- Grazebrook, A.W., Lietutenant Commander
- History - WW2
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1975 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
When Halsey returned to the United Kingdom his Admiral was appointed Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth. He invited Halsey to serve again as Flag Captain. A quiet two years followed, with the majority of Halsey’s time being absorbed by his administrative work as ‘de facto’ Chief of Staff. The Plymouth appointment was to be Admiral Fawkes’ last. After two years, Halsey was appointed (in April 1911) in command of the cruiser HMS Donegal for eighteen months’ service in the Fourth Cruiser Squadron.
Halsey left Donegal to stand by the new battle-cruiser HMS New Zealand. Although the ship was destined to join the Battle Cruiser Squadron in United Kingdom waters, one of her earliest duties was to visit New Zealand. The ship received a tumultuous welcome. Halsey found New Zealand a delightful country and her people most enjoyable company.
It was during this visit that a Maori Chief handed Halsey a Maori War Skirt, advising him to wear it in battle, as it would bring good luck to his ship. Halsey wore the skirt in command of New Zealand at the Battles of the Heligoland Bight and Dogger Bank. In both battles, New Zealand was in the thick of the fray but emerged unscathed. Upon relinquishing his command, Halsey passed on the skirt to his successor (Captain J.F.E. Green) who wore the skirt at the Battle of Jutland. Although Indefatigable, next astern of New Zealand, and Queen Mary, ahead, were blown up, the casualties in Green’s ship were limited to minor shrapnel wounds. The skirt is now hanging in the home of Halsey’s younger daughter (Miss Ruth Halsey) and will ultimately be sent to the War Memorial Museum in Auckland.
Upon her return to the United Kingdom, New Zealand became an active unit of the Battle Cruiser Squadron. The next eighteen months was to be a period of intensive training for war with Imperial Germany. However, New Zealand took part in the Battle Cruiser Squadron’s visit to St. Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire, in July 1914. Beatty’s Flag Captain has described how, to try and repay some of the very lavish Russian hospitality, Lion and New Zealand were moored alongside one another to provide the space necessary for a Ball for two thousand guests. One hundred dozen bottles of champagne were consumed.
In August 1914, New Zealand was in action supporting Tyrwhitt’s flotillas in the Battle of the Heligoland Bight. New Zealand was one of four battle cruisers that went into action in support of the British Light Forces, against German cruisers and destroyers.
Four months later, New Zealand was at sea with a combined battleship and battle-cruiser force, seeking to trap a force of German minelayers. A Commodore, in command of a light cruiser squadron, made what Jellicoe later described as an error of judgement so serious as to lead to consideration of his relief. Both Jellicoe and Beatty felt that Halsey was the man for the job. However, the Commodore was given another chance and Halsey remained in command of HMS New Zealand until June 1915.
At the Battle of the Dogger Bank, the Germans steamed into a British trap and New Zealand was in the thick of the fray, being largely responsible for the destruction of the armoured cruiser SMS Blucher.
Halsey’s next position, as Captain of the Fleet, involved responsibility for ensuring that all ships in the Fleet were fuelled, stored and victualled. In addition, Halsey supervised the complicated routines of the squadrons and flotillas for recreation and other activities. In spite of his cramped quarters on board Iron Duke, and often working until 0100, Halsey did his job with good temper, patience and understanding of the problems of Squadron Flag Officers and Captains of ships.
As Captain of the Fleet, Halsey was on the bridge of Iron Duke at the Battle of Jutland. For this, and other services in the Grand Fleet, Halsey was made Companion of the Order of the Bath.
When, in November 1916, Jellicoe was appointed First Sea Lord, he invited Halsey to join the Board of Admiralty as Fourth Sea Lord, responsible for stores, transport and pay. Whilst Fourth Sea Lord, Halsey was promoted Rear-Admiral.
Apart from the very demanding naval duties, this was a difficult period for an officer serving on the Board of Admiralty. There were a number of major functional changes, as well as personnel changes As a result of one of the functional changes, Halsey became Third Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Materiel – responsible for the design and armament of warships.
When, in December 1917, Jellicoe received notice of dismissal from his post, the first man he sought was Halsey – an illustration of the confidence and close relationship between the two men. In company with most of his other (uniformed) colleagues, Halsey considered resignation, but accepted Jellicoe’s advice to stay on. Halsey continued to serve as Third Sea Lord until the middle of 1918.
Halsey left the Board of Admiralty to hoist his flag in September 1918, in HMAS Australia, holding joint appointments as Rear-Admiral Second Battle Cruiser Squadron and Rear-Admiral, Commanding the Australian Fleet. The Second Battle Cruiser Squadron formed part of the Grand Fleet’s Battle Cruiser Force, based at Rosyth. Halsey was responsible for overall coordination of the administration of Australian warships in European Waters, as well as his squadron of battle cruisers.
Shortly after Halsey hoisted his flag, there were reports that the Imperial German High Seas Fleet would make one final desperate sortie in an endeavour to stave off or mitigate Germany’s impending defeat. As is well known, there was no such sortie.
During the time she flew Halsey’s flag, Australia was occupied supporting convoys across the North Sea and in covering minelaying activities until, in November, she led the post line at the surrender of the German Fleet. A painting of Australia on this occasion hangs in the Canberra War Memorial Museum today.
In December, Halsey commenced making arrangements for the Australian Fleet to return home. By that time, all the more modern units were in European waters – Australia herself, cruisers Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney, the six destroyers, Platypus and Kurumba. Halsey arranged for the preparation of the six J Class submarines for their voyage to Australia after presentation by the RN to the RAN
Involved with the return of the Fleet was the command and the need for a replacement for Rear-Admiral Creswell as First Naval Member of the Naval Board. The Prime Minister (the Rt. Hon. W.M. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) were in the United Kingdom at the time. They approached Halsey to take the Fleet home and become First Naval Member. Halsey was keen to take the post, but the salary and allowances offered were substantially less than he would have been able to earn had he remained with the Royal Navy.
Prime Minister Hughes supported Halsey, and cabled from London urging the Cabinet to approve the payment of the extra allowances. However, Cabinet refused to do so, Halsey refused the appointment, and Australia failed to get a first rate man (Hughes’ words) as First Naval Member.
Accordingly, on 21st March 1919, Halsey gave up his command of the Australian Fleet. As the Prime Minister recognised, Halsey’s first class administrative ability and experience, his knowledge of political modi vivendi and modi operandi, his sympathy and tact, supported by his previous experience as Flag Captain in Australia, would have made him an exceptional First Naval Member.