Reginald Neville Custance
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.
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.).
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.
Custance was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral on 20 October, 1904, vice Pearson. 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.
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.
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.
On 18 May, 1908, he was promoted to the rank of Admiral, vice Jeffreys. 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.
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.
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.
He died at Broadclyst, Devon on 30 August, 1935 and was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium on 4 September.
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.
- ↑ The London Gazette: no. 23350. p. 599. 7 February, 1868.
- ↑ The London Gazette: no. 24569. p. 2394. 5 April, 1878.
- ↑ The London Gazette: no. 25547. p. 115. 8 January, 1886.
- ↑ Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1894. p. 229.
- ↑ Custance Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/38. f. 275.
- ↑ The London Gazette: no. 26892. p. 5162. 17 September, 1897.
- ↑ Roskill. Hankey: Man of Secrets. I. p. 61.
- ↑ The London Gazette: no. 27119. p. 5814. 22 September, 1899.
- ↑ The London Gazette: no. 27154. p. 286. 16 January, 1900.
- ↑ The London Gazette: no. 27560. p. 3525. 2 June, 1903.
- ↑ The London Gazette: no. 27726. p. 6724. 21 October, 1904.
- ↑ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 27732. p. 7256. 9 November, 1904.
- ↑ Letter of 29 October, 1907. Tweedmouth Papers. National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth. MSS 254/638.
- ↑ Letter of 17 April, 1908. MSS 254/876.
- ↑ The London Gazette: no. 28140. p. 3883. 26 May, 1908.
- ↑ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28151. p. 4641. 26 June, 1908.
- ↑ Letter of 10 November, 1911. Churchill. Companion Volume II Part 2. p. 1328.
- ↑ The London Gazette: no. 28647. p. 7022. 24 September, 1912.
- ↑ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28724. p. 3903. 3 June, 1913.
- ↑ "Deaths" (Deaths). The Times. Tuesday, 3 September, 1935. Issue 47159, col A, p. 1.
- "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.
- The National Archives. ADM 196/86.
- The National Archives. ADM 196/38.
- The National Archives. ADM 196/36.
- The National Archives. ADM 196/17.
| Preceded by
Lewis A. Beaumont
| Director of Naval Intelligence
1899 – 1902
| Succeeded by|
H.S.H. Prince Louis of Battenberg
| Preceded by
1902 – 1904
| Succeeded by|
Harry T. Grenfell
| Preceded by
The Hon. Sir Assheton G. Curzon-Howe
| Second-in-Command, Channel Fleet
1907 – 1908
| Succeeded by|
Sir A. Berkeley Milne, Bart.