-H.M.S. Hood Crew Information-
Biography of Admiral of the Fleet Sir James Somerville
By Paul Bevand, MBE
Updated 21-Aug-2006

Sir James Somerville commanded the famous Force H from aboard H.M.S. Hood in 1940.

Chainbar divider
Sir James SomervilleSir James Somerville was born in Weybridge, Surry on 17 July 1882, the son of Arthur Fownes Somerville (of Dinder House, Somerset). He entered the Royal Navy in 1898. He reached the rank of lieutenant in 1904. He saw service in the First World War (1914-1918) and received the D.S.O. in 1916 for his actions at Gallipoli. He was promoted to Commander in 1915.

Somerville married Mary Kerr in 1918 and the couple eventually had one son and one daughter. In 1921, Somerville was promoted to Captain. He served as the Director of the Admiralty's Signal Department from 1925 to 1927. Following this, he was Flag Captain to Vice Admiral John D Kelly (until 1929).

He served as a Naval Instructor at the Imperial Defence College from 1929 - 1931. He followed this up as Commanding Officer of the cruiser H.M.S. Norfolk from 1931 to 1932. He was promoted to Commodore in 1932 and took command of the RN Barracks, Portsmouth. He served in this capacity until 1934. During this timeframe, he was promoted to Rear-Admiral (1933).

Somerville served as the Director of Personnel Services, Admiralty from 1934 to 1936. He received the C.B. during this timeframe (1935). Following this, he served as the Commander of Destroyer Flotillas, Mediterranean Fleet. He served in this position until 1938. He was promoted to Vice-Admiral during this assignment (1937).

His next assignment was as Commander in Chief, East Indies from 1938 to 1939. He retired and received the K.C.B. in 1939. He returned to duty on special service to the Admiralty later that year. His next major assignment was as Commander of Force H from 1940-1942. He received the K.B.E. in 1941 for his successes with Force H.

In 1942, he became Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet. He held this position until 1944. He received the G.C.B. in 1944 and went on to be the Head of British Admiralty Delegation to Washington from 1944 to 1945. He was made Admiral of the Fleet in 1945. He received the G.B.E. the following year.

Following the war, he was made Lord Lieutenant of Somerset (1946). He lived in Dinder House, Somerset where he died on 19 March 1949.

 


Sources and References
"Who's Who"
Navy Lists (courtesy of J.N. Houterman)