Alexander Ludovic Duff

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Admiral Sir Alexander L. Duff.

Admiral SIR Alexander Ludovic Duff, G.C.B., G.B.E., K.C.V.O., Royal Navy (20 February, 1862 – 22 November, 1933) was an officer of the Royal Navy.

Life & Career

Alexander Ludovic Duff was born at Knockleith, Aberdeenshire, 20 February 1862, the fourth son and seventh child of Colonel James Duff, of Knockleith, by his wife, Jane Bracken, daughter of Alan Colquhoun Dunlop, of Edinburgh. He entered the navy in 1875, and served as midshipman in the Mediterranean from 1877 to 1881. He served as sub-lieutenant in the royal yacht Victoria and Albert. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant with seniority of 3 September, 1884.[1] He was appointed to the turret ship Agamemnon on the China Station on 16 September.[2] Having qualified as torpedo lieutenant he served for three years in the cruiser Imperieuse, flagship of the China station, and afterwards (1891) in the cruiser Blake, flagship of the North America station, and the torpedo depot-ship Vulcan. He was promoted to the rank of Commander on 1 January, 1897.[3] After two years in command of the destroyer Bat on training service at Devonport, he joined the cruiser St. George as executive officer.


On 31 December, 1902 he was promoted to the rank of Captain.[4] He was appointed in command of the battleship Albemarle on 12 November, 1903, as Flag Captain to Rear-Admiral William Des V. Hamilton, the new Rear-Admiral on the Mediterranean Station.[5]

Duff was appointed Naval Assistant to the Controller of the Navy on 20 December, 1905. He remained at the Admiralty for over three years before being appointed to Vivid for command of the new dreadnought battleship Temeraire on 5 January, 1909.[6]

He was appointed to Victory as Commodore, Second Class commanding the Royal Naval Barracks, Portsmouth, on 25 October, 1910. He was appointed for services at the Admiralty on 3 October, 1911, and on 8 January, 1912, was appointed Director of the Mobilisation Division of the newly-formed Admiralty War Staff.[7]

He was appointed an Ordinary Member of the Third Class, or Companion, in the Civil Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (C.B.) on 21 September, 1912.[8]

Flag Rank

On 2 March, 1913, Duff was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral, vice De Salis.[9]

In July, 1914 it was announced that Duff would succeed Sir Robert K. Arbuthnot, Bart. as Rear-Admiral in the Second Battle Squadron on 28 October, 1914.[10]

First World War

Fourth Battle Squadron

In October 1914 he returned to sea service as rear-admiral, fourth battle squadron in the Grand Fleet (flag in the Emperor of India). The commander-in-chief, Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, recognizing his great technical abilities, put him in charge, jointly with Rear-Admiral (Sir) Arthur Cavenagh Leveson, of experiments with devices for defending ships from submarine mines and with other inventions; during the Battle of Jutland Duff flew his flag in the Superb.

First Battle Squadron

On 15 September he was appointed an Additional Member of the Third Class, or Companion, in the Military Division of the Order of the Bath (C.B.) dated 31 May.[11]

Director of the Anti-Submarine Division

When in December 1916 Jellicoe left the fleet to become First Sea Lord in order to cope with the immense problem of the U-boat war, he took Duff with him to the Admiralty as director of the anti-submarine division which was then formed in the Naval Staff.

Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff

Six months later Duff joined the Board of Admiralty with the title of assistant chief of the Naval Staff and was put in charge of all the divisions dealing with the same problems, being replaced as director of the anti-submarine division itself by Captain (Sir) W. W. Fisher. To his and Fisher's work in accomplishing the eventual defeat of the U-boat, Jellicoe later paid a handsome tribute in his book The Crisis of the Naval War (1920). Duff was nominated an Additional Member of the Second Class, or Knight Commander, of the Military Division of the Order of the Bath (K.C.B.) on 1 January, 1918,[12] and was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral on 15 January.[13]

Commander-in-Chief on the China Station

On leaving the Admiralty in 1919 he was appointed commander-in-chief of the China station and during his three years tenure of that command he convened a conference with the commanders-in-chief of adjoining stations which recommended the establishment of the naval base at Singapore. On 1 July, 1921, he was promoted to the rank of Admiral, vice Troubridge.[14]


On the occasion of the King's birthday he was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (K.B.E.) on 3 June, 1924.[15] He was placed on the Retired List at his own request on 1 July, 1925.[16]

Duff was twice married: first, in 1886 to Janet Douglas (died 1908), third daughter of Garden William Duff, of Hatton Castle, Aberdeenshire, and had two daughters; secondly, in 1924 to Marjorie, daughter of Charles Hill-Whitson, of Parkhill, Perthshire; there was no issue of this marriage. He died in London on 22 November 1933.

See Also


  1. London Gazette: no. 25393. p. 3994. 5 September, 1884.
  2. Navy List (June, 1885). p. 191.
  3. London Gazette: no. 26809. p. 4. 1 January, 1897.
  4. London Gazette: no. 27512. p. 3. 2 January, 1903.
  5. ADM 196/42. f. 80.
  6. ADM 196/42. f. 80.
  7. ADM 196/42. f. 80.
  8. London Gazette: no. 28648. p. 7107. 27 September, 1912.
  9. London Gazette: no. 28697. p. 1757. 7 March, 1913.
  10. "Second Sea Lord" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Thursday, 23 July, 1914. Issue 40586, col G, pg. 10.
  11. London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29751. p. 9070. 15 September, 1916.
  12. London Gazette: no. 30451. p. 79. (Supplement) 1 January, 1918.
  13. London Gazette: no. 30488. p. 1092. 22 January, 1918.
  14. London Gazette: no. 32384. p. 5487. 8 July, 1921.
  15. Edinburgh Gazette: no. 14029. p. 766. 6 June, 1924.
  16. London Gazette: no. 33068. p. 4866. 21 July, 1925.


  • "Admiral Sir A. L. Duff" (Obituaries). The Times. Thursday, 23 November, 1933. Issue 46609, col A, pg. 19.


Service Records

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
Christopher G. F. M. Cradock
Commodore-in-Command, Royal Naval Barracks, Portsmouth
1910 – 1911
Succeeded by
John B. Eustace
Preceded by
New Position
Director of the Mobilisation Division
1912 – 1914
Succeeded by
Hugh F. P. Sinclair
Preceded by
New Position
Rear-Admiral in the Fourth Battle Squadron
1914 - 1916
Succeeded by
Ernest F. A. Gaunt
Preceded by
Ernest F. A. Gaunt
Rear-Admiral in the First Battle Squadron
1916 - 1916
Succeeded by
William C. M. Nicholson
Preceded by
New Position
Director of the
Anti-Submarine Division

1916 - 1917
Succeeded by
William W. Fisher
Preceded by
New Position
Assistant Chief of Naval Staff
1917 - 1919
Succeeded by
James A. Fergusson
Preceded by
Sir Frederick C. T. Tudor
Commander-in-Chief on the China Station
1919 - 1922
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur C. Leveson