Thomas Jackson

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Admiral Thomas Jackson as a Rear-Admiral, 1917.
Photograph: © National Portrait Gallery, London.

Admiral SIR Thomas Jackson, K.B.E., C.B., M.V.O., Royal Navy, Retired (20 February, 1868 – 7 July, 1945) was an officer of the Royal Navy. He took four firsts in his Lieutenancy exams and qualified for gunnery duties. He was promoted to Captain at the relatively early age of 36 and was present (as was William Christopher Pakenham) in the Japanese fleet at the Battle of Tsushima in 1905 and was praised for his cool bearing by Admiral Togo.


Early Life & Career

Jackson was born at Stoke Damaral, Devonport on 20 February, 1868, the son of Lieutenant Thomas Sturges Jackson, Royal Navy. He scored 1,241 marks in the competitive examinations for cadetships in the Royal Navy, coming sixth out of his batch of twenty.[1] He entered the Britannia on 15 July, 1881. He performed so well in Britannia that he gained twelve months and was rated Midshipman immediately upon leaving the training ship on 15 July, 1883. He was sent to join the Achilles in the China Squadron, where he remained until appointed to the Bacchante in the East Indies Squadron on 14 April, 1885. On 20 November, 1887 Jackson returned to England as an acting Sub-Lieutenant to take his lieutenantcy exams at H.M.S. Excellent, the gunnery school at Portsmouth.

He was promoted to the rank of Commander on 31 December, 1899.[2]

Jackson was promoted to the rank of Captain on 1 January, 1905.[3] At the Battle of Tsushima between the Japanese and Russian fleets on 27 May, Jackson was present, on board the Japanese cruiser Adzuma.[4] He was praised by Admiral Togo, commander of the Japanese fleet, for his "cool & gallant bearing" during the battle.[5]

On the occasion of the special Mission of Prince Arthur of Connaught to Japan to invest the Emperor of Japan with the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Jackson was appointed a Member of the Fourth Class of the Royal Victorian Order (M.V.O.) dated 15 March, 1906.[6] He was appointed an Ordinary Member of the Third Class, or Companion, in the Military Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (C.B.) on 9 November.[7] He received the C.B. in an investiture at Buckingham Palace on 18 December.[8]

He was appointed command of the armoured cruiser Cressy on 21 May, 1907.[9]

On 1 November, 1913, Jackson was appointed in command of the dreadnought battleship Thunderer.[10]

Great War

On 2 November, 1914, Jackson was appointed a Naval Aide-de-Camp to King George V, vice Prendergast.[11] He was relieved in command of Thunderer on 19 December, and appointed to President on the same day. On 17 January, 1915, he succeeded Rear-Admiral Arthur C. Leveson as Director of the Operations Division (D.O.D.) of the Admiralty War Staff.

On 9 June, 1916, he was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral.[12]

On 11 June, 1917, Jackson was superseded as D.O.D. by Rear-Admiral George P. W. Hope, and appointed to President for Special Service on the same day. On 6 July he was appointed Senior Naval Officer, Egypt and took up his duties on 20 July. Vice-Admiral Oliver commented in his memoirs, "I was very sorry to lose Jackson[;] we had always got on well and he was a great help[,] always at hand and very dependable."[13] He was superseded on 28 December, 1918.


On 26 March, 1920 Jackson was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral, vice Grant.[14] On the occasion of the King's birthday Jackson was appointed a Knight Commander of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (K.B.E.) on 2 June, 1923.[15] On 7 October he was placed on the Retired List at his own request.[16] He was advanced to the rank of Admiral on 8 May, 1925.[17]

Jackson died in a nursing home in London from carcinoma of the rectum on 7 July, 1945 at the age of seventy-seven.


Jackson has been the target of much posthumous criticism, centred on his service as Director of the Operations Division, and specifically for his alleged actions in connection with the Battle of Jutland.

Dr. Andrew Gordon has seen fit to tar Jackson with all manner of calumnies. Gordon claims that Jackson "disliked the miscellany of gifted amateurs who comprised the Room's crew [Room 40], and resented the notion that such people could contribute anything of use to naval affairs."[18] He labels him as a "ridiculous, blustering officer", a "buffoon", and "execrable."[19] Massie, based on nothing more than Gordon, wrote that "Jackson exemplified those British naval officers who scorned such modern capabilities and techniques as deciphering secret codes."[20]

Referring to Jackson's appointment as S.N.O., Egypt, Lieutenant-Commander Patrick Beesly wrote: "Some relief may have been provided by the despatch of the ineffable Thomas Jackson to Alexandria, where he attempted to reverse the the reforms introduced by Admiral Wemyss, until suppressed by Wemyss's successor, Gough-Calthorpe."[21] Beesly provided no evidence or source for any of these comments. He also ignored the fact that Jackson was Wemyss's successor in the Mediterranean and not Gough-Calthorpe.

Michael Clemmesen has described Jackson as "limited" in his capacity as D.O.D.,[22] yet naturally gives no context or evidence for this.

Jackson's reputation has been salvaged somewhat by more searching minds, for example Captain Jason Hines, U.S.N., in his article on Jutland signals intelligence, and Dr. Norman Friedman in his work on naval command and control.

See Also


  • "Admiral Sir Thomas Jackson" (Obituaries). The Times. Tuesday, 10 July, 1945. Issue 50190, col F, p. 6.
  • Beesly, Patrick (1982). Room 40: British Naval Intelligence 1914-1918. London: Hamish Hamilton. ISBN 0241108640.
  • Clemmesen, Michael H. (2013). The Royal Navy's strategy discourse up to the Great War - in outline.
  • Friedman, Norman (2009). Network-Centric Warfare: How Navies Learned to Fight Smarter Through Three World Wars. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 9781591142867.
  • Gordon, Andrew (2005). The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command. London: John Murray (Publishers). ISBN 0719561310. (on and
  • Hines, Commander Jason, U.S.N. (October 2008). "Sins of Omission and Commission: A Reassessment of the Role of Intelligence in the Battle of Jutland". The Journal of Military History 72 (4): pp. 1117-1153.

Service Records

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
New Command
Senior Naval Officer, Egypt
1917 – 1918
Succeeded by
Henry B. Pelly

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
Claud A. W. Hamilton
Captain of H.M.S. Rosario
15 May, 1903[23]
Succeeded by
Nicholas E. Archdale
Preceded by
Royal Navy Naval Attaché at Tokyo
1 Jun, 1906[24]
Succeeded by
Douglas E. R. Brownrigg
Preceded by
William B. Fawckner
Captain of H.M.S. Cressy
21 May, 1907[25]
Succeeded by
Walter H. Cowan
Preceded by
William L. Grant
Head of Foreign Division
20 Dec, 1909[26] – 7 Jan, 1912[27]
Succeeded by
Preceded by
The Hon. Alexander Edward Bethell
as Director of Naval Intelligence
Director of the Intelligence Division
9 Jan, 1912[28]
Succeeded by
Henry F. Oliver
Preceded by
Wilmot S. Nicholson
Captain of H.M.S. Attentive
17 Jul, 1913[29]
Succeeded by
Charles D. Johnson
Preceded by
Guy R. A. Gaunt
Captain of H.M.S. Thunderer
1 Nov, 1913[30]
Succeeded by
Charles L. Vaughan-Lee
Preceded by
Arthur C. Leveson
Director of Operations Division
17 Jan, 1915[31]
Succeeded by
George P. W. Hope


  1. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Monday, 27 June, 1881. Issue 30231, col E, p. 8.
  2. The London Gazette: no. 27150. p. 3. 2 January, 1900.
  3. The London Gazette: no. 27750. p. 25. 3 January, 1905.
  4. Report in The National Archives. CAB
  5. ADM 196/42. f. 496.
  6. The London Gazette: no. 27913. p. 3326. 15 May, 1906.
  7. The London Gazette: no. 27965. p. 7551. 9 November, 1906.
  8. "Court Circular" (Court and Social). The Times. Wednesday, 19 December, 1906. Issue 38207, col F, p. 9.
  9. The Navy List. (October, 1908). p. 297.
  10. Jackson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 496.
  11. The London Gazette: no. 29011. p. 10816. 18 December, 1914.
  12. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29629. p. 6066. 20 June, 1916.
  13. Oliver Typescript Memoirs. II. p. 195.
  14. The London Gazette: no. 31870. p. 4575. 20 April, 1920.
  15. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 32830. p. 3947. 20 April, 1920.
  16. The London Gazette: no. 32871. p. 6966. 16 October, 1923.
  17. The London Gazette: no. 33049. p. 3445. 22 May, 1925.
  18. Gordon. p. 72.
  19. Gordon. pp. 72, 416, 486, respectively.
  20. Massie. p. 580.
  21. Beesly. p. 178.
  22. Clemessen. p. 31.
  23. The Navy List. (January, 1904). p. 270.
  24. Jackson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 496.
  25. Jackson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 496.
  26. Jackson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 496.
  27. Jackson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 496.
  28. Jackson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 496.
  29. Jackson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 496.
  30. Jackson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 496.
  31. The Naval Staff of the Admiralty. p. 121.

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