Archibald Berkeley Milne, Second Baronet

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Admiral Sir A. Berkeley Milne, Bart., 1917.
© National Portrait Gallery, London.

Admiral SIR Archibald Berkeley Milne, Second Baronet, G.C.V.O.K.C.B., Royal Navy (2 June, 1855 – 5 July, 1938) was a Royal Navy officer chiefly remembered for his assocation with the Court and his involvement in the escape of the German warships Goeben and Breslau at the start of the First World War.


Early Life & Career

Archibald Berkeley Milne (who as of 27 February, 1901, informed the Admiralty that he "desires to be called - Sir A. Berkeley Milne"[1]) was the only surviving son of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Alexander Milne (1806 - 1896) and of Euphemia (died 1889), daughter of Archibald Cochran of Ashkirk, Roxburgh. Berkeley Milne's father twice served as Senior Naval Lord at the Admiralty, and his grandfather, Sir David Milne, commanded ships of the line in the Napoleonic Wars and retired an Admiral of the White.[2] Milne entered the Royal Navy as a Naval Cadet on 3 May, 1869 and passed out on 20 July, 1870. He gained three months' seatime for a Second Class in Study, three months' for a First Class in Seamanship, and three months' for "'Very Good' conduct". On 23 August he was appointed to Duke of Wellington, and he was rated Midshipman on 20 October.

Milne was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant with seniority of 1 June, 1876.[3]

He was promoted to the rank of Commander with seniority of 3 September, 1884.[4]

Milne was promoted to the rank of Captain on 31 December, 1891.[5]

He was appointed captain of H.M.S. Jupiter in December 1900, remaining there two years.[6]

On the occasion of the King's visit to Ireland Milne was appointed a Commander in the Royal Victorian Order (C.V.O.) on 11 August, 1903.[7]

Flag Rank

Milne was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral on 25 April, 1904,[8] vice May. Following his promotion, Milne was appointed an Honorary Naval Aide-de-Camp to the King during the time he remained in command of H.M. Yachts.[9] On the occasion of the King's visit to Kiel Milne was appointed a Knight Commander in the Royal Victorian Order (K.C.V.O.) on 1 July.[10]

In his sea-going commands Milne had shown himself competent and popular, so that after reaching flag rank in April 1904, and leaving the command of H.M. Yachts sixteen months later, he was selected to be second in command of the Atlantic Fleet (flag in the Victorious) under Admiral Sir William May (1905–6) and of the Channel Fleet (flag in the Hibernia) under Lord Charles Beresford (1908–9). On 12 May, 1908, he was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral, vice Jeffreys.[11] He was then transferred for another year to the command of the 2nd division of the Home Fleet (flag in the King Edward VII) under May.

On the occasion of the King's birthday Milne was appointed an Ordinary Member of the Second Class, or Knight Commander, in the Military Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (K.C.B.) on 25 June, 1909.[12]

Milne was promoted to the rank of Admiral on 19 September, 1911, vice Gamble.[13]

In November, 1913, Milne was offered the Command-in-Chief at the Nore by Churchill:

I have not come to this conclusion without careful consideration of your own interests as well as those of the Service and full appreciation of your conduct of the Mediterranean Command, which has during your tenure become so much more important, than was expected at the time of your appointment.[14]

On Friday, 27 June, 1914, Milne had a private audience with the Ottoman Sultan. As he left, he remarked to his dragoman (interpreter) in a loud whisper that the Sultan was "just an imbecile", a suggestion with which the dragoman (Sir Andrew Ryan) could not disagree.[15] On 22 July the Admiralty formally ordered Milne to return to Chatham on 29 August in Inflexible and to hoist his flag at Admiralty House there on 30 August.[16] It had been announced on 13 July that he was to succeed Sir Richard Poore on 29 August.[17]

The Escape of Goeben & Breslau

On the morning of 18 August Milne inquired of the Admiralty "as to whether my Flag is to continue flying in INFLEXIBLE until hoisted at Chatham 30th August. Captain Prowse appointed Flag Captain at Chatham taking passage in INFLEXIBLE." Evidently he believed that he was still going to the Nore as Commander-in-Chief. In the afternoon Battenberg replied: "There will be no change in the Nore Command for the present. On arrival at Devonport you are to strike your flag and report yourself to the Admiralty."[18]

Ultimately Sir Richard Poore remained in command at the Nore until the end of 1914 and was relieved by Sir George Callaghan on 1 January, 1915.[19] Milne received no more appointments.


He was placed on the Retired List at his own request on 12 February, 1919, "in order to facilitate the promotion of Junior Officers."[20]

In 1921 Milne published a small book, The Flight of the Goeben and the Breslau, in which he challenged Sir Julian Corbett's account in the (official) History of the Great War: Naval Operations and the implied censure of his conduct. Milne's book set forth clearly his own account and justified the official approbation which had been repeated in the Admiralty's announcement of his retirement in 1919.

Milne was an able officer, popular in the service and in London society, where his long association with King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra made him well known. He was a keen fisherman and deer stalker and a good shot, and devoted much of his half-pay time to horticulture at his ancestral residence, Inveresk Gate, Musselburgh, Midlothian. He bequeathed a collection of rare shrubs and orchids to the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens.

Milne died in London on 5 July, 1938 at the age of eighty-three.[21] His funeral took place at Inveresk Church, Musselburgh, on Friday, 8 July. The pall-bearers were Captain the Hon. Bertram Mitford, Sir I. H. Milne-Home, Mr. J. Cochran, Colonel A. C. P. Cochran, the Duke of Atholl, Admiral Sir A. Hotham, Mr. M. W. Soutar (Milne's butler) and Mr. J. Scott, his head gardener. Lieutenant-Commander Hunter represented the Admiralty, and wreaths were presented on behalf of the Admiralty and trustees, committee, and members of the Naval and Military Club.[22]

See Also


  • "Deaths" (Deaths). The Times. Wednesday, 6 July, 1938. Issue 48039, col B, p. 1.
  • "Funerals" (Deaths). The Times. Monday, 11 July, 1938. Issue 48043, col C, p. 17.
  • "Admiral Sir A. B. Milne" (Obituaries). The Times. Wednesday, 6 July, 1938. Issue 48039, col D, pg. 18.
  • Milne, Admiral Sir A. Berkeley, Bt. (1921). The Flight of the 'Goeben' and the 'Breslau'. London: Eveleigh Nash Company.
  • Ryan, Sir Andrew (1951). The Last of the Dragomans. London: Geoffrey Bles Ltd.


Service Records

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
Sir Reginald N. Custance
Channel Fleet

1908 – 1909
Succeeded by
Sir George A. Callaghan
Vice-Admiral Commanding, Second Division, Home Fleet
1909 – 1910
Naval Appointments
Preceded by
Alan B. Thomas
Captain of H.M.S. Trafalgar
5 Mar, 1894[23]
Succeeded by
Reginald C. Prothero
Preceded by
New Command
Captain of H.M.S. Venus
9 Nov, 1897[24]
Succeeded by
Henry M. T. Tudor
Preceded by
The Hon. Hedworth Lambton
Rear-Admiral Commanding, H.M. Yachts
23 Apr, 1903[25]
Succeeded by
Sir Colin R. Keppel
Preceded by
Francis C. B. Bridgeman
Second-in-Command, Atlantic Fleet
26 Aug, 1905
Succeeded by
George Le C. Egerton
Preceded by
Sir Reginald N. Custance
Second-in-Command, Channel Fleet
12 Jun, 1908[26]
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Sir Edmund S. Poë
Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Station
1 Jun, 1912[27]
Succeeded by
In abeyance until 1917


  1. Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39. p. 893.
  2. "Sir Alexander Milne" (Obituaries). The Times. Wednesday, 30 December, 1896. Issue 35087, col A, p. 4.
  3. The London Gazette: no. 24339. p. 3616. 23 June, 1876.
  4. The London Gazette: no. 25393. p. 3994. 5 September, 1884.
  5. The London Gazette: no. 26239. p. 3. 1 January, 1892.
  6. Mackie, Colin. ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS.
  7. The London Gazette: no. 27586. p. 5057. 11 August, 1903.
  8. The London Gazette: no. 27673. p. 2840. 3 May, 1904.
  9. The London Gazette: no. 27676. p. 3081. 13 May, 1904.
  10. The London Gazette: no. 27704. p. 5192. 12 August, 1904.
  11. The London Gazette: no. 28138. p. 3669. 19 May, 1908.
  12. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28263. p. 4853. 25 June, 1909.
  13. The London Gazette: no. 28533. p. 6949. 22 September, 1911.
  14. Churchill to Milne. Draft letter of 21 November, 1913. Churchill Papers. Churchill Archives Centre. CHAR 13/20/97.
  15. Ryan. The Last of the Dragomans. pp. 89-90.
  16. Admiralty to Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean. The National Archives. ADM 137/HS19.
  17. "Second Sea Lord" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Thursday, 23 July, 1914. Issue 40586, col G, p. 10.
  18. The National Archives. ADM 1/8384/184.
  19. The Navy List. (October, 1915). p. 396j.
  20. The London Gazette: no. 31201. p. 2738. 25 February, 1919.
  21. "Deaths" (Deaths). The Times. Wednesday, 6 July, 1938. Issue 48039, col B, p. 1.
  22. "Funerals" (Deaths). The Times. Monday, 11 July, 1938. Issue 48043, col C, p. 17.
  23. Milne Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39. f. 891.
  24. Milne Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39. f. 891.
  25. Milne Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39. p. 893.
  26. Milne Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39. f. 893.
  27. Milne Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39. f. 893.

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