Henry Francis Oliver

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Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry F. Oliver, portrayed in 1917 as an Acting Vice-Admiral.
Portrait: Francis Dodd. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 1763).

Admiral of the Fleet SIR Henry Francis Oliver, G.C.B., K.C.M.G., M.V.O., HON. L.L.D., Royal Navy (22 January, 1865 – 15 October, 1965) was an officer of the Royal Navy during the First World War. Joining the Navy in 1878, he qualified as a Navigator. After a long period of service in the Surveying Service, he became a Navigating Officer of distinction - his exploits as navigator to Admiral Sir Arthur K. Wilson in the Channel Squadron became legendary. He was chosen to organise and take charge of the Navy's first Navigation school at Portsmouth, and thereafter was given a series of more important appointments. Just before promotion to Flag Rank in 1913 he was appointed to the Admiralty War Staff as Director of the Intelligence Division.

Upon the outbreak of the First World War he was appointed first Naval Secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty, and then Chief of the Admiralty War Staff, which post he held from 1914 to 1917. That year the position was renamed Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff, and in 1918 he left Whitehall to take command of the Second Battle Cruiser Squadron in the Grand Fleet, where he remained till the conclusion of peace in 1919. For a large period of the war, through his untiring efforts, Oliver was instrumental in the prosecution of the war effort. His alleged "centralisation" has come in for much criticism from supporters of the Naval Staff system.

After the war Oliver took command of the Home (later Reserve Fleet), and was appointed Second Sea Lord at the Admiralty. His final service was as Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet from 1924 to 1927. In 1928 he attained the pinnacle of a seaman's career, the rank of Admiral of the Fleet. He was placed on the Retired List on 21 January, 1933, after fifty-four years on the Active List of the Royal Navy.

Contents

Early Life & Career

Oliver was appointed to the Training Ship Britannia at Dartmouth on 15 July, 1878. He left on 22 July, 1880, and gained six months' time towards the rank of Midshipman. On 23 July he was appointed to the Agincourt,[1] flagship of the Rear-Admiral Second-in-Command of the Channel Squadron. He joined her at Plymouth on 6 September, having collected his sea chest and changed into uniform at Rosekelly's, the Shipping Agents in Cornwall Street. Mrs. Rosekelly, wife of the proprietor, arranged for her two sons to row Oliver out to the Agincourt for free - the two sons then refused to let him off the boat unless he paid them ten shillings. Mrs. Rosekelly found out and sent him the money.[2] Of the ship's Naval Instructor Oliver recalled, "He never tried to teach us."[3] He was rated Midshipman on 31 January, 1881.

On 21 March, 1882, he was appointed to the Amethyst in the Brazils.[4]

On 21 January, 1885, he was appointed Acting Sub-Lieutenant.[5]

He was appointed to H.M.S. Excellent for Examinations on 8 September, 1885.[6]

On 1 November, 1886, he was appointed to the Triumph on the Pacific Station.[7]

Lieutenant

He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 30 June, 1888.[8] He was reappointed to Triumph on promotion.[9] On 4 December Triumph paid off.

On 8 January, 1889 he was appointed to the Training Ship Lion.[10]

He was accordingly appointed to the Stork on 27 April, 1889.[11]

He was reappointed to her for Navigating Duties on 1 December, 1891.[12]

Stork paid off on 24 February, 1894. On 14 May he was appointed to President for a Compass Course.[13]

On 11 June he was appointed to the Pembroke as Navigator of the Thetis. On 29 November he was appointed Navigator of the Wallaroo on the Australian Station.[14]

On 26 July, 1897, Oliver was appointed to Pembroke as Navigator of the first class protected cruiser Endymion.[15]

On 20 January, 1898, he joined Blake as Navigating Officer.[16]

He was appointed to the new cruiser Niobe as Navigating Officer on 6 December, 1898.[17]

Commander

Oliver was promoted to the rank of Commander on 31 December, 1899,[18] and was reappointed as Commander (N) of Niobe on the same day.[19]

On 12 September, 1900, he was appointed Navigating Officer of the battleship Majestic, flagship of the Channel Squadron.[20]

On 18 June, 1903, he was given command of H.M.S. Mercury.[21]

Captain

He was promoted to the rank of Captain on 30 June, 1903,[22] and reappointed in command of Mercury the same day.[23]

On the occasion of the visit of the French fleet to Britain Oliver was appointed a Member of the Fourth Class of the Royal Victorian Order (M.V.O.) on 11 August, 1905.[24]

On 22 February, 1906, he took command of the Dryad, Portsmouth Navigation School.[25]

On 12 February, 1907, he was appointed to Pembroke for command of the new armoured cruiser Achilles.[26]

He was superseded in command of Achilles on 23 November, 1908, and the same day was appointed to the Admiralty on Committee Work. On 1 December he was appointed Naval Assistant to the First Sea Lord.[27]

In 1909 he was appointed a member of a Departmental Committee "to inquire into the question of numbers of the Military, Engineer, and Marine Branches which will be required in future."[28]

On 25 January, 1912, he was appointed to Vivid for command of the new battleship Thunderer.[29]

On the occasion of the King's birthday he was appointed an Ordinary Member of the Third Class, or Companion, in the Civil Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (C.B.) on 3 June, 1913.[30] He was appointed to the Admiralty on 12 September for special service, and became Director of the Intelligence Division on 1 November.[31]

He was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral on 8 December, 1913, vice Gamble.[32] He was forty-eight years and ten months old on promotion to Flag Rank.

Great War

Oliver was appointed Naval Secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty on 13 October, 1914.[33]

He was appointed Chief of the Admiralty War Staff on 5 November, with the rank of Acting Vice-Admiral.[34]

On 1 January, 1916, he was appointed an Additional Member of the Second Class, or Knight Commander, in the Military Division of the Order of the Bath (K.C.B.).[35]

He was appointed a Lord Commissioner on the Board of Admiralty and became Deputy Chief of Naval Staff on 31 May, 1917.[36]

When Rear-Admiral Phillimore was promoted to command the Grand Fleet's aircraft carriers, Beatty asked for Halsey to command the the First Battle Cruiser Squadron. Jellicoe suggested Oliver instead, writing, "I would be delighted to have him commanding a small squadron … I don't want to lose him here but on the other hand I don't want to keep him here to ruin his career."[37]

Oliver was superseded as Deputy Chief of Naval Staff on 10 January, 1918, and was appointed to President for Special Service from that date. On 12 January he was appointed an Additional Member of the Second Class, or Knight Commander, in the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (K.C.M.G.) "in recognition of the very valuable services he has rendered as Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff during the war."[38] He was appointed in command of the First Battle Cruiser Squadron on 14 March.[39]

Post-War

On 1 January, 1919, Oliver was confirmed in the rank of Vice-Admiral, vice Currey.[40] On 28 February he shifted his flag to Lion temporarily as Vice-Admiral Commanding the Battle Cruiser Force, and on 22 March he was appointed Vice-Admiral Commanding the Second Battle Squadron and on 8 April became Vice-Admiral Commanding the Home Fleet, a reserve formation.[41] As Oliver later related, "I was not pleased with this as Beatty had told me he had asked for me to have the Battle Cruisers which were fully manned."[42]

Second Sea Lord

Oliver was appointed to President, additional, for Special Service, on 15 September, 1920, and on 30 September was appointed Second Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Personnel.[43]

He was promoted to the rank of Admiral on 1 November, 1923.[44]

Atlantic Fleet

By his own account, Oliver was offered the Nore command, but he declined it on the grounds that, formerly, retiring Second Sea Lords had been given sea-going commands (Sir Montague Browning being an exception).[45]

Towards the end of 1923 I got the usual formal letter from the First Lord, Amery, offering me the Atlantic Fleet but the duration of the appointment was not mentioned. There had been a tendency to cut down the duration of appointments and I was on very good terms with Amery so I took the letter to Amery and told him I had been a Naval Secretary and his Naval Secretary had left something out. he asked what it was and I told him that "the duration of the appointment would be for 3 years". This was added to the letter and I took it back and wrote my formal acceptance. This was of great use to me later on as it enabled me to hold the command for 3 years when other C's-in-C were relieved in 2 years.[46]

He was superseded as Second Sea Lord on 15 August, 1924, and on the same day was appointed Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet.[47]

His flag was struck in Revenge at sunset on 15 August, 1927.[48]

On 21 January, 1928, Oliver was promoted to the rank of Admiral of the Fleet.[49] On the occasion of the King's birthday he was appointed an Ordinary Member of the First Class, or Knight Grand Cross, in the Military Division of the Order of the Bath (G.C.B.) on 4 June.[50] In May he was appointed Chairman of an Admiralty Committee to deal with the question of "Complaints."[51]

He was placed on the Retired List on 21 January, 1933.[52]

As the result of the King approving that Admirals of the Fleet should in future be borne on the Active List of the Royal Navy for life, on 4 March, 1940, Oliver was replaced on the Active List with seniority of 21 January, 1928.[53]

See Also

Footnotes

  1. Oliver Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  2. Oliver. I. f. 2.
  3. Oliver. I. f. 6.
  4. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  5. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  6. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  7. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  8. The London Gazette: no. 25837. p. 3826. 13 July, 1888.
  9. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  10. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  11. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  12. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  13. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  14. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  15. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  16. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  17. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  18. The London Gazette: no. 27150. p. 3. 2 January, 1900.
  19. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  20. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  21. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  22. The London Gazette: no. 27572. p. 4187. 3 July, 1903.
  23. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  24. The London Gazette: no. 27826. p. 5532. 11 August, 1905.
  25. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  26. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  27. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  28. Copy of letter of 5 May, 1909. "Interim Report of the Departmental Committee on the Future Requirements of Officers of the Military, Engineer, and Marine Branches." p. 2.The National Archives. ADM 116/881.
  29. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  30. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28724. p. 3903. 3 June, 1913.
  31. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  32. The London Gazette: no. 28780. p. 9083. 9 December, 1913.
  33. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  34. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  35. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29423. p. 80. 31 December, 1915.
  36. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  37. Jellicoe Papers. II. p. 240.
  38. The London Gazette: no. 30484. p. 992. 18 January, 1918.
  39. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  40. The London Gazette: no. 31112. p. 364. 7 January, 1919.
  41. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  42. Oliver. II. f. 211.
  43. ADM 196/42. f. 319.
  44. The London Gazette: no. 32878. p. 7658. 9 November, 1923.
  45. Oliver. II. f. 246.
  46. Oliver. II. f. 247.
  47. ADM 196/42. f. 187.
  48. ADM 196/42. f. 187.
  49. The London Gazette: no. 33354. p. 856. 7 February, 1928.
  50. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 33390. p. 3847. 4 June, 1928.
  51. ADM 196/42. f. 187.
  52. The London Gazette: no. 33905. p. 524. 24 January, 1933.
  53. The London Gazette: no. 34807. p. 1394. 8 March, 1940.

Bibliography

  • "Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Oliver" (Obituaries). The Times. Monday, 18 October, 1965. Issue 56455, col A, p. 20.
  • James, Admiral Sir William (1956). A Great Seaman: The Life of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry F. Oliver. London: H. F. & G. Witherby Ltd..

Papers

Service Records

  • The National Archives. ADM196/88. Volume 3. f. 21.
  • The National Archives. ADM 196/42. Volume 4. f. 319. Book 19. f. 187.


Naval Appointments
Preceded by
A. Gordon H. W. Moore
Naval Assistant to the First Sea Lord
1908 – 1911
Succeeded by
Charles Bartolomé

Preceded by
Thomas Jackson
Director of the Intelligence Division
1913 – 1914
Succeeded by
W. Reginald Hall

Preceded by
The Hon. Horace L. A. Hood
Naval Secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty
1914
Succeeded by
Charles Bartolomé

Preceded by
Sir F. C. Doveton Sturdee
Chief of the Admiralty War Staff
1914 – 1917
Succeeded by
Title Changed

Preceded by
New Position
Deputy Chief of Naval Staff
1917 – 1918
Succeeded by
Sydney R. Fremantle

Preceded by
Sir Richard F. Phillimore
Vice-Admiral Commanding,
First Battle Cruiser Squadron

1918 – 1919
Succeeded by
Command Dispersed

Preceded by
Sir William C. Pakenham
Vice-Admiral Commanding,
Battle Cruiser Force

1919
Succeeded by
Command Dispersed

Preceded by
Sir John M. de Robeck
Vice-Admiral Commanding,
Second Battle Squadron

1919
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur C. Leveson

Preceded by
New Command
Vice-Admiral Commanding,
Home Fleet

1919
Succeeded by
Sir Richard F. Phillimore
Vice-Admiral Commanding,
Reserve Fleet

1919 – 1920
Preceded by
Sir Montague E. Browning
Second Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Personnel
1920 – 1924
Succeeded by
Sir Michael Culme-Seymour, Bart.

Preceded by
Sir John M. de Robeck
Commander-in-Chief,
Atlantic Fleet

1924 – 1927
Succeeded by
The Hon. Sir Hubert G. Brand

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