John Philip FitzGerald Turner

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Lieutenant-Commander (retired) John Philip FitzGerald Turner, (20 October, 1896 – ) served in the Royal Navy. His career would prove most interesting due to his involvement in allegations leveled against him while a Sublieutenant in Agamemnon during early 1917.

Life & Career

Turner's first appointment was to H.M.S. Lion from May 1914 until 14 April 1916 when he was sent to Beagle. He fought in her at the Battle of Jutland.

On 22 December 1916 Turner was appointed to the pre-dreadnought H.M.S. Agamemnon of the Second Battle Squadron, in which he was the senior Sub-Lieutenant in charge of a gunroom mess of a number of Midshipmen from the Royal Naval Reserve. While Turner created a favorable impression in his captain, who noted Turner's skill at drawing, his improving work as Officer of the Watch, his talent for signals and command, his greatest challenge in the ship would prove to be overseeing the even more junior officers placed under his purview.

Turner had been told on joining the ship that discipline in his new mess had been quite slack, and to remedy this he imposed a set of rules upon the midshipmen which they regarded as being excessively strict. An appeal by the midshipmen to Lt. Cdr. H. B. Worsley resulted in his approval to keep the harsh rules in effect. One aspect of their displeasure was that they were not to be allowed to smoke before the Captain made his rounds. This rule was breached repeatedly.

The disaffected midshipmen drafted two letters for Captain Dumas on 1 April 1917. In one, Midshipman John Dermot Angell Lane alleged that Turner had indecently assaulted him on 10 February. The other letter was signed by eight other midshipmen (including Roy Hobbs, John F. Nicholas, Sydney C. T. Smith, William J. Foster and D'Arcy F. Price) who attested that Turner had confessed to them in the gunroom mess that he had committed an "abominable crime" with two sub-lieutenants at Dartmouth. After a Court of Inquiry was conducted, Turner was tried by Court Martial aboard Lord Nelson at Mudros on two charges: conduct unbecoming an officer for the alleged attack on Lane and gross indecency for relating the Dartmouth events in the gunroom. Acquitted on the first charge and convicted on the second, Turner was to return to England at first opportunity and be dismissed the service. This sentence was reduced in May to dismissal from his ship and loss of all seniority.

As Turner started his next appointment in the sweeping sloop Carnation, his mother worked behind the scenes to successfully prevail on messrs. Hobbs, Foster, Price and Herbert to recant their testimony as fabrications. Price's letter to her dated 14 February 1918 provided a detailed confession of Price's own role in the affair and naming Lt. R.N.R. Le Sueur as the ringleader of the conspiracy to get rid of Turner along with his onerous regulation of the gunroom. Astonishingly, Lt. Le Sueur had professed to be Turner's friend throughout this period, and had loaned Turner his sword to wear at the Court Martial! When these letters were sent to the Admiralty, a Court of Inquiry was held at Chatham which resulted in the annulment of Turner's sentence and Turner was cleared of all blame. Moreover, the commissions of Le Sueur, Hobbs, Price and Foster were all cancelled. What may have, or not have happened between Lane and Turner will remain obscured by Lane's 1918 death in C.M.B. 71A.[1]

Turner was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 15 May, 1918.

Post-War

In mid 1920, Turner sued the publication John Bull for libel after it published stories on 16 and 23 November 1918 regarding Turner's Court Martial of 1917, in which the magazine had decided that the charges were all true. In their defence, the company suggested that Turner's mother had dictated Price's letter after threatening him, who was ailing at the time, with legal action.[2]

Turner was placed on the Retired List at his own request in August, 1922.

Turner was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander (retired) on 15 May, 1926.

In 1929, he was receiving communications in relation to his divorce proceedings through the consulate in Copenhagen.

World War II

After some service, he was declared medically unfit in 1944.

See Also

Bibliography

Footnotes

  1. "Naval Officer's Libel Action." The Times (London, England), Saturday, July 24, 1920, Issue 42471, p.7.
  2. "Naval Officer's Libel Action." The Times (London, England), Saturday, July 24, 1920, Issue 42471, p.7.