John Alexander Duncan

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Commander John Alexander Duncan, C.B., R.N. (22 March, 1878 – 13 August, 1943) was an officer of the Royal Navy.

Life & Career

Out of the sixty successful candidates for cadetships in the Royal Navy examined on 1 December, 1891, Duncan came second, with 1,684 marks.[1]

On 15 March, 1897 Duncan was appointed to the training brig Sealark.[2] On 15 January, 1898, he was promoted to Lieutenant.[3]

On 5 July, 1898 Duncan joined the battleship Howe for a summer cruise.[4] On 15 August, Lieutenant Duncan was appointed to the Dido.[5] He was appointed to the corvette Volage on 13 April, 1899.[6]

Gunnery Officer

Duncan was appointed to Excellent on 30 September, 1899, to qualify in Gunnery duties. On 9 July, 1901, he was appointed to the Junior Staff of Excellent, and on 16 July was appointed in command of Bullfinch for the annual manœuvres.

On 9 July, 1901, Duncan was appointed to the Excellent for service on the Junior Staff.[7] On 1 October he was allowed, under Article 799 of the King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions, to take a three months' course in mathematics at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich,[8] presumably on the same course in advanced mathematics that Lieutenant Frederic C. Dreyer took.[Inference] He qualified for honours and Their Lordships' appreciation was expressed.[9]

Duncan was appointed Lieutenant (G) of Benbow in the Home Squadron on 7 July, 1902. He was appointed Gunnery Officer of the battleship Cæsar in the Mediterranean on 4 June, 1903. On 8 October he was appointed Lieutenant (G) of Duncan. From 1 August, he was appointed to that ship as an interpreter in Russian.[10]

On 11 April, 1905, he was temporarily appointed Lieutenant (G) of Ramillies, and on 26 April was appointed to London as Lieutenant (G) and (I) in Russian.[11]

Whatever his other qualities, he was undoubtedly a polyglot: between 1896 and April 1907, Duncan qualified as an interpreter in six languages: Swahili, Italian, Russian, German, Spanish, and Turkish.[12]

In March, 1907, Duncan was recommended by the Director of Naval Ordnance and Torpedoes, Captain Reginald H. S. Bacon, for the position of Proof and Experimental Officer in the Research Department at the War Office.[13] Duncan was appointed to Excellent, additional, from 6 April.[14] The Superintendent of Research, Major J. H. Mansell, reported to the Army's Director of Artillery that:

Lieutenant Duncan, R.N., is an able and zealous officer.
Experience of course counts for much in many of the problems which occur in the work at the butts, and though he has shown great aptitude for the work his time has been short.
I think, however, that he is broad-minded enough to to avail himself of the experience of the staff which exists, until he has felt his way more. Under such conditions I consider he is suitable for the appointment of Proof and Experimental Officer, that appointment I take it being the control of work at the proof butts.[15]

He was appointed Proof and Experimental Officer in the Research Department from 21 June, 1907.[16]

He was appointed Superintendent of Research at the War Office for four years on 1 April, 1910, on the understanding that he would give up further sea service.[17]

On the strength of a conversation with Admiral Dreyer in 1946, Professor Marder wrote in 1960 that:

[I]t seems that the person mainly responsible for the shell deficiency was an officer in the Department of the D.N.O., Lieutenant-Commander John A. Duncan. He was, in 1910—1913, one of the naval officers employed on inspection and experimental duties under the War Office. In 1914 he served as Chief Inspector of Naval Ordnance, with the acting rank of Commander.[18]

Marder later wrote, "The statement is not fair, since I have only the Admiral's [Dreyer's] opinion, without supporting facts, and were he alive, moreover, he might wish to qualify the charge."[19]

Great War & After

On 4 July, 1914, Duncan was given the rank of Acting Commander and appointed Chief Inspector of Naval Ordnance[20] in succession to Francis G. Eyre. On 3 June, 1915, he was appointed a Companion in the Civil Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (C.B.).[21]

He was placed on the Retired List with the rank of Commander on 11 April, 1919.[22]

Duncan died on 13 August, 1943 after a short illness at Parkhill, Arbroath. He left a widow, Dorothy, and two daughters, Ursula and Frances.[23]

Bibliography

  • Marder, Arthur J. (1961). From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, The Royal Navy in the Fisher Era, 1904-1919: The Road to War, 1904-1914. Volume I. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Marder, Arthur J. (1978). From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, The Royal Navy in the Fisher Era, 1904-1919: Jutland and After, May 1916–December 1916. Volume III (Second ed.). London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192158414.

Service Records


Footnotes

  1. "Cadetships in the Royal Navy" (News). The Times. Tuesday, 22 December, 1891. Issue 33514, col B, p. 6.
  2. "Naval & Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Wednesday, 24 February, 1897. Issue 35135, col C, p. 12.
  3. The Navy List. (March, 1913). p. 23.
  4. "Naval & Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Wednesday, 20 July, 1898. Issue 35573, col C, p. 10.
  5. "Naval & Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Monday, 1 August, 1898. Issue 35583, col E, p. 7.
  6. "Naval & Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Thursday, 13 April, 1899. Issue 35802, col C, p. 10.
  7. "Naval & Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Saturday, 29 June, 1901. Issue 36494, col F, p. 9.
  8. ADM 196/141. f. 617.
  9. ADM 196/141. f. 617.
  10. ADM 196/44. f. 410.
  11. Duncan Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/141. f. 617.
  12. The Navy List. (July, 1911). p. 432a.
  13. Principal Questions Dealt with by the Director of Naval Ordnance, 1908-1911. G. 4602/07 of 18 March, 1907. f. 137.
  14. The National Archives. ADM 196/141. f. 617.
  15. Principal Questions Dealt with by the Director of Naval Ordnance, 1908-1911. G. 7723/07. f. 139.
  16. Principal Questions Dealt with by the Director of Naval Ordnance, 1908-1911. G. 14427/07 of 8 August, 1907. f. 140.
  17. ADM 196/141. f. 617.
  18. Marder. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. I. p. 418.
  19. Marder. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. III. p. 206.
  20. The Navy List. (December, 1914). p. 109.
  21. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29180. p. 5325. 3 June, 1915.
  22. The London Gazette: no. 31308. p. 5202. 25 April, 1919.
  23. "Deaths" (Deaths). The Times. Tuesday, 17 August, 1943. Issue 49626, col A, p. 1.
  24. The Navy List. (December, 1914). p. 109.