bravest man in the battle of Tsushima strait
Admiral Sir William C Pakenham, RN
(photograph courtesy of the US Library of Congress)
During the famous Battle of Tsushima Strait on 27-28 May 1905, the British-trained Japanese Navy annihilated the Russia fleet opposing them. British Royal Navy attache to Japan, Captain (later Admiral) William Pakenham, witnessed the battle as an observer aboard the flagship of Admiral Togo.
While known as a brilliant naval officer, Pakenham was also known for always being immaculately dressed no matter what the circumstances. During the battle, “Old Packs” paced up and down the Admiral’s bridge, intermittently watching the action through his telescope and making notes.
At one point, a Russian shell hit the flagship, killing a handful of Japanese sailors and spattering Pakenham’s immaculate white uniform with blood.
Without batting an eye, he immediately retired to his cabin below and changed into another immaculate white uniform. He re-appeared on the bridge a few minutes later and resumed his note-taking and observation.
“Old Packs” Admiral Sir William Christopher Pakenham, GCB, KCMG, KCVO (10 July 1861 – 28 July 1933). (Photograph compliments of the National Portrait Gallery in London.
His classic British imperturbability deeply impressed his Japanese naval hosts. They pronounced him the bravest man in either navy in the battle. In recognition of his utter coolness under fire, the Emperor bestowed upon him the Order of the Rising Sun (second class).
Fortunately, this eccentric, brilliant and popular man died in 1933 and hence did not witness the humiliation of the Royal Navy he had served so long and faithfully by the Imperial Japanese Navy.
source: The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command by Andrew Gordon.
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The lead photo is of Rear-Admiral Sir William Pakenham, K.C.B. Commanding British Battle Cruiser Force. He is aboard his flagship HMS Lion. In lower background is a BL 4-inch Mk VII gun. Date February 1917. After several assignments in the Empire, Earl Beatty, then C-in-C Grand Fleet, promoted him to command the battlecruiser squadron. HMS Lion had been Beatty’s flagship at Jutland.