Cecil Alexander Severn

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Commander Cecil Alexander Severn, R.N. (13 October, 1874 – 13 March, 1916) served in the Royal Navy.

Life & Career

Severn was born at 121 Warwick Street, London, the son of W. Severn, Esq., who was residing at Earl's Court Square, South Kensington by the time Severn joined the navy with the July 1888 intake term at H.M.S. Britannia.

On 7 July 1894 he was sent to Haslar Hospital for a "disability attributable to the service." he was discharged on 19 July and declared fit on 21 September.

Before Severn was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 31 December, 1896, he had served in Immortalité (14 months) and Raleigh (almost three years) before spending eight months as navigator for Sealark.

Severn passed for pilot stage in first-class ships on 24 June 1902 with 791 of a possible 1,000 marks on his examination.

Between 1903 and February 1909, Severn navigated for Diana, Revenge and Triumph, beging promoted to the rank of Commander on 31 December, 1908.

In August, 1910, Severn was cautioned for exceeding his wine bill, though by October he had reduced this considerably and demonstrated remarkable improvement. He was noted for possessing a fine talent at navigation, and had a "remarkable power of sighting buoys." He navigated for and was executive officer in Superb and the battleship H.M.S. London.

He was noted to be weak as an executive officer. By 1912, Captain Sinclair described him as being "v casual & slothful." He was not considered a trusty pilot or an acceptable executive officer.

On 7 August, 1914, he was superseded in command of destroyer Isis, and declared unfit for duty in that he "suffers from hallucinations." He was admitted to Haulbowline Hospital on 10 August, and then in Haslar on 24 August, where he was diagnosed with neurasthenia. He was eventually found fit "for shore service only" on 10 March, 1915. He was promptly placed in command of H.M.S. Terrible, which had been rescued from the list of ships awaiting disposal. Under Severn's oversight, she was largely disarmed and prepared for use as a troop transport to take men to Gallipoli. When she commissioned for such purposes in September, 1915, Severn handed command to Captain Constantine H. Hughes-Onslow.

On 13 September he was sent to assist the Extended Defence Officer at Portmsouth. Curiously, on 2 October he was given another ship command, the first class protected cruiser Amphitrite, though she was likely still in reserve and undergoing conversion to a minelayer. Severn was still in command when, on 23 February 1916 he was admitted to Haslar Hospital for observation and possible epilepsy. Severn died in Haslar Hospital of "general paralysis of the insane", though the situation appeared to stem from an attempt to cut his own throat. The verdict was suicide while temporarily insane.

See Also

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
James D. D. Stewart
Captain of H.M.S. Isis
25 May, 1914[1] – 7 Aug, 1914
Succeeded by
James T. Bush
Preceded by
Thomas F. T. Michell
Captain of H.M.S. Terrible
12 Mar, 1915[2] – 8 Sep, 1915
Succeeded by
Constantine H. Hughes-Onslow
Preceded by
William H. FitzClarence
Captain of H.M.S. Amphitrite
2 Oct, 1915 – 13 Mar, 1916
Succeeded by
Edmund C. Carver


  1. The Navy List. (August, 1914). p. 332.
  2. The Navy List. (April, 1915). p. 398p.