Admiral of the Fleet
Sir james fownes somerville
G.C.b., G.B.e., d.s.o.

Updated 18-Oct-2007

Admiral of the Fleet Sir James Somerville

Personal Details
Event Date / details Source
Date of Birth 17 July 1882 1
Place of Birth Ranmore, Weybridge 1
Name of father Arthur Fownes Somerville 1
Profession of father J.P. 1
Wife's Name Mary ('Molly') Kerr Main 6
Date of Marriage 8 January 1913 3
Place of Marriage Chuch of St. John the Baptist, Shedfield, Hampshire 5
Children One son, John. A. F Somerville (b 1917); one daughter Rachel Somerville (b 1919) 6
Date of Death 19 March 1949 3
Place of Death Wells, Somerset 3
Place of Burial Not known  

Rank History
Rank Date attained Source
Naval Cadet 1897 3
Midshipman 15/ June 1898 1
Sub-Lieutenant 15 December 1901 1
Lieutenant 15 March 1904 1
Lieutenant-Commander 15 March 1912 1
Commander 31 December 1915 1
Captain 31 December 1921 1
Rear-Admiral 12 October 1933 1
Vice-Admiral 11 September 1937 1
Admiral (retd.) 06 April 1942 1
Admiral Restored to the Active list without seniority 06 April 1942 1
Admiral of the Fleet 08May 1945 1

Honours and Knighthoods
Honour or Knighthood Date awarded Date Gazetted Source
Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) 14 June 1916 14 June 1916 4
Appointed Aide de Camp to King George V in succession to Captain H.D. Bridges, C.V.O., D.S.O. 24 January 1933 27 January 1933 4
Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Bath 1 January 1935 28 December 1934 4
Knight Commander of the Most Noble Order of the Bath (K.C.B. (Military)) 8 June 1939 6 June 1939 4
Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (K.B.E.)
(For gallantry, determination and resource in command of Force H)
21 October 1941 17 October 1941 4
Knight Grand Cross of the Most Noble Order of the Bath (G.C.B.)
(For distinguished service as Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Fleet)
22 August 1944 18 August 1944 4
Knight Grand Cross of Order of Orange-Nassau (Netherlands)
For most distinguished service to the Royal Netherlands Navy in his appointment as Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Fleet
7 August 1945 3 August 1945 4
Legion of Merit - Degree of Commander (U.S.A.) 14 December 1945 11 December 1945 4
Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (G.B.E.) 1 January 1946 28 December 1945 4
Lord Lieutenant of Somerset 1946 6 September 1946 6 September 1946 4
Alderman of the Somerset Council Not known Not known 3

Rewards & Distinctions
Source: ADM 196/47 Service History
Gained 7 mos time on passing out of Britannia
Awarded D.S.O. Gazette 14-3-16
CW9417/32 Awarded GSP of £150 a year 2.11.21
CW622/33 - Apptd ADC 22.1.33
Gaz 1/1/35 C.B. (Military) Invested 19/2/35
Gaz 8/6/39 - K.C.B. (Military)
Mentioned in despatches. Suppl of L Gazette of 16.8.40
K.B.E. (Mil) Gazette 21.10.41
G.C.B. Gazette 22.8.44
Netherlands Knight Grand Cross of Order of Orange-Nassau (Gazette 7.8.45) (sic) - actually London Gazette 3-8-45
Legion of Merit - Degree of Commander (U.S.A.) Gazette 14.12.45
G.B.E. Gazette 1.1.46 (New Year's Honours)

Source: ADM 196/47 Service History
Rated Midshipman withouth examination
Passed Seamanship Dec 01 3rd Cl - 668 marks
Passed Navigation Pt I April 02, 2nd Cl - 904/1200
Passed Navigation Pt II Sept 02, 2nd Cl - 1339/2000
Passed Pilotage Nov 02 1st Cl - 907/1000
Passed Gunnery March 03 1st Cl - 905/1000
Passed Torpedo April 03 1st Cl 179/200
26 Sept 08 Qualified as Lt (T) 1730/2000

Special Attainments or Qualifications
Source: ADM 196/47 Service History

Service / Appointments History
Ship Station Date of
Date of
Cause Source
Britannia T. Ship 15 Jan 97     1
Magnificent   1 June 98 28 March 99 Warspite 1
Warspite Pacific 28 March 99 31 Ocr 01 ???? 1
Sturgeon Dev 30.4.03 03 Tiger 1
Tiger ---- 03 5.10.03 Pegs 1
Pegasus Med 5.10.03 15.3.04   1
--"-- (in lieu of Sub) --"-- 15.3.04 22.9.04 P.O. 1
Sutley H.F. 29.10.04 18.11.04   1
Sutley China 19.11.04 10.05.06 Red 1
St. George ?Mauns? 1 June 06 1
Devonshire 1 Cr 30.07.06 16.7.07 Supd 1
Vernon to qualify in T   2.9.07     1
Latone Maurs 20.6.08     1
Vernon (T) addl   26.9.08 7.10.09   1
Goliath (T) for W/T duties on staff of R Adml Jerram   12.6.09   Manrs 1
Vivid for Vanguard (T)   7.10.09 3.1.12   1
Vernon addl tempy for experiments in connection with Poulsen WT system   3.1.12 17.4.12   1
Vernon (T) for W.T. duties   17.4.12 8.5.14   1
Lent Neptune for W/T for manoeuvres         1
Lent Liverpool (T) tempy
for W/T experiments
  2.13 12.3.13 P.O. 1
Vernon for (T) for W/T   8.5.14     1
Vindictive addl (T) for W/T tempy   8.5.14 9.7.14   1
Marlborough addl (T)
for W/T duties with 1st B.S.
  9.7.14 20.12.14   1
Lord Nelson addl (T) for W/T
on staff of A. Ad. Bayley, Channel Fleet
  20.12.14 17.1.15   1
Lord Nelson for W.T. duties on Staff of
V. Adml. Hon. Sir A.E. Bethell
  17.1.15     1
Prince of Wales for W.T. duties on Staff of
V. Adml. Hon. Sir A.E. Bethell
  2.15 21.3.15   1
Egmont addl for W/T duties (tempy)
on Staff of V. Adml Cdg Eastn Mediterranean Squad
  21.3.15 13.5.15   1
Lord Nelson for do do   13.5.15     1
---------------- " ----------------- on promotion   31.12.15 3.11.16 supsd 1
Vernon for T duties addl to W/T staff   3.11.16     1
King George V for W/T duties in Grand Fleet   18.1.17 ??????   1
King George V for (T) duties on staff of V.A.
2nd B.S. for W/T duties
  18/1/17     1
King George V for W/T duties in staff of VAC 2BS
& for Poulsen duties with Grand Fleet
  18.1.17 15.10.17   1
Ajax ------------------ " ----------------------   25.3.17 15.10.17   1
Victory for Signal Scholl as W/T Cdr
and for war staff duties
  17.1.18     1
Ajax   5.3.20     1
Emp. of India on recomg   10.21 5.1.22 Supd 1
President addl for duty inside Admy   1/4/22     1
& for duty in Signal Divn   1/5/22 18.8.22   1
Benbow addl   20.8.22     1
& in Cd & as Flag Capt to Rear Ad. John D. Kelly   9.9.22     1
Reappointed on recomg         1
Benbow in Command and as Flag Captain & Chief Staff Officer to Rear Ad Hugh DR Waldron CB OBE from date of change of Flag   1.11.23     1
Benbow in Cd & as Flag Captain to R/A Watson & Chief Staff Offr   27.2.24 31.10.24 Supd 1
President addl tempy for duty inside Admlty   1.1.25   Cancelled 1
and as Director of Signal Depmt.   1.2.25   Cancelled 1
President addl   6.2.25     1
President addl as Director of Signal Depmt   7.2.25 1.3.27 Supd 1
Victory for SOTC Part II   23.3.27     1
Barham in Cd & as Flag Capt and CSO to VA JD Kelly CB   6.5.27     1
Warspite in Cd & as Flag Capt & Chief Staff Offr to Vice Adml JD Kelly CB on transfer of Flag         1
Barham in Cd. & as Flag Capt & Chief Staff Offr to Vice Adml JD Kelly CB on transfer of Flag   1.9.28 4.29 Supd 1
President addl for duty outside Adlty   1.6.29 21.9.31 Supd 1
& for duty on Instructional Staff of Imperial Defence College v Dickens   1.8.29 1
Victory for Tactical Course   21.9.31     1
Norfolk in command   28.12.31   Supd on recomg 1
Victory in cmd as Commodore 2dn Cl in cd of the RN Bks Portsmouth v Danreuther   14.10.32 4.5.34   1
President addl for duty inside Admy   11.5.34     1
& to be Director of Personal Services in succession to R/Ad AL Snagge (CW 339/34)   18.5.34   Supd 8.11.35 (DL 300/81) 1
Apptd R/A (D) Cdg Destroyer Flotillas Med. vice RA Cunningham (M 3272/35 0 CW 5452/35) DL 29/6/35 (To assume cmd abt 1.1.36)   12.35   Appt deferred ?proby? revised tp take Tact Cse. 1
Victory addl for SO Tact Crse DL 15/2   25.2.36     1
Apptd R/A (D) Cdg Destroyer Flots Medn vice R/A CB (sic) Cunningham (M 3272/35 CW 2674/36) DL 19.3.36 To assume cd abt 8.4.36   21.3.36     1
Reapptd on promotion (DL 10.9)   11.9.37     1
    4.4.38   2
C in C East Indies in succession to Vice Adml Hon Sir ??? Ramsey? (DL 9.3) to assume command about 7/8/38 24/7/38 M 1240/38   10.6.38   Supd 7.5.39 (DL 12.4) 1
President addl (DL 30/5)
& amended orders DL 14/6
  10.6.38     1
M. 04850/38 Flag of Cdre shifted from Norfolk to Fleetwood. Flag then hoisted in Norfolk         1
F.P.S.L.   28.4.39 31.5.39   2
F.P.S.L.   1.6.39 30.6.39   2
F.P.S.L.   1.7.39 30.7.39   2
President addl duty inside Admiralty Special Service DL 6/9   6.9.39 31.12.391   1
President addl for duty inside Admiralty as inspector of A/A Weapons and devices DL 19/1   1.1.40     1
    26.5.40   2
28/5 Lynx addl (tempy) for special service   27.5.40     1
    4.6.40   2
11/6 President addl for duty inside Admty as Inspector of Anti-Aircraft Waspons and Devices in cont of former appt.   5.6.40     1
    27.6.40   2
1/7 To be Flag Officer Commanding Force H   28.6.40     1
President addl for duty inside Admiralty tempy   11.1.42     2
President addl for duty inside Adty tempy, and to be C in C Eastern Fleet with Actg rank of Adml (Retd.) inj succession to V/A Sir Geoffrey Layton K.C.B., D.S.O. (DL 27/1)   12.2.42
  26.3.42     2
Promtd to Adml on Retd. List (O.I.C. 145 of 29.1.41) & reapptd to continue service in Actg rank of Adml) (????) Promoted   6.4.42     1

Source: ADM 196/47
Date of Report General Conduct Ability Professional knowledge, specifying any particular branch Whether temperate habits Special knowledge or acquirements (Languages, Drawing, & c.) Remarks, mentioning any special defects or high qualifications as regards Zeal, Judgment, Physical Qualities, & c., and if specially recommended for advancement. Remarks
Jan 99
VGI VG G Yes     Capt. Langley
6 Jan 02 VGI VG VG Yes   A promising young officer Capt C Keppell
Sept 04 VG - - - Good shot. Capable & zealous Capt. Smith
May 06 VGI VGI VGI Yes Exceptionally zealous & able. Of high promise. ????? physique. Excellent shot. Capt. Grant
May 07 VGI VG VG Yes     Capt. Stuart
Feb 08 VG VG VGI Yes V.G. & tactful work Capt. Keene
Oct 08 VG VG VG Yes   Capt. Gamble, "Vernon"
22.9.11 VG VGI VGI (T &WT) Yes Extremely hardworking, zealous & capable. Recd in due course Capt. Eustace
1.12 All VGI Yes. Zealous, Gd judgt, Exceptional ability. Recd. Capt. Ricardo
6.16 Sat. Ab. av. Clever W/T officer. Energetic & determined. Works well with French having great gift of organisation. VA de Robeck
12.16 Sat Supr W/T ??? ??? Zealous & energetic. Above the Avge ?GC Seaton?
12-17 Sat Ex Exceptional merit - good knowledge of W/T. Understands progressive methods & advancement of science. Very strongly recd for promotion to high position respect to W/T V Ad Robeck
11/18 Sat Ex An Exceptionally Capable offr. Tactful & energetic. Promises to do well in the higher ranks of the Navy Capt Allen
10/21 Sat. except. Except. able & versatile. All together a first rate officer. Capt Haggard
Deserving of immediate promotion. Ad de Robeck.

Special Reports or Service
Source: ADM 196/47 Service History
To return home to undergo Seamanship exam as Warspite will probably be unable to finish an exam. He will be in England about 21st Nov. 01. N16658 Nov 01
11 Feb 02 joined College
Recd for G duties by Capt. of Excellent Mch 02
Granted cert of efficiency 2 Feb 04
G. 598/05 Creditable result if ?Sutly? Gunlaying Competition 1905
Appln to qualify for ?T? duties noted 16.5.06
Selected to qualify for Liet (T) Sept. 07
4 Aug 07 arrived
Admitted Haslar influenza 11.2.08
Discharged 21.2.08
Sent to Copenhagen Feb 1913 as one of W/T experts to visit works of Universal Radio Syndicate MO 109/13
Appointed member of a Committee on W/T M 01072 of 2/7/13 Will act as Technical Secretary of the Committee
Recd (addl) by V Ad. Bayley, Oct, 1914
Recd by Vice Ad. Bayley as best W/T Officer ever met 19.1.15
Recd by V. Adl. de Robeck Nov 1915
M 01332/16 Fleet Wireless Officer. Has duties of exceptional difficulty which he has performed most efficiently
Mentioned for service in connection with Gallipoli landing 25/26 April 1915 "Performed good service in organising with the military the intercommunication between allied fleets & armies Gazette 16.8.15 MO 5331/15
Leaves for England about 11.12.16 via Malta & Taranto to confer with W/T Officers at these places CW Tel dated 3.12.16

Men in Des evacuation of Galipoli of 26.1.16 by V. Adml de Robeck "Fleet Wireless Officer the organisation of the communications on which so much depended was very ably carried out" Gaz 11.9.17 M 60459/17

Invested with D.S.O. by King on Q Elizabeth 24/6/17
D.J & M. 13.4.20 Strongly rec'd for early promotion R/Ad Field
CE 7103/20 T.L. have approved of the appointment of Commander C.E. Kennedy-Purvis RN as representative of the Signal Schools on the W/T Board and as representative on the experimental sub-committee of the W/T Board vice this officer
Recd for promotion Dec 19 - Adl Burney
Recd for promo June 20 Ad Calthorpe & Ad de Robeck
Mentioned in Despatches Gaz 14.3.16
N.L. 12034 July 21 Most cred Inspn of Ajax by R/A Culme-Seymour
C.E. 4040/22 Appointed as Naval Member of the Main Committee of Wireless Telegraphy Board 1.4.22
N.L. 1084/23 Feb 23 Most creditable inspn of Benbow by R/A 4th Battle Squad Med Fleet
Tiley 15.10.23 Admitted to Hospital Malta suffering from pneumonia condition at present causes grave anxiety.
Teleg 23.10.23 condition pneumonia clearing up ?entire? not definitely disgnosed condition good
23.10.23 Progress satisfactory
24.10.23 Had good night & progress is satisfactory
24.10.23 Developed typhoid unlikely to be fit for duty for 3 months
25.10.23 Progress satisfactory 26/10 to 29/10 considered out of danger progress satisfactory
30.11.23 Slighs relapse condition satisfactory
8.12.23 Making good progress
Placed on bks of Victory for 35 fpsl 21.1.25 to 5.2.25 incl
CW 130/25 Admitted Haslar 2/1/25 left ?inquirrel? ?lunier? - 4 weeks
CW 1341/25 found fit 5.2.25
NPI 3852/23 allowed command money 29/1/24 after period 30/1/24 to 27/2/24 received full pay only
CW 984/26 To give evidence at Admy on 17/2/26 before Chelmsford Cttee on Executive lists
CW 3032/26 MDG reports 22/3/26 sick at home with influenza
CW 6183/26 Admty representative on Radio Research Board 25.6.26
NL 3149/26 To serve on Cttee to report whether any changes are desirable in system of training Boy Telegraphists 11.26
Board of Trade expresses high appreciation of services which Capt. Somerville has rendered on Wireless Direction Finding Cttee ( as Admy Representative) since first constituted in July 1925. IN addition to serving on the main Cttee he has acted as Chairman of a Sub Cttee to consider the different types of Marine Direction Finding or Directional Transmission Apparatus in use or the subject of experiment, & report of this Sub Cttee has been of great service to Cttee in their subsequent deliberations C.E. 2145/27 (Superseded on these Committees 1/3/27)
N.L. 3196/27 Inspection of Barham V. A. JD Kelly's remarks "I consider Barham as efficient as a fighting unit as she is smart as a man of war and that she reflects credit on Captain J.F. Somerville.
NL 648/29 Inspection of Barham by VA JD Kelly The state of the ship is in the higher degree creditable to Captain JF Somerville
CW H 196/29 Sick with injured ankle 27/11/29 - will be fit shortly - returned to work 29/11/29
CW 4332/31 Admitted to King Edward VII Hospital 1/5/31
CW 4399/31 - Transferred to Royal Military Hospital Millbank 7/5/31 Not of long duration

Captain's Confidential Reports
Source: ADM 196/89 -Captain's Confidential Report
Remarks Reporting Officer
14.3.16 Mentd in despatches from V.A.C. E. Medn. & awarded D.S.O. – services as Fleet Wireless Offr.  
June 1916 V. clever W/T offr. With a great gift of organisation: most energetic & determined character. Works very well with the French Navy & always gets his own way in the end. Good physique. Specially recomd Ad de Robeck
Jan 1917 An efficient, zealour & energetic offr.: a good organiser, considerable above the average, & is sure to do well in the higher ranks. V/A Thursby
10.4.17 Mentd again in despatches from V.A.C. E. Medn.  
Dec 1917 A great knowledge of W/T. An ofr. Of exceptional merit: understands progressive methods & the advanct of science. The higher the position of responsibility he holds in respect to W/T in the Navy, the greater will be the gain to the country & the efficiency of the Service V/A de Robeck
Nov 1918 Exceptionally capable offr. In every way: tactful & energetic. Special knowledge of W/T Capt. Allen
Dec 1919 Recomd for promn Adm Burney
June 1920 Recomd for promn Ad Calthorpe
8/20, 12/20, 6/21 Recomd for promn Adm de Robeck
13.4.20 R/A Field (D.T.M.) brings to notice of the Board the exceptional services of Com. S. “I have been much impressed with the great technical ability of this offr. Etc. In view of these services, therefore, I desire to record my v. strong recomdn for his early promn. R/A Field
Dec 1920 He is an offr. Possessed of great energy, high intelligence & of considerable force of character. Capt Haggard
Adm. De Robeck adds: “An exceptional offr. In every way. His ability & great energy as a W/T specialist have been displayed with equal force as an Ex. Offr. The remarkable success of ‘Ajax’ in the B.S. Regatta this year I consider largely due to the personal magnetism of Com. S. VG comd of men. Has decided opinions & is tactful. Adm. De Robeck
27.6.21 Inspn of ‘Ajax’ by Adm de Robeck “Com S has proved that a highly technical offr. Can be equally good as the Ex. Offr of a modern battleship. This offr. Is to be greatly commended for his work & the results achieved. Adm de Robeck
17.10.21 An exceptionally able & versatile offr. Has great store of professional knowledge & uses it. Handles his subordinates admirably & has the power of inspiring them with enthusiasm. Specially recomd Capt. Haggard
R/A Webb concurs and adds: “Is deserving of immediate promn” R/A Webb
31.1.22 An offr. Of quite exceptional merit in all branches of the Service with an extraordinary talent for creating a smart ship in appearance, discipline & drill in the shortest possible time. An excellent manner with the men with whom he is in close touch. A gentleman of good appearance & manners, possessed of a quick wit & a ready tongue. Would be especially suitable for Comd of seagoing training ship for Cadets or as a most agreeable companion would make a first rate Flag Captain. Capt. AH Kelly
R/A Webb fully concurs & Ad. De Robeck adds: “I do not know a better officer. He has exceptional abilities. Ad. De Robeck
22.1.23 Highly satisfy inspn of “Benbow” by R/A of 4 B.S. (N.L. 1084/23)  
12.8.23 I cannot speak too highly of the loyalty, professional efficiency & powers of leadership of Capt. S. I have never known an offr of greater all round ability. As my C.S.O. he has been invaluable. Has exceptional organising ability is endowed with initiative & resource & originality. Handles his ship well & is a fine but v. human disciplinarian. He understands the mental processes of the bluejacket & has the faculty of inspiring in offrs. & men the keenness & enthusiasm that he himself possesses. His practical & theoretical knowledge or W/T signals in general are too well known to need my remarks& suggest that his name might be considered for the appointment to Comd. Of Signal School later on. R/A JD Kelly
27.7.23 The general state of ‘Benbow’ & ship’s company is in the highest degree creditable to Capt. S. R/A Kelly
2/25 to 32.27 Above average. Very able & zealous. Lots of initiative. Exceptional at W/T & Signal questions. Has power of leadership, tact & considerable personality. Excellent social qualities. Shd. Go far. Recd for further & more responsible employt. V/A Chatfield
30.3.27 Bof T record their high apprecn of Capt. S’s services since 7/25. Admy representative on Wireless Direction Finding Cee (CE 2145/27)  
18.10.27 Inspn of ‘Barham’ by V/A JD Kelly “Ship us as efficient as a fighting unit as she is smart as a man of war. She reflects credit on capt. S. V/A JD Kelly
Apr 1928 Inspn of “Warspite” by V/A Kelly “A smart. Well-drilled & well disciplined chip’s company who are obviously happy & contented. It is a pleasure to inspect such a ship which does credit to her C.O. etc.” V/A Kelly
Jan 29 Inspn of “Barham” by V/A Kelly. The ship is in the highest degree creditable to her C.O. V/A Kelly
28/5/27 to 1/4/29 Exceptional. It would be difficult to express what I owe to the help & wise counsel of my F.C. and C.S.O. A universal favourite; I believe him to be as near to the Admirable Crichton as is likely to be met. His range of technical knowledge is both wide & deep, and he is as fine a seaman as he is a technician. A strong & determined character, with a good nerve & immense energy; he has the power of inspiring those under him his own enthusiasm. A charming companion, with a quick mind and a witty tongue. A keen sportsman who always keeps himself hard and fit. I anticipate that Captain Somerville will go to the very top of the Naval Service. Incidentally to the foregoing his wife is one who cannot but be a great asset in any appointment he may hold. Recommended for employment as Flag Officer V/A JD Kelly
20.12.29 The past term of 3 months has been Capt. S’s first at the College and he has made an excellent beginning. I can see already that he possesses all the qualities required for the appt. as a member of the Imperial Defence College staff. Major-General Bartholomew, Commandant
7.1.31 Capt. S's contribution to the work of the a member of the Directing Staff has been very valuable & importand & we owe a great deal to his work, his sound advice & practical knowledge. He has a quick brain, great facility od expression, both on paper & verbally & is tenacious of his opinions. The best way I can express my opinion of him is to say that among the naval offrs present this year, he stand out both in ability & force of character, & that is due not merely to his position on the directing staff but to his own qualities. He is fit, in my opinion, for any work however important. W.H. Bartholomew Commandant, Impreial Defence College
Nov 31 Served infer me for 8 months as Instructor at the I.D.C. Has a most attractive personality, a cheerful disposition & a gift for turning away wrath by tactful jest. He has a sympathetic understanding of human nature & high social qualities. He is a loyal & hardworking subordinate & exercises a considerable influence over his equals. He has a quick, active brain & a ready tongue, yet bases any decision or proposals on sound reasoning. Air Marshall Brooke-Popham, Commandant, Imperial Defence College
July 1932 (Special Report) (c), (e), (f), (g), (l) - 9; (d), (g) - 8. I have a very high opinion of this officer. His whole heart & soul are in the service and he spares no pains to further the interest of the Navy and the personal comfort and welfare of the officers and men, not only of the R.N. Barracks but of the Port in general. Possessed of a keen intellect, a sense of humour and an infinite capacity for work, his interests cover a wide field, but he has made a special study of personnel questions and particularly those affecting the training of new entries and the family troubles of the lower deck. R/A Somerville maintains R.N. Barracks to a very high standard of efficiency and smartness. Very fit. Adml Sir A Waitsell
17.1.34 to 3.5.34 (c), (e), (f), (h), (l) - 9; (d) - 7; (g) - 8; (j) yes. Until I had aquired some grip of the work of this command, I had little idea how multifarious and multitudinous are the duties of the Commodore of the R.N. Barracks. In all these duties, and in every aspect of them R/A Somerville has proved himself to be as nearly the ideal Commodore as any human bring could hope or wish to attain. A fine but very human disciplinarian he has worked an immense change for the better in the Naval Barracks & would have done more, has his seniority allowed him to remain a full two years in Command. He has a great knowledge of the "British Blue" as deep an insight into the workings of his mind, his reactions, as any officer I have known. Possibly as undesirable ???? of a right and proper ambition to be "Number One" come an easy first in his philosophy, and is not his strong suit, but, with the exception of these two rather common human failings, he nearly approaches perfection as an Officer and a Man. I know him to be an extraordinary Sea Officer, and I feel convinced that he will reach the very top of the Service., "Special Marking" I should assess him as 95. Sir J.D. Kelly
Jan 1935 New Years Honours 0 C.B. (Military)  
As/07/1937 To be noted in the Record of Rear-Admiral J.F. Somerville C.B., D.S.O.

Concerning the collision between H.M. ships ANTELOPE, ACTIVE and WORCESTER on the 16th February, 1937, Rear-Admiral Somerville was informed that, taking into consideration the heavy well and the manner in which Destroyers are known to yaw heavily when steaming fast in a following swell, Their Lordships consider that he did not allow the necessary margin of safety and that he committed an error of judgment in carrying out the manoeuvre of inverting the line on the course on which it was done.

(N.L. 1149/37)

(Sd) W.J. Whitworth,
Naval Secretary
12th July, 1937
  Rear Admiral James F Somerville C.B., D.S.O.


An Officer with outstanding personality, powers of leadership and drive. Very good professional knowledge. Always ready to take responsibility. has broad minded views and I would never hesitate to send him on any mission requiring firmness and tact. Gets on well with everyone, including the other services and foreigners.

Owing to his enthusiasm and energy was a little inclined at firts to keep the Flotillas too hard at work at sea, but is not quite reasonable.

Very quick in the uptake and for that reason perhaps a little inclined ot rap out and unconsidered reply but when he gets down to things his ideas are very sound.

Takes the greatest interest in the training of his Flotillas and witnesses every important exercise fro the ship or air. Handles the Flotillas very well, a fine seaman and good boat sailor.

A great sense of humour and very good company.

Physically very fit.

Could address a ship's company and makes an impression on them.

Has great ambition and for that reason is perhaps a little bit inclined to always wish to be the centre of the picture.

Definitely recommended for a more important sea command and I expect to see himas Commander-in-Chief od one of the Main Fleets.

Percentage allotted is 95.

(Sd.) Dudley Pound.
8.4.38 In Mediterranean Letter No. 419/0629 of 25th March 1937, I rendered a special report on Vice Admiral Somerville, and as a result of further knowledge I only wish to modify that report in the following points:-

(a) He has matured greatly during the last year and whilst he has lost none of his enthusiasm. drive or energy, his judgment is now all that could be desired.

(b) The tendency to put himself unduly in the limelight has disappeared though his personality and powers of leadership will often do this automatically.

I hope very much that when he has completed his time as Commander-in-Chief, East Indies, he will be brought back into the Main Stream so that he can command one of the Main Fleets, for which he has all the attributes.

Percentage allotted is 95.

(Sd.) Dudley Pound
1939 Birthday Honours 1939 K.C.B. (Military)  
31.7.39 Placed on Retired list - medically unfit.  
1940 Mentioned in depatches - Dunkirk  

Commander's Confidential Reports
Source: ADM 196/
Remarks Reporting Officer

1 ADM 196/47 - Service History National Archives
2 ADM 196/91 - Captain's Confidential Report National Archives
3 Times, 21 March 1949 Worcestershire County Council Library Service
4 London Gazette (various dates)
5 Times, 10 January 1913 Worcestershire County Council Library Service
6 'Fighting Admiral', MacIntyre (Evans, 1961)