George Alexander Ballard

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Admiral George A. Ballard, seen as a Commodore, Second Class.
Photograph: © National Portrait Gallery, London.

Admiral George Alexander Ballard, C.B., Retired (7 March, 1862 – 15 September, 1948) was an officer of the Royal Navy during the First World War and a historian.

Life & Career

George Alexander Ballard was born on 7 March, 1862, at Malabar Hill, Bombay, the eldest child of Captain (later Lieutenant-General) John Archibald Ballard, C.B., of the Royal (Bombay) Engineers. Ballard was educated at Burney's Royal Academy, Gosport, and obtained a nomination for the Royal Navy from Captain (later Admiral Sir) Charles Fellowes. He went up to London for the examination at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich with ten others from Burney's, six of whom passed, one of whom was Christopher Cradock. He entered the training ship Britannia on 15 January, 1875, and left on 21 December, 1876. He later recalled:

Two years spent thus represented at that period the first stage of a naval officer's career. Many months before it came to an end most of us were longing to finish it and get away to a seagoing life with all its anticipated excitements, although in point of fact very few had any but the vaguest idea of what sort of a life it would prove to be. But I think nevertheless that to the majority in after years, the period spent at Dartmouth in the old Britannia remained on the whole a pleasant memory. It certainly is to me.[1]

Ballard was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 15 March, 1884.[2]

On 31 December, 1897 he was promoted to the rank of Commander.[3]

Captain

Ballard was promoted to the rank of Captain on 31 December, 1903.[4]

On 15 May, 1906, Ballard was appointed in command of the first class protected cruiser Royal Arthur in reserve. On 3 July he was appointed in command of the first class protected cruiser Terrible. On 22 July, the Terrible left Portsmouth for China[5] with a relief crew for the Astræa.[6]

He recorded that on 27 December that he had been appointed "to preside over a Secret Committee at Admiralty, but retaining command of Terrible."[7] On 3 January, 1907, he met with the First Sea Lord, Sir John A. Fisher, who made him an outstanding offer:

At an interview with Sir J. Fisher was informed my name had been sent in as an alternative to Capt Ottley's for the position of Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence in succession to Sir George Clarke in case Ottley was not approved. Also that if Ottley was appointed I might succeed him as Director of Naval Intelligence if I chose. Decided to accept the first if I got the chance, but refuse the second in order to get in my sea time.[8]

He took command of the armoured cruiser Hampshire on 20 August, 1907. Upon giving up command of the Channel Fleet in March, 1909, the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Charles Beresford, wrote of Ballard, "No defect, very zealous, sound physically. Recommended for advancement. A very clever officer, hard working, and knows the Service. Will make a good Admiral." In November Rear-Admiral Paul W. Bush opined, with Vice-Admiral George Neville's concurrence, that Ballard was "a very zealous Captain & handles his ship well."[9] On 31 December, 1909, he was appointed in command of the battleship Commonwealth.[10] In May, 1910, a Court of Enquiry was held following the abandonment of Commonwealth's steam trial. Their Lordships expressed Their "severe displeasure on account of the want of knowledge shewn in the preparation of the ship for sea under the weather conditions which prevailed at the time."[11] On 9 December he was given command of Commonwealth's sister-ship, Britannia.[12]

Charles Ottley, now Secretary of the Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence, wrote to Winston Churchill of Ballard in October, 1911, "I am in great hopes he may e'er long return to an important post at the Admiralty,"[13] and advocated he be associated with any committee on staff reform, writing, "He would approach the matter from the standpoint of one who knew the old system."[14]

Ottley also informed Churchill that Ballard wrote for The Contemporary Review magazine under the pseudonym "Master Mariner,"[15] therefore contravening Article 12 of the King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions on communicating with the press on Service matters.[16] Ottley also forwarded a number of Ballard's somewhat subversive memoranda to Churchill, in the knowledge that, "You will I know safeguard his anonymity."[17]

Churchill offered Ballard the post of Director of Naval Intelligence and on 22 November he accepted.[18] He was appointed to President, additional, for special service at the Admiralty on 1 December. On leaving Britannia Vice-Admiral Callaghan described him as "A V.G. Captain of a ship. Has intellectual qualities above the average & v.g. judgement."[19] On 8 January, 1912, he was appointed Director of the Operations Division on the newly-formed Admiralty War Staff.[20]

On 10 May, 1913, he was appointed a Naval Aide-de-Camp to King George V, vice Hutchison.[21] On the occasion of the King's birthday he was appointed an Ordinary Member of the Third Class, or Companion, in the Civil Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (C.B.) on 3 June.[22]

Ballard assumed the duties of Admiral of Patrols on 1 May, 1914, with the rank of Commodore, First Class.[23]

Great War

On 27 August, 1914, Ballard was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral, vice Carden.[24]

An interesting perspective on Ballard is offered by Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry F. Oliver, who became Chief of the Admiralty War Staff at the end of 1914:

We had a useless R.A. on the East Coast of England and I could not get him shifted. When the Germans bombarded Scarborough and Hartlepool [on 15-16 December, 1914] we knew from Room 40 the afternoon before that something was intended but not enough to know what. He had definite orders to send out 2 submarines from Hartlepool to be at gun range, according to visibility, off the harbour at dawn. He failed to send them out the night before and they did not start out till after the bombardment began[,] one was crossing the bar while the shells were falling. We lost a fine chance of laming a battle cruiser and perhaps bringing on an engagement if her consorts delayed retiring to help her. I could not get him shifted for that so I took bits of his command away at the north and south ends till there was none left.[25]

On 6 November, 1915, Ballard became Rear-Admiral Commanding, East Coast of England.[26]

N. A. M. Rodger has opined that, "His reputation may have suffered from the German raids of 1914 and 1916; certainly there was no vacancy in the naval war staff under Sir Henry Jackson for so clever and independent an officer."[27] Quite apart from the slur this completely unsourced statement casts on Sir Henry Jackson, it also denigrates the men already on the War Staff.

On 1 May, 1916, Ballard was succeeded as Rear-Admiral Commanding, East Coast of England. He then went on Half Pay until he was appointed Senior Officer in Charge at Malta and Admiral Superintendent of Malta Dockyard on 24 September,[28] and assumed command on 28 September.[29]

In May, 1917, he was criticised by the Board of Admiralty for the torpedoing of S.S. Ivernia on 1 January, for allowing it to proceed through the Cerigotto Channel by day contrary to instructions. On 17 September he was informed that orders appeared to have been given in a "haphazard" manner in regards to an operation where special service vessel Zeus was lost.[30] He relinquished duty as Admiral Superintendent at Malta on 16 November, 1918.[31]

Post-War

He was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral on 11 February, 1919, vice Boyle.[32] He was placed on the Retired List on 15 June, 1921 at his own request "in order to facilitate the promotion of younger officers."[33] On 3 March, 1924 he was advanced to the rank of Admiral on the Retired List.[34]

He died suddenly on 15 September, 1948, aged eighty-six, at his home, Hill House, Downton, near Salisbury, Wiltshire, from myocardial degeneration, arterio sclerosis and carcinoma of the prostate.[35][36]

See Also

Bibliography

  • Ballard, Vice-Admiral G. A., C.B. (1921). The Influence of the Sea on the Political History of Japan. London: John Murray.
  • Ballard, Vice-Admiral G. A., C.B. (1923). America and the Atlantic. London: Duckworth & Co..
  • Ballard, Admiral G. A., C.B. (1927). Rulers of the Indian Ocean. London: Duckworth & Co..
  • Ballard, Admiral G. A. (1980). The Black Battlefleet. Lymington; Greenwich: Nautical Publishing Company Limited and The Society for Nautical Research. ISBN 0245530304.

Papers

Service Records

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
?
Captain of H.M.S. Janus
12 Dec, 1895[37]
Succeeded by
Charles F. Corbett
Preceded by
Herbert L. Heath
Head of War Division
1 Jan, 1904[38][39] – 15 Jan, 1906[40][41]
Succeeded by
Harry Jones
Preceded by
Charles L. Napier
Captain of H.M.S. Euryalus
15 Jan, 1906[42]
Succeeded by
A. Gordon H. W. Moore
Preceded by
A. Gordon H. W. Moore
Captain of H.M.S. Royal Arthur
15 May, 1906[43] – 3 Jul, 1906[44]
Succeeded by
Norman C. Palmer
Preceded by
Henry H. Campbell
Captain of H.M.S. Terrible
3 Jul, 1906[45] – 20 Aug, 1907[46]
Succeeded by
Richard M. Harbord
Preceded by
Sir Robert K. Arbuthnot, Bart.
Captain of H.M.S. Hampshire
20 Aug, 1907[47][48] – 31 Dec, 1909[49]
Succeeded by
The Hon. Stanhope Hawke
Preceded by
The Hon. Horace L. A. Hood
Captain of H.M.S. Commonwealth
31 Dec, 1909[50] – Dec, 1910[51]
Succeeded by
Oswald W. Ormsby
Preceded by
Montague E. Browning
Captain of H.M.S. Britannia
9 Dec, 1910[52][53] – 1 Dec, 1911[54]
Succeeded by
Charles F. Thorp
Preceded by
New Appointment
Director of Operations Division
8 Jan, 1912[55] – 1 May, 1914[56]
Succeeded by
Arthur C. Leveson
Preceded by
John M. de Robeck
Admiral of Patrols
1 May, 1914[57] – 6 Nov, 1915
Succeeded by
?
Preceded by
?
Rear-Admiral Commanding, East Coast of England
6 Nov, 1915[58] – 1 May, 1916[59]
Succeeded by
Stuart Nicholson
as Vice-Admiral Commanding, East Coast of England
Preceded by
Sir Arthur H. Limpus
Admiral Superintendent, Malta Dockyard
24 Sep, 1916[60] – 25 Oct, 1918[61]
Succeeded by
Brian H. F. Barttelot

Footnotes

  1. "Admiral Ballard's Memoirs: Part One." p. 350.
  2. The London Gazette: no. 25329. p. 1304. 1 January, 1897.
  3. The London Gazette: no. 26924. p. 7854. 31 December, 1897.
  4. The London Gazette: no. 27632. p. 25. 1 January, 1904.
  5. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Monday, 23 July, 1906. Issue 38079, col B, p. 6.
  6. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Saturday, 7 July, 1906. Issue 38066, col C, p. 8.
  7. Entry for 14 December, 1906. "G A Ballard. Record of business letters &c." Ballard Papers. National Maritime Museum. MSS/80/200. Box 1.
  8. Entry for 3 January, 1907. "G A Ballard. Record of business letters &c." Ballard Papers. National Maritime Museum. MSS/80/200. Box 1.
  9. The National Archives. ADM 196/88. f. 29.
  10. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  11. The National Archives. ADM 196/88. f. 29.
  12. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  13. Letter of 17 October, 1911. The National Archives. CAB 1/31. f. 28.
  14. Letter of 22 October, 1911. The National Archives. CAB 1/31. f. 103.
  15. Letter of 17 October, 1911. The National Archives. CAB 1/31. f. 28.
  16. The King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions for the Government of His Majesty's Naval Service (1906). p. 3.
  17. Letter of 3 November, 1911. The National Archives. CAB 1/31. f. 183.
  18. Ballard to Churchill. Letter of 22 November, 1911. Churchill Papers. Churchill Archives Centre. CHAR 13/1/30.
  19. The National Archives. ADM 196/88. f. 29.
  20. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  21. The London Gazette: no. 28718. p. 3438. 13 May, 1913.
  22. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28724. p. 3903. 3 June, 1913.
  23. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Friday, 1 May, 1914. Issue 40512, col B, p. 6.
  24. The London Gazette: no. 28881. p. 6794. 28 August, 1914.
  25. Oliver. II. ff. 117-118.
  26. Squadrons and Senior Naval Officers in Existence on 11th November, 1918. f. 29a.
  27. Rodger. "Ballard, George Alexander (1862–1948)."
  28. Ballard Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. Volume 4. f. 65.
  29. Supplement to the Monthly Navy List. (June, 1918). p. 8.
  30. ADM 196/88. f. 29.
  31. Ballard Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. Volume 4. f. 65.
  32. The London Gazette: no. 31201. p. 2738. 25 February, 1919.
  33. The London Gazette: no. 32384. p. 5486. 8 July, 1921.
  34. The London Gazette: no. 32919. p. 2323. 18 March, 1924.
  35. "Deaths" (Deaths). The Times. Saturday, 18 September, 1948. Issue 51180, col A, p. 1.
  36. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  37. The Navy List. (March, 1896). p. 235.
  38. Ballard Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  39. Naval Intelligence Department. Distribution of Work.—March 1905. The National Archives. ADM 231/45. p. 2.
  40. Ballard Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  41. Naval Intelligence Department. Distribution of Work.—March 1905. The National Archives. ADM 231/45. p. 2.
  42. Ballard Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  43. Ballard Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  44. Ballard Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  45. Ballard Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  46. Ballard Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  47. The Navy List. (January, 1910). p. 323.
  48. Ballard Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  49. Ballard Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  50. Ballard Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  51. Ballard Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  52. Ballard Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  53. The Navy List. (April, 1911). p. 287.
  54. Ballard Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  55. The Naval Staff of the Admiralty. p. 121.
  56. Ballard Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  57. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Friday, 1 May, 1914. Issue 40512, col B, p. 6.
  58. Squadrons and Senior Naval Officers in Existence on 11th November, 1918. f. 29a.
  59. Ballard Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  60. Ballard Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.
  61. Ballard Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 65.