Admiral of the Fleet
Sir John Cronyn Tovey
G.C.B., K.B.E., D.S.O.
Lord Tovey of Langton Matravers

Updated 18-Oct-2007

Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Cronyn Tovey

Personal Details
Event Date / details Source
Date of Birth 7 March 1885 1
Place of Birth Rochester, Kent 1
Name of father Lt. Col. Hamilton Tovey, R.E. 3
Name of mother Mrs. M.E. Tovey 1
Profession of father Lieutenant Colonel, Royal Engineers 1
Wife's Name Aida Rowe 1
Date of Marriage 28 March 1916 1
Place of Marriage Linlithgow 4
Date of Death 12 January 1971 3
Place of death Madeira 3
Place of Burial   1

Rank History
Rank Date attained Source
Naval cadet 15 January 1900 1
Midshipman 15 May 1901 1
Sub-Lieutenant 15 July 1904 1
Lieutenant 15 July 1906 1
Lieutenant-Commander 15 July 1914 1
Commander 30 June 1916 1
Captain 31 December 1923 1
Rear-Admiral 27 August 1935 1
Vice-Admiral 3 May 1939 1
Admiral 30 October 1942 1
Admiral of the Fleet 22 October 1943 1

Honours and Knighthoods
Honour or Knighthood Date awarded Date Gazetted Source
Order St. Anne 3rd Class (with swords) (Russia) 1 October 1917 28 September 1917 5
Croix de Guerre (French Republic) 2 November 1917 30 October 1917 5
Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) 10 July 1919 8 July 1919 5
Naval Aide de Camp to His Majesty King George V
In succession to Captain B.H. Ramsay, M.V.O.
10 May 1935 14 May 1935 5
Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (C.B. (Military)) 1 February 1937 29 January 1937 5
Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (K.C.B. (Military)) 1 January 1941 31 December 1940 5
Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (K.B.E. (Military)) 14 October 1941 10 October 1941 5
Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (G.C.B.) 13 April 1943 9 April 1943 5
Order of Suvorov, First Class (U.S.S.R.) 29 February 1944 25 February 1944  
First and Principal Naval Aide de Camp to HM The King in succession to Admiral Sir Percy Noble GBE KCB CVO to date 16/1/45 Not found Not found 1
Baron Tovey of Langton Matravers 11 February 1946 15 February 1946 5
Legion of Merit, Degree of Commander (U.S.A.) 28 May 1946 24 May 1945  
Grand Cross of the Royal Order of the Phoenix with Swords (First Class) (Greece) 15 April 1947 11 April 1947  
Church Commissioner for England 2 April 1948 2 April 1948 5

Rewards & Distinctions
Gained 4 months time on passing out of Britannia
Order St. Anne 3rd Cl. (with swords) Gazette 1/10/17
Croix de Guerre Gazette 2/11/17
D.S.O. Gaz 10/7/19
CW 9560/34 Awarded G.S.P. of £150 p.a. as from 24.11.34
CW 3970/35 Appts. naval A.D.C. to HM The King from 9/5/35
C.B. Military Dvn (Gaz 29.1.37)
Invested at B.P. 24.?3?37
K.C.B. Suppl of L. Gazette 1.1.41
K.B.E. Gazetted 14.10.41
G.C.B. Gazetted 13.4.43
First and Principal Naval Aide de Camp to HM The King in succession to Admiral Sir Percy Noble GBE KCB CVO to date 16/1/45
Legion of Merit Degree of Commander Gazette 28.5.46
Grand Cross of the Royal Order of the Phoenix with Swords (1st Cl) Gaz (Supp) 11/4/47

15.7.04 Seamanship 1st Cl. 921/1000
29.11.04 Passed Navigation Pt. I takes Pt. II
Mch 05 Passed Navigation Pt. II A 1cl B 2cl
30 May 1905 Passed Pilotage 2nd Cl. 885/1000
8 Sept. 1905 Passed Gunnery 2nd Cl. 836/1000
13 Oct 1905 Passed Torpedo 2nd Cl. 162/200
4 June 1920 Qualified War Staff

Special Attainments or Qualifications

Despatches and other relevant documents
Despatch of Admiral Sir John C. Tovey, K.C.B., D.S.O., Commander-in-Chief. Home Fleet - The Sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck. Published as a Supplement to the London Gazette, 14 October 1947
Despatch by Admiral Sir John C. Tovey, K.C.B., D.S.O., Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet - The carrier borne aircraft attack on Kirkenes and Petsamo. Published as a Supplement to the London Gazette 25 May 1948
Despatch by Admiral Sir John C. Tovey, K.C.B., D.S.O., Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet - Raid on military and economic objectives in the Lofoten Islands. Published as a Supplement to the London Gazette 22 June 1948
Despatch by Admiral Sir John C. Tovey, K.C.B., D.S.O., Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet - Raid on military and economic objectives in the vicinity of Vaagso Island. Published as a Supplement to the London Gazette 2 July 1948
Extracts of Despatches from Admiral Sir John C. Tovey K.C.B., D.S.O., Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet - Convoys to North Russia, 1942. Published as a Supplement to the London Gazette 17 October 1950

Service / Appointments History
Ship Station Date of
Date of
Cause Source
Britannia Trg Ship 15.1.00 15.5.01 Passed out 1
Majestic Channel 1.6.01 5 June 02 Ariadne 1
Ariadne   5 June 02 15.7.04 A.S.L. 1
Exmouth Chan 1.11.05     1
in lieu of SL   15.7.06     1
part Comft   20.9.06 11.3.07   1
?Dayad? add to qual in N   11.3.07 Cancd   1
Victory for RN Bks   11.3.07 18.5.08   1
King Alfred China 18.5.08 5.10   1
Racer addl for RN Coll Osborne adl 5.10     1
Racer addl for RN Coll psrt comp 15.5.10 5.6.11 Supd 1
Bellona AF II 5.6.11 8.11.11   1
Patrol (1st) HFI 8.11.11 13.8.12   1
Russell 4 Sq 13.8.12 1.1.13   1
Vivid for trials of Amphion   1.1.13     1
Amphion (1st & G) 4 Sq 2.4.13 6.8.14   1
Faulknor (1st & G)   8.14 6.1.15   1
Woolwich for Jackal in cd.   6.1.15 7.5.16   1
Woolwich for Onslow in cd.   7.5.16     1
Reappointed on promotion   30.6.16 .10.17   1
Greenwich addl for Wolfhound & for service on Staff of Capt. Supd. T.B.D.s & in Cd on commg   2.4.18 2.6.19   1
President for course at Naval Staff Coll. Greenwich   2.6.19 4.6.20   1
President addl for service on Admiralty Naval Staff Operations Division   16.6.20 16.6.22 Supd 1
Victory addl for MT   16.6.22     1
Woolwich addl for Seawold in Cd.   6.8.22 7.1.24 Supd 1
Woolwich addl for Saumarcy in Comd & as Capt (D) 2nd Des Flotilla for R F Exercises   10.7.24 21.8.24   1
President addl for SO Course at Army Sch Sheerness   23.9.24     1
Bruce in cd & as Capt (D) 8th Destroyer Flotilla   31.12.24     1
Bruce in cd. & as Capt (D) VIII and IX tempy   11.5.25     1
Bruce in cd. & as Capt (D) 8th Flot.   7.7.25     1
Campbell in Cd. & as Capt. (D) VI   19.4.26 2.5.26   1
re-apptd on re-commg   3.5.26 10.1.27 Supd 1
President addl for Imperial Defence Course at Imperial Defence Coll   17.1.27 12.12.27   1
Victory addl for SOTC Pt 1   9.1.28     1
Victory addl for SOTC Pt 2   10.4.28     1
Victory addl   9.6.28     1
For duty as Asst, Director, Senior Officers Technical Course, Part II   16.6.28     1
President for duty inside Admy   28.4.30     1
& as NA2SL F.B. Watson   5.5.30     1
Rodney in Cd. vice Bellairs on resong?   4.32 8.34 Supd 1
Victory addl Sen Off Tech Crse   15.10.34     1
Pembroke in command & as Commodore 2nd Class in comd of RN Barracks Chatham & Devonport (DL 20/10/34)   30.1.35 1.7.35 DL 12/4 Supd 1
Victory addl for Senior Officers Tact Crse (DL 1/9)   20.9.37     1
To be Rear Adml (D) Cdg Dest Flots, Medn Fleet in succession to V/A J.F. Somerville to date
To assume cd April 38 (DL 15/10/37)
  3.35     1
President addl for S.O.W.C. (DL 30/11)   4.12.37     1
Galatea addl (DL 19/2)   19.2.38     1
Reapptd on promotion (DL 8/5) (CW 8486/39)   3.5.39     1
To be Admiral Cdn Light Forces & 2nd in Command Meditn Fleet 19/7 18/7/40 23-10-40   1
To be C in C Home Fleet with act rank of Admiral in succession to adml of the Fleet Sir Chas M Forbes G.C.B. D.S.O. (S.L. 18.10.40)   2-12-40   DL 8/2 supd 1
Reappd on promotion   29/10/42     1

Source: ADM 196/
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
June 02 VGI VG Good Yes   Zealous and diligent Cap. Bradford
Jan 03 VGI VG G Yes   Painstaking & steady but stupid Cap Browning
  A good boy but rther an object lesson as to over "gaming" (cricket & football) he is hardwkg & will of course improve. Manner bad with the men. V. Adl Douglas
Jan 04 VGI VG VG Yes   Painstaking. Steadily improving  
July 04 VGI VG VG (N) Yes   Painstaking & steady Cap Browning
3/07 VGI VGI VGI Yes   Keen, zealous. Recd for (N) Cap Bradford
Dec 07 VGI VGI VGI Yes   Zealour, Jugt ?tall? Handles men well Cap Galloway
4.10 VGI VGI VG Yes   Zealous, reliable, Strongly recd for Coll or Exec appt. Cap Baker
Oct 10 All VG. Zealous & painstaking. Good judgement Cap Christian
11.11 All VGI Yes Able, zealous, & good judgt. VG offr indeed. Cap Brand
Aug 12 All VGI Yes Cap Cameron
Dec 12 All VG Zealous, able, no defects. Cap Smith
Mch 13 VGI, VG, VG Zealous & capable Cap Smith
10.13 All VG. V. Zealous & capable. Recd in due course Cap Dreyer
4.14 Satis, Above av. Zealous. gd (G) Offr. Recd Cap Pratt
7.14 Satis, Excep. Officially Recomd. Except. Good Destroyer Offr, who should make his mark if given opportunity. Capt. Blunt
16 May 16 Sat. Above (a) Most able and ???? Sound common sense and initiative Capt, Soper
May 17 Saty o, Ab Av. Capable destroyer commander Capt. ?Favre?

Special Reports or Service
Arrived in England 26/7/04
joined Coll 4/10/04
Watchkeeping Cert received May 06
17/1/07 Application for Navigation course noted
11.3.07 Failed eyesight test for Navigator
NL 9871 Dec 1911 V satis inspn of Patrol
Jan 1915 Appn for command of T.B.D. This C.O. states that altho' he failed to pass the eyesight test for Navigation, he has never had any trouble with his eyes since, and now has exceptionally good eyesight.
Contributed towards Good results obtained in Battle Practice and Gunlayers Test carried out during the year 1913
Jutland Battle recommended for promotion for the persistent and determined manner in which he attacked enemy ships as occasion offered even though his destroyer was disabled by shell fire and unable to proceed at more than 10 knots. Gazette 15.9.16 Promoted for these services.
Awarded Order of St. Anne, 3rd Cl (with Swords) for distinguished services in the Battle of Jutland Gazette 1/10/17
27/12/17 re-surveyed MDG unfit for re-survey 17/1/18
Resurveyed 17/1/18 unfit, resurvey 18-2-18
18.2.18 Found fit for duty
CW 19420/19 Awarded D.S.O. for services in command of HMS Onslwo Gaz 10/7/19
2.19 Sat Av very good sound destroyer Capt. Capt. Dalton
Invested DSO Buckingham Palace 15/11/19
Recd for promo June 20 Ad Packenham
Training 5370 appln SO's Courses noted 17.4.24
CW6327/24To be ??? on course as Senior Offrs School Sheerness commencing 23/9/24
12/12/27 An officer of marked force and considerable ability has sound opinions tenacious in action as in discussion. Inspires confidence not satisfied with compromises in though requires a clear cut & well understood decision, capable of dealing with strategic problems. Commandant Richmond
M 1248/37 Appln for 14 days leave approved
C in C Medn 1950/24/10/40 VA Tovey to be considered as having finally hauled down his flag in Orion at sunset on 23-10-40 HF 2250/30/11 SSBA682(2). Flag hoisted in Bonaventure sunset 2/12/41 * transferred to Nelson as C in C
CW Awarded KCB
Sig 1959/22/3/41 Flag being transferred to Queen Elizabeth from 23/3. Secretariat Admin Staff & Cypher staff at Hatston. Arrgts re communications detailed.
Sig 0903/1/4/41. Flag has been transferred to K.G.V.
CW 23325/41 Awarded K.B.E. for distinguished services in the masterly and determined action in which the German Battleship Bismarck was destroyed
CW 38084/42 Adm HMNC Isle of Jersey 7.10.42 Med Acout bronchitis up to17.10/42
Promoted to Admiral of the Fleet & reappts 22.10.43 (CW 49342/42)
CW 7778/44 Admitted to R.N.H. Chatham 7.2.44 (Duodenal Ulcer) discharged CW 7736/44 6.2.44 Fit for ?futher? service
Gazette 29.2.44 Granted permission to wear the Insignia of the Order of SUVOROV (First degree) conferred by the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the U.S.S.R. for distinguished services in securing the passage of convoys to the U.S.S.R.
Gazette 1.1.46 Created Baron (New Year Honours)
H&A 1005/44 T.L. appreciation on 17/10/44 for outstanding contribution made in the operations in the invasion of Normandy
Gazette 28.5.46 Awarded Legion of Merit Degree of Commander bestowed by President of the United States of America (?uninvested? permission to wear) for distinguished service to the Allied cause throughout the war.
Grand Cross of the Royal Order of the ?Merit? with the... for valiant services rendered by the Royal ?Navy? during the war in Europe

Captain's Confidential Reports
Source: ADM 196/89 -Captain's Confidential Report
Remarks Reporting Officer
  Promoted to Comr for Jutland services
Gazette 16 July 19 D.S.O. for distinguished services in comd of "Onslow."  
16 Jan 24 A very experienced & capable destroyer offr. Has been for some time S.N.O. in Irish waters & appears to have carried out his duties in an able & tactful manner. He is personally a v. nice fellow. Capt. Leveson Gower (Capt. D)
Apr to Aug 1926 I have a v. high opinion of Capt. T. During the short time he has been with me in 6th Flotilla, I have noticed a remarkable change for the better in the efficiency of that Flotilla. A thoroughly loyal and capable Capt. (D) who is certain to do well. Recomd for futher & more responsible employment. Comdre (D) Colin Maclean
9/26 to 1/27 Exceptional. Full of energy & a great example to his subordinates: he has very strong views on all professional subjects. He has worked very hard in improving the efficiency of his Flotilla & the results obtained have been on the whole satisfactory. Tactful with his subordinates & an agreeable personality. VG physique & social qualities. Fir & recomd for more responsible employt.
Adm Oliver fully concurs & adds: " A very outstanding Captain."
Comdre (D) W. de M. Egerton
12 Dec 27 An offr. of marked force of character & considerable ability. Has sound opinions & military knowledge, and expresses his opinions well & convincingly. He holds his views tenaciously & strikes me as a man who would be as tenacious in action as in discussion. He has worked vigourously, throwing himself into every subject, & has broadened his outlook greatly. Is cheerful & inspires confidence in anyone who works with him. He has the valuable qualities of not being satisfied with compromises in thought, and of requiring a clear & well understood decision. He is capable of dealing with major strategical problems. V/A Richmond
Commandant of Impreial Defence College
9/6/28 to 8/4/29 An exceptional offr. with outstanding qualities of leadership, influence, tact, personality, physical & social qualities. In my opinion should go far. Recommd for more responsible employt. Capt. Colvin (S.O.T.C.)
Forwarded by Adml Brock
9/6/28 to 28/4/29 Capt. Tovey is an able officer & I can definitely recommend him for appointment to a large ship. Adml Brock
4/29 to 4/30 (c), (f), (g) Exceptional; (d), (h) Above average. An offr of marked personality & ability. His knowledge of professional & general questions is very extensive & he has the gift of fluently expressing his views with clearness, conviction, tact & courage. His services at the Tactical School have been of the greatest value. (k) Yes Capt. S.R. Bailey
4/30 to 5/32 (c) to (h) - all but (e) 8; (e) & (i) I.K.; (j), (m) Yes; (l) - I.K. as regards work at sea. Has carried out his duties as N.A. 2 S.L. with much zeal & tact & has supervised a reorganisation of 2 S.L.'s Office to much advantage of Officers' Records. Adm Fuller (2. S.L.)
12/4/32 to 14/9/33 (c), (d), (f), (h) - 7; (e) - 9; (g), (i), (l) - 8; (j), (m) - Yes; A very fine, gallant fellow, and a first rate Captain of a Ship.

He handles his Ship which, in certain wind and weather conditions is the reverse of handly, admirably. When in Line, he has always been what I never could get his predecessor to be, matey. Never, in the nearly two years he has been under me, have I had to make the signal: "Rodney astern of Station." The more appropriate one would have been "Don't knock! Come in!" though she has never either knocked or come in.

A Man of strong and forceful personality. A strict disciplinarian. A particularly straight and honest character.

He shares with me a peculiarity of temperament which, in myself, I describe as tenacity of purpose, but, in him, obstinacy. This peculiarity has never, for an instant, affected his intense loyalty to me, or to my orders or wishes. His attitude of mind has been, I imagine: "He's wrong, but I'll do it!" and he has done it fortwith, and with good will and zeal. The form that, in my opinion, this "obstinacy" takes is that it does not enter into his philosophy that his method might be wrong. Would he but cultivate the sense of humour which I am convinced is latent in him, he would be the ideal leader and commander of Men.

Strong, healthy and of fine physique, An exceptionally good golfer.

He is not, by nature, socially inclined, but his high sense of duty impels him, especially when acting independently and as representing the Country and showing the flag, to entertain largely and generously.

He has brought his ship to a high state of fighting efficiency and, except for taking the exercise which is essential to keeping himself fit, he never leaves her.

I recommend him strongly for promotion to, and employment in, Flag Rank, and would welcome him most warmly as a Flag Officer in any Fleet under my command.

In "special marking" I assess him as 90."

Admiral Sir John D. Kelly
Sept. 1932 A most satisy inspn of Rodney by Adm Sir J Kelly  
14/9/33 to 31/8/34 (c), (g) 7; (d) 6; (e), (f), (h), (i), (l) - 8; (j), (m) Yes; An officer of considerable professional knowledge, who has commanded "Rodney" with great success and handled her very well. Has considerable personality, is looked up to and generally respected. A fine officer. Strong and active mentally and physically. Lacks a sense of humour and is inclined to magnify trifles in consequence. Somewhat conceited and opinionated and apt in consequence to take a rather narrow view. This no doubt will improve with wider responsibility. Ad Sir W. Boyle
30/1/35 to 3/12/35 (c), (e), (f0, (g), (h), (l) 9; (d) 8; (j) & (m) Yes. I have known Admiral Tovey through many years of service and the early high opinion I found iof his value in the service has been more than confirmed. I should expect to see him rise to command. Admiral Hugh Tweedie
New Year Honours 1937 C.B. (Military)  
4th Dec 1935 to 30th June 1937 (c) to (h) 9; (l) 9. I am more than satisfied with his fitness for position of Commodore R.N. Barracks, Chatham, in which command he has shown outstanding ability & understanding. His sound appreciation of the conditions obtaining on the lower deck & the men's outlook have resulted in creating a fine modern discipline in the Depot. The Petty Officers & men have been splendidly ??? ot & Chatham teams have consistently won at the Royal Tournament in boxing, swimming &c. Rear-Admiral Admiral Toveykeeps himself thoroughly fit mentally & physically, has great character & personality & plenty of moral courage. He is respected & admired by Officers & men alike & is obviously suitable for high command afloat & ashore. His zeal & energy are commendable & he wastes nobody's time. He is definitely the modern Admiral & can be relied upon to uphold the best traditions of the Service & country anywhere. Admiral Sir Edward Evans

Letter in file:


Officer of Commander-in-Chief,
Mediterranean Station,
H.M.S. WARSPITE, at Corfu,

13th August, 1938


Med. 773/0648

With reference to Admiralty Secret and Personal Letter C.W. 6611/38 of 1st June, 1938, be pleased to inform the Board that I assess the Flag Officers named as follows:-

Rear-Admiral G.F.B. Edward-Colling, C.B., C.V.O. - 88
Rear-Admiral J.C. Tovey, C.B., D.S.O. - 88
Rear-Admiral L.V. Wells, C.B., D.S.O. - 86
Rear-Admiral A.E. Evans, C.B., O.B.E. - 75
Rear Admiral R.H.T. Raikes, C.B., M.V.O., D.S.O. - 75

2. I find considerable difficulty in differentiating between Rear-Admirals Edward-Collins and Tovey.

Both are very fit, have very good power of command and professional knowledge.

Both are fine sea officers with a very good knowledge of fleet work.

Both are very determined characters and could be relied on to act resolutely in war.

Of the two, Edward-Collins has the better brain, although it is not always a very quick working one.

I do not consider the judgment of either officer is infallible; Edward-Collins would be suitable for D.C.N.S. but I doubt whether Tovey has sufficient brains for the appointment.

3. I also find difficulty in assessing Rear-Admiral Wells. He has a better brain than either Edward-Collins or Tovey, but his personality and power of command is not equal to theirs. Whatever he has had to do whilst commanding the 3rd Cruiser Squadron has been done admirably.

4. Rear-Admiral Evans is very fit and has done very well as Rear-Admiral, Gibraltar.

He would do very well as Commander-in-Chief of one of the smaller foreign stations but I do not consider that he should be brought back into the main fleets.

5. Rear-Admiral Raikes is also very fit but has somewhat fixed ideas and is not veruy adaptable.

I do not know him well and he might be a possibility for Commander-in-Chief of a foreign station but as in the case of Admiral Evans I do not consider he should be brought back into the main fleets.

(sd.) Dudley Pound

  K.C.B. (Military) - New Year, 1941  
  Note in file:

Admiral Sir J.S. (sic) TOVEY, K.C.B.,
D.S.O., Commander-in-Chief,
Home Fleet.

Awarded K.B.E. for distinguished services in the masterly and determined action in which the German Battleship Bismarck was destroyed.

(London Gazette of 14.10.41)
  Note in file:

Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Cronyn Tovey, G.C.B., K.B.E., D.S.O.

Awarded the Order of Suvrov, First Degree.

For distinguished services in securing the passage of convoys to the U.S.S.R.

(L.G. 29.2.44)

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

1 ADM 196/49 - Service History National Archives
2 ADM 196/91 - Captain's Condential Report National Archives
3 Times, 13 January 1971 Worcestershire County Council Library Service
4 Times, 5 April 1916 Worcestershire County Council Library Service
5 London Gazette (various dates)