Sir William Frederic Wake-Walker (1888-1945)
Sir William Wake-Walker was a British admiral best know for his role in the hunt for the Bismarck in May 1941. He entered the Royal Naval College as a cadet in 1903, and first went to sea in the following year as a midshipman on HMS Good Hope, the flagship of the 1st cruiser squadron.
By the start of the First World War he had risen to lieutenant, and was a torpedo specialist. He served as torpedo lieutenant on the Cochrane from January 1913 until September 1915, when he returned to HMS Vernon, the torpedo school, to prepare for service on a battleship. In July 1916 he was promoted to lieutenant-commander, and appointed to the new battleship HMS Ramillies. She was launched in September 1916, but did not join the Grand Fleet until November 1917. Although she was damaged during the launch, this was not actually an unusually long gap – even in peacetime it could take up to a year after the launch date for a battleship to be completed, but it did mean that Wake-Walker was only at sea on her for the last year of the war, long after the main action in the North Sea was over.
After the war Wake-Walker remained in the navy. He was promoted to commander in June 1920, to captain in 1927 and to flag rank on 10 January 1939. During that time he serving in a mix of land and sea duties. He was at sea from April 1919-August 1921 on HMS Coventry, from 1925-1927 as executive office of HMS Royal Oak, from 1928-1930 as captain of HMS Castor on the Mediterranean and China stations, from September 1932 to July 1935 as captain of HMS Dragon on the America and West Indies station, and from January 1938-1939 as captain of HMS Revenge in the Home Fleet.
On land between 1921 and December 1925 he served at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, then on the naval staff and then at the tactical school, Portsmouth. From July 1930-September 1943 he was deputy director of the training and staff duties division of the Admiralty naval staff. From October 1935 until January 1938 he was director of torpedoes and mining at the Admiralty.
His first flag rank appointment, in September 1939, was as rear-admiral commanding the 12th Cruiser Squadron of the northern patrol. In October he returned to the Admiralty as rear-admiral in charge of mine-laying, but his first important post came in the next month.
The first German “secret weapon” of the Second World War was the magnetic mine. A small number of these weapons were laid off the British coast by U-boats and destroyers, and they caused chaos, at one point nearly closing the port of London. Fortunately the Germans only had a very small number of mines at the start of the war, which gave the British time to develop countermeasures. At the end of November a special staff was created at the Admiralty to hasten the production of these countermeasures, and Wake-Walker was placed in command. His task was made much easier on 23 November when a complete mine was recovered at great risk from the mudflats at Shoeburyness. A variety of countermeasures were soon developed, amongst them the development of mine sweeping equipment that could be attached to aircraft, the L.L. sweep which involved dragging a cable between two ships, and the degaussing process, which reduced the magnetic field of ships, making it less likely that they would trigger the mines.
In May 1940 Wake-Walker played an important role in the evacuation from Dunkirk. Admiral Ramsay, commanding the evacuation, believed in delegating responsibility to someone on the scene, rather than attempting to exert central control over a large operation. Accordingly at the start of the evacuations he had posted Captain W.G. Tennant to take command on the beaches. It soon became apparent that it was also necessary to have someone in control of the fleet of ships of Dunkirk, and on 29 May Wake-Walker was appointed Rear-admiral, Dover, with command of seagoing ships and vessels of the Belgian coast, while Tennant remaining in command on the beaches.
Wake-Walker reached Dunkirk on the minesweeper Hebe early on 30 May, and for the rest of the evacuation spent most of his time directing operations from small boats under constant fire. On 1 June the destroyer leader HMS Keith, his flagship, was sunk by enemy action, and from 2 June Wake-Walker directed the ships from a motor boat in the harbour. He was appointed a Companion of the Bath for his role in the evacuation.
From June to December 1940 he returned to mines, this time as commander of the 1st mine laying squadron, responsible for setting up the east coast mine barrier. This was designed to protect coastal shipping off the east coast from the threat of German attack. This was followed by a short spell in charge of Force K (December 1940-January 1941), with his flag in the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable.
From January 1941 until February 1942 he was commander of the 1st cruiser squadron. It was in this post that he came to public attention, during the hunt for the Bismarck. In May 1941, when it was known that the Bismarck had sailed from her Norwegian base, that squadron contained two ships – HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk. The Suffolk was equipped with a modern radar set, and so on 23 May 1941 Wake-Walker moved his squadron into the gap between the edge of the ice and the minefield off the north west corner of Iceland, hoping to detect the Bismarck if she attempted to break out into the Atlantic.
At 7.22pm the Suffolk became the first British ship to sight the Bismarck, followed soon after by Wake-Walker’s flagship, the Norfolk. The German battleship opened fire on the Norfolk, but the British cruisers were able to take cover in nearby fog and track the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen using radar. For the rest of that night the two ships managed to maintain contact with the Germans despite the appalling weather conditions and low visibly, only loosing that contact for a brief spell between midnight and 2.47am on 24 May.
Wake-Walker’s cruisers successfully guided the nearest British hunting group towards the Bismarck. This consisted of the elderly battlecruiser HMS Hood, then serving as the flagship of Admiral Holland, and the very new battleship HMS Prince of Wales. The two sides came together in the brief battle of the Denmark Strait, just before 6.00am. In a devastating few minutes HMS Hood was lost with all but three of her crew.
This left Admiral Wake-Walker in command of the surviving ships. He quite correctly decided not to risk continuing the battle with two cruisers and a damaged and only partially ready battleship and instead decided to track the German ships. He believed that Admiral Tovey, with strong elements of the Home Fleet, was approaching at speed.
Once again it was the Suffolk’s radar that made the tracking possible. During the rest of 24 May the three British ships stayed in the trail of the Bismarck, but early on the morning of 25 May they lost contact. The Suffolk had been carrying out a series of zigzags, making radar contact at the end of each maneuver. At 3.06am the Bismarck was where she was expected to be, but after the next zigzag she had gone. In the gap between contacts, the Bismarck had turned from her southern course onto a south-eastern one, and was making straight for St. Nazaire.
Admiral Wake Walker had no choice but to make a guess as to what the Bismarck had done, and unfortunately he chose the wrong option, searching to the west and the south west of the last known position. This was the last the Suffolk would play in the battle, but the Norfolk turned east, and was present during the final part of the battle, on the morning on 26 May. For his success in tracking the Bismarck for so long, Wake-Walker was appointed CBE.
This was his last command at sea. In February 1942 he left the 1st Cruiser Squadron. In April he was promoted to vice-admiral and in May he was appointed third sea lord and controller of the navy. His main achievement in this role was the creation of the great fleet of landing craft needed to carry out the series of ambitious landings that began with Operation Torch and ended on D-Day. On 8 May 1945 he was promoted to full admiral, and in September he was appointed commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, then one of the most prestigious posts in the navy, but on 24 September 1945 he died suddenly at home in London.
Military heroes in Rosary Gardens
A short time ago, I was asked to research the history of a small family estate – The Day Estate – in South Kensington in London, which covers a number of streets, including Rosary Gardens. However, I never would have guessed that over several years Rosary Gardens was home to such an extraordinary collection of former residents from the military.
Rosary Gardens, London
Rosary Gardens was named after Rosary Lodge, an 18th century house that was situated on the site prior to the building of the street and new houses in 1882. Situated off Old Brompton Road, tucked away behind Hereford Square, the houses were built by famous London builder, William Willett.
Herbert Beerbohm Tree (image courtesy of Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea archives)
By 1885 almost all the houses were occupied, which included Anne Thackeray, daughter of author, William Makepeace Thackeray, and her husband, Richard Thackeray Ritchie (second cousin of William Makepeace Thackeray). It was also the home of celebrated actor-manager, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, who had a long and successful career in theatre, and was the founder of the now world-renowned Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
Amongst these early residents, Rosary Gardens was also home to many high-ranking military men. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries there were a great many serving and retired members of the Navy and Army, including Lieutenant-Colonel John Dremel, who fought in the Zulu War and in India, as well as Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Lindsay and Lieutenant-Colonel Warren Hastings, both from the Indian Army.
Colonel Ernest Harrold Fenn
Another early resident was Colonel Ernest Harold Fenn, army surgeon who served in the Afghan War in 1878-80, as well as the Sudan in 1885, and later served with the Governor General of India, Lord Lansdowne, and the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon. He received many awards for his service, including the Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) in 1893.
Sir James Digby Legard by Walter Stoneman, 1917 (courtesy of National Portrait Gallery Collection)
There were many others, including Colonel Whalley Wickham, Colonel Granville William Vernon, and Major William Boyd Shannon, who fought at Gallipoli in 1915 and whose memoirs of the fighting have become an important historical source of the events of the Gallipoli campaign.
During the early 1900s Rosary Gardens continued as a popular address for military men. This included Colonel Sir James Digby Legard, who served in the Royal Artillery in the Zulu War, when he was mentioned in Despatches. He became an Honorary Colonel in the Yorkshire (Duke of York’s Own) Royal Garrison Artillery and became a Companion of the Order of the Bath in the King’s Birthday Honours list in 1905.
At the same time, former Russian General, Constantine (also spelt Konstantine) Dessino, was living in Rosary Gardens. Dessino had a distinguished career in the Imperial Russian Forces prior to the Revolution in 1917, including the Russo-Japanese War and the early years of the First World War. In 1917 he was visiting Britain as a member of a Russian military delegation, which included a long audience with King George V. However, after his return to Russia everything changed as he was forced to flee his home after the outbreak of the Revolution. He managed to escape with his family and sought refuge in England.
One of the most distinguished military residents (although there were many!) in Rosary Gardens was Admiral Sir William Frederic Wake-Walker.
Admiral Sir William Frederic Wake-Walker
He served during both the First and Second World Wars, and in particular played a vital role in the evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940. He was placed in charge of directing the evacuation from ships and boats at Dunkirk, where he was under almost constant attack. He “was chiefly responsible for the control of the ‘little ships'”, and for which service he was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB). Admiral Wake-Walker continued to distinguish himself during the Second World War and he was directly involved in the sinking of the Bismark in May 1941. He was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) and was promoted to Vice Admiral and Third Sea Lord and Controller of the Navy in 1942. He was also responsible for creating the huge fleet of landing craft that were used in North Africa and later in the D-Day landings. He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in 1943 and promoted to Admiral and Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean in May 1945. Sadly, despite this exceptional serving record, he did not live beyond the war as he died unexpectedly, at age 57, in September 1945.
This is just a glimpse into some of the fascinating stories I discovered by delving into the history of former residents of Rosary Gardens!
The Lady Anne Wake-Walker 1920-2020
_. The Lady Anne Wake-Walker, who has died aged 99, was a scion of the Earls Spencer and an aunt of Diana, Princess of Wales.
She was born the Hon Anne Spencer, 4 Aug, 1920, daughter of Albert Edward John Spencer, then styled Viscount Althorp [1892-1975], by his wife the former Lady Cynthia Elinor Beatrix Hamilton [1897-1972], OBE, DCVO, scion of the Dukes of Abercorn. Anne's father succeeded his father as 7th Earl Spencer, 26 September, 1922, and died 9 June, 1975, aged 83. She became Lady Anne on her father's succession.
Her younger brother Edward John [Johnny], was the 8th Earl Spencer [1924-92], father of Diana, Princess of Wales.
Lady Anne served as an officer in the WRENS in the Second World War.
Lady Anne married 10 February, 1944, Captain Christopher Baldwin Hughes Wake-Walker, RN [1920-1998], of East Bergholt, co Suffolk, scion of the Walker baronets, son of Admiral Sir William Frederic Wake-Walker, KCB [1888-1945], by his wife the former Muriel Elsie Hughes [died 1963], scion of the Hughes baronets. The then Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret attended the Wake-Walker's wedding reception at Admiralty House.
Lady Anne was widowed 5 Apr, 1998. She leaves issue, three sons David [born 1947], Richard [born 1951], and Maj. Michael, of the Coldstream Guards [born 1958], and two daughters, Elizabeth Sarah Duckworth-Chad [born 1944, for whom Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother stood sponsor], and Diana Mary Macfarlane [born 1958, twin with her brother, Michael].
The names of four significant figures in the world of brewing appear in the dictionary not because they are deemed to deserve an entry on their own account, but as bit players in someone else's. Thus in the entry for Cumming, (Felicity) Anne (1917-1993), ‘writer and sexual adventurer’ we are told that: ‘Her grandfather was Sir Grimble Groves, brewery owner and Conservative MP for South Salford’. The lady is noted to have ‘lost her virginity on a park bench under the Eiffel Tower’ in 1935, the year she came out as a debutante, and ‘in the year of her death appeared on television wearing only a pearl necklace, earrings, and hat in the world's first nude chat show’. It is not clear which of the Grimble Groves of the Salford brewers Groves & Whitnall was this remarkable lady's grandfather James Grimble Groves (1854-1914) first chairman of the Brewers' Society presumably, as he was the only family member to have been an MP, although he was never knighted. One imagines him turning in his grave at her antics.
Arthur Ronald Nall Nall-Cain, second Baron Brocket (1904-1967), chairman of Walker Cain Ltd and later first vice-chairman of Allied Breweries, appears in the dictionary as a figure in the entry on the Knoydart, Seven Men of (act.1948). The entry concerns ‘… a land raid on the Knoydart estate of Lord Brocket which sought to establish their [the protesters] claim to have small-holdings created by the department of agriculture for Scotland’. Brocket, an absentee landlord whose ‘estate management had been heavily criticised’, is billed in the dictionary as ‘millionaire landowner and brewery director, and former Conservative MP, demonised at the time and in subsequent memory as a Nazi sympathizer an accusation based on visits to Germany in the 1930s and views on the regime expressed on such occasions’. What the dictionary does not record is that Brocket was known to brewery workers in Warrington as 'Hitler's friend'.
The first Lord Gretton's uncle, Frederick Gretton (1840-1882), who owned a one eighth share of Bass, Ratcliffe & Gretton, appears in the entry on Houston, Dame Fanny Lucy (1857-1936), ‘adventuress’, with whom he eloped to Paris when Fanny was a sixteen year old actress known as Poppy Radmall, abandoning his wife. The dictionary describes the relationship with Fanny as follows: ‘Mrs Gretton, as she became known, was a beautiful young coquette, with direct, impudent speech and a tiny waist, who became expert in Parisian fashions and manners. During their riotous partnership Gretton gave her many gifts, before bequeathing her £6000 a year for life’. Fanny continued to have an unconventional life. She married three times, once to the ninth Baron Byron, was a suffragette, ‘a fresh-air fiend and nudist’, was created DBE in 1917 for war work, had ‘secret, flirtatious meetings at the Treasury with Winston Churchill’, was intensely patriotic and ‘as part of her longing to see Britain supreme everywhere she donated £100,000 to enable a British team to compete for the Schneider aviation trophy’. This latter act is credited by some with being a crucial step in the future development of the Spitfire. She bought a newspaper which she turned into ‘a mouthpiece of high tory chauvinism’, but ‘her influence waned as her eccentricity became more offensive’. All rather different to the home life of her near family back in Burton.
In the entry on Stopes, Charlotte Brown Carmichael (1840-1929), ‘feminist and literary scholar’, there is brief mention of her husband Henry Stopes (c.1852- 1902), ‘a brewer, architect, and distinguished amateur archaeologist’. Henry Stopes is best known to brewers and maltsters for his classic work Malt and Malting. An Historical, Scientific, and Practical Treatise, published in 1885. Their first daughter was Stopes, Marie Charlotte Carmichael (1880-1958), ‘sexologist and advocate of birth control’.
World War II
Wake-Walker saw considerable service in World War II. He was mentioned in despatches on 20 December, 1940 in recognition of his services in the field in March/June during the evacuation from Dunkirk. He was awarded his C.B.E. for his role in destroying the battleship Bismarck as Rear Admiral Commanding First Cruiser Squadron. 
Wake-Walker was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral on 6 April, 1942. 
Wake-Walker was promoted to the rank of Admiral on 8 May, 1945. 
He died unexpectedly on 24 September, 1945 after having been appointed as Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean just earlier that month. 
Lady Anne Wake-Walker
Sad news today- Lady Anne Wake-Walker has passed away at the age of 99 and a half. The elder child of the 7th Earl Spencer and Lady Cynthia Hamilton, she was the only sibling of the 8th Earl Spencer, father of Diana, Princess of Wales, and grew up at the family seat of Althorp House in Northamptonshire and, for a period, at Spencer House in London. In 1944, Lady Anne, then serving as an Officer in the WRENS, married Christopher Balwin Hughes Wake-Walker, the son of Admiral Sir William Frederic Wake-Walker, 3rd Baronet and a Captain in the Royal Navy, at Westminster Abbey, in the presence of most of the Royal Family. The couple had three sons and two daughters, the eldest of whom was a goddaughter of the Queen Mother. Lady Anne and Captain Wake-Walker, who suffered from parkinson’s until his death in 1998, resided in a 400-year-old house in East Bergholt in Suffolk, and she was present at quite a few royal occasions, like the wedding of her grand-nephew, the Duke of Cambridge. We offer our condolences to the family at this difficult time!
World War II
He achieved flag rank on 10 January 1939. His first appointment, in September 1939, was rear-admiral commanding the 12th Cruiser Squadron. This appointment lasted only a short time as he soon returned to the Admiralty as head of a special group created to develop magnetic mine countermeasures.
In May 1940 Wake-Walker was appointed rear-admiral, Dover, in command of all ships and vessels off the Franco-Belgian coast for the evacuation of Dunkirk. Wake-Walker reached Dunkirk in the minesweeper HMS Hebe on 30 May. On 1 June his flagship, the destroyer HMS Keith, was sunk by Ju 87 Stukas, and he thereafter directed operations from a motor boat in the harbour. For his role in the evacuation he was appointed Companion of the Bath.
From June to December 1940 he commanded the 1st Mine Laying Squadron, responsible for setting up the east coast mine barrier, and after a brief time as commander of Force K, flying his flag in the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable, he was made commander of the 1st Cruiser Squadron.
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Sir William Frederic Wake-Walker (1888-1945) - History
BAIRD, JAMES, merchant and politician b. 30 Nov. 1828 in Saltcoats, Scotland, son of Hugh Baird and Margaret Anderson m. 3 Dec. 1857 Anne Boyd in St John’s, and they had three sons and one daughter d. there 30 May 1915.
James Baird came to Newfoundland in 1844 and worked as a draper’s assistant until about 1853, when he established his own importing and drapery business in partnership with his brother David. In 1868 the store windows of Baird Brothers were broken, apparently by members of an association of store clerks because the company had been the first to defy an agreement establishing earlier closing hours. Four years later James started a business under his own name, in which he was later joined by his nephew James Gordon. By the early 1880s the firm had expanded into wholesale and retail trade in groceries and dry goods and the sale of wines and spirits, as well as the fishery supply business.
The company was cautious in entering the colony’s fish export trade, doing so in the mid 1880s and then for only a few years. This proved a sound business decision although he lost his premises in the fire that destroyed much of St John’s in 1892, Baird was able to rebuild on a much larger scale and survived the financial collapse of the island’s banking system two years later [see James Goodfellow* Augustus William Harvey*]. Indeed, the company was well positioned to fill the gap left by a number of major, financially troubled firms. It re-entered the fish trade, taking over the assets of several bankrupt firms, including Thorburn and Tessier, owned by former premier Sir Robert Thorburn*. Baird’s company would grow to become an important 20th-century fish exporter. By 1901 Gordon, who had previously managed his uncle’s businesses, had become a full partner in the firm, now known as Baird, Gordon and Company. Following Gordon’s death in February 1908, the name was changed to James Baird Limited, with Baird’s sons becoming managing partners. In October that year the firm’s premises were destroyed once again by fire, but they were substantially rebuilt.
Along with fellow merchants Moses Monroe* and A. W. Harvey, James Baird was prominent in developing local industries in St John’s. He held shares in boot and shoe, woollen, and clothing factories, a bakery, a nail foundry, and the Colonial Cordage Company, a firm started by Monroe. Baird was also active in the sealing and whaling industries. During the sealers’ strike of 1902, he was a member of the committee that negotiated on behalf of the owners [see Simeon Kelloway*]. He served as president of the St John’s Gas Light Company, which by 1914 would be generally regarded as the most secure of local investments in Newfoundland.
James Baird is best known in Newfoundland history for his role in the famous Baird et al. v. Walker case, for which he has been called “Newfoundland’s [John] Hampden.” In 1889 he had purchased the mortgage to a lobster factory on the island’s west coast, where France had historically held fishing rights. The following year the factory was closed by Sir Baldwin Wake Walker of the British navy under the terms of a modus vivendi reached for that fishing season between France and Britain. The agreement prohibited the erection by Newfoundland fishing interests, after 1 July 1889, of new lobster factories on what was known as the French Shore, except with the consent of the British and French naval commanders. Walker had acceded to a French request that the factory be closed because, the French claimed, it had been erected after that date. Baird in 1890 sued Walker in the Newfoundland Supreme Court for $5,000 in damages for the loss of business resulting from the factory’s closure. In taking this action, possibly with the support of other Water Street merchants, he may have been hoping to embarrass the Liberal government of Sir William Vallance Whiteway* over its handling of the modus. In a decision delivered in March the following year, Chief Justice Sir Frederic Bowker Terrington Carter* and Sir Robert John Pinsent* found for Baird, noting that Walker had no legal authority to close the factory. The imperial legislation under which he had acted was no longer in force, and short of introducing new legislation, the British government could not enforce the modus vivendi and stop Newfoundlanders from operating on the French Shore. On behalf of the imperial government, Walker appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, where Baird once again fought his case and won.
His action was a significant political and constitutional victory for Newfoundland in its long dispute with Britain and France over historic French fishing rights on the island, an issue that would not be finally settled until 1904, when it formed part of a broader French-British agreement on colonial questions. The case also served in the 1890s to rally a demoralized opposition, unofficially led by Moses Monroe, that had been crushed by Whiteway’s electoral victory in 1889 over Sir Robert Thorburn. In 1898 the newly elected Tory government of Sir James Spearman Winter appointed Baird to the Legislative Council.
James Baird was one of a number of Scottish-born merchants – among them, Thorburn and James Goodfellow – who held considerable economic influence in late-19th-century Newfoundland through their diversified commercial and industrial investments. Socially, Baird was active in many community organizations, such as the St John’s Athenæum, and he was prominent in St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, serving as treasurer for many years.
Frederick Douglass During the Civil War
During the brutal conflict that divided the still-young United States, Douglass continued to speak and worked tirelessly for the end of slavery and the right of newly freed Black Americans to vote.
Although he supported President Abraham Lincoln in the early years of the Civil War, Douglass would fall into disagreement with the politician after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which effectively ended the practice of slavery. Douglass was disappointed that Lincoln didn’t use the proclamation to grantਏormerly enslaved people the right to vote, particularly after they had fought bravely alongside soldiers for the Union army.