Deputy First Sea Lord

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The Deputy First Sea Lord was an officer on the Board of Admiralty of the Royal Navy.

History

Vice-Admiral Sir Rosslyn E. Wemyss was appointed a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty as Second Sea Lord on 6 September, 1917. before being relieved on 27 September by Vice-Admiral Herbert L. Heath.[1] In his memoirs, he described the circumstances of his appointment:

The First Lord's [Geddes] original idea had been that I should be Second Sea Lord, but that the traditional duties of that office should be somewhat modified, so as to allow me to take up Staff Duties. The reason for this was that until now, should the First Sea Lord for any reason be absent from the Admiralty, the whole of the burden and responsibility of the war devolved automatically on the Second Sea Lord, whose duties in connection with the personnel did not allow him sufficient time to study Staff matters. Consequently he (Second Sea Lord) might find himself called upon at any moment to give decisions on matters with which he could not possibly be familiar. On considering the situation I advised the First Lord that it would be better not to interfere with the duties of Second Sea Lord, which were so well understood on all sides, and which required the full attention of one man, but appoint me as additional with my duties entirely confined to Staff work, and that an officer should be appointed as Second Sea Lord who would be junior to me. By this means the conduct of the war would, in the absence of the First Sea Lord, automatically fall into my hands.[2]

In 1919 Jellicoe wrote that, "This appointment was frankly made more as a matter of expediency than because any real need had been shown for the creation of such an office."[3] He later claimed in his autobiographical notes that,

The introduction of a Deputy First Sea Lord was only agreed to by me as the result of my conversations with Beatty and Madden. The idea emanated from Sir Eric Geddes who saw in the appointment a way of overcoming the Prime Minister's objections to Sir H. Oliver [D.C.N.S.] remaining at the Admiralty. . . . The intention was that in my absence Admiral Wemyss could represent me at the War Council instead of Sir H. Oliver.[4]

In August, 1919, when Rear-Admiral Hope was appointed to command the Third Light Cruiser Squadron, the position of Deputy First Sea Lord was not filled.[5]

Duties

Assessment

There can be no doubt that the appointment of Wemyss as Deputy First Sea Lord was to insert an officer amenable to Geddes into a senior position on the Board of Admiralty. The position was completely superfluous to the structure which had evolved at the end of May, 1917. It is no wonder, therefore, that all Wemyss had to do, in his own words, was give Jellicoe, "an extra opinion on dockets which could well be dispensed with."[7] It is indicative that when Wemyss succeeded Jellicoe as First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff in December, 1917, the position of Deputy First Sea Lord was filled by a junior Rear-Admiral with responsibility for "Policy and Foreign" matters.[8] Only the D.O.D. (F) and the Director of Training and Staff Duties reported to him.[9] As before, the duties of the professional head of the Royal Navy if absent fell upon the shoulders of the Second Sea Lord. It is also to be noted that after Rear-Admiral Hope was appointed to a sea-going command in August, 1919, the position was allowed to lapse.

Deputy First Sea Lords

Footnotes

  1. Heath Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. p. 200.
  2. Quoted in Wester Wemyss. Life and Letters. pp. 362-363.
  3. Jellicoe. The Crisis of the Naval War. p. 15.
  4. Quoted in Marder. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. IV. pp. 223-224.
  5. "A New Admiralty Board" (News). The Times. Thursday, 31 July, 1919. Issue 42166, col A, p. 18.
  6. The National Archives. ADM 116/1585A.
  7. Quoted in Wester Wemyss. Life & Letters. p. 364.
  8. Black. The British Naval Staff. p. 307.
  9. Geddes Memorandum of 14 January, 1918. "Organisation of the Naval Staff." The National Archives. ADM 137/2715. Diagram reproduced in Black. The British Naval Staff. p. 230.
  10. Wemyss Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 154.
  11. Wemyss Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 154.
  12. Hope Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 23/44.
  13. Hope Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 23/44.
  14. Mackie, Colin. ROYAL NAVY SENIOR APPOINTMENTS.
  15. Mackie, Colin. ROYAL NAVY SENIOR APPOINTMENTS.

Bibliography

  • Black, Nicholas (2009). The British Naval Staff in the First World War. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press. ISBN 9781843834427.
  • Naval Staff, Training and Staff Duties Division (1929). The Naval Staff of the Admiralty. Its Work and Development. B.R. 1845 (late C.B. 3013). Copy at The National Archives. ADM 234/434.
  • Wester Wemyss, Lady (1935). The Life and Letters of Lord Wester Wemyss. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode.


Board of Admiralty
Civilian Lords
First Lord of the Admiralty
Civil Lord of the Admiralty
Additional Civil Lord of the Admiralty (1882 – 1885, 1912 – 1917)
Controller (1917 – 1918)
Naval Lords
First Naval Lord (– 1904) • First Sea Lord (1904 – 1917) • First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff (1917 –)
Second Naval Lord (– 1869, 1872 – 1904) • Second Sea Lord (1904 – 1917) • Second Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Personnel (1917 –)
Third Naval Lord (– 1869) • Third Lord and Controller (1869 – 1872) • Third Naval Lord and Controller of the Navy (1882 – 1904) • Third Sea Lord and Controller of the Navy (1904 – 1912) • Third Sea Lord (1912 – 1917) • Third Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Matériel (1917 – 1918) • Third Sea Lord and Controller of the Navy (1918 –)
Junior Naval Lord (– 1904) • Fourth Sea Lord (1907 – 1917) • Fourth Sea Lord and Chief of Supplies and Transport (1917 –)
Fifth Sea Lord (1917) • Fifth Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Air Service (1917 – 1918)
Staff Lords
Deputy First Sea Lord (1917 – 1919)
Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (1917 –)
Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (1917 –)
Secretaries
First Secretary to the Board of Admiralty (– 1869) • Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Admiralty (1869 – 1904) • Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Board of Admiralty (1904 –)
Second Secretary to the Board of Admiralty (– 1869) • Permanent Secretary to the Board of Admiralty (1869 – 1877, 1880 –)
Naval Secretary to the Board of Admiralty (1872 – 1882)