CAREER OF HERBERT KING-HALL
1862 - 1936
Unlike his elder brother George, Herbert King-Hall did not keep a diary and the main source of information that we have about his life in the Royal Navy comes from a memoir that he wrote called Naval Memories and Traditions, which was published by Hutchinson in 1926. This book, although very readable, does not include any incidents of major naval importance and it is therefore intended to restrict this Page to a summary of Herbert’s naval career for the benefit of the family and only draw the general reader’s attention to a number aspects of his career which may be of wider interest.
DATE SHIP TYPE STATION
1875 Britannia Two years training
1877 Alexandra Ironclad. Med
1879 Newcastle Frigate Home waters
1880 Martin and Minotaur Home waters
SUB - LIEUTENANT
1881 RNC Greenwich
1882 Sultan Ironclad. Med Bombardment of
1883 Rifleman Gun vessel S. America. River Plate.
1884-85 Gunnery course Penelope Home waters
1886-89 Canada Steel Corvette North American and W.I
1890-92 Raleigh Iron Frigate Cape Station.
1892-93 Undaunted Cruiser Med.
1893-95 Magpie Gunboat West Africa Gambia river action.
1895-96 Admiralty Staff of Director of Naval Intelligence. Mobilising Division.
1896 Nelson Cruiser Med Invalided home.
1897 Theseus Cruiser Home waters Diamond Jubilee
1898 Sharpshooter Gunboat. Home waters Stokers training
1898-1900 Hearty North Sea Fishery Protection
1901-03 Naval Transport Officer Durban and Cape Town Final stages of Boer War
1903-06 Endymion Cruiser Channel Squadron Visit to USA
1906-08 Admiralty Intelligence Dpt Head of Foreign Division
1908-09 Indomitable Battle Cruiser Special Service Visit to Canada with
Prince of Wales.
1909-10 Admiralty Director of Mobilisation. Embryo Naval War Staff.
1911 Hibernia Battleship Home Fleet FO 2nd Division/Squadron
1912 Orion Dreadnought Home Fleet FO 2nd Division
1913-15 Commander-in-Chief, Cape Station Sinking of Konigsberg
1916-17 Half Pay
1918-19 Flag Officer Orkneys and Shetland
It is interesting to compare the naval careers of George and Herbert. At first sight it would seem that George was the more successful, ending his service as Commander-in-Chief Australia. However at one time it looked as if this would not be the case.
Up to the rank of Captain their progress was very similar. But in the ranks of Captain and Rear Admiral matters were very different. Between 1906 and 1913 Herbert had a series of extremely good appointments.
As a senior Captain he served in the most important department in the Admiralty and was then given command of a new Battle Cruiser, with the additional honour of taking the Prince of Wales to Canada. As a Rear Admiral he held a very important post in the Admiralty and later flew his flag in a brand new Dreadnought. To back up his professional success he had served twice under Lord Charles Beresford, yet remained on good terms with Lord Fisher and had served under Prince Louis of Battenberg, a future 1st Sea Lord.
Having finished his time with the Home Fleet Herbert was told that he was being considered for three posts: Chief of Naval Staff, Commander in Chief of the Cape and a Cruiser Squadron in the S. Atlantic. On being asked his order of preference he chose them in the order given above. In the event the post of Chief of Staff went to another officer and then Admiral Sturdee and Herbert was given the Cape. Admiral Craddock went to the cruiser squadron and his death at the Battle of Coronel.
From the family’s point of view it is intriguing to ask what would have happened if Herbert had chosen the third job. In the view of many historians Admiral Craddock fought the Battle of Coronel in an imprudent, if heroic manner. Would Herbert have been more cautious and refused engagement until the battleship Canopus had joined his squadron. If he had, would he have been the victor of the subsequent battle?
However fame was not to be his reward. Having spent two and a half years as Commander-in Chief of the Cape during which time he provided naval support for the conquest of German South West Africa and the destruction of the German raider Konigsberg at her anchorage up the Rufiji river, he returned to England.
The next two years must have been a frustrating time for him. He had hoped for a sea-going job in the Grand Fleet but it was Admiral Jellicoe’s policy only to employ senior officers who had previous experience of the naval war in the North Sea. Herbert remained unemployed until January 1918 when he was appointed Flag Officer Orkney and Shetland Islands. This was not a very prestigious post to for an officer whose career at one time had shown such promise.
As a footnote: It has been said within the family that one reason Herbert chose the Cape was because his wife Mabel was considered to be delicate and he thought the climate would be good for her. Ironically Mabel turned out to be far from fragile. She lived to the age of 103 and died in 1969.