Difference between revisions of "George Alexander Ballard"

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Revision as of 14:29, 31 July 2012

Admiral George Alexander Ballard, C.B., Royal Navy, Retired (7 March, 1862 – 16 September, 1948) was an officer of the Royal Navy during the First World War, as well as a noted historian.

Life & Career

George Alexander Ballard was born on 7 March, 1862, at Malabar Hill, Bombay, the eldest child of Captain (later Lieutenant-General) John Archibald Ballard, C.B., of the Royal (Bombay) Engineers. Ballard was educated at Burney's Royal Academy, Gosport, and obtained a nomination for the Royal Navy from Captain (later Admiral Sir) Charles Fellowes. He went up to London for the examination at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich with ten others from Burney's, six of whom passed, one of whom was Christopher Cradock. He entered the training ship Britannia on 15 January, 1875, and left on 21 December, 1876. He later recalled:

Two years spent thus represented at that period the first stage of a naval officer's career. Many months before it came to an end most of us were longing to finish it and get away to a seagoing life with all its anticipated excitements, although in point of fact very few had any but the vaguest idea of what sort of a life it would prove to be. But I think nevertheless that to the majority in after years, the period spent at Dartmouth in the old Britannia remained on the whole a pleasant memory. It certainly is to me.[1]

Ballard was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 15 March, 1884.[2]

On 31 December, 1897 he was promoted to the rank of Commander.[3]


Ballard was promoted to the rank of Captain on 31 December, 1903.[4] On 15 May, 1906, Ballard was appointed in command of the second-class protected cruiser Royal Arthur in reserve. He was appointed in command of the first-class protected cruiser Terrible on 3 July. On 22 July, the Terrible left Portsmouth for China[5] with a relief crew for the Astræa.[6] He took command of the armoured cruiser Hampshire on 20 August, 1907.[7]

On 10 May, 1913, he was appointed a Naval Aide-de-Camp to King George V, vice Hutchison.[8] On the occasion of the King's birthday 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 3 June.[9]

Ballard assumed the duties of Admiral of Patrols on 1 May, 1914, with the rank of Commodore, First Class.[10]

Great War

On 27 August, 1914, Ballard was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral, vice Carden.[11] On 12 October, a new command was carved out of his, that of the Dover Patrol under Rear-Admiral The Hon. Horace L. A. Hood.[12]

An interesting perspective on Ballard is offered by Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry F. Oliver, who became Chief of the Admiralty War Staff at the end of 1914:

We had a useless R.A. on the East Coast of England and I could not get him shifted. When the Germans bombarded Scarborough and Hartlepool we knew from Room 40 the afternoon before that something was intended but not enough to know what. He had definite orders to send out 2 submarines from Hartlepool to be at gun range, according to visibility, off the harbour at dawn. He failed to send them out the night before and they did not start out till after the bombardment began[,] one was crossing the bar while the shells were falling. We lost a fine chance of laming a battle cruiser and perhaps bringing on an engagement if her consorts delayed retiring to help her. I could not get him shifted for that so I took bits of his command away at the north and south ends till there was none left.[13]

N. A. M. Rodger has witlessly opined that, "His reputation may have suffered from the German raids of 1914 and 1916; certainly there was no vacancy in the naval war staff under Sir Henry Jackson for so clever and independent an officer." Quite apart from the slur this statement casts on Sir Henry Jackson, it also denigrates the men already on the War Staff.

On 1 May, 1916, Ballard was succeeded as Rear-Admiral Commanding, East Coast of England by Stuart Nicholson. On 24 September he was appointed Senior Officer in Charge at Malta and Admiral Superintendent of Malta Dockyard,[14] and assumed command on 28 September.[15]


He was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral on 11 February, 1919, vice Boyle.[16] He was placed on the Retired List on 15 June, 1921 at his own request "in order to facilitate the promotion of younger officers."[17] On 3 March, 1924 he was advanced to the rank of Admiral on the Retired List.[18]

He died suddenly on 16 September, 1948, aged eighty-six, at his home, Hill House, Downton, near Salisbury, Wiltshire.[19]


  1. "Admiral Ballard's Memoirs: Part One." p. 350.
  2. London Gazette: no. 25329. p. 1304. 1 January, 1897.
  3. London Gazette: no. 26924. p. 7854. 31 December, 1897.
  4. London Gazette: no. 27632. p. 25. 1 January, 1904.
  5. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Monday, 23 July, 1906. Issue 38079, col B, pg. 6.
  6. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Saturday, 7 July, 1906. Issue 38066, col C, pg. 8.
  7. Navy List (October, 1908). p. 323.
  8. London Gazette: no. 28718. p. 3438. 13 May, 1913.
  9. London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28724. p. 3903. 3 June, 1913.
  10. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Friday, 1 May, 1914. Issue 40512, col B, pg. 6.
  11. London Gazette: no. 28881. p. 6794. 28 August, 1914.
  12. Corbett. Naval Operations. I. p. 224.
  13. Oliver. II. ff. 117-118.
  14. Ballard Service Record. p. 65.
  15. Supplement to the Monthly Navy List (June, 1918). p. 8.
  16. London Gazette: no. 31201. p. 2738. 25 February, 1919.
  17. London Gazette: no. 32384. p. 5486. 8 July, 1921.
  18. London Gazette: no. 32919. p. 2323. 18 March, 1924.
  19. "Deaths" (Deaths). The Times. Saturday, 18 September, 1948. Issue 51180, col A, pg. 1.



  • Unfinished memoirs in the possession of the Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth. 1988.89. Two copies (one and two) in the possession of the National Maritime Museum.

Service Records

See Also

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
John M. de Robeck
Admiral of Patrols
1914 – 1915
Succeeded by
Title Changed
Preceded by
New Position
Rear-Admiral Commanding, East Coast of England
1915 – 1916
Succeeded by
Stuart Nicholson
Preceded by
Sir Arthur H. Limpus
Senior Naval Officer and Admiral Superintendent, Malta
1916 – 1918
Succeeded by
Brian H. F. Barttelot