John Cyril Porte

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Wing Commander John Cyril Porte, C.M.G., R.N. (26 February, 1884 – 22 October, 1919) served in the Royal Navy. Initially a submariner, a constitutional intolerance of the Mediterranean abbreviated his immediate naval career. He busied himself as an inventive aviator in the period before the war, and his obituary credits him with many innovations necessary to transform the seaplane into a reliable weapon system.

Life & Career

Born in Bandon of County Cork, the son of J. R. Porte, a clerk in Holy Order.

Porte was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 26 February, 1905. From mid-1906, he spent four years in command of two coastal submarines, at which time he was appointed to the destroyer Duncan in the Mediterranean on 9 August 1910. This was perhaps a poor choice for him, as in October 1910 he was stricken with tuberculosis and then eventually retired as unfit on 25 October, 1911 after a year's convalescence had failed to place him in good form.

He went to Reims, France to study aviation at the Deperdussin school. He returned to Britain and flew in competitions, crashing a 50 HP plane from 40 feet altitude in the circuit of Britain, escaping injury in the fiasco. He became a managing director of the British Deperdussin Company. Porte apparently did regain enough health that he would be able to apply his knowledge and skills in the coming war. In mid 1912 he applied to be a pilot for the years' Army manoeuvres. In September was surveyed as to his fitness for service in the Royal Flying Corps. Though he was not judged fit for entry, he was allowed to join the Naval Wing of the Reserve.

Porte was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander on 26 February, 1913. On 21 July 1913 he was appointed Flying Officer in the Reserve of Naval Wing R.F.C..

On 13 August, 1914 he was appointed to H.M.S. President, additional, as temporary Squadron Commander for special service. This necessitated his return from America, where he had apparently been working with the Curtiss aircraft company, probably on seaplane designs.[1]

Porte was granted the acting rank of Commander on 21 January, 1915. In February, Porte participated as a Squadron Commander in the thirty-four plane air raid directed against submarine base construction at Bruges, Zeebrugge, Blankenburgh and Ostend. He invented seaplanes, including the Porte Baby of 1915-16, which was so large that it carried a Bristol Scout C biplane on its upper wing. This aircraft was followed by one called the Felixstowe Furt, or "Porte Super-Baby".[2][3]

These large planes were adapted from Curtiss seaplanes Porte had suggested should be licenced for manufacture. The Curtiss planes suffered from a weak hull, low power and lacked armament sufficient for self-defence. Porte strengthened the hulls and improved their ability to lift from the ocean surface by deepening their vee shape, bolstered their power to a pair of 345 HP Rolls Royce Eagle engines and increased their defences to six Lewis guns, yielding the Porte F2a and its successor, the F3. These were not available for service until 1917.[4]

On 25 September, 1915 he ceased his special service and was appointed in command of Felixstowe Air Station. He was apparently also engaged in flight operations during this appointment, which spanned the duration of the conflict.

He was promoted to the rank of Wing Commander on 30 June, 1916.

Following a blood illness, on 1 June 1917 Porte left England for Malta via Marseilles.

Porte was recommended by Rear-Admiral, Harwich for the "skilful way in which he led the operations in Seaplane 8689 against and enemy submarine" on 24 July, 1917. There is mention that this award was in some way delayed by "recent legal proceedings" involving a profiteering charge against Porte and other parties.

Porte reverted to the Retired List on 15 August, 1919.

Porte died "suddenly" at his residence at 8 Norfolk-terrace. His obituary describes his final rank as Lieutenant-Colonel.

See Also

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
?
Captain of H.M.S. B 3
5 Jul, 1906[5] – 1 Jan, 1909
Succeeded by
Hugh A. Williamson
Preceded by
?
Captain of H.M.S. C 38
1 Jan, 1909[6] – 9 Aug, 1910
Succeeded by
John R. A. Codrington
Preceded by
Charles E. Risk
In Command, Felixstowe Air Station
27 Sep, 1915 – 15 Aug, 1919
Succeeded by
?

Footnotes

  1. Abbatiello. Anti-Submarine Warfare in World War I. p. 15.
  2. Colonel Porte. The Times (London, England), Monday, Oct 27, 1919; pg. 14; Issue 42241.
  3. Essay on Porte.
  4. Abbatiello. Anti-Submarine Warfare in World War I. p. 15.
  5. The Navy List. (October, 1908). p. 318.
  6. The Navy List. (April, 1910). p. 344.