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Vian, Sir Philip (1894-1968)


Photograph of Philip Vian

National Archives #80-G-335794

Cropped by author.

Philip "Cossack" Vian entered the British Royal Navy shortly after the First World War and served in destroyers. By the start of the Second World War, he was a destroyer skipper who won fame for violating Norwegian neutrality to rescue British prisoners of war being transported on the German ship Altmarck. (The Germans had already violated Norwegian neutrality by transporting prisoners of war through neutral waters.) Vian commanded a destroyer flotilla in the hunt for the Bismarck, then ran supplies into Malta in the Mediterranean as commander of a cruiser squadron. He participated in amphibious assaults at Salerno and Normandy before being transferred to command of Carriers, Pacific Fleet in early 1945 (in spite of not being an aviator.) He held high civil and military posts after the war.

Vian was a tall, publicity-shy man who combined courage with skill. His writings were notable for their clarity, precision, and generosity, but the man himself was reputed to be "vain and snobbish, socially awkward and rude" (quoted by Boatner, 1996). A fellow officer described him as "a very nasty piece of work with an acid tongue, and a snobbish social climber to boot" (Tillman 2010).

Service record

1894-6-15    

Born at London
1912
Midshipman     

1934
Captain
Commander, DD Cossack
1941-7
Rear admiral

1941-10

Commander, 15 Cruiser Squadron
1942-7

Commander, Force "V", Mediterranean
1943-9

Commander, Task Force 88, Mediterranean
1944-6

Commander, Eastern Naval Task Force, Normandy
1944-11

Commander, Carriers, Pacific Fleet
1945-2

Commander, 1 Aircraft Carrier Squadron
1945
Admiral
Commander, Pacific Fleet
1948

5 Sea Lord
1950

Commander, Home Fleet
1952
Admiral of the Fleet     
Retires
1968-5.27

Dies


References

Boatner (1996)

Pettibone (2006)

Tillman (2010)



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