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The British Admiralty in London, 1927.

From this building, Their Lordships of the Admiralty debated whether to recommend to the Government that Royal Marines from other ships and naval bases in Great Britain be concentrated in the hills overlooking the Invergordon anchorage. Once in place, artillery would be brought forward and the Royal Marines would bombard the Atlantic Fleet into submission. The minutes of this critically important meeting of the Board of the Admiralty are missing from the public record or have not been released.

Bringing in Royal Marines from other naval units to enforce order and discipline would have caused bloodshed and created huge problems for the British Admiralty which already had enough problems. Something long forgotten now but all too well remembered then was this: both the Russian Revolution and the overthrow of the Imperial German government began as mutinies by sailors against their governments.

British Royal Marines in 2012.

Alan Ereira, author of The Invergordon Mutiny published in 1981, wrote one of the few books on the subject published decades after the event when more records were available:

Such a plan seems quite incredible, but there are indications that this idea had some approval at the very highest levels of government… the King’s staff at Balmoral (the Scottish highland estate of the British monarch) were kept informed by telephone… the King would need to be kept in the picture, as Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom, and as a monarch who happened to regard the navy as his first love and his private property.

Another puzzle comes from The Invergordon Mutiny. Ereira writes that on the evening of September 15, 1931, records of the Royal Household show that King George V dined alone with a Captain S. R. Mallet. Most curiously, the author says:

…Captain S.R. Mallet… is something of a mystery figure… he does not exist in the Army or Navy lists…

There is speculation that the man may have been Admiral Sir John Kelly who was both a personal friend of the King and a man known to have a sure touch with the Lower Deck. However, the Admiralty had never considered appointing Kelly as C-in-C Atlantic Fleet. In fact, he had been retired some months before the Mutiny.

The steps by which Kelly came to be appointed seem to be a secret still. There is every reason to believe that he was placed in command on the personal insistence of George V, to diffuse the crisis and sort out the Atlantic Fleet.

Four Kings all in naval uniform. King Edward VII of the United Kingdom (right) together with his son Prince George, the Prince of Wales, later George V (left), and his grandsons, Prince Edward of Wales, later Edward VIII, and Prince Albert of Wales, later George VI. Taken by Queen Alexandra, Edward VII’s wife. Printed in Queen Alexandra’s Christmas gift book, published for charity by the Daily Telegraph, London, 1908.

There is a long connection between the British Royal Family and the Royal Navy. As a 12 year old boy, then holding the title Prince George of Wales, the future King George V joined the Royal Navy’s cadet training ship HMS Britannia in September of 1877. He served on active duty in the Royal Navy until 1892. When he was born, he was third in line to the throne and there was no expectation he would become king. He happily intended to pursue an active career in the Royal Navy but that dream came to an end with the death of his older brother from influenza in 1892. From then on George was in the line of direct accession to the throne and after the death of his father, Edward VII, in 1910, George ascended the throne as George V.

His second oldest son, who came to throne as George VI after the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII, had served as a turret officer aboard HMS Collingwood during the famous battle of Jutland on May 31, 1916. (Much of this story is very well told in the recent movie, The King’s Speech.)

HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Elizabeth II, served on active duty in the Royal Navy in World War Two as a young officer and participated in a number of combat actions against the enemy.

His second son, Prince Andrew, younger brother of Prince Charles, served on active duty in the Royal Navy for 21 years and fought in the Falkland’s War.

[Source: The Invergordon Mutiny by Alan Ereira. Images courtesy of NUCIUS, British Ministry of Defence, and Wikipedia.]