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James Somerville

Given NameJames
Born17 Jul 1882
Died19 Mar 1949
CountryUnited Kingdom


ww2dbaseJames Somerville was born in Weybridge, Surrey. He joined the Royal Navy at the young age of 15 as a cadet, and rised to the rank of lieutenant in 1904 at the page of 22. During WW1, Somerville's expertise in radio communications contributed greatly to his attached units. He earned the DSO for his achievements at Gallipoli. During the interwar years, he was promoted to captain in 1921, served as the Director for the Admiralty's Signal Department from 1925-1927, served as an instructor at the Imperial Defence College from 1929-1931, and promoted to commodore in 1932 and then rear admiral in 1933. In 1936 he was placed in command of the Mediterranean destroyer flotilla during the Spanish civil war, protecting Majorca from the Republicans. He also served a year in the East Indians starting in 1938.

ww2dbaseSomerville's first action in WW2 was participating in the evacuation at Dunkirk, under the command of Admiral Bertram Ramsay. He was actually retired as of 1939 (due to doctors' suspicion that he was suffering from tuberculosis), but he was nevertheless recalled into service as war broke out. After Dunkirk, he went on to Gibraltar to command Force H there, which included the famed ships HMS Hood and HMS Ark Royal. As the commander of Force H, he was involved in operations at Punta Stilo, Calabria (Jul 1940), Sardinia (Nov 1940), Malta (Jan 1941), and Sardinia and Genoa (Jan-Feb 1941). His biggest claim to fame in the European theater was probably for his crucial role in hunting down and sinking the German pride battleship Bismarck. In Mar 1942, he was given command of the British Eastern Fleet. He was based in Ceylon, but Admiral Kondo's attacks into the Indian Ocean forced his fleet, unprepared to meet the Japanese fleet at the time, to retreat to the Maldive Islands and eastern Africa (Kilindini, Kenya).

ww2dbaseIn Oct 1944, two months after he was relieved of duty at the Eastern Fleet (with Admiral Fraser as his replacement), he was assigned office duty at Washington DC as the head of the British Naval Delegation. He was promoted to the rank of admiral of the fleet in May 1945.

ww2dbaseAfter the war, Somerville retired to Wells, Somerset, where he was made the Lord Lieutenant of Somerset. He passed away in 1949 at his residence, Dinder House of Somerset.

ww2dbaseSources: Sparticus Educational, Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Mar 2005


Winston Churchill, Archibald Wavell, and James Somerville in conference aboard the ship Queen Mary, May 1943

James Somerville Timeline

17 Jul 1882 James Somerville was born.
26 Mar 1942 Admiral Sir James Somerville, who had commanded the force that had sunk the Bismark in the previous year, took commanded of the British Eastern Fleet, hoisting his flag in the battleship HMS Warspite at Trincomalee, Ceylon.
19 Mar 1949 James Somerville passed away.

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More on James Somerville
Event(s) Participated:
» Invasion of France and the Low Countries
» Malta Campaign
» British Attacks on the French Fleet
» Battle of Denmark Strait
» Raids into the Indian Ocean
» Operation Cockpit and Operation Transom

Ship(s) Served:
» Warspite

James Somerville Photo Gallery
Winston Churchill, Archibald Wavell, and James Somerville in conference aboard the ship Queen Mary, May 1943

Famous WW2 Quote
"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

Winston Churchill, on the RAF

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