The First Admiral: Admiral Sir G. Francis Hyde, KCB, CVO, CBE
- June 1974
- Grazebrook, Lieutenant Commander A.W.
- Biographies and personal histories
- Australian Squadron, HMAS Albatross, HMAS Australia (I), HMAS Australia (II), HMAS Brisbane I, HMAS Canberra I, HMAS Melbourne (I), HMAS Parramatta (I), HMAS Sydney (I), HMAS Sydney (II)
- Originally published in the Naval Historical Review edition (all rights reserved)
The majority of the more senior retired officers of the Royal Australian Navy consider that the late Admiral Sir George Francis Hyde was the foremost of a group of early senior members of the Permanent Naval Force who joined in early years from a variety of seafaring backgrounds.
AFTER EARLY YEARS in the merchant service and as a Royal Naval Reservist, Hyde entered the Royal Navy as a Lieutenant. After transferring to the Royal Australian Navy, Hyde rose to become the first member of the PNF to fly his flag afloat in command of the Australian Squadron, the first member of the PNF to command a ship of the Royal Navy, the first and only RAN Flag Officer to fly his flag afloat in command of a Royal Navy Squadron, the only RAN Officer to be created KCB, the first member of the PNF to achieve the rank of full Admiral on the active list, and the first seagoing flag officer of the RAN to become professional head of his service.
George Francis Hyde was born at Portsmouth on 19th July 1877. At the age of 17, he went to sea as an Apprentice in the steel clipper Mount Stewart, completing several round voyages from London to Sydney, with wool as the westward cargo and general cargo to Australia. It was a tough start to a seafaring lifetime, at a time when the going rate for an apprentice was three pounds per annum. Hyde’s diaries, describing part of his time in Mount Stewart, have been preserved in part and make interesting reading in much the same way as a Midshipman’s journal – descriptions of nautical events of the passage, other ships sighted, and different types of fauna noted. Wool clippers took substantially longer than modern merchantmen to make the round voyage. Hyde describes one round voyage from London to Sydney and back of over ten months’ duration.
After four years in Mount Stewart, Hyde joined the barque Amulree as second mate in 1898. Amulree sailed to South America and Australia. Hyde remained in her until 1899.
During his apprenticeship in 1896, Hyde joined the Royal Naval Reserve as a Midshipman. In January 1900, by then an Acting Sub-Lieutenant, Hyde joined the Gunnery School HMS Excellent for the first of a series of courses to qualify as a confirmed Sub-Lieutenant, RNR. In February 1901, Hyde joined HMS Tribune, in which he served for 15 months before transferring to HMS Thistle for ten days only. Hyde moved to the battleships Magnificent (1902) and Victorious (1902-04), having been promoted Lieutenant, RNR, in 1902, and serving full time as such until 1904.
It was whilst in Victorious that Hyde wrote an essay on the subject of ‘War with Japan’, with particular reference to the Russo- Japanese War, and entered that essay for a prize offered by Lord Charles Beresford to the officers of his Lordship’s Fleet for the best essay on that subject. Hyde was clearly the winner of the competition, which as he was a Lieutenant RNR, made a very favourable impression upon his Commander in Chief, Admiral Lord Charles Beresford.
Lord Charles wrote a very strong recommendation to the Admiralty that Hyde be entered in the Royal Navy with his seniority as Lieutenant RNR. Thus it came about that, contrary to some reports, Hyde did not enter the Royal Navy as one of the ‘Hungry Hundred’, and was not placed under the publicly stated limitations for promotion that were imposed upon that group of RNR Officers who transferred to the Royal Navy at about the same time as Hyde.
After three months in the cruiser HMS Bacchante, Hyde began two years as a watchkeeper in the Armoured Cruiser HMS Leviathan, flagship of Rear Admiral the Hon. Hedworth Lambton’s Third Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean Fleet. Hyde’s first and second commands followed (HM Torpedo Boat Number Six for 15 months, and the Torpedo Boat Destroyer Pother for 13 months).
Hyde’s first association with the newborn RAN began as soon as he left HMS Shannon, when he was appointed Commander (D) to the RAN’s destroyer flotilla, then being formed. Hyde made a very favourable impression upon the then Naval Board as, early in 1912, he was approached and asked to transfer to the Royal Australian Navy on a permanent basis. In due course, Hyde was formally placed on the retired list of the Royal Navy, and on 17th July 1912 Hyde became a Commander, RAN, with seniority of 1st January 1911 (the date he first became associated with the RAN’s destroyer flotilla). His first RAN ship was HMAS Parramatta.
Early in 1913, Hyde left for the United Kingdom to become Executive Officer of the battle cruiser HMAS Australia, then completing to become the RAN’s first flagship. Hyde participated in Australia’s activities in the early months of World War I, in the Pacific and the West Indies, leaving the ship three months after she hoisted the flag of Rear-Admiral W. C. Pakenham (Commanding Second Battle Cruiser Squadron) at Rosyth in February 1915.
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