Arthur Joseph Hungerford Pollen

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Arthur Joseph Hungerford Pollen, (13 September, 1866 – 28 January, 1937) was a British businessman, author, lawyer and pioneer of navy gunnery. He founded the Argo Company and was responsible for the Argo Aim Corrector system.

Early Life & Career

Pollen was born on 13 September, 1866 in Southwater, Sussex, the eighth child and sixth son in the family of eight sons and two daughters of John Hungerford Pollen (1820–1902), artist and author, a Tractarian who had followed J. H. Newman into the Roman Catholic church, and his wife, Maria Margaret (1838–1919), daughter of the Revd Charles John LaPrimaudaye. He was educated at the Oratory School, Birmingham (1878–84), and read history at Trinity College, Oxford (1884–8), gaining a second-class degree in modern history in 1888.[1] His degree was conferred on 25 October, 1888.[2] His elder brother, Lieutenant Walter Hungerford Pollen, R.E. (the second son, born 1859) died in 1889 while commanding a survey party in India.[3] He was called to the Bar by Lincoln's Inn in 1893, having taken the Pass Examination in December, 1892.[4] He then took an interest in parliamentary politics, standing as Radical candidate for the Walthamstow Division of Essex in the General Election of 1895 which he lost; 4,523 votes to the 6,876 of his opponent, E.W. Byrne, M.P., Q.C. After this setback he continued to speak at Liberal Party events, but declined to stand in the by-election brought about by Byrne's resignation in 1897. On 7 September 1898 he married Maud Beatrice, daughter of Joseph Lawrence, a prominent Conservative M.P. and chairman of the Linotype Company. They had a daughter, who died at the age of four in 1905, and two sons. Pollen became managing director of the Linotype Company in 1898, and proved himself to be both a shrewd businessman and an intelligent technical innovator.

Fire Control

Pollen became interested in the problem of naval rangefinding after a visit to Malta to see his uncle, Sir Clement LaPrimaudaye. While there he met his cousin, William Goodenough, who invited him to watch a practice shoot at sea. Accordingly, he went afloat in the second-class protected cruiser Dido.[5] Several years of development work were undertaken at the Linotype works, in conjunction with Linotype's designer Harold Isherwood. Following unsuccessful but nevertheless promising trials in late 1905 and early 1906, he won the support of John Jellicoe, Percy Scott, and Sir John Fisher, which resulted in the establishment of an agreement to perfect his ideas. The purpose was to enable long-range naval guns to score hits when attack ship and target were moving fast and relative to each other. Pollen, accustomed to the business methods of civilian life believed his efforts obstructed, however, by an "influential faction" of naval officers that included Reginald Bacon, Sir Arthur Wilson, and Frederic Dreyer. One officer, Sir Charles C. Drury, noted in a 1908 letter to the then-First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Tweedmouth, that, "I always thought he promised too much," whilst admitting that "If it was a success our power would be increased 50%."[6] As early as 1909 Fisher suspected Pollen of working against the Navy and advised the First Lord, Reginald McKenna, that he "ought to be denied access to the Admiralty."[7]

Pollen founded the Argo Company in 1909 to hold his patents, and in 1911 he took a holding in Thomas Cooke & Sons of York, which manufactured his equipment. Pollen's instruments in their final forms were in themselves significant achievements in engineering and calculation.

During the war Pollen wrote for Land and Water. In 1916, Jellicoe was compelled to issue a Grand Fleet Order to the men under his command:

It has come to my knowledge that several officers have received a memorandum on the subject of fire control from Mr. A. H. Pollen, and it has also been stated that officers in the fleet are corresponding with Mr. Pollen on this subject.

2. As is well known, Mr. Pollen writes articles in the publication 'Land and Water,' and in some of his recent articles he criticises the efficiency of our present fire control methods.

3. I desire to point out to officers that if he is in a position to say that he is informed by our own officers that our gunnery methods are inefficient, the greatest possible encouragement is given to our enemies, and the statements are likely to produce an unsettling effect in the minds of those who are not fully acquainted with the facts.

4. It is therefore my direction that officers in the fleet are not to correspond with, nor to discuss, service matters with persons outside the service during the war, unless the persons concerned are serving under the government.[8]

The Commander-in-Chief on the North America and West Indies Station, Sir Montague E. Browning, wrote to Jellicoe, now First Sea Lord, in July, 1917, "Pollen is in the U.S., & I think is unwise in what he says. He came on board to see me for an hour at H. [Hampton] Roads last month, & I then warned him to be careful in expressing opinions which criticise our conduct of the war. He promised me he would refrain, & did not!"[9]

In addition to his many contributions to newspapers and journals, Pollen wrote a popular general account of the war at sea, The Navy in Battle (1918), which was considered risible in its inaccuracy. In 1917 he achieved great success in America as an unofficial representative of British interests. After the war Pollen returned to business, serving on the board of the Birmingham Small Arms Company and again as managing director of the Linotype Company. Pollen was also Vice-President of the council of the Federation of British Industries, chairman of the British Commonwealth Union, and in the last years of his life took an active role in the development of English Catholicism as chairman of The Tablet.

Pollen was a handsome man whose exceptional intellect and engaging manners attracted the friendship of many prominent figures in the navy, business, academia, the arts, and sport. His favourite pastimes were shooting and golf. Pollen died on 28 January, 1937 at his home at 238 St James Court, Buckingham Gate, in London.


  • "Mr. A. H. Pollen" (Obituaries). The Times. Friday, 29 January, 1937. Issue 47595, col C, pg. 16.
  • Sumida, Jon Tetsuro (1989). In Defence of Naval Supremacy: Finance, Technology and British Naval Policy, 1889-1914. Winchester, Mass.: Unwin Hyman, Inc.. ISBN 0044451040. (on and

See Also



  1. Sumida. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  2. "University Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Friday, 26 October, 1888. Issue 32527, col F, p. 10.
  3. "Obituaries" (Obituaries). The Times. Saturday, 30 March, 1889. Issue 32660, col A, p. 13.
  4. "The Inns of Court" (News). The Times. Thursday, 12 January, 1893. Issue 33486, col F, p. 7.
  5. Sumida. In Defence of Naval Supremacy. p. 77.
  6. Drury to Tweedmouth. Letter of 1 April, 1908. Tweedmouth Papers. National Museum of the Royal Navy. MSS 254/872.
  7. Fisher to McKenna. Letter of 5 April, 1909. Churchill Archives Centre. McKenna Papers. MCKN 6/2/67.
  8. Grand Fleet Orders. "573. Discussion of service matters with persons outside H.M. service." Apparently dated 23 August, 1916. The National Archives. ADM 137/4052.
  9. Browning to Jellicoe. Letter of 31 July, 1917. Jellicoe Papers. British Library. Add MS 49036. f. 40.