Stanley Cecil James Colville

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Admiral THE HONOURABLE SIR Stanley Cecil James Colville, G.C.B., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., Royal Navy (21 February, 1861 – 9 April, 1939) was an officer of the Royal Navy.

Early Life & Career

For services rendered during the operations in Egypt, Colville was specially promoted to the rank of Lieutenant with seniority of 18 November, 1882.[1]

Colville was appointed to the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert on 26 August, 1890.[2] He was promoted to the rank of Commander on 25 August, 1892, aged thirty-one years, six months, and four days.[3]

For his services in the Sudan, Colville was appointed a Companion in the Military Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (C.B.) on 17 November, 1896, and was specially promoted to the rank of Captain on 31 October, aged thirty-five years, eight months, and ten days.[4]

He was appointed command of Crescent in March 1900.[5]

Flag Rank

Colville was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral on 11 November, 1906, vice Marrack.[6]

He was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral on 12 April, 1911, vice Bridgeman.[7]

On the occasion of the King's birthday he was appointed an Ordinary Member of the Second Class, or Knight Commander, in the Military Division of the Order of the Bath (K.C.B.) on 14 June, 1912.[8]

Great War

Colville was promoted to the rank of Admiral dated 11 September, 1914.[9] On 9 July, 1915, Colville was promoted to Knight Grand Cross in the Royal Victoria Order (G.C.V.O.).[10]

In describing Colville's qualifications for Second-in-Command of the Grand Fleet, Jellicoe wrote on 9 August, 1915:

Colville has dash, but is nervy & very apt to worry about those under him about trifles. His experience is not so recent as Burney's, & of Fleet experience during the war he has practically NIL. He does not handle a fleet I should think so well as Burney. On the other hand his health is excellent as is his vigour.

Jellicoe went on to write that if "it is decided to appoint Colville in my place should the necessity arise, I think he should come now to a Battle Squadron to get the experience. It would be hard on Burney to keep him on if Colville comes in over his head & if that were done I think Burney should be given the offer of Colville's present appointment."[11]

In 1916 Jellicoe reported in a dispatch that it was largely due to Colville that the work at the northern base was so cheerfully and energetically carried out, and official appreciation of the Admiralty was duly expressed. In February 1916 he succeeded Sir Hedworth Meux as commander-in-chief at Portsmouth, having been promoted admiral soon after going to Scapa in September 1914. He held that important post for the rest of the war, and finally hauled down his flag in March 1919. He was appointed First and Principal Aide-de-Camp to the King on 31 July, 1919,[12] and was placed on the Retired List on 4 April, 1922.[13]


On the occasion of the King's birthday he was appointed an Additional Member of the First Class, or Knight Grand Cross, of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (G.C.M.G.) on 3 June, 1919.[14]

In 1927 Colville was appointed rear-admiral of the United Kingdom and in 1929 vice-admiral of the United Kingdom and lieutenant of the Admiralty, ancient offices which had fallen into desuetude but were revived in 1901 by King Edward VII as high court appointments, corresponding to the military Silver Stick and Gold Stick in Waiting. He died at Crawley Down, Sussex, 9 April 1939.

Colville was a fine type of the ‘salt horse’ naval officer: without any pretensions to brilliance or scientific eminence he had a thorough knowledge of his profession, and possessed the complete confidence of his seniors. His lifelong energy and activity in everything concerned with the welfare of the navy were greatly appreciated by all ranks. He made no mistakes and was popular and trusted throughout the service. Although owing something no doubt to his association with the royal family, he well deserved his fortunate career in the Royal Navy.

Colville was appointed C.V.O. in 1902, K.C.B. in 1912, and G.C.V.O. on the occasion of the King's visit to Scapa in July 1915, G.C.M.G. in 1919, and G.C.B. in 1921. Of foreign honours he received the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun, the Russian Order of St. Stanislaus, and the Order of the Crown of Siam, and he was a grand officer of the Legion of Honour. He married in 1902 Lady Adelaide Jane, youngest daughter of Admiral of the Fleet Richard James Meade, fourth Earl of Clanwilliam , and had four sons.

An oil portrait of Colville, painted by Sir William Llewellyn (1927), is in private possession. A tinted charcoal drawing of him by Francis Dodd is in the Imperial War Museum.


In The Rules of the Game, when idly speculating as to who would make a better Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet in succession Callaghan, Gordon writes:

My choice for C-in-C Grand Fleet? Sir Stanley Colville, after leaving Callaghan to serve his full term. Why? 1) Colville had commanded the 1st BS in the Home Fleet from 1912-1914; 2) Like Beatty he was well accustomed to working with Callaghan's less formal standing orders (and had, incidentally, been a friend and career-sponsor of young Beatty in the 1890s); 3) He was senior to Jellicoe and slightly younger. In my view he was well positioned to succeed Callaghan in wartime, and his appointment ashore as C-in-C Orkneys (1914-1916) was a waste.[15]

Addressing these points: 1) Jellicoe had commanded the Second Division which became the Second Battle Squadron in the Home Fleet and later in the First Fleet of the Home Fleets. 2) The comparison with Beatty is irrelevant. Callaghan's standing orders are also irrelevant. The orders which Colville would have drawn up are more important. 3) Jellicoe was five months junior in seniority and under two years older than Colville. Considering that Jellicoe had been "groomed" as Commander-in-Chief in time of war for years, both seniority and age are irrelevant.

Colville probably was "well positioned" to succeed Callaghan, but that certainly doesn't mean that he was well-suited to do so. It is unfortunate, perhaps, that his tenure in command of the First Battle Squadron was not extended by another year, but there were many other candidates for high command on the Flag List, none of them as unsuitable as Gordon might imply. Patently, he wasn't "C-in-C Orkneys" as is claimed in The Rules of the Game. — SIMON HARLEY, Co-editor.


  1. London Gazette: no. 25169. p. 5173. 17 November, 1882.
  2. Navy List (March, 1891). p. 264.
  3. London Gazette: no. 26322. p. 5016. 2 September, 1892.
  4. London Gazette: no. 26795. p. 6271. 17 November, 1896.
  5. Wikipedia, citing London Gazette: no. 27440. p. 3681. 6 June 1902.
  6. London Gazette: no. 27967. p. 7628. 13 November, 1906.
  7. London Gazette: no. 28485. p. 2967. 14 April, 1911.
  8. London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28617. p. 4297. 14 April, 1911.
  9. London Gazette: no. 28984. p. 9690. 24 November, 1914.
  10. London Gazette: no. 29232. p. 6959. 16 July, 1915.
  11. Jackson Papers. National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth: 255/4/14.
  12. London Gazette: no. 31489. p. 9961. 5 August, 1919.
  13. London Gazette: no. 32668. p. 2934. 11 April, 1922.
  14. Edinburgh Gazette: no. 13459. p. 2063. 5 June, 1919.
  15. Gordon. The Rules of the Game. p. 671.


  • "Admiral Sir Stanley Colville" (Obituaries). The Times. Tuesday, 11 April, 1939. Issue 48276, col E, pg. 13.
  • Template:BibGordonRules2005

Service Records

See Also

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
Sir George A. Callaghan
Vice-Admiral Commanding,
First Battle Squadron

1912 – 1914
Succeeded by
Sir Lewis Bayly
Preceded by
New Command
Admiral Commanding, Orkneys and Shetlands
1914 – 1916
Succeeded by
Sir Frederic E. E. Brock
Preceded by
The Hon. Sir Hedworth Meux
Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth
1916 – 1919
Succeeded by
Sir Cecil Burney
Preceded by
Sir Henry B. Jackson
First and Principal
Naval Aide-de-Camp

1919 – 1922
Succeeded by
Sir Charles E. Madden