Sydney Robert Fremantle

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Admiral SIR Sydney Fremantle, G.C.B., M.V.O., Royal Navy (16 November, 1867 – 29 April, 1958) was an officer of the Royal Navy during the First World War. He is chiefly remembered for his command of the First Battle Squadron of the Atlantic Fleet at the time of the Scuttling of the High Sea Fleet in 1919.

Contents

Family Background

Sydney Robert Fremantle's great-grandfather was Admiral Sir Thomas Francis Fremantle (1765-1819), a friend of Nelson who had commanded Neptune, third ship in the weather division at Trafalgar. Sir Thomas died in 1819 while in command of the Mediterranean Fleet at Naples. Fremantle's grandfather was Thomas Francis Fremantle, First Baron Cottesloe (1798-1890), a leading Tory politician who in retirement settled at Swanbourne, Bucks.[1] Admiral Sir Thomas Fremantle had bought a property later known as "The Old House" in Swanbourne, which had passed on his death to the First Baron Cottesloe. Cottesloe then built a large house (now Swanbourne House School). A third house in the village known as "The Cottage" was the home of Fremantle's great-uncle Stephen who had retired from the Royal Navy in 1860 with the rank of Captain. Upon Stephen's death The Cottage passed to Fremantle's father, Edmund Robert Fremantle, then serving on the Australian Station in the Navy.[2]

Early Life & Career

In 1877 Fremantle was sent to Mr. Bartholomew's School at Park House, Reading, a prepatory school for Marlborough. He believed that his mother intended him to join the Royal Engineers. He spent three years at Park House and had, in his own words, "very pleasant recollections of the school. The education was, I suppose, good, though its classical foundation was of little value to me in after life, and we were taught only a minimum of mathematics, very little history or geography, no literature, and no science of any description."[3] Having decided at the age of twelve to follow his father into the Royal Navy, Fremantle was sent to Burney's Royal Academy at Gosport. "It was a rough place, but the cramming was good, the masters were genial and capable, and we boys had a pretty free hand out of school." He passed the examination for entry into H.M.S. Britannia first out of batch, and with his term of twenty-three cadets entered Britannia in January, 1881. The Captain was his second cousin, Richard Wells, "whom we found tolerant, easy-going, and kind-hearted."[4]

On 18 July, 1889, he was appointed in command of the first-class torpedo boat T.B. 66 for manoeuvres.[5]

Fremantle was promoted to the rank of Commander on 30 June, 1899.[6]

Captain

Fremantle was promoted to the rank of Captain on 30 June, 1903.[7] On 20 September he was appointed in command of the battleship Albion as Flag Captain to Rear-Admiral The Hon. Assehton G. Curzon-Howe, Second-in-Command on the China Station. He was superseded in Albion on 1 August, 1905, and on 7 November went on a Signal Course. He was appointed in command of the battleship Cæsar on 5 December, again as Flag Captain to Curzon-Howe, now Vice-Admiral Second-in-Command of the Channel Fleet.[8]

On the occasion of the King's cruise in the Mediterranean Fremantle was appointed a Member of the Fourth Class of the Royal Victorian Order (M.V.O.) on 4 May, 1909.[9]

He was appointed Captain of Dreadnought on 28 March, 1911.[10]

He was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral on 7 December, 1913, vice Keppel.[11] He was forty-six years old when promoted to Flag Rank.

Admiralty Service

War Division

Signal Committee

Desirous of an appointment afloat, Fremantle arranged through the Naval Secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty, his friend Commodore, First Class Allan Everett, that a request he had written to that effect be put on top of Churchill's office basket the next morning. The paper was returned, with an inscription in a corner in red ink that read: "Admiral Fremantle has done well as Head of the Signal Division, and deserves to be given a chance to be shot at." Soon after, Everett visited Fremantle in his room, and offered him the position of Second-in-Command of the Third Battle Squadron if he could be ready in forty-eight hours, or Second-in-Command of the First Battle Squadron if he could wait six weeks. Fremantle chose in favour of what he called the "bird in hand" and in forty-eight hours was on his way to Rosyth to join his flagship, Hibernia in the Third Battle Squadron.[12]

Sea Service during the First World War

Third Battle Squadron

Eastern Mediterranean Squadron

Ninth Cruiser Squadron

Second Cruiser Squadron

Fremantle on the Northern Patrol as Rear-Admiral Commanding, Second Cruiser Squadron, 1917.

At the end of 1916 Fremantle was asked whether he wanted to remain in his present position or be sent to join the Grand Fleet. He replied that he wanted to join the Grand Fleet, "without hesitation" in his own words. A fortnight later Rear-Admiral Thomas D. L. Sheppard relieved him on 28 December, and Fremantle "had an enjoyable four days' rest at the hospitable house on the hill of the Colonial Secretary and his wife … My staff came home with me and we had a most comfortable and uneventful passage home in the Balmoral Castle, which chanced to be passing, and in which the suite de luxe provided the only cabins available." Upon returning to Britain, he spent two days in London buying new cold-weather gear to replace that lost in the Russell. he then journeyed to Scapa Flow, where he had an interview with the Commander-in-Chief, Sir David Beatty. He took command of the Second Cruiser Squadron on 14 January, 1917, flying his flag in Minotaur, which met him in Scapa and took him to the squadron's base in the Shetland Islands.[13]

FREMANTLE Sydney R MVO Rear Admiral RN 78A019 Commanding 2nd Cruiser Sqdn. C-in-C Grand Fleet 18.04.19 Gazetted
Action between H.M.S. Achilles & German Raider
Mentioned in Despatches That the Raider was intercepted and brought to action is the result of much patient work under trying conditions. Much credit is due to Rear Admiral Sydney R. Fremantle for his conduct of the Second Cruiser Squadron Patrol.[14]

On the occasion of the King's birthday he was appointed an Ordinary Member of the Third Class, or Companion, in the Military Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (C.B.) on 4 June, 1917.[15]

Aegean Squadron

Further Sea Service

Board of Admiralty

Fremantle was appointed a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty and Deputy Chief of Naval Staff in succession to Rear-Admiral Sir Henry F. Oliver on 10 January, 1918. He was granted the rank of Acting Vice-Admiral on 1 October.[16]

On 1 January, 1919, Fremantle was confirmed in the rank of Vice-Admiral.[17] On the same day he was appointed an Additional Member of the Second Class, or Knight Commander, in the Military Division of the Order of the Bath (K.C.B.).[18]

First Battle Squadron

High Sea Fleet

For reasons unknown, when referring to Fremantle's handling of the scuttling, Arthur Marder sees fit to refer to him as "a flag officer of no extraordinary ability."[19]

Mediterranean Sojourn

Portsmouth Command

Fremantle had been promoted to the rank of Admiral on 15 November, 1922, vice Tudor.[20]

Retirement

Having stood down at Portsmouth, Fremantle decided to settle in his London flat so as to be near to his father, then in his ninetieth year. His wife Leila, who was in poor health, remained at their home in Cosham. Being only fifty-eight years old, but with no prospect of further service in the Navy, the Admiralty put pressure on him to retire. Fremantle presented himself to the First Lord of the Admiralty, then Sir William Bridgeman, and informed him that he did not wish to retire from the Service in the possible event of war, and also that he wished to equal the example of his father and of his great-uncle, who both reached the top of the Admirals' list.[21] Upon the death of Admiral of the Fleet Sir John M. de Robeck, Bart., and the subsequent elevation of Sir Henry F. Oliver to Admiral of the Fleet, the Admiralty sent Fremantle an advance copy of The Navy List showing him at the head of the list of Admirals. His goal reached, he expressed his wish to retire, but for it to be announced as being "at his own request" and not in order to further the advancement of junior officers.[22] He was placed on the Retired List on 5 April, 1928, "at his own request."[23]

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, 1929.[24]

In 1949 Fremantle published his memoirs, My Naval Career: 1880—1928. Naval historian Arther Marder, with whom Fremantle corresponded in his later years, wrote of the memoirs, "One of the more informative of naval autobiographies, with excellent descriptions of leading personalities."[25]

Mention in Despatches

FREMANTLE Sydney R MVO Rear Admiral RN 78A019

Commanding 2nd Cruiser Sqdn. C-in-C Grand Fleet 18.04.19 Gazetted

Action between H.M.S. Achilles & German Raider Mentioned in Despatches

That the Raider was intercepted and brought to action is the result of much patient work under trying conditions. Much credit is due to Rear Admiral Sydney R. Fremantle for his conduct of the Second Cruiser Squadron Patrol.

Who was Who

FREMANTLE, Admiral Sir Sydney Robert GCB, 1929 (KCB, 1919; CB 1917); MVO 1909

Born 16 Nov. 1867; e s of late Admiral Hon. Sir E. R. Fremantle, GCB, GCVO; m 1st, 1896, Leila Hope (d 1930), d of late Lieut David Delvin Fremantle, RN; two s two d; 2nd, 1931, Geraldine, widow of Lt-Col J. S. FitzGerald and d of Col Cooke-Collis, CMG, DL; died 29 April 1958

CAREER Entered RN 1881; Lieut 1887; Comdr 1899; Capt. 1903; Rear-Adm. 1913; Vice-Adm. 1919; Adm. 1922; served Dardanelles, 1915 (despatches); Commanded 9th Cruiser Squadron, 1916; 2nd Cruiser Squadron, 1917; Ægean Squadron, 1917–18; Deputy Chief of Naval Staff, 1918–19; Vice-Admiral commanding First Battle Squadron, 1919–21; Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth Station, 1923–26; retired list, 1928; is a Commander of Legion of Honour, Commander of the Order of the Redeemer of Greece, a Commander of the Order of St Maurice and St Lazarus of Italy, and has the 2nd Class of the Order of the Rising Sun of Japan, and the US of America Distinguished Service Medal; awarded Beaufort Testimonial, 1888; Goodenough Gold Medal, 1888

PUBLICATIONS My Naval Career, 1880–1928, 1949; part author Nautical Terms and Phrases in French and English; article on Naval Ordnance in Ency. Brit.; Magazine and Press articles on Naval subjects

RECREATIONS Golf, dowsing

CLUB Naval and Military

ADDRESS 30 Bullingham Mansions, Church Street, Kensington, W8 Western 2071

Who was Not

See Also

Bibliography

  • "Adml. Sir Sydney Fremantle" (Obituaries). The Times. Wednesday, 30 April, 1958. Issue 54138, col B, p. 14.
  • Fremantle, Admiral Sir Sydney Robert, G.C.B., M.V.O. (1949). My Naval Career: 1880—1928. London: Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers) Ltd.
  • Marder, Arthur J. (1970). From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, The Royal Navy in the Fisher Era, 1904-1919: Victory and Aftermath, January 1918–June 1919. Volume V. London: Oxford University Press..
  • Parry, Ann (1971). The Admirals Fremantle: 1788-1920. London: Chatto & Windus. ISBN 070111603X.

Papers

Service Records

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
Charles D. Granville
Captain of H.M. T.B. 66
18 Jul, 1889[26] – ?
Succeeded by
Philip J. Stopford
Preceded by
Thomas H. M. Jerram
Captain of H.M.S. Albion
20 Sep, 1903[27] – ?
Succeeded by
Frederick S. Pelham
Preceded by
Archibald P. Stoddart
Captain of H.M.S. Cæsar
5 Dec, 1905[28] – ?
Succeeded by
Archibald P. Stoddart
Preceded by
Herbert L. Heath
Captain of H.M.S. Lancaster
7 Apr, 1908[29] – ?
Succeeded by
Hugh H. D. Tothill
Preceded by
Herbert W. Richmond
Captain of H.M.S. Dreadnought
28 Mar, 1911[30] – ?
Succeeded by
Wilmot S. Nicholson
Preceded by
John M. Rose
Assistant to the Chief of the Admiralty War Staff
Sep, 1914 – ?
Succeeded by
Harry D. Farquharson
Preceded by
Montague E. Browning
Rear-Admiral, Second-in-Command, Third Battle Squadron
27 Jul, 1915[31] – ?
Succeeded by
Cecil F. Dampier
Preceded by
Arthur H. Christian
Rear-Admiral, Second in Command, Eastern Mediterranean Squadron
Feb, 1916 – ?
Succeeded by
Arthur Hayes-Sadler
Preceded by
Archibald G. H. W. Moore
Rear-Admiral Commanding, Ninth Cruiser Squadron
30 Aug, 1916[32] – ?
Succeeded by
Thomas D. L. Sheppard
Preceded by
Herbert L. Heath
Rear-Admiral Commanding, Second Cruiser Squadron
14 Jan, 1917[33] – ?
Succeeded by
Reginald G. O. Tupper
as Vice-Admiral Commanding, Second Cruiser Squadron
Preceded by
Cecil F. Thursby
as Vice-Admiral Commanding, Eastern Mediterranean Squadron
Rear-Admiral Commanding, Ægean Squadron
13 Aug, 1917[34] – ?
Succeeded by
Arthur Hayes-Sadler
Preceded by
Henry F. Oliver
Deputy Chief of Naval Staff
10 Jan, 1918[35] – ?
Succeeded by
James A. Fergusson
Preceded by
Charles E. Madden
Vice-Admiral Commanding, First Battle Squadron
1 May, 1919[36] – ?
Succeeded by
William C. M. Nicholson
Preceded by
Somerset A. Gough-Calthorpe
Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth Station
28 Apr, 1923[37] – ?
Succeeded by
Osmond de B. Brock

Footnotes

  1. Fremantle. My Naval Career. p. 13.
  2. Fremantle. My Naval Career. p. 14.
  3. Fremantle. My Naval Career. pp. 18-19.
  4. Fremantle. My Naval Career. p. 19.
  5. "The Naval Manœuvres". The Times. Monday, 15 July, 1889. Issue 32751, col A, p. 4.
  6. The London Gazette: no. 27099. p. 4345. 14 July, 1899.
  7. The London Gazette: no. 27572. p. 4187. 3 July, 1903.
  8. ADM 196/42. f. 473.
  9. The London Gazette: no. 12141. p. 517. 11 May, 1909.
  10. Fremantle Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 473.
  11. The London Gazette: no. 28780. p. 9083. 9 December, 1913.
  12. Fremantle. My Naval Career. pp. 176-177.
  13. Fremantle. My Naval Career. p. 215.
  14. Information courtesy of Dennis a Feary.
  15. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30111. p. 5454. 4 June, 1917.
  16. ADM 196/42. f. 293.
  17. The London Gazette: no. 31104. p. 199. 3 January, 1919.
  18. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 31099. p. 106. 1 January, 1919.
  19. Marder. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. V. p. 284.
  20. The London Gazette: no. 32769. p. 8213. 21 November, 1922.
  21. Fremantle. My Naval Career. p. 349.
  22. Fremantle. My Naval Career. pp. 349-350.
  23. The London Gazette: no. 33376. p. 2740. 17 April, 1928.
  24. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 33501. p. 3667. 3 June, 1929.
  25. Marder. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. V. p. 376.
  26. "The Naval Manœuvres". The Times. Monday, 15 July, 1889. Issue 32751, col A, p. 4.
  27. Fremantle Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. possibly in f. 473.
  28. Fremantle Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 473.
  29. The Navy List. (October, 1908). p. 338.
  30. Fremantle Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 473.
  31. Squadrons and Senior Naval Officers in Existence on 11th November, 1918. p. 4.
  32. Squadrons and Senior Naval Officers in Existence on 11th November, 1918. f. 20.
  33. Squadrons and Senior Naval Officers in Existence on 11th November, 1918. f. 13.
  34. Squadrons and Senior Naval Officers in Existence on 11th November, 1918. Unnumbered folio.
  35. Fremantle Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 293.
  36. Fremantle Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. p. 473.
  37. "Naval and Military" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Saturday, 28 April, 1923. Issue 43327, col G, p. 15.

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