Reginald Neville Custance

From The Dreadnought Project
Jump to: navigation, search

Admiral SIR Reginald Neville Custance, G.C.B., K.C.M.G., C.V.O., D.C.L. (OXON), Royal Navy (20 September, 1847 – 30 August, 1935) was an officer of the Royal Navy.


Early Life & Career

Custance was born in Belfast on 20 September, 1847, the eldest son of General William Neville Custance, by his second wife, Mary, eldest daughter of Thomas Meggison, of Walton, Northumberland. He entered the Royal Navy in 1860, being appointed to H.M.S. Britannia at Portsmouth.

He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 6 February, 1868.[1]

Custance was promoted to the rank of Commander with seniority of 31 March, 1878.[2]

He was promoted to the rank of Captain with seniority of 31 December, 1885.[3]

He served as the Naval Attaché at Washington in 1894, when he helped evaluate the Howell Torpedo at the Hotchkiss Company's works at Tiverton, Rhode Island.[4]

Custance was appointed in command of the second class battleship Barfleur on 26 February, 1895.[5]

He was appointed a Naval Aide-de-Camp to Queen Victoria on 16 September, 1897, vice Beresford.[6]

As Director of Naval Intelligence, a Marine officer considered that he was not "a very inspiring leader" because of "his somewhat suspicious nature."[7]

Flag Rank

He was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral with seniority of 1 August, 1899.[8]

For his services in Crete, on 1 January, 1900 Custance was appointed an Ordinary Member of the Third Class, or Companion, of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (C.M.G.).[9]

On the occasion of the King's visit to Malta Custance was appointed a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (C.V.O.) on 21 April, 1903.[10]

Custance was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral on 20 October, 1904, vice Pearson.[11] On the occasion of the King's birthday he was appointed an Ordinary Member of the Second Class, or Knight Commander, in the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (K.C.M.G.) on 9 November, 1904.[12]

In late 1907 the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Tweedmouth, offered Custance the command of either the Plymouth (Devonport) or China Stations. He refused the former as being "of such little importance that I should not consider it my duty to accept it," and stated that:

Unless there is something exceptional in the condition of affairs in the Far East I should prefer not to go to China but to remain in my present post for the two years mentioned when I received the appointment.[13]

Upon Tweedmouth's departure from the Admiralty in 1908 Custance wrote to him, and rather than just sympathise launched into a tract on naval affairs which is reproduced below:

My opposition to the Admiralty has been professional and not political and I have always recognised and sympathised with the difficulties against what both your Lordship and Mr. Robertson had to contend.

Several of the points for which I have been contending have been already accepted, but I fear the evil effects of the policy initiated by the administration preceeding will not be eradicated for many years.

The ruinous financial effect of the shipbuilding policy initiated by the Dreadnought and Invincible will remain as also will the pernicious influence on the minds of the rising generation of, as I believe, wrong strategical and tactical conceptions.

You will be glad to view these questions from a distance in future I venture to think.[14]

On 18 May, 1908, he was promoted to the rank of Admiral, vice Jeffreys.[15] On the occasion of the King's birthday he was appointed an Ordinary Member of the Second Class, or Knight Commander, of the Military Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (K.C.B.) on 26 June.[16]

Despite his longstanding emnity towards Custance, Lord Fisher suggested offering him the Devonport command again in a letter to newly-appointed First Lord Winston Churchill in 1911, calling it a "d—ed good thing" for him.[17]

In accordance with the provisions of the Order in Council of 22 February, 1870, he was placed on the Retired List on 20 September, 1912.[18]

On the occasion of the King's birthday he 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.) on 3 June, 1913.[19]

He died at Broadclyst, Devon on 30 August, 1935 and was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium on 4 September.[20]

His obituarist in The Times wrote of him:

Though modest and retiring in demeanour, he impressed all who knew him with a sense of power, capacity, and leadership, and he never failed to secure the affectionate regard and admiration of all who served with or under him. He had always good reasons to give for the opinions he held so stoutly, which were obviously based on a rare mastery of the professional and other topics he discussed.


  • "Admiral Sir R. Custance" (Obituaries). The Times. Monday, 2 September, 1935. Issue 47158, col B, p. 12.
  • Allen, Matthew (February 1992). "Rear Admiral Reginald Custance: Director of Naval Intelligence 1899-1902". The Mariner's Mirror 78 (1): pp. 61-75.
  • Roskill, Stephen (1970). Hankey: Man of Secrets. Volume I 1877-1918. London: Collins. ISBN 0-00-211327-9.

Service Records

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
Assistant Director of Naval Intelligence, Mobilisation Section
1 Feb, 1887[21]
Succeeded by
Tynte F. Hammill
Preceded by
Captain of H.M.S. Barfleur
26 Feb, 1895[22]
Succeeded by
The Hon. Stanley C. J. Colville
Preceded by
Lewis A. Beaumont
Director of Naval Intelligence
20 Mar, 1899
Succeeded by
H.S.H. Prince Louis of Battenberg
Preceded by
Burges Watson
Second-in-Command, Mediterranean Station
15 Nov, 1902[23]
Succeeded by
Sir Harry T. Grenfell
Preceded by
The Hon. Sir Assheton G. Curzon-Howe
Second-in-Command, Channel Fleet
23 Feb, 1907[24]
Succeeded by
Sir A. Berkeley Milne, Bart.


  1. The London Gazette: no. 23350. p. 599. 7 February, 1868.
  2. The London Gazette: no. 24569. p. 2394. 5 April, 1878.
  3. The London Gazette: no. 25547. p. 115. 8 January, 1886.
  4. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1894. p. 229.
  5. Custance Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/38. f. 275.
  6. The London Gazette: no. 26892. p. 5162. 17 September, 1897.
  7. Roskill. Hankey: Man of Secrets. I. p. 61.
  8. The London Gazette: no. 27119. p. 5814. 22 September, 1899.
  9. The London Gazette: no. 27154. p. 286. 16 January, 1900.
  10. The London Gazette: no. 27560. p. 3525. 2 June, 1903.
  11. The London Gazette: no. 27726. p. 6724. 21 October, 1904.
  12. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 27732. p. 7256. 9 November, 1904.
  13. Letter of 29 October, 1907. Tweedmouth Papers. National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth. MSS 254/638.
  14. Letter of 17 April, 1908. MSS 254/876.
  15. The London Gazette: no. 28140. p. 3883. 26 May, 1908.
  16. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28151. p. 4641. 26 June, 1908.
  17. Letter of 10 November, 1911. Churchill. Companion Volume II Part 2. p. 1328.
  18. The London Gazette: no. 28647. p. 7022. 24 September, 1912.
  19. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28724. p. 3903. 3 June, 1913.
  20. "Deaths" (Deaths). The Times. Tuesday, 3 September, 1935. Issue 47159, col A, p. 1.
  21. Custance Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/38. f. 275.
  22. Custance Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/38. f. 275.
  23. The Navy List. (February, 1903). p. 216.
  24. Custance Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/38. f. 275.

Personal tools
Google AdSense