). p. 216.
  23. The Navy List. (October, 1885). p. 188.
  24. Heneage Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/13/332
  25. Clowes. The Royal Navy. Vol. VII. p. 88.
  26. Clowes. The Royal Navy. Vol. VII. p. 86.
  27. Heneage Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/13/332