The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia
|Previous: Somers Class, U.S. Destroyers||Table of Contents||Next: Sonar|
James Somerville graduated from the British Naval
Academy in 1897 and became one of the Navy's first radio
served as a wireless officer throughout the First World War, primarily
in the Mediterranean.
He rose through the ranks between the wars and retired just before the
of the Second World War due to tuberculosis.
Restored to health and recalled to service after
war broke out in Europe, Somerville participated in BBC propaganda broadcasts and
worked on radar before being
transferred to Ramsay's staff for the Dunkirk evacuation, in which he
distinguished himself. He was then given
command of Force H
at Gibraltar. He was knighted twice, in 1939 and 1941, which prompted
some teasing from Cunningham,
the Mediterranean Fleet commander: "Congratulations, but isn't twice a
knight at your age rather overdoing it?"
On 27 March 1942, he assumed command of Far Eastern Fleet, just in time to meet Nagumo's raid into the Indian Ocean. During the Japanese attacks on Ceylon, he played a cat-and-mouse game with the superior Japanese fleet, making maximum use of Ultra intercepts and other forms of radio intelligence. Though he was unsuccessful in forcing a night engagement, he was successful in avoiding a daylight engagement with the Japanese carriers, which eventually withdrew to the Pacific to face the greater threat of the U.S. carrier forces.
In August 1944 Somerville was appointed head of the British Naval Mission in the United States, where he established good relations with top U.S. naval commanders such as Ernest King. He was promoted to admiral of the fleet during his Washington tour, and retired in early 1946.
Somerville was known for his keen sense of humor and reputation as a storyteller and for his devotion to physical fitness. He was also was a dedicated and hardworking officer with the ability to state his positions frankly and forcefully without giving offense.
||Born at Weybridge, Surrey
||Graduates from Naval Academy
||Commander, Destroyer Flotilla,
||Discharged with tuberculosis
||Recalled to light duty
||Commander, Force H
||Commander, Eastern Fleet
||Head, British Naval Delegation,
||Admiral of the
||Dies at Dinder House, Wells
Dupuy et al. (1992)
The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia © 2006, 2008, 2011 by Kent G. Budge. Index
Comment on this article