Henry Bradwardine Jackson

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Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry B. Jackson.

Admiral of the Fleet SIR Henry Bradwardine Jackson, G.C.B., K.C.V.O., F.R.S., Royal Navy (21 January, 1855 – 14 December, 1929) was an officer of the Royal Navy and a pioneer in Wireless Telegraphy. A Yorkshireman by birth, Jackson reached the twin pinnacles of a naval officer's career, serving as First Sea Lord from 1915 to 1916 during the First World War and being promoted to the rank of Admiral of the Fleet in 1919.


Early Life & Career

Henry Bradwardine Jackson was born on 21 January, 1855, at Rectory House, Darfield, South Yorkshire, to Mr. Henry Jackson of Cudworth, a relatively well-off linen manufacturer and bleacher, and Mrs. Jane Jackson, née Tee.[1]

The elder Jackson died on 2 December, 1867.[2] In a ceremony at St. Mary in the Castle, Hastings, on 5 May, 1870, the widow Jackson would marry the Reverend Dr. Baylee, late Principal of St. Aidan's Theological College.[3][4]

Educated at Chester and Stubbington House,[5] Jackson was nominated as a Naval Cadet and was called for examination on 2 December, 1868, and was found medically fit on 8 December.[6] Jackson joined H.M.S. Britannia on 23 January, 1869. He was entitled to a First Class Certificate in Study and a First Class Certificate in Seamanship, obtaining 1,629/2,000 marks and 783/1,000 marks respectively. He was allowed six months' sea time for study, three months for seamanship, and three months for conduct. Having spent an extra term in Britannia he was allowed an additional three months for a total of fifteen months, and was rated Midshipman on 20 April, 1870.[7]

On 21 July he was appointed to the corvette Cadmus. He was promoted to the rank of Sub-Lieutenant on 18 October, 1874. On 27 November, 1874 he was appointed to the Excellent for study, and on 30 October, 1875 he joined the training brig Liberty. On 26 May, 1876, he was appointed to the corvette Rover for navigating duties in lieu of a Navigating Sub-Lieutenant.


Jackson was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant with seniority of 27 October, 1877.[8] On 28 November he took passage in the Simoom and on 21 December was appointed to Royal Adelaide on Full Pay leave until 3 January, 1878. From 21 February to 17 March he was on passage in a mail steamer, joining the Active on the Cape of Good Hope and West Africa Station, to which he had been appointed on 15 February. From 23 June to 9 July he was lent to the Flora. He was discharged from Active on 25 October, 1879, and was appointed on Full Pay leave from 26 October to 15 November, before going on Half Pay.

He joined Excellent on 31 July, 1880, for a short course of gunnery, which he passed. From 30 October to 10 December he was appointed to H.M.S. Vernon for a short torpedo course, which he passed, before again going on Half Pay. On 31 February, 1881, he was was appointed to Agincourt in the Channel Squadron. On 30 September he was appointed to Vernon to qualify in Torpedo Duties. He passed on 21 March, 1883, with a First Class certificate, and on 2 April was appointed to join Vernon as a Staff Officer. On 22 October he went to Woolwich Arsenal, London, for a seven day course of instruction in torpedo apparatus. Jackson had a strong interest in the scientific aspects of his work and in 1883 he became an associate member of the Society of Telegraph Engineers, later the Institution of Electrical Engineers.[9]

As a result of his technical expertise and training, Jackson was put in charge of Whitehead torpedo instruction at H.M.S. Vernon in 1885. The 'Whitehead' was one of the main torpedoes being used by the Navy in the late nineteenth century and was the world's first effective self-propelled naval torpedo, developed by an English engineer, Robert Whitehead.

Jackson participated in the July, 1887 manœuvres in command of the first-class torpedo boat T.B. 79, on loan.[10] He was loaned to command T.B. 81 in the 1888 and 1889 manoeuvres, and for torpedo duties in the first year.[11][12]

Jackson was promoted to the rank of Commander on 1 January, 1890.[13] On 1 July he was appointed to Vernon for Torpedo Duties, and for temporary service at Fiume, Austria-Hungary, the location of the Whitehead torpedo factory. On 6 September, 1890, he was appointed to the battleship Edinburgh in the Mediterranean, where he remained until she paid off on 23 January, 1894. Captain John W. Brackenbury wrote of him, "V.G.I. [Very Good Indeed] Brilliant officer of great zeal & ability, most worthy of promotion." On 5 February he was reappointed to the Vernon for temporary service on the Committee on Torpedo Designs.


On 29 January, 1895, Jackson was appointed to H.M.S. Defiance in command. On 30 June, 1896, he was promoted to the rank of Captain,[14] and reappointed to Defiance so as to complete three years' service. In July, 1897 he was given temporary command of the Plymouth flotilla of torpedo boat destroyers for a three day programme of exercises.[15] He was superseded on 1 November, 1897 and appointed Naval Attaché to "the Embassies & Legations in [the] Maritime Powers [of Europe] and America," in succession to Captain Lewis E. Wintz.[16]

His service as Naval Attaché ended on 10 July, 1899. He was appointed to the Juno for manœuvres on 11 July[17] and on 23 August went on Half Pay, before being appointed to the Vernon on 20 October to carry out courses and trials of the "Marconi Telegraphic System." The Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth was told that:

This appointment has been made with a view to Captain Jackson imparting to the Officers of the 'Vernon' the results of the experience gained by him during several years of experiments with this system of telegraphy, and also, for the purposes of working out the many small details required for ship fittings of the Marconi apparatus, and establishing a course of instruction for the operators who will be required for working the system.[18]

On 9 December, 1899 Jackson was appointed to H.M.S. Vulcan, for command of the Mediterranean Station torpedo boats. After a September, 1900 inspection, the Commander-in-Chief, Vice-Admiral Sir John A. Fisher wrote, "I cannot speak too highly of this officer's ability & his usefulness in the exercises of the fleet & the excellent use he makes of the resources of the Vulcan." In January 1901, he was called back temporarily to Britain "to consult with Vernon as to Wireless Telegraph apparatus." In June of the same year, Jackson was honoured with election as a Fellow of the Royal Society.[19] Jackson had originally applied for election in January 1899 while serving as a naval attaché in Paris and his application was read before the society in the following month.[20] His application was proposed by William Preece, George Joachim Goschen (First Lord of the Admiralty 1871-1874 and 1895-1900, politician), Sir William Henry White (Naval architect), Arthur Mason Worthington (Master, Royal Naval College, Greenwich), Arnold William Reinold (Professor of Physics, Royal Naval College, Greenwich 1873-1908), Samuel Hawksley Burbury (lawyer and mathematician), and Ettrick William Creak (Superintendent of Compasses, Hydrographic Department, Admiralty 1887-1901) who all supported his application from personal knowledge with physicist Oliver Lodge supporting it from general knowledge. As a result of his appointment as FRS, Jackson gave a lecture the following year in May 1902 entitled On Some Phenomena Affecting the Transmission of Electric Waves over the Surface of the Sea and Earth before the Royal Society, this paper on wireless telegraphy ofcussing on scientific rather than technical aspects of his wireless work and did not discuss the origins of his pioneering work.[21] Instead the paper opened with a brief sentence describing Jackson's wireless system as having originated in 1895 with experiments on the effects of Hertzian waves on imperfect electrical contacts in order to develop a system of naval signalling.

Jackson's citation to FRS read as follows:

Naval Attaché to the British Embassy, Paris. Invented (1886) a practical system of electrically illuminating gun sights for firing at night, which was adopted and used for some years in HM Navy, but has since been replaced by later methods. Proved (1888) that considerable stability is necessary in order that a totally submerged automobile torpedo may maintain a straight course. Has given much attention to the theory and practice of aerial telegraphy. Invented a serviceable apparatus for signalling between ships at sea without wires. Proved that if the Hertzian oscillations are transmitted and received by vertical wires, the distance to which effective signals can be sent tends to vary within limits as the product of the lengths of the wires.

The Royal Society were not the only ones to grant recognition to Jackson; his practical and scientific endeavours were also recognised within the navy and in January, 1902, Admiral Fisher wrote of Jackson:

I cannot speak too highly of this officer. He is a thorough Master of every branch of his profession & equally excels as a practical as well as a scientific officer. It is to be regretted that seniority alone can place him on the Flag List.[22]

On 21 January, 1902, he was appointed to President to serve as Chairman of the Committee on Electrical Equipment, until 9 February. He was appointed to the President on 10 February, 1902, as Assistant Director of Torpedoes (confusingly also known as Assistant Director of Naval Ordnance for a time). On 6 April, 1903 he took command of the battleship Cæsar, which he paid off on 6 October. He took command of the new battleship Duncan on 8 October, 1903.[23] While Captain of Duncan he served on the Mediterranean Committee on Methods of Controlling Gun Fire in Action under the presidency of Rear-Admiral Reginald N. Custance, for which he received Their Lordships' "high appreciation." On 16 September, 1904, he assumed command of Vernon, where he remained only for a few months, having been selected for the position of Third Sea Lord and Controller of the Navy, in succession to Sir William H. May. He was appointed to the Admiralty on 24 December for duty with the Controller, and on 5 January, 1905 was appointed a member of the Committee on Designs. He was appointed Third Sea Lord and Controller of the Navy on 7 February.

Flag Rank

Jackson was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral on 18 October, 1906, vice Durnford.[24] On 9 November he was appointed a Knight Commander in the Royal Victorian Order (K.C.V.O.),[25] and knighted by the King in an investiture at Buckingham Palace on 18 December.[26] On 16 October, 1908, he was appointed Rear-Admiral Commanding the Third Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean. In 1909 the squadron was renamed the Sixth Cruiser Squadron, and he gave up command on 10 October, 1910, arriving back in Britain on the 15th. He had been 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 24 June.[27] In November he succeeded Sir Douglas A. Gamble as Admiralty Representative at the International Conference on Aerial Navigation held in Paris.

On 24 February he was appointed to H.M.S. Terpsichore for command of the Royal Naval War College, Portsmouth. On 15 March he was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral, vice Foote.[28] On 2 July, 1912, he went afloat with the staff of the War College, flying his flag in the Illustrious as Vice-Admiral Commanding the Seventh Battle Squadron during the annual manœuvres. He was superseded at the War College on 28 January, 1913, having been appointed Chief of the Admiralty War Staff on 6 January.

Onset of war

Apparently Jackson was opposed to the continuing escalation of the size of capital ships, telling Admiral Sir George F. King-Hall at the beginning of 1914 that: "He [Jackson] agreed with me that Battleships were getting too big and he had set his face against the 15" guns most determinedly."[29] He was promoted to the rank of Admiral on 10 February, 1914, vice King-Hall.[30] In July, 1914, it was announced that Jackson would succeed Admiral Sir Berkeley Milne as Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet on 10 December.[31] However, when war broke out he was retained for special service at the Admiralty. He was president of the subcommittee of the Committee of Imperial Defence dealing with overseas attack and largely concerned with planning attacks on the German colonies.

In October, 1914, the First Sea Lord, Prince Louis of Battenberg, had been forced to resign following the agitation over his German birth. At an audience on 27 October, King George V mentioned to Churchill Jackson's name as a replacement, but the First Lord replied that "while admitting", in the words of Lord Stamfordham, the King's private secretary, "his [Jackson's] scientific and intellectual capacity [Churchill] did not think he would do."[32] Asquith told Stamfordham that Jackson was "no personality,"[33] and confided to a correspondent that he was a "nonsense" candidate for the post of First Sea Lord.[34] Halpern's explanation that "Jackson no doubt appeared too bland and mild" is unfounded. Goldrick's opinion that Jackson "was colorless and lacked the necessary energy to get the job done" is equally insipid.[35] It is clear that at the time Churchill, and as a consequence Asquith, would accept no one other than Fisher as Battenberg's replacement.

First Sea Lord

Churchill had written to Asquith on 21 May, "I have tried my hand but without success to persuade Sir Arthur Wilson to hold himself at Mr. Balfour's disposition. In these circumstances I wd advise Sir Henry Jackson."[36] In a memorandum of 20 May on the choice of Fisher's successor for Asquith, the Prime Minister's Private Secretary, Maurice Bonham Carter, wrote of Jackson: "Sir Henry Jackson is undoubtedly a possibility worthy of very serious consideration. He has been in the machine since the beginning of the war, his paper work is admirable & he would have the confidence of the Admiralty & I think of the Fleet."[37]

Jackson officially became First Sea Lord on 27 May.[38] There was been much adverse comment on the appointment of Jackson. One of the more sympathetic historians, Mackay, having described Jackson as "scientific, dismal, desk-bound", then claims that there was no "imposing alternative," and that "talent was scarce at the top."[39] The biographer of Captain (later Admiral of the Fleet Sir) Dudley Pound, who served as Additional Naval Assistant to the First Sea Lord, writes without any evidence shown whatsoever that Jackson was "clever but colourless."[40]

Vice-Admiral Sir Frederick T. Hamilton, Second Sea Lord, recounted in his diary an amusing incident from Jackson's visit to Paris in late 1915:

At last Jackson said [to the Minister of Marine] "You talk too much." The Minister said "I suppose you mean I talk too fast." "Not [at] all" said Jackson. "You talk too much." The Frenchman was much surprised and was uncertain how to take it[,] however he took it well and they parted friends.[41]

Hamilton noted in his diary an example of intrigue against Jackson in February, 1916:

He [the King] questioned me very closely about Jackson[,] the 1st Sea Lord[.] I think the politicians between whom and Jackson no love is lost had evidently been blackening his character.

I told him that Jackson was very well and quite up to the job and the government would go a long way before they found a more level headed man for the job.

It is a pity Jackson is so taciturn before the politicians as he does not do justice to himself.[42]

The Permanent Secretary, Greene, noted in December, 1916, in response to a memorandum of Jackson's on Admiralty business, that, "The present First Sea Lord is known to dislike conferences. He had very few as C.O.S. and he has made it plain that he does not at all like them now."[43] Unnumbered folio.</ref>

Murfett's opinion of Jackson's tenure is negative in the extreme but is evidently based on an entirely superficial understanding of Jackson, Balfour, and the rest of the Board.[44]

Later Years

On 4 December Jackson was appointed an Ordinary Member of the First Class, or Knight Grand Cross, in the Military Division of the Order of the Bath (G.C.B.),[45] and was invested with the honour by the King on the same day. Also on 4 December he was appointed President of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich.[46] On 2 April, 1917 he succeeded Sir George Callaghan as First and Principal Naval Aide-de-Camp to the King.[47] Callaghan wrote to Sir Frederick Hamilton at Rosyth, "I went over & saw Jackson yesterday at Greenwich. I believe he is really happier there than at Archway House."[48] On 31 July, 1919, he was promoted Admiral of the Fleet in place of Sir William May, placed on the Retired List.[49]

In 1920 the Lord President of the Council appointed Jackson as Chairman of the Radio Research Board of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. He served as a pall bearer at the ceremonial funeral of the Unknown Soldier on Armistice Day, 1920, marching with Admirals of the Fleet Earl Beatty and Sir Hedworth Meux, Admiral Sir Charles Madden, and General Albert Gatliff of the Royal Marines. On 31 July, 1924, he was placed on the Retired List.[50] He remained active with scientific societies such as the Institution of Electrical Engineers. He was also a vice-president of the Institution of Naval Architects and vice-president of the Seamen's Hospital Society. He was awarded honorary degrees: D.S.C.s from Oxford and Leeds and an L.L.D. from Cambridge. He was also awarded Spanish, Russian, Japanese, and French decorations.

Jackson died of anaemia and chronic nephritis[51] at the age of seventy-five on 14 December, 1929, at his home, Salterns, on Hayling Island, Hampshire. Lady Jackson received the following message from the King:

I learn with sincere regret of the death of Sir Henry Jackson and assure you of my sympathy in your sad loss. Sir Henry will be remembered not only for his distinguished service in the Navy, but also for his devotion to the cause of science and research as a member of the Royal Society.

His funeral took place at Hayling Island Parish Church on 17 December.

See Also


  1. Copy of birth certificate in the Jackson Papers. National Maritime Museum. JAC 1-3.
  2. Births, Deaths, Marriages and Obituaries. The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent (Sheffield, England), Friday, December 06, 1867; pg. 3; Issue 4095.
  3. Births, Deaths, Marriages and Obituaries. The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent (Sheffield, England), Monday, May 09, 1870; pg. 3; Issue 5256.
  4. Births, Deaths, Marriages and Obituaries. The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent (Sheffield, England), Saturday, May 14, 1870; pg. 12; Issue 5261.
  5. "Admiral of the Fleet Sir H. B. Jackson" (Obituaries). The Times. Monday, 16 December, 1929. Issue 45387, col A, p. 19.
  6. Jackson Papers. National Maritime Museum. JAC 1, 2.
  7. "Passing Certificate of Mr. Jackson." Jackson Papers. National Maritime Museum. JAC 3.
  8. The London Gazette: no. 24517. p. 5920. 30 October, 1877.
  9. Paul G. Halpern, 'Jackson, Sir Henry Bradwardine (1855–1929)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2007 accessed 10 Sept 2012
  10. "Naval and Military Intelligence". The Times. Saturday, 2 July, 1887. Issue 32114, col C, p. 12.
  11. "Naval and Military Intelligence". The Times. Tuesday, 3 July, 1888. Issue 32428, col A, p. 10.
  12. "The Naval Manœuvres". The Times. Monday, 15 July, 1889. Issue 32751, col A, p. 4.
  13. The London Gazette: no. 26007. p. 7553. 31 December, 1889.
  14. The London Gazette: no. 26757. p. 3978. 10 July, 1896.
  15. "Naval & Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Tuesday, 29 January, 1897. Issue 35242, col D, p. 8.
  16. "Naval & Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Friday, 12 November, 1897. Issue 35359, col D, p. 8.
  17. Jackson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/38. f. 683.
  18. Admiralty to Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth. 26 October, 1899. The National Archives. ADM 116/523.
  19. The Royal Society. The Royal Society Past Fellows: Jackson; Sir; Henry Bradwardine (1855-1929). http://royalsociety.org/DServe/dserve.exe?dsqIni=Dserve.ini&dsqApp=Archive&dsqCmd=Show.tcl&dsqDb=Persons&dsqPos=16&dsqSearch=%28%28text%29%3D%27jackson%27%29
  20. Royal Society Archives EC/1901/06 – [Fellow Application for] Jackson, Sir Henry Bradwardine (1901). http://royalsociety.org/DServe/dserve.exe?dsqIni=Dserve.ini&dsqApp=Archive&dsqCmd=Show.tcl&dsqSearch=RefNo==%27EC%2F1901%2F06%27&dsqDb=Catalog
  21. Jackson, Henry. On Some Phenomena Affecting the Transmission of Electric Waves over the Surface of the Sea and Earth. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 70, no. 459-466 (1902): 254-72
  22. Jackson Service Record. p. 682.
  23. "Naval & Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Friday, 9 October, 1903. Issue 37207, col B, p. 9.
  24. The London Gazette: no. 27960. p. 7111. 23 October, 1906.
  25. The London Gazette: no. 27965. p. 7552. 9 November, 1906.
  26. "Court Circular" (Court and Social). The Times. Wednesday, 19 December, 1906. Issue 38207, col F, p. 9.
  27. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28388. p. 4475. 24 June, 1910.
  28. The London Gazette: no. 28476. p. 2233. 17 March, 1911.
  29. King-Hall Diary entry for 13 January, 1914.
  30. The London Gazette: no. 28801. p. 1176. 13 February, 1914.
  31. "Second Sea Lord" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Thursday, 23 July, 1914. Issue 40586, col G, p. 10.
  32. Quoted in Gilbert. Winston S. Churchill. III. p. 150.
  33. Stamfordham memorandum. 28 October, 1914. Gilbert. Winston S. Churchill. Volume III Companion Part 1. p. 225.
  34. Asquith to Venetia Stanley. 28 October, 1914. Gilbert. Winston S. Churchill. Volume III Companion Part 1. p. 223.
  35. Goldrick. p. 158.
  36. Quoted in Gilbert. Winston S. Churchill. III. pp. 465-466.
  37. British Library. Balfour Papers. Add. MSS. 49692. f. 151.
  38. ADM 196/38. f. 681.
  39. Mackay. Balfour. pp. 271, 272.
  40. Brodhurst. p. 29.
  41. Diary entry for 19 November, 1915. National Maritime Museum. Hamilton Papers. HTN 106.
  42. Diary entry for 24 February, 1916. National Maritime Museum. Hamilton Papers. HTN 106.
  43. "Notes on the First Sea Lord's Minute of 25/11/15." The National Archives. ADM 116/3453.
  44. Murfett. pp. 91-100.
  45. The London Gazette: no. 29848. p. 11839. 5 December, 1916.
  46. ADM 196/38. f. 681.
  47. The London Gazette: no. 30008. p. 3206. 3 April, 1917.
  48. Letter of 6 April, 1917. Hamilton Papers. National Maritime Museum. HTN/117/A.
  49. The London Gazette: no. 31489. p. 9961. 5 August, 1919.
  50. The London Gazette: no. 32962. p. 5889. 5 August, 1924.
  51. ADM 196/38. f. 681.


  • "Admiral of the Fleet Sir H. B. Jackson" (Obituaries). The Times. Monday, 16 December, 1929. Issue 45387, col A, p. 19.
  • Goldrick, James (1984). The King's Ships Were At Sea: The War in the North Sea August 1914–February 1916. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-334-2.
  • Lambert, Andrew (2010). "The Naval War Course, Some Principles of Naval Warfare and the Origins of 'The British Way in Warfare'". in Neilson, Keith; Kennedy, Greg. The British Way in Warfare: Power and the International System, 1856-1956. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited. ISBN 9780754665939.
  • Murfett, Malcolm H. (1995). Murfett, Malcolm H.. ed. The First Sea Lords: From Fisher to Mountbatten. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. ISBN 0-275-94231-7.


Service Records

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
George Le C. Egerton
Assistant Director of Torpedoes
1902 – 1903
Succeeded by
The Hon. Alexander E. Bethell

Preceded by
Sir William H. May
Third Sea Lord and Controller
1905 – 1908
Succeeded by
Sir John R. Jellicoe

Preceded by
Sir Henry D. Barry
Rear-Admiral Commanding,
Third Cruiser Squadron

1908 – 1909
Succeeded by
Renamed Sixth Cruiser Squadron

Preceded by
Former Third Cruiser Squadron
Rear-Admiral Commanding,
Sixth Cruiser Squadron

1909 – 1910
Succeeded by
Douglas A. Gamble

Preceded by
Lewis Bayly
Vice-Admiral Commanding,
Royal Naval War College

1911 – 1913
Succeeded by
The Hon. Sir Alexander E. Bethell

Preceded by
Ernest C. T. Troubridge
Chief of the Admiralty War Staff
1913 – 1914
Succeeded by
Sir F. C. Doveton Sturdee

Preceded by
The Lord Fisher
First Sea Lord
1915 – 1916
Succeeded by
Sir John R. Jellicoe

Preceded by
Position Vacant
President of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich
1916 – 1919
Succeeded by
Sir William C. Pakenham

Court Appointments
Preceded by
Sir George A. Callaghan
First and Principal
Naval Aide-de-Camp

1917 – 1919
Succeeded by
The Hon. Sir Stanley C. J. Colville

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