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Mountbatten, Louis Frances Albert Victor Nicholas (1900-1979)


Photograph of Louis Mountbatten

Wikimedia Commons

The uncle of the future husband of Princess Elizabeth, Mountbatten chose a career in the Royal Navy, graduating first in his class at the Royal Naval College, Devonport, in 1916. He proved to be a competent officer. He was a midshipman aboard battleships and a lieutenant aboard a torpedo boat during the First World War. He briefly attended Cambridge, toured the Far East and Australia, and became a communications specialist.

By 1939 he was skipper of a destroyer, and he went on to command a destroyer flotilla in the campaigns off Norway and Crete.  Thanks to the patronage of Churchill, who once described his merits as being "young, enthusiastic, and triphibious" (Lewin 1976), he was promoted several ranks to take command of Combined Operations in 1941, and helped plan the raids on Dieppe and St.-Nazaire.  In August 1943 he took command of Southeast Asia Command, where he served the remainder of the war. His appointment to command of SEAC signaled to friend and foe alike that the Allies anticipated an amphibious campaign in southeast Asia, but the lack of resources meant that only Burma would be liberated by the time of the Japanese surrender, and primarily through a land campaign from Imphal.

Mountbatten had considerable charm, as did his wife. He was a handsome man who stood an imposing 6'4" tall.  Stilwell called him “Loooey” in his personal diary, but seems to have been charmed along with most everyone else when actually in his company. Mountbatten worked well with Slim, which was an important contribution to Allied victory in Burma. Mountbatten was something of a playboy, was no intellectual, and could be arrogant and vain, but this was usually masked by his diplomatic skills. Brooke saw to it that his dynamism was carefully matched with a solid Chief of Staff, Henry Pownall. Though largely responsible for the Dieppe debacle, Mountbatten also made crucial contributions to the development of amphibious doctrine and equipment and thus the success of OVERLORD, the Allied invasion of northern France.

After the war, Mountbatten had the task of accepting Japanese surrenders and reestablishing British colonial authority in southeast Asia, a task he likely found distasteful, as he was convinced that colonialism was a doomed institution. He served as the last viceroy of India and arranged the partition and transfer of sovereignty.  He has been accused of rushing the partition, which was followed by conflict between the new nations of India and Pakistan that led to a million deaths. Mountbatten was also a confirmed anti-Communist, and rejected an ambassadorship to Russia in 1948:

Bolsheviks murdered my father's first cousin, two of my aunts on my mother's side, and five of my first cousins.

Mountbatten was created Earl Mountbatten of Burma in 1947. Thereafter he held high naval command positions, including First Sea Lord (equivalent to Chief of Naval Operations), and was promoted to admiral of the fleet in 1956. He died at the hands of IRA terrorists in 1979.

Service record

1900-6-25     

Born at Frogmore House
1913
Cadet     
Enters the Royal Navy
1939
Captain     
Commander, 5 Destroyer Flotilla
1941-10-27     

Commander, Combined Operations
1944-10-4
Vice admiral     
Commander, Southeast Asia Command
1947-2

Viceroy of India
1948-6

Commander, 1 Cruiser Squadron, Malta
1950

Fourth Sea Lord
1952

Commander, NATO Allied Forces Mediterranean
1955-4-18

First Sea Lord
1956
Admiral of the Fleet      

1965

Retires
1979-8-12

Killed by IRA terrorists


References

Allen (1984)

Boatner (1996)

Dupuy et al. (1992)

Hastings (2007)

Lewin (1976)

Tuchman  (1972)



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