William Christopher Pakenham

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Admiral Sir William C. Pakenham, as Vice-Admiral, 1919.
© National Portrait Gallery, London.

Admiral SIR William Christopher Pakenham, G.C.B.K.C.M.G.K.C.V.O., R.N. (10 July, 1861 – 28 July, 1933) was an officer of the Royal Navy.


Early Life & Career

William Christopher Pakenham was born in London on 10 July, 1861, the son of Captain the Honourable Thomas Alexander Pakenham, Royal Navy, and Sophia, daughter of Sir Tatton Sykes. His paternal grandfather was Thomas Pakenham, Third Earl of Longford. He entered the Royal Navy and was appointed to the training ship Britannia on 15 July, 1874. He was discharged to the Duke of Wellington on 22 July, 1876, and appointed to the battleship Minotaur on 24 August. On 4 October he was appointed to the turret ship Monarch on the Mediterranean Station, and was rated Midshipman on 21 October. He was appointed to the frigate Raleigh on 19 May, 1877. While in the Raleigh he, with a coxswain, saved the life of an able seaman who fell overboard as the ship was leaving Lanarca, Cyprus. On 18 September, 1879 he was appointed to the sloop Cruiser. On 12 March, 1880 he was appointed to the Mediterranean flag ship Alexandra, in which he was senior midshipman, and on 21 October, 1880, he was appointed Acting Sub-Lieutenant, having obtained a First Class Certificate in Seamanship, with 940 marks. He was appointed to Excellent on 23 October to study for examinations for the rank of Lieutenant. He joined the Royal Naval College, Greenwich in December, and remained there until August, 1881.

On 28 January, 1882, he was appointed to the Lion for service in the training brig Liberty. On 8 December he was appointed to the Alexandra in the Mediterranean.[1]

Pakenham was appointed to the Canada on the North America and West Indies Station as senior member of the gun-room on 1 May, 1883.[2] A junior midshipman in the mess, Sydney R. Fremantle, later suggested that Pakenham had been chosen for the task by the Reverend Canon Dalton on account of H.R.H. Prince George being appointed to the ship. Fremantle also wrote of Pakenham:

He ruled us - one other sub-lieut., a clerk, & 7 midshipmen, as a benevolent autocrat, & very strictly as regards personal appearance, demeanour & good manners. In the hottest West Indies weather we were not allowed in the mess without a jacket, while the midshipmen in the other corvettes wore, after working hours, a vest & a towel![3]


He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 21 October, 1883.[4]

On 12 November, 1884, Pakenham was appointed to Nelson as Flag Lieutenant to George Tryon, Commander-in-Chief on the Australian Station.[5]

In the Jubilee Review of 1887, Pakenham was appointed to Vernon for command of T.B. 29, commanding her on manoeuvres from 1 July.[6]

Pakenham was promoted to the rank of Commander on 30 June, 1896.[7]


Pakenham was promoted to the rank of Captain on 30 June, 1903.[8] On 30 September he was appointed to President for a War Course, for which he was awarded a First Class on 28 December. That day he was appointed to the Naval Intelligence Department on Committee Pay & Allowances. On 20 January, 1904 he was appointed to the battleship Glory on the China Station for Special Service, and on 14 March he became Naval Attaché for China and Japan. In this capacity, he found himself present at the Battle of Tsushima aboard Asahi.[Citation needed] His appointment as attaché ended on 1 January, 1906.

On 31 August, 1906, he was appointed in command of the armoured cruiser Antrim[9] in the Second Cruiser Squadron. He was superseded in command on 1 September, 1908, and on 8 September again took command of the his old ship Glory in the Mediterranean.[10] On 29 March, 1909 he was given command of the second-class battleship Triumph.[Citation needed] On 19 January, 1910, he was appointed to Vivid for command of the new dreadnought battleship Collingwood,[11] building at Devonport Royal Dockyard. He commissioned her on 19 April, and was superseded in command on 1 December, 1911. On 5 December, he was appointed Fourth Sea Lord on the Board of Admiralty.

Flag Rank

Pakenham was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral on 4 June, 1913, vice Jerram.[12] On 19 December he hoisted his flag in Boadicea as Rear-Admiral Commanding the Third Cruiser Squadron, and transferred it to Antrim the following day.

Great War

As ordered by First Lord of the Admiralty,[13] Pakenham assumed command of the Second Battle Cruiser Squadron on 7 March, 1915.[14]

On 15 September, 1916 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.) dated 31 May.[15]

He was appointed in command of the Battle Cruiser Force in November 1916, assuming command on the 29th.[16]

He was confirmed in the rank of Vice-Admiral on 1 September, 1918.[17]


On 1 January, 1919, Pakenham was appointed a Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (K.C.M.G.). He struck his flag in command of the Battle Cruiser Fleet on 28 February and on 1 August was appointed President of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich.[18]

He was appointed Commander-in-Chief on the North America and West Indies Station on 25 October, 1920, and was promoted to the rank of Admiral on 6 April, 1922, vice Phipps Hornby.[19] He was superseded in command of the North American station on 1 January, 1923.[20] He was placed on the Retired List, at his own request, on 1 March, 1926.[21]


  1. ADM 196/20. f. 238.
  2. ADM 196/42. f. 13.
  3. Fremantle to Baddeley. Letter of 4 November, 1945. Baddeley Papers. National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth. MSS 264.
  4. The London Gazette: no. 25282. p. 5090. 26 October, 1883.
  5. The Navy List (September, 1885). p. 225.
  6. "Naval & Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Saturday, 2 July, 1887. Issue 32114, col C, p. 12.
  7. The London Gazette: no. 26757. p. 3978. 10 July, 1896.
  8. The London Gazette: no. 27572. p. 4187. 3 July, 1903.
  9. Pakenham Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 13.
  10. The Navy List (October, 1908). p. 321.
  11. Pakenham Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 13.
  12. The London Gazette: no. 28726. p. 3992. 6 June, 1913.
  13. S-1320b Signal dated 3.6.15 in Jackson Papers at NMM.
  14. Squadrons and Senior Naval Officers in Existence on 11th November, 1918. f. 10.
  15. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29751. p. 9070. 15 September, 1916.
  16. Supplement to the Monthly Navy List. (January, 1917). p. 6.
  17. The London Gazette: no. 30887. p. 10549. 6 September, 1918.
  18. ADM 196/42. f. 311.
  19. The London Gazette: no. 32672. p. 3030. 14 April, 1922.
  20. ADM 196/42. f. 311.
  21. The London Gazette: no. 33139. p. 1650. 5 March, 1926.


  • "Admiral Sir William Pakenham" (Obituaries). The Times. Monday, 31 July, 1933. Issue 46510, col A, p. 7.
  • Lowis, Commander Geoffrey L. (1959). Fabulous Admirals and Some Naval Fragments. London: Putnam.



  • 1920 William Nicholson portrait in the possession of the Imperial War Museum. Catalogue Number 3142.

Service Records

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
Charles E. Madden
Fourth Sea Lord
1911 – 1913
Succeeded by
Cecil F. Lambert

Preceded by
Charles E. Madden
Rear-Admiral Commanding,
Third Cruiser Squadron

1913 – 1915
Succeeded by
William L. Grant

Preceded by
Sir George E. Patey
Rear-Admiral Commanding,
Second Battle Cruiser Squadron

1915 – 1916
Succeeded by
Arthur C. Leveson
Rear-Admiral Commanding the Australian Fleet
1915 – 1916
Preceded by
Sir David R. Beatty
Vice-Admiral Commanding,
Battle Cruiser Force

1916 – 1919
Succeeded by
Sir Henry F. Oliver

Preceded by
Sir Henry B. Jackson
President of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich
1919 – 1920
Succeeded by
Sir Frederick C. T. Tudor

Preceded by
Sir Trevylyan D. W. Napier
Commander-in-Chief on the North America and West Indies Station
1920 – 1923
Succeeded by
Sir Michael Culme-Seymour, Bart.

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