The australian naval institute

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  1. Agenda and Minutes. Thirtieth Meeting ot Board ol Management Australian War Memorial. 24 Apnl 1942. p.5.

  2. ibid.. p6

  3. C.E.W Bean. The Beginnings ol Ihe Australian War Memorial". unpublished paper. p6 (Annotated by AW Bazley)

  4. AW Bazley, The Early Story ot the Australian War Memorial, unpublished paper, pp. 1 -2

  5. C.F Coady, The Written Records ol Australia al War . unpublished paper, p.1

6. Bean, op. at.. p.9

  1. Sydney Morning Herald. 23 May 1928

  2. See AD Trendall. The Shellal Mosaic and Other Classical Antiquities in the Australian War Memorial Canberra, fourth edition. Canberra. 1973. pp 11-12

9. Bean, op ctt.. p. n

  1. Bazley. op. erf., pp 12-13 and K S. Inglis. C £ W Bean Australian Historian. (John Murtagh Macrossan Lecture. 1969). UQP. 1970. p.19.

  2. Agenda and Minutes. Australian War Museum Committee. 31 July 1919

  3. Bean. open, pis See also Agenda and Minutes. Australian War Museum Committee. 31 July 1919, Appendix D

  1. See Agenda and Minutes. Australian War Museum Committee. 28 February 1922

  2. ibid

15 Bean, op erf., p. 17A.

  1. Herald. (Melbourne). 16 December 1924

  2. Evening News (Sydney), 9 April 1925

  1. Bean, op cil. p. 18

  2. SMH. 3 March 1927

20. Daily Telegraph (Brisbane). 22 March 1928 21 Quoted i n Brisbane Mail. 31 December 1929

22. Argus (Melbourne). 2 June 1933

The Australian War Memorial Fund was started with monies accumulated Irom the sale ot war photographs during and after the 1914-18 war It was formalised in the Australian War Memorial Act 1925 Its main sources of revenue are donations and the sale of such items as photographs and publications The lund is used for the purchase of items for display in Ihe galleries and for other purposes associated with the role of the Memorial such as publications and a research grant scheme

  1. Australian. 1 November 1968

  2. Canberra Times. 3 February 1936

Journal ot the Australian Naval Institute — Page 25


(Extracts from an article in The Naval Annual 1890)

In recent years the Australian Colonies have made patriotic efforts to protect their harbours and coasts. Beginning with the mounting of a few guns, the defences of the capitals of the colonies have been gradually strengthened. Victoria has taken the lead. Port Philip, according to the statement of Admiral Fairfax, is rapidly becoming one of the best fortified places in the Empire. New South Wales has constructed considerable works for the defence of Sydney, although in armament the prepar­ation is less complete than at Melbourne. The defences of Adelaide are not in a satisfactory condition. An enemy would experience no difficulty in etlecting a landing south of Fort Glanville. A hostile man-of-war could bombard Adelaide from Holdfast Bay. Brisbane, from its inland situation at some distance up a narrow river of difficult navigation, is easily defended, and some fortifications have been constructed. The rapidly-rising coast towns of Northern Queensland, as, for example. Townsville and Cairns, have no defences.

If there is any risk to the Australian ports it must be from bombardment from the light long-range guns of some hostile cruiser. To any attempts on the part of an enemy to inflict injury by this means, the guns now mounted at Port Philip and Sydney would return an effective answer. The completion of the necessary defences elsewhere is certain to be taken in hand ere long.

A considerable flotilla for harbour defence, including an ironclad and several gunboats and torpedo-boats, has been created at Melbourne Adelaide has a powerful coast defence vessel. Brisbane has two efficient gunboats. A Naval Brigade as well as Naval Artillery Volunteers has been organised both in Victoria and New South Wales.

Having made the ports secure, the Australasian Federation will doubtless devote serious efforts to the creation of a Navy prepared to act, and that not ineffectively, with the Imperial Navy in the common cause. Under a 'ecent arrangement, for which the administration of Lord Salisbury is entitled to public acknowledgment, and which has received the approval of the legislatures — Imperial and Colonial — a special squadron of highly efficient cruisers has been built for the defence of the trade in Australian waters and on the coasts of New Zealand

In former numbers of the Naval Annual, the establishment of a naval school for the colonies on the model of the Britannia has been strongly recommended. Many Australian young gentlemen would gladly enter the Navy. •' facilities for their education could be provided within easy access from the Colony to which they belong.

The progress which has been made in the defences of the great Australian ports is an ample vindication of the policy which England has pursued of encouraging the Colonies to undertake their own defence. As it has been well put by Lieutenant-Colonel Carre, R.A., "England like a wise parent teaches her colonies to walk alone, lending them her trained naval and military officers as instruc­tors, with promises of further advice and help, should they require or desire it. Whilst undertaking herself to defence of the seas, she entrusted them with the care of their own shores, and withdrew the last of her troops some years ago. By this arrangement the Colonies were relieved from the necessity of maintaining ships of war on the high seas, and they undertook to provide defences that were well within their means."

Sir William Jervois said lately, I he whole question of the defences of Australasia is a naval one. The land force is really for the purpose of manning the works necessary for the protection of the ports, and for the defence of these works. There is a tendency to create new forces which really are not necessary for the protection of these countries. Forces are established in the interior which could not come into play for the purposes which we are now discussing. Of all places in Australia, South Australia depends upon naval defence the most. It is very important that King George s Sound should be properly protected. There should be guns mounted in the best positions, and there ought to be a separate and efficient garrison provided at the Sound. If not so defended it affords an admirable point whence any hostile naval force could operate against your commerce. Thursday Island should be fortified in a manner similar to King George's Sound, in order that we might secure that end of the continent. In this way you would have the approach to Australia from the south-west and north-east and east secured by means of points from whence the naval squadron could act for the general protection of the colonies. Port Darwin, however strongly defended, would not influence the defence of Torres Straits directly. But at Thursday Island you could absolutely secure the channel against the passage of a hostile ship."

Page 26 Journal ol the Australian Naval Institute

After considerable negotiation it has been decided that Thursday Island and King George's Sound shall be fortified with assistance from the Imperial Government. Garrisons of Marines were originally proposed. It is now the wish of the Australian Colonies to furnish garrisons from their permanent forces.

It has been officially communicated by Lord Knutsford to the Government of South Australia that it is not considered necessary to fortify Port Darwin. As the landing-place of the cable by which Australia is placed in telegraphic communications with the rest of the world the position is important, and when the railway projected to connect it with Adelaide is completed the position will acquire additional importance. It may be presumed that the Local Government will undertake the responsibility for the construction of defences for Port Darwin.


The Council of the Australian Naval Institute, by the authority granted to it under Article 13( 1) of the Rules, has convened a special general meeting of the members. The meeting will be held at 1930 on Friday 19 February 1982 at Legacy House, Allara Street. Canberra ACT.

The business to be transacted involves a proposal to extend the present terms of eligibility for Regular Membership of the Institute and to change the constitution accordingly. The questions to be put are:

QUESTION A. In addition to members of the PNF of Australia, should Regular Membership of the Institute be granted to Members of the Citzens Naval Forces/Australian Naval Reserve engaged in full-time service and Members of the Active elements of the RAN Reserve; and

QUESTION B. If regular membership is granted as above, should that status be retained by the individual for as long as he or she shall continue without break to belong to the Institute.

If the answers to either or both of the questions is YES, then constitutional amendments will be proposed in regard to RULE 2(1) and 2(1 )c respectively.

Honorary Secretary


(Extract from a recent Chief of Naval Personnel Newsletter).

The major aim of the Directorate of Sailors Postings for 1981 is to stablilise postings to stop posting turbulence. This may mean that some bunks are left empty for a while, deliberately, in order that sailors and Wrans may have time to arrange their affairs before taking up a posting.

Journal of the Australian Naval Institute — Page 27

Page 28 — Journal erf the Australian Naval Institute

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Journal ol the Australian Naval Institute - Page 29


Ey Commander A.W. Grazebrook RANR

In the first edition of this journal, the then President of the Australian Naval Institute, Commodore V.A. Parker RAN, referred to the founders of the British professional naval journal, the Naval Review, and passed favourable comment on the determination and innovative ability of the group of relatively young officers responsible for its founding. Their officers were known in the Royal Navy as Tne Young Turks' after the group of reforming nationalists (Enver Pasha, Talal Bey and others) who sought to rouse and reform the Ottoman Empire from the state of decadent torpor to which it had sunk by the first decade of this century.

The Royal Navy s Young Turks undoubtedly had intellect, knowledge of the r profession and drive. To a man, they were aggressive in tem­perament. This showed in their attitude to tactics and strategy and, unhappily, in the way at least some of them put their ideas to their contempor­aries and superiors. Some historians contend that it was because of this inability to get their superiors to accept their innovative ideas that the Young Turks failed to get the Service to accept their reforms. Furthermore, none of the Young Turks reached the pinnacles of their profession — First Sea Lord and the Commander-in-Chief of one of the major Fleets.

Objectives of the Naval Review

Before considering the problems the Young Turks had in getting their innovations accepted by the Royal Navy, let us look at their professed objective in setting up The Naval Review. These were:

'To Promote the Advancement and spreading within the Service of Knowledge. Relevant to the Higher Aspects of the Navy Profession

The founding group was comprised of seven serving officers:

Captain Herbert William Richmond (who

orginated the idea)'

Commander KGB. Dewar

Commander the Hon R.A.R. Plunkett

(who later lengthened his name)

Lieutenant R.M. Bellairs

Lieutenant T. Fisher

Lieutenant H.G. Thursfield

Captain E.W. Harding, RMA

Admiral W.H. Henderson, a retired Officer, was appointed Honorary Editor of The Naval Review.

The Young Turks

The Young Turks were not a formal grouping There were others who where sympathetic but were not founding members of The Naval Review However, the founders provide the illustrations this writer is seeking and are representative of the more energetic middle ranking reformers in the Royal Navy of that period.

The foremost amongst them was H.W. Richmond. Widely regarded as an expert on training, tactics and strategy, he studied these subjects with great emphasis on the lessons to be learned from history.


In common with others of his generation. Richmond was articulate in diary and correspon­dence, much of which has been published2. This shows Richmond to have held extremely strong opinions on many and diverse aspects of strategy, tactics, personnel administration and training and, to a lesser extent, materiel. Whilst history has since proven a number of his ideas to have been sound (and a number have been shown to be unsound). Richmond had grave dif­ficulty in getting his ideas accepted.

This difficulty was not due solely to the view (then alleged to be prevailing amongst the RN s


Commander Tony Grazebrook. RO. RANR was born in Britain in 1935 Educated in the US and Greal Britain, he made his career in the marketing of synthetic rubber Activities in this field have included travel in the Middle East. Easlern Europe and South America and a period ot five years residence in Switzerland He is now marketing manager. Australian Synthetic Rubber Co. Ltd.. and lives in North Balwyn. Victoria He completed two years National Service in the RN. including service at a Naval Air Station, in minesweepers and sub-mannes. He is now Senior Officer. Naval Control ol Shipping in HMAS LONSDALE.

Tony Grazebrook has written extensively on naval and defence journals both in Australia and overseas He is Naval Editor ot the Pacific Defence Reporter and Federal Vice President of the Naval League

Page 30 Journal ol the Australian Ne val Institute

Flag officers) that the views of (relatively) junior officers were not worthy of attention. His own correspondence, not to speak of the views of his peers, show that Richmond had great difficulty in expressing his views and putting his ideas in a manner accentable to his superiors.

In Richmond's view, many of his superiors were incompetent and/or unintelligent and said so in very blunt terms in his correspondence Such phrases as ought to have been court-martialled and put ashore for his bungling'3 are not uncommon. In Richmond's view, anyone who could not recognise that Richmond's views were wholly and completely correct was a fool. But Richmond's prime difficulty was that he had a way of letting his superiors know that he thought they were fools

In short, Richmond was incapable of "selling" his ideas to his superiors— he could not tactfully persuade his superiors and peers. He could only tell them what should be done, fre­quently in a manner which no self respecting senior officer could accept. This, many of Richmond's ideas were rejected and. on several occasions, he himself was posted elsewhere to get him out of the way.

Nevertheless, some of the more perceptive Admirals did recognise his outstanding strategic and tactical abilities. He was posted to be Liaison Officer with the Italian Fleet to try and engender some much needed activity in that orgnaisation. When he could not get his ideas acted upon, Richmond gave up and asked to be relieved.

Thereupon, he was rusticated to command of the elderly battleship, HMS COMMONWEALTH (away from the Grand Fleet). There Richmond remained, in a position without influence, restless and agitating, and vociferously critical of the lack of perception and ability of his Admiral and brother Captains in command of obsolete ships.

When Beatty became Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, he arranged for Richmond's appoint­ment in command of the Dreadnought' HMS CONQUEROR where he, Beatty. would have Richmond ready to hand to draw upon his advice Richmond respected Beatty, who in turn was prepared to accept Richmond's tactless methods as part of the price of having Richmond's advice available. Beatty recognised that Richmond's ideas regarding training — the need to develop officers for service in Flag Appointments before, and not after, they hoisted their flags — were badly needed in the Admiraltiy. Upon Beatty's recommendation, Richmond was appointed Director of the Training and Staff Duties Division of the Admiralty Naval Staff.

The terms of reference of his new position limited Richmond to recommendations and pro­posals. He was quickly at loggerheads with those responsible for pronouncing on his recommen­dations and implementing those that were

accepted. Richmond lasted eight months and was fortunate to get another battleship command.

However, Beatty s appointment as First Sea Lord enabled him to see that Richmond's abilities were not lost to the Service. Richmond became President of the Naval War College at Greenwich and, later conjointly President of the Royal Naval College Greenwich.

Near to London, Richmond was able to speak frequently with those in power in the Admiralty. He was free to develop his ideas of changes in naval warfare, and to apply his ideas on the training of senior officers.

As an example of his foresight, in 1920 Richmond saw the number of battleships sub­stantially reduced. He saw a core of heavy ship

and a host of lesser vessels. Torpedo plans will

play a part we have hardly thought of, submarines will have a more difficult role.4

Following the unusually long period of three years at Greenwich. Richmond was appointed in command of the East Indies squadron of some three cruisers and three sloops. He turned this post, often a flag showing activity, into one in which he could develop his tactical thinking. He gave his attention to combined operations.

Working with the Indian Army Staff College at Quetta, he used an island off Bombay to simulate a Japanese attack on Singapore. He "em­phasised the need for preliminary beach recon­naissance and for troop ships to carry self-propelled landing craft at their davits. He foresaw the need for special vessels for Army motor transport able to moor with their stems to the beach to enable vehicles to disembark dryshod.5

However, even Richmond did not perceive the full impact of airpower on combined oper­ations as, following the Singapore simulation exercise, he asserted that the Japanese Force' spent too much time establishing air supremacy before the assault.

In spite of the fact that the East Indies Station was not a good posting for ambitious Officers, two members of Richmond's staff were to make valuable contributions to their profession in later years — one to combined operations and the other to naval aviation6.

Beatty saw to it that, when Richmond's term in the East Indies expired, the first Commandant of the Imperial Defence College was H.W. Richmond. Here, as at Greenwich, Richmond had the opportunity to indulge his interest in strategy and the training of Senior Officers. He laid the foundations upon which the College (now known as the Royal College of Defence Studies) was to build its reputation and the respect that it enjoys fifty years later.

In his instruction, Richmond laid great emphasis on the lessons of history so far as the strategic level was concerned. As he grew older

Journal ol the Australian Naval Institute — Page 31

he became more dogmatic and critical. His admirer Beatty became less enthusiastic and in due course, downright hostile as Richmond became more critical of the retention of the battle­ship as the Royal Navy s prime unit.

By the time Richmond's tern at the Imperial Defence College had expired, Beatty had returned. Unable to get his battleship ideas accepted. Richmond resorted to writing letters to The Times. Using thinly disguised pseudonyms, Richmond advocated publicly the elimination of the battleship, with cruisers being the maximum size of ship built for the Royal Navy. By taking a public stance in opposition to :he professional heads of his Service, Richmond *orced the Board of Admiralty to adopt an even f rmer position in favour of the battleship.

His ideas had an appeal to politicians, plagued as they were by econominc problems and (as they are today) only toe ready to ignore facts in their search for funds.

Richmond's methods ensuied not only that his ideas on battleships were not implemented but also that any other proposal he made was looked at askance.

Richmond had achieved the rank of full Admiral and. by most mens measure, had a successful career in the British Navy. He flew his flag afloat as a Commander-in-Chief (but of a relatively minor overseas station), and was created K.C.B. the fact that he did not reach the very pinnacle of his profession — Commander-in-Chief of one of the main fleets and Chief of the Naval Staff — was due not to lack of originality, ideas, ability or drive, but to his inability to sell his ideas to the decision makers.

A close friend of Richmond's was less suc­cessful, although he had many personal charac­teristics that were similar to those of Richmond.


Dewar was a central figure in the well known ROYAL OAK Incident over which Dewar s pros­pects of promotion to flag rank (other than as a yellow Admiral) were effectively terminated.

Dewar had many of the faults possessed by Richmond, but lacked some of Richmond's strengths. Even more outspoken than Richmond. Dewar was Executive Officer of the elderly battle ship HMS PRINCE OF WALES when that ship was mobilised at the outbreak of World War I This position tied Dewar to his duties in a ship well out of the Grand Fleet — mainly on bombardment duties off the Dardanelles — where Dewar's natural interest in tactics and strategy were allowed no opportunity for application.

He agitated and fumed and eventually received an even less inspiring appointment as Commanding Officer of the Gunnery School at Devonport. Further agitation produced command Of HMS ROBERTS, a monitor virtually permanently moored at Gorleston on coast defence duties.

This series of lessons in the potential counter-productivity of postering the Directorate of Naval Officers Postings was eventually followed by success. Dewar was appointed to the Operations Division of the Naval Staff, with the task of writing a weekly appreciation of the naval situation for the war cabinet.

Dewar has described how. upon arrival at the Admiralty, he was told of his new posting by the

Page 32 — Journal of me Australian Natal Institute

Australian War Memorial (negative H 12122)

then First Sea Lord (Admiral Jellicoe) who told me that I had a reputation for independent opinions and it was evident from his tone that he did not count this unto me for righteousness. *

Nevertheless, Dewar remained at the Admiralty for nearly three years, the last two of which were as Assistant Director of the Plans Division involving promotion to the rank of Captain. Dewar's description of the organisation and modi operandi are of interest.8 These in­cluded the employment of senior officers on routine tasks, compiling reports and returns etc. which could have been done equally well by civilian clerks supervised by an Officer. Dewar was closely involved in the formulation of convoy policy. He used his position to put his views which were not in accord with those of Admiral Jellicoe Dewar was quickly replaced and received appointment in command of an elderly cruiser on the East Indies Station. Using personal contacts with the Prime Minister. Dewar had his appoint­ment cancelled and he remained at the Admiralty.

After the War, Dewar was assigned the task of writing an account of the Battle of Jutland. This was a difficult assignment as Admiral Beatty. by then Chief of the Naval Staff, was known to want certain actions taken by himself to be described charitably. In this instance, Dewar survived, although not (in the view of some) with his intellec­tual honesty intact.

After a period afloat in command of cruisers in the West Indies, and two years' service as Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence. Dewar was appointed in command of the Mediterranean battle ship HMS ROYAL OAK. In this posting, a necessary pre-requisite for promotion to flag rank, Dewar found himself as Flag Captain to Rear Admiral B. StG. Collard who epitomised all that Dewar thought Flag Officers should not be

After several incidents. Dewar could contain himself no longer. He lodged a formal complaint with the Vice Admiral of the Battle Squadron. The whole matter blew up in an explosion of press publicity, the immediate relief of the Flag Officer. Dewar himself, and his Executive Officer, and a court martial.

A book has been written on the subject9 So far as the incident is relevant to this article, it illustrates Dewar s inability to hide his feelings — he just could not "put up and shut up for the few months necessary to qualify him for promotion to flag rank and, hopefully, a position where he would have a better opportuntiy to put his ideas into practice.

It is of further interest to note that, although the Board of Admiralty's subsequent action showed they felt Collard to have been in the wrong, and Dewar later commanded for short periods a battle cruiser and a battleship, Dewar's failings were his undoing and he was placed on

the retired list the day after what amounted to an honorary promotion to the rank of Rear Admiral

Whether Dewar would have been employed as Flag Officer, if it had not been for his dispute with Collard, will never be known. The fact is that Dewar's difficulty in getting on with others, perhaps of lesser intellect than his own. and who held opinions differing from his own, brought his career to a disastrous end. The Royal Navy was denied much of the benefit of Dewar s ability. He himself spent his retirement in disappointment and bitterness, erupting in his efforts to enter the Parliament as a Member of the Labor Party.

From the career of another of the Young Turks there are lessons of another type to be learned.


Roger Bellairs. a Commander at 31 and a Captain at 35, found himself at the outbreak of World War I as a war staff officer to the Commander in Chief Grand Fleet Bellairs later became the Fleet Torpedo Officer, in which capacity he served at the Battle of Jutland, keeping Jellicoes tactical plot. Bellairs was a graduate of the very first naval staff course.

Bellairs remained on the Grand Fleet's staff throughout World War I. Indeed, he served con­tinuously in staff positions from January 1913 until October 1925. As a Commander, he held no "line" appointment on shore or at sea — he served neither in command nor as Executive Officer of any ship or establishment. In the whole of his career from his promotion to Lieutenant Commander in 1912 to his retirement in 1932, he served only just over three years afloat in non-staff positions.

Unhappily, when he assumed command of Britains largest battleship HMS RODNEY. Bellairs lacked experience of command. When the mutiny erupted at Invergordon, Bellairs ship was involved in some of the more serious trouble He had not the experience to handle this and failed to achieve flag rank on the active list. However, his widely appreciated talents for staff work were not lost. After his retirement, he con­tinued to serve the Royal Navy for seven years as British naval representative at the League of Nations.

Bellairs' correspondence shows him to have been both articulate and a shrewd judge of people. He has been described by Professor Marder as 'likeable, cheerful and brainy, immensely successful as a staff officer and diplomat — an invaluable combination of service officer and diplomat with the opportuntiy to use both qualities.'10 Early in World War II, Bellairs was appointed to head the UK team for staff con­versations with the United States' Naval Staff. In this post he was very successful, bringing both his naval staff and diplomatic experience to bear. He

Journal of the Australian Naval Institute — Page 33

has been described as wise, good-natured and cheerful' by a very senior Royal Air Force officer

Although Bellairs clearly had the ability to sell ideas to his superiors and his country's allies, it is difficult to identify any really significant ideas that were his own. Thus, in Bellairs' case, we apparently have an officer with the ability to "sell'' but without the ability to originate really innovative ideas.

Apart from that, the requirement that a Captain must serve in command afloat to qualify for promotion to flag rank in the seaman branch must surely be questioned as a result of Bellairs career. His appointment in command of HMS RODNEY was both risky for the service (as shown at Invergordan) and immense y sad for Bellairs personally. Furthermore, the opportunity to use Bellairs staff ability in senior positions was denied the service.


Probably alone amongst the Young Turks, Commander Reginald Plunkett had both the intel­lect, ideas and ability to get changes implemen­ted.'2 As Flag Commander to Beatty, when that Admiral commanded the Battle Cruiser Squadron/Battle Cruiser Fleet, Plunkett analysed all the battle crusiers' tactical exercises and obtained Beatty's approval 'or his analyses, which therefore received careful attention from the recipient battle cruiser Captains.

Unlike Bellairs. Plunkett saw to it that he spent only some three years or the staff, and then served for two years afloat in command of cruisers. He was then appointed to set up the Royal Navy Staff College after World War I. Plunkett had sufficient perception to refuse Dewar as his Deputy, and went on to set the tone of the R.N.S.C.'s curriculum and establish the founda­tions of the respect in which the Staff College has been held for the subsequent 60 years or more.

Plunkett held that Ships' Captains should be concerned with tactics and strategy. Their Technical Officers were there to maintain the equipment and to advise on its use. He applied these views in practice himself

Plunkett's period as Rear Admiral Second Battle Squadron gave him the opportunity to advance his views on night fighting by the Battle Fleet (of course, in the days before radar changed night fighting dramatically). Along with a number of officers who regretted the G-and Fleet's failure to engage the German High Seas Fleet on the night of the 31st of May — 1st June, 1916, Plunkett considered the Royal Navy should develop the tactics for battleship night fighting. The problem was one which received much atten­tion from most thinking officers in both the Atlantic Fleet and the Mediterranean Fleet. Night fighting was tested in a major Atlantic Fleet/ Mediterranean Fleet joint exercise, followed by a wash up" attended by all the participating senior

officers. The friendly atmosphere of that wash up, in which Plunkett s chief opponent was another Flag Officer of immensely strong personality, and the fact that an highly controversial topic could be analysed without bitterness or animosity is a measure of Plunkett s ability with people

As a full Admiral, Plunkett was appointed late in 1938 to head up a small special staff to review the basic concept of sending the British Fleet to Singapore in the event of a war with Japan Plunkett concluded that this concept was unwise on the grounds that British naval strength should be concentrated firstly against European oppon­ents. After these had been defeated at sea, the Fleet should move eastwards. In this instance Plunkett's salesmanship failed to prevail.'3.

In August 1939. Plunkett was selected to head a delegation to Moscow to conduct military staff talks with the Russians. His brief was to stall until political agreement was nearer''4 This was a difficult brief, when British diplomatic dithering was being pitched against Germany s decisive determination. Plunkett's appointment to the post was a marked compliment to the breadth of his ability — from tactical command afloat to an extremely delicate diplomatic task.

Plunkett went on to be Commander in Chief at the Nore, where he coped with the brunt of the magnetic mine, the first sharp lessons in the effec­tiveness of air power against merchant traffic, and a close involvement with the support of British forces in the May-June 1940 German attack upon France the low countries.

Plunkett was an immensely successful naval officer with the ability both to conceive innovative ideas and to gain their acceptance both by his superiors, his peers and his juniors. His combin­ation of abilities is in sharp contrast to those of Richmond and Dewar. Both these officers were brilliantly innovative but failed to get most of their ideas accepted. In contrast again is the career of Bellairs — a successful "salesman" but without a balancing ability to generate ideas.

Clearly, the careers of these four Young Turks demonstrate the importance of a balance of abilities, both strictly professional and diplomatic, to a naval officer anxious to achieve success in his profession.


  1. The Navy from Within by Vice Admiral KGB. Dewar, CBE. London 1939. page 155.

  2. Portrait of an Admiral, by Arthur J. Marder, CBE, London 1952.

  3. ibid,, p.315

  4. ibid., p.364.

  5. Naval Policy Between the Wars, by Stephen Roskill, London 1968, p. 539.

Page 34 — Journal of me Australian Naval Institute

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