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‘Rosy’ Wemyss, Admiral of the Fleet

‘Rosy’ Wemyss, Admiral of the Fleet

This is the biography of the largely unknown Rosslyn Wemyss who joined the RN in 1877 at the age of 13 and rose through the ranks to become First Sea Lord in 1917.

The book follows his life as a cadet in the same class as Prince George (King George V) who became a lifelong friend. He joined the RN at the time when although the ships were fitted with steam engines, their range was severely limited by the amount of coal they could carry so much of their time underway was spent under sail. The Victorian Navy was made up of slow and obsolete vessels and ships were judged as much on their cleanliness (rings a bell !!) and speed they could rig and derig sails, as for their operational efficiency in gunnery. Rosy’s early appointments helped by his friendship with Prince George included service on the Royal Yachts Victoria and Albert which accelerated his advancement

At the outbreak of WW1 he was a Rear Admiral commanding the Western Approaches before being sent by Churchill to Mudros to set up the base for the Gallipoli landings. He then took charge of the landings which as we all know did not turn out well. The saving grace of the disastrous campaign was his evacuation plan which managed to get thousands of troops and equipment off the beachhead under the noses of the Turkish forces for the loss of only one life.

He then commanded the Red Sea and Middle East station and supported the Arab Revolt working with TE Lawrence

In December 1917 he succeeded Jellicoe as First Sea Lord, having many arguments with Admiral David Beatty and Lloyd George who was PM up until the end of the war.

He played a pivotal part in the negotiations of the Armistice including making sure it happened on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month much to the disdain of the PM who wanted to announce it at midday on the 11th.

This and other falling outs with the PM resulted in him receiving a war payout of £10000 as opposed to the £100000 paid to Admiral Beatty. He left the Navy in 1920.

The book is a detailed account of his life and the influence he brought upon the Navy to modernise. I recommend it as an insight into a highly influential Admiral that most people have never heard of

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