Admiral Sir Lionel Halsey
Sir Lionel Halsey (1872-1949) served at the naval
battles of Heligoland Bight, Dogger Bank and Jutland
prior to his appointment as Fourth Sea Lord in December
View a map of naval operations in 1914.
the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1885 he was promoted to
Lieutenant eight years later. He served in the
South African War of 1899-1902, during the course of
which he played a role in the defence of Ladysmith.
He was promoted Commander in 1901 and Captain four years
In the pre-war years before 1914 Halsey served as Flag
Captain to the Commander-in-Chief, Australia, Sir Wilmot
Fawkes. 1912 brought Halsey command of HMS New
Halsey saw more wartime service than many of his
contemporaries. In August 1914 he again commanded
HMS New Zealand,
and once more at Dogger Bank five months later.
Called upon by Sir John Jellicoe, the commander of the
Grand Fleet, to be his Captain of the Fleet in June 1915,
he was on board HMS Iron Duke
during the Battle of Jutland on 31 May/1 June 1916.
Subsequently promoted to Rear-Admiral he became Fourth
Sea Lord in December 1916 when he followed Jellicoe to
the Admiralty (where the latter was appointed First Sea
Lord). Eric Geddes' appointment as First of the
Admiralty in July (replacing Sir Edward Carson) brought
Halsey a brief to oversee naval design.
In October 1918 - the month before the war ended - Halsey
was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Navy.
Sir Lionel Halsey, who was knighted in 1918, died in
In 1999, The Dacorum Heritage Trust mounted a major
exhibition focusing on local soldiers who served in the
First World War. In preparation for the exhibition, we
gathered material (including photographs) from local
families whose relatives had served during the conflict.
We also began to compile a database of all soldiers in
the Borough whose names appear on the war memorials. We
used sources such as the Commonwealth War Graves
Commission, local newspapers and family testimony.
Admiral Sir Lionel
Lionel Halsey was the fourth son of the Rt Hon Sir
Frederick Halsey of Gaddesden Place. He saw action in the
Boer War during the siege of Ladysmith and was later made
Captain of the battle cruiser, HMS New Zealand. When this
ship stopped off at New Zealand in 1913, Halsey met some
local Maori chiefs. One of them presented him with a
Maori warriors costume and said that it had
belonged to his father who had been victorious in all his
battles. The chief asked Halsey whether he would wear the
outfit if ever he was in battle. Halsey agreed to do so
not thinking he would ever have to honour this promise.
A year later the First World War broke out and when HMS
New Zealand took part in the Battle of Heligoland Bight
of August 1914, Halsey honoured his promise and donned
the Maori costume. One of crew declared at the time
"The old man has gone dippy!" But the ship
emerged from battle without a single scratch and there no
Halsey was promoted to Captain of the Fleet and was on
the bridge of HMS Iron Duke at the Battle of Jutland for
which he was made Companion of The Order of The Bath. He
became Third Sea Lord in 1917 and commanded the
Australian Navy from 1918-20. He later served members of
the royal family and died in 1949 at the age of 77.
This page was last updated May 5, 2004.