Admiral Dudley Pound Wouldn’t Take His Own Advice

 

 

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Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound and the Prime Minister on the deck of the SS Queen Mary. (Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

 

Early in his tenure as First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Dudley Pound wrote to a close friend in the navy and said, “why have Commanders-in-Chiefs and do their work for them? If they are not capable of doing it they must make way for someone who can.” 1

Unique amongst the respective British service commands, the Admiralty had command, organizational and administrative responsibilities of a standard service ministry but also had operational control over the fleets.

Unfortunately, Dudley Pound didn’t take his own advice during the war since he often went over the heads of his C-in-Cs and gave orders to formations under their command.

During the disastrous campaign in Norway beginning in early April 1940, Pound went over the head of both the senior Royal Navy officer on the scene (Admiral Jock Whitworth) as well over the head Whitworth’s C.O., the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet. Pound even sent orders to individual ships. This caused immense confusion as you might imagine.

While many of the orders sent to RN ships fighting in the Norwegian campaign by Dudley Pound were thought to have originated with then First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, many other times during the war Pound needed no prodding from Churchill to interfere in fleet dispositions during action with the enemy.

This could cause serious problems and occasionally disaster such as the infamous scattering order issue to convoy PQ17.

As an aside, the Chief of Naval Operations in the US, has no operational authority over US naval ships. He, or she, is responsible for everything concerning the navy but he doesn’t exercise command over fleets or ships. This has always been the case in the modern history of the US Navy.

In World War Two, Franklin Roosevelt picked Admiral Ernest King out of  a dead-end post which Admirals took a few years before retirement and made him Chief of Naval Operations. However, this gave King little power over the dispositions of the actual naval ships themselves since those were in fleets or other units under the authority of Commander in Chief US Fleet. This title had the unfortunate acronym of CINCUS.

After a spell, this did not suit Roosevelt who wanted one person in charge so he elevated King to the position of Commander in Chief US Fleet while allowing him to also keep the office of Chief of Naval Operations. This gave King immense authority over the entire US Navy. (And he sometimes went over the heads of his commanders such as Nimitz, not to change any of their fleet dispositions but to fire some of their subordinates).

Upon assuming the position of Commander in Chief, US Fleet, Admiral King immediately changed the acronym to COMINCH. King is the only man ever to have held the position of Chief of Naval Operations and Commander in Chief US Fleet simultaneously.

1 Roskill, Stephen “The War at Sea”

 

 

 

Royal Navy Dido Class Light Cruisers

 

HMS Sirius

 

 

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24 or 25 June 1944. The Royal Navy’s big guns support the Allied armies in Normandy on board the cruiser HMS SIRIUS in the Sword area. The number of shells used by Royal Marines manning the twin 5.25 inch gun X turret can be gauged by the shell cases massed on X-gun deck. They number more than 2,000. (Photo by Lt. C. H. Parnall, Royal Navy official photographer, courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

(Comments Charles McCain: One or more of the gun turrets aboard Royal Navy ships of cruiser size and above were manned by a crew drawn from the ship’s contingent of Royal Marines. Destroyers sometimes has Royal Marine complements but typically for special assignments and not as a permanent part of the ship’c company. As in the days of sail, when it was thought that the Royal Marines would always be loyal to the officers, the Marines were berthed between the common seamen and the ship’s officers.

One of the great shocks to the Admiralty during the Invergordon Mutiny of 1931 was that many Royal Marines sided with the sailors and refused orders to muster.)

 

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Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum shows HMS Sirius Underway leaving Portsmouth.

British Royal Navy light cruiser HMS Sirius. Commissioned 6 May 1942. She was one of sixteen Dido-class light cruisers built this figure includes the five Bellona sub-class cruisers). Most were named after mythical figures of classic Greek history including Naiad, Argonaut, Cleopatra, Scylla, Charybdis, Phoebe, etc.

Ten survived the war. Some were sold to foreign governments. Others continued in operation service until the early 1960s. Others, such as HMS Sirius, were withdrawn from service, placed in the reserve fleet and eventually scrapped. (Sirius broken up in 1956)

The ships were built in different groups with each group being slightly different. General characteristics were a length of 512 feet, width of 50 feet, fully loaded displacement from 6,900 tons to 7,600 tons. Ten 5.25 inch guns in dual turrets.

 

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 Normandy, June 1944 The Royal Navy’s big guns support the Allied armies in Normandy as seen on board the cruiser HMS SIRIUS in the Sword area. From information passed by forward observation units operating ashore near the front line, the cruiser’s artillery officer; Captain C I Chapman, RA, of Scarborough, Yorks, and Lieutenant F C Boys, RN, of London, the Gunnery Officer, direct the fire of the naval guns. Here they can be seen on the bridge of the cruiser, with a map of the beaches in front of them. (Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

Great Britain Comes Close to Starvation in World War One

German U-Boats Played Havoc with British Food Imports in World War One.

While we associate German U-Boats primarily with World War Two, they played an active role in World War One and came close to cutting off Great Britain from her food imports. The number of merchant ships sunk by the primitive German U-boats of the first war is astonishing.

Partly this was due to the stupidity and mule-headed stubbornness of the British Admiralty who refused to put into place a convoy system which had been used in every war fought by the British against a maritime power back through the ages.

Such a system had been used by Great Britain in centuries past and the instructions from the 1700s on how to form and escort a convoy don’t read much differently than those issued late in World War One.

Fortunately, the Royal Navy had leaned its lesson and merchant ships were ordered to sail in convoys almost as soon as the war had broken out. In a burst of foresight, the Admiralty had actually put in place the structure and personnel to implement this before the war came.

 

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World War One British Ministry of Food poster issued in 1917 urging people to eat less bread since Great Britain had to import a significant of her wheat supplies.

(all images courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

Below is the commentary on this poster from the Imperial War Museum.

“An enormous, crusty loaf of bread, marked ‘EAT LESS BREAD’, sits on the grassy top of coastal chalk cliffs. In the background, partly obscured by the loaf, are silhouettes of warships of the British Grand Fleet set against a vivid yellow sky. text: SAVE THE WHEAT AND HELP THE FLEET. EAT LESS BREAD.”

“During the First World War, merchant shipping bringing imported food supplies into Britain was extremely vulnerable to German U Boat attack. By 1917, 400 Allied ships a month were being sunk. Although wheat was imported from new sources and Britain’s own harvest reached record levels, the government actively encouraged economy.

“The poster is neither subtle nor sophisticated. However, it does give an interesting insight into the controlled war economy established by Lloyd George. Not only was industry reorganised and food supplies rationed, but also individual freedoms were radically constrained. The poster calls on the individual to voluntarily contribute to these changes and makes a direct link between their actions and the wider war effort.” (Commentary from the Imperial War Museum)

 

 

 

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 Another World War One poster issued by the British Ministry of Food urging people to eat less bread.

 

 

 

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Of course, complete victory depends on each citizen not eating so much damn bread! 

 

 

Posted by writer Charles McCain, author of the World War Two naval epic:

An Honorable German

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