King's College London
Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
Survey of the Papers of Senior UK Defence Personnel, 1900-1975
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
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.
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.
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:
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:
William George Tennant was a true leader of men.
A memorial page about him exists at this website:
Please contact Andy (webmaster) with any information.
Information provided by
Sir William George
|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)
|Education: HMS Britannia
Sir William George
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