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William George Tennant 

KCB CBE MVO

Admiral

 

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Talking with Chaplain Bezzant after being rescued from the sinking - Click for a larger view (43817 bytes)

Close up view of the picture at left - Click for a larger view (16987 bytes)

King's College London
Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives

Survey of the Papers of Senior UK Defence Personnel, 1900-1975
Name
TENNANT, Sir William George (1890-1963), Admiral
Service biography reproduced below:
HMS BRITANNIA 1905; specialized in navigation 1913; World War I 1914-1918; HMS LIZARD and HMS FERRET, Harwich Force 1914-1916; HMS CHATHAM and HMS NOTTINGHAM, Grand Fleet 1916; HMS CONCORD, Harwich Force 1916-1919; navigator, HMS RENOWN, during royal world tour 1921; navigator, HMS REPULSE, during royal world tour 1925; HMS ARETHUSA, Mediterranean 1935-1937; naval instructor, Imperial Defence College 1937-1939; organised embarkation of allied armies at Dunkirk, Normandy, France 1940; commanded HMS RENOWN 1940; commanded HMS REPULSE and survived her sinking by air attack 1941; commanded cruiser squadron, Eastern Fleet 1942; on staff for planning of Operation OVERLORD, for the Allied invasion of North West Europe 1943; commanded Mulberry harbour operations, France 1944; France 1944; Flag Officer, Levant and Eastern Mediterranean 1944-1946; Commander-in-Chief, America and West Indies Station 1946-1949; retired 1949

Papers
NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM, LONDON: Papers 1905-1963 (ref: TEN NVT/41), including; Midshipman's logs 1905-1909; diaries of war service, written up 1919; diary of royal cruise 1925; work book 1927; papers relating to the sinking of HMS REPULSE 1941; tactical and secret papers on the planning and use of artificial 'Mulberry' harbours, Normandy, France 1944;
lecture notes, engagement diaries and visitors' books relating to his service as Commander-in-Chief, America and West Indies Station 1946-1949; papers relating to his general historical interests and the role of the three services in defence strategy, including prepared papers on Jutland, the lessons of World War II and cruiser tactics 

HMS Wolfhound D56.

27th May 1940: Left Dover for Dunkirk carrying Senior Naval Officer, Dunkirk (Captain W.G Tennant) with a beach party of 12 Officers and 160 ratings, suffering minor damage en route from aircraft attack. On arrival the area was too dangerous to set up the operation planned and she re-routed east of the harbour. Was again attacked and later took an early part in the evacuation of the Dunkirk beaches bringing back 130 troops.

Captain of HMS Repulse at the time she was sunk by the Japanese, Captain Tennant was saved by the Destroyer escort ships and taken back to Singapore with the rest of the survivors. He was born in 1890 and joined the Navy in 1905 at the age of 15. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1912;Commander in 1925, and Captain in 1932.

He was instrumental in the saving of countless lives during The Dunkirk evacuations, and became Captain of HMS Repulse in 1940. His 'below decks' nickname was 'Dunkirk Joe' He eventually went on to become Admiral.

 

On researching the story of this man, I can find nothing more than praise for him from those who knew him and served under him.

These two anecdotes come to the fore about the nature of William Tennant:

From Ted Matthews in 'Sailors Tales':

Repulse heads for Conception Bay in Newfoundland just after the Bismark episode, short of fuel, she had to steam at 8 - 10 knots and risked attack by u-boats.

After an extremely tense period, it was with great relief that we managed to reach land with no mishaps, and everyone was able to relax properly for the first time in almost a week.

At this point I was privileged to witness at first hand the most sincere gesture from a Captain to his subordinates I’ve ever heard of to this day. The harbour town of Conception Bay was living on the poverty line. It shouldn’t have been the case as they had an abundance of that vital element in any mechanised war, Iron Ore, on stepping ashore you had to walk on it. No need to mine for it, you could collect it with a bucket and shovel. The British Government decided in their wisdom, not to buy this material from these people, some of whom were actually fighting in the war on our side. Instead it was being bought from America and still up to this time Norway.

Our skipper must have been fully aware of the plight of these people, and implemented some small action to ease their situation, which had the added effect of showing to his crew, that he truly cared for their welfare. The area was also a great fishing community, but no one could afford to buy their salmon. He quickly remedied this point by purchasing, out of his own pocket fresh salmon for the whole ship’s compliment. You have to remember, the vast majority of us came from poor backgrounds and at that time salmon was a delicacy; the cost must have been immense. It also has to be remembered that he performed this kind act, with no fanfare or speech to tell us how lucky we were. Rather, he did it because he was someone very special. I only served under two officers, during my time in service, whom I have had total respect for. He is one, the other you shall hear of later in my tale. With this act of humanitarianism he’d both helped the people of the town, and also sent our morale through the roof.

 

From John Dykes in 'Sailors Tales':

During the trip home from 3 and a half years incarceration and a living hell under the Japanese in Singapore:

The journey was to take several weeks and I have one marvellous recollection of it. As mentioned earlier, my time in Changi destroyed a lot of the faith I had in the officer class of our country. But for one officer this didn't apply. I think I'm correct with the location of this incident. It was in Port Tufick and I was in the mess hall when a Lieutenant came in and shouted. "Is there a Stoker Dykes in here" I piped up "Yes". He came across with a message in his hand. I unfolded it and I still remember the first words although the rest of it is not quite so clear these days. It began: 
"Dear shipmate, I am sorry I cannot be here in person to meet you, but I have to go on fleet manoeuvres with the 8th Cruiser squadron, I sincerely hope you are okay and if any other shipmates are with you from Repulse, can you send them my best wishes". Signed, Rear Admiral Tennant.
I couldn't believe it. He was still the same nature of man I'd served under on Repulse and I never had trouble accepting authority from men such as him. It was the finest honour he could have bestowed on me and I've never forgotten it.

 

William George Tennant was a true leader of men.

 

A memorial page about him exists at this website:

Upton on Severn Website

Please contact Andy (webmaster) with any information.

Andy Wade (Webmaster)

Information provided by
Frank Sugden

Tennant,
Sir William George
02.01.1890
Upton- on-Severn
-
26.07.1963
Worcester Royal
Infirmary
Lt. (1912); Cdr. (1925); Capt. (31.12.1932); R.Adm. (06.02.1942); A/V.Adm.; V.Adm. (27.07.1945); Adm. (22.10.1948); retd (08.1949)
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath KCB 18.12.1945 wind up Europe 45
Companion of the Order of the Bath CB 07.06.1940 Dunkirk
Commander of the Order of the British Empire CBE 28.11.1944 Operation Neptune
Member of the Royal Victorian Order, 4th Class MVO 1925 ?
Name brought to notice Ntc 20.12.1940 operations in the field 03-06.40
Mention in Despatches MID 23.02.1943 Operation Streamline Jane
Officier de la Legion d'Honneur (France) LegH ? liberation of France
Croix de Guerre (France) CdeG ? liberation of France
Commander of the Legion of Merit (US) LM 15.10.1946 ?
Grand Officer of the Order of George I (Greece) Geo I 15.04.1947 ?
Education: HMS Britannia
1905     joined RN
1915     specialized in navigation
1914 - 1916 HMS Lizard and HMS Ferret, Harwich Force
1916     HMS Chatham and HMS Nottingham, Grand Fleet
1916 - 1919 HMS Concord, Harwich Force
1921     navigator, HMS Renown, during royal world tour
1925     navigator, HMS Repulse, during royal world tour
1935 - 1937 HMS Arethusa, Mediterranean
01.07.1937 - (08.)1939 naval instructor, Imperial Defence College (London)
(1939)     Chief Staff Officer, First Sea Lord
(1940)     organised embarkation of allied armies at Dunkirk, Normandy, France
1940     CO HMS Renown (battle cruiser)
1940 - 10.12.1941 CO HMS Repulse (battle cruiser)
1942     Commanding Cruiser Squadron, Eastern Fleet
(08.1942) - (06.1944) no posting listed:
00.01.1943 - (1944) Rear-Admiral Mulberry/Pluto on staff of ANCXF (Invasion of Normandy, 1944) [HMS Odyssey]
30.10.1944 - (04.)1946 Flag Officer Levant and Eastern Mediterranean, later Senior British Naval Officer Middle East [HMS Nile]
1946 - 1949 Commander-in-Chief America and West Indies Station
Past Chairman, King George's Fund for Sailors; KStJ, 1950. Hon. Freeman of Worcester, 1958. Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire 1950-1963.
Tennant,
Sir William George
W.G. Tennant

Eldest surviving son of late Lt.Col. Edmund William Tennant of the Eades, Upton-on-Severn.
Married (1919) Catherine Mary, daughter of late Major C.H. Blount, RHA.

Statue at Upton-on-Severn

02.01.1890
Upton- on-Severn
-
26.07.1963
Worcester Royal
Infirmary
A/S.Lt.
15.12.1909
S.Lt.
16.09.1910, seniority 15.12.1909
Lt.
30.06.1912
Lt.Cdr.
30.06.1920
Cdr.
31.12.1925
Capt.
31.12.1932
R.Adm.
06.02.1942
A/V.Adm.
1945?
V.Adm.
27.07.1945
Adm.
22.10.1948 (retd 03.08.1949)
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath KCB
18.12.1945
wind up Europe 45
Companion of the Order of the Bath CB
07.06.1940
Dunkirk
Commander of the Order of the British Empire CBE
28.11.1944
Operation Neptune
Member of the Royal Victorian Order, 4th Class MVO
16.10.1925

visit of HRH the Prince of Wales to Africa and South America

Name brought to notice Ntc
20.12.1940
operations in the field 03-06.40
Mention in Despatches MID
23.02.1943
Operation Streamline Jane
Officier de la Legion d'Honneur (France) LegH
?
liberation of France
Croix de Guerre (France) CdeG
?
liberation of France
Commander of the Legion of Merit (US) LM
15.10.1946
?
Grand Officer of the Order of George I (Greece) Geo I
15.04.1947
?
Education: HMS Britannia
1905


joined RN
1915


specialized in navigation
1914
-
1916
HMS Lizard and HMS Ferret, Harwich Force
1916


HMS Chatham and HMS Nottingham, Grand Fleet
1916
-
1919
HMS Concord, Harwich Force
1921


Navigating Officer, HMS Renown, during royal world tour
01.09.1922
-
(08.1923)
HMS Dryad (navigation school, Portsmouth)
10.10.1924
-
(01.1925)
Navigating Officer, HMS Repulse (battlecruiser) (Atlantic Fleet) (Royal World Tour, 1925)
22.04.1926
-
06.05.1926
Admiralty [HMS President]
06.05.1926
-
(07.1927)
Operations Division, Admiralty [HMS President]
26.03.1929
-
(04.)1930
Executive Officer, HMS Sussex (cruiser) (Mediterranean)
22.09.1930
-
(10.)1930
tactical course, HM Dockyard Portsmouth
15.12.1930
-
(09.1932)
staff, RN Staff College, Greenwich [HMS President]
(01.1934)


no appointment listed
21.05.1935
-
(02.)1937
CO HMS Arethusa (cruiser) & some time Flag Captain, 3rd Cruiser Squadron (Mediterranean) 
01.07.1937
-
(08.)1939
naval instructor, Imperial Defence College (London)
26.08.1939
-
(04.)1940
Chief Staff Officer to First Sea Lord [HMS President]
05.1940
-
06.1940
Senior Naval Officer, Dunkirk (organised embarkation of allied armies at Dunkirk, Normandy, France)
[1940?
-
1940?
CO HMS Renown (battlecruiser) ?]
18.06.1940
-
10.12.1941
CO HMS Repulse (battlecruiser) (sunk)
13.04.1942
-
15.10.1943
Rear-Admiral Commanding 4th Cruiser Squadron, Eastern Fleet (in charge of naval operations covering occupation of Madagascar, 09.1942)
1943
-
1944
Second-in-Command, Eastern Fleet
(01?.)1944
-
(06.)1944
Rear-Admiral Mulberry/Pluto on staff of ANCXF (Invasion of Normandy, 1944) [HMS Odyssey]
30.10.1944
-
(04.)1946
Flag Officer Levant and Eastern Mediterranean, later Senior British Naval Officer Middle East [HMS Nile (RN base, Alexandria]
23.10.1946
-
03.05.1949
Commander-in-Chief, America and West Indies Station [HMS Sheffield]
Past Chairman, King George's Fund for Sailors; KStJ, 01.01.1951. Hon. Freeman of Worcester, 1958. Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire 21.04.1950-26.07.1963. Honorary Colonel, Worcestershire Hussars, RAC (TA), 04.12.1952-02.01.1957.