INTRODUCTION

 

This project contains lists of the holders of senior posts within the British Armed Services between 1860 and the present day. It is divided into eight sections:

 

I

Royal Navy - Senior Appointments

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II

Royal Navy - Captains Commanding Warships

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III

Royal Navy - Current Senior Serving Officers

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IV

Army Senior Appointments

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V

Army - Current Senior Serving Officers

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VI

Royal Air Force Senior Appointments

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VII

Royal Air Force - Current Senior Serving Officers

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VIII

Ministry of Defence and Tri - Service Senior Appointments

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The project has grown enormously in size and scale since its inception. I first began collecting data on the holders of senior posts in the three Armed Services in the late 1960s and over the next twenty years accumulated a great deal of material scattered across notebooks. Increased work commitments during the next two decades meant that the material was not updated. My recent retirement from teaching History in a Scottish secondary school offered the time to return to the research.

 

The initial intention was simply to type out and print the material previously collected for my own interest and enjoyment. If there was any plan it was limited to producing lists of the holders of a number of posts at Rear-Admiral, Major-General and Air Vice-Marshal levels and above. Although I was aware of some of this material being in print or on the net it appeared that most of the published material was restricted to the periods of the First and Second World Wars. I wanted to be able to assemble the information I had collected to provide lists of postholders in the Armed Services which would be continuous and complete for both peacetime and war.

 

However, over the last sixteen months the scale of the project expanded in a number of ways. I went further back in time until the decision was made to provide lists from, as far as possible, 1900. I also decided to include many commands at Captain, Royal Navy, Brigadier and Air Commodore levels. Finally, I decided to attempt to identify the Captains of as many as possible of the larger warships of the Royal Navy throughout the 20th Century.

 

This has been a massive undertaking and has absorbed most of my leisure time since the spring of 2009. As the project expanded it was suggested to me that rather than keep the outcomes of so much research to myself I might share it with others who might find the work of interest and of use.

 

I should emphasise that if I had set out with this intention the information would certainly have been presented differently. I am also only too well aware of the limitations to my research, some of which are explained below.

 

 

Sources of Information

 

Where available to me I have used the appropriate Navy, Army and Royal Air Force Lists. These are, obviously, the principal source of information on who held a particular command and the date on which the officer took up the post.

The Service Lists are not however infallible; the odd mistake or printing error does occur. Unfortunately a few volumes of the Navy Lists from the mid 1920s and of the Army Lists from the early 1920’s and from the late 1940’s were not available to me.

 

A much greater problem was that these Service Lists provide coverage of my chosen command posts which is inconsistent over time. The Navy List from around 1983 onwards ceased to include most of the information required. Captains of warships were listed without any dates of appointment and posts held by Captains ashore ceased to be listed at all except, in unhelpful form, attached to the Listings of Officers by Rank. From that date onwards in fact the Navy List ceases to be of much use at all for my purposes.

 

For a considerable number of years after 1945 the Army List provides minimal amounts of information required for my lists although this increased again from the 1960’s onwards. Similarly, the Royal Air Force Lists provide an incomplete coverage until the mid 1960’s or so.

 

As a consequence of such inconsistency and incompleteness I have had to rely on other sources. The work which is being done on Royal Navy Officers for the Unit Histories site - http://www.unithistories.com/ - has been of immense value to me. So too has been http://www.rafweb.org/. Although this superb site has provided a very substantial part of the information required by me for the Royal Air Force Section of my lists I have been able to supplement this information with lists of a few posts not yet included there(Senior Air Staff Officers, for example) and to fill a few gaps in the details for certain R.A.F. posts.

 

I have also made extensive use of the annual editions ‘Who’s Who’ with the necessary caveats that many senior officers did not include their full service history and that in some instances their memory was faulty regarding the period within which they occupied certain commands.

 

I have not been able to consult the individual Service Records of the officers listed in this document. Such an exercise would take many years of research and would have been impractical for me.

 

There are therefore, inevitably mistakes and substantial lacunae in these lists. One of the perceived benefits of putting the information I have collected online is to enable anyone interested to supplement or correct that information.

 

Commands/Posts included

 

I make no apology for the obvious fact that the choice of which commands and posts to have been included has been entirely my own.

 

I have tried to include many but not necessarily all of the ‘fighting arms’ commands within each of the three Services. Readers will look in vain for commands in, for example, Engineering or Signalling, Ordnance or Logistics. Had I attempted a full coverage of these commands it would have been several years before I could have made the current research available to a wider audience.

 

I hope that I have included in the Ships section the captains of all Battleships, Battlecruisers, Aircraft Carriers and of the different types of Cruisers from (roughly) 1900 onwards. I have also included the Captains of a number of the more modern Destroyers and Frigates since around 1970 but selection here has been somewhat more arbitrary. If a particular ship was not commanded by a full Captain then that command is not noted. If a larger warship was under the command of, for example, a Commander then it was often the case that the ship was in reserve or undergoing repair or refit. A great deal more research would have been required into the individual history of each ship to have determined the exact circumstances in each case.

 

Rank of postholder

 

The rank of the holder of each post is-as far as could be determined-that held at the time of termination of command.

 

As noted above, if a full Captain did not command a specific ship such command has not been included.

 

Decorations

 

Unlike other lists elsewhere no decorations awarded to holders of posts have been included. To have ensured accuracy would have entailed vastly more work than was possible.

 

Dates

 

There needs to be a very considerable degree of caution about the accuracy of all the dates provided for post holders.

 

One unresolved issue, for example, is whether the initial date is that on which the new appointment was announced or whether it is the time when the postholder actually took office or assumed a command. Every effort has been taken to ensure that the initial date is the latter but differences between or even within sources makes it impossible to guarantee total accuracy. Once again, it cannot be assumed that the date provided within a particular Service List is correct.

 

I have restricted myself to the use of months and years and have not included the days on which posts were taken up or demitted.

 

 

 

 

Updates

 

The intention is to update these lists on a regular basis to provide an ongoing source of information on senior command posts in the Armed Services.

 

I would be delighted if visitors who have found mistakes or who have information to assist in filling in gaps in the material provided could contact me at comment@gulabin.com.

 

 

List of Sources:

 

Army List

Navy List

Royal Air Force List

Becke, Major A.F. and Perry, F.W., ‘History of the Great War- Order of

               Battle’, 5 Parts, HMSO(1934-1993)

Joslen, Lieutenant-Colonel H.F., ‘Orders of Battle- Second World War 1939-

1945, HMSO(1960)

Kempton, Chris, ‘Duty and Fidelity-The Indian Army August 1914-1922’,

                                 3 Volumes, The Military Press(2009)

   ‘Loyalty and Honour-The Indian Army September 1939-

                                 August 1947’, 3 Volumes, The Military Press(2003)

Watson, Graham E. and Richard A. Rinaldi, ‘The British Army in

Germany(BAOR and After); An Organizational History1947-2004, Tiger Lily Publications LLC for Orbat.com (2005)

Who’s Who, A & C Black

 

Houterman, Hans and Koppes, Jeroen-  http://www.unithistories.com/

http://www.rafweb.org/