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Thursfield, Henry George, Rear-Admiral, 1882-1963.


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Biographical details Henry George Thursfield was the only son of the naval journalist Sir James Richard Thursfield and his wife Emily Elizabeth Hannah Thursfield née Herbert. He was born in Bloomsbury in 1882, educated at Berkhamsted School, and entered the Royal Navy as a cadet on HMS BRITANNIA in 1897. As a midshipman he served on the battleship HMS RENOWN (1895), flagship on the North America and West Indies station; the battleship HMS MAJESTIC (1895), flagship of the Channel Squadron; then on the cruisers HMS ANDROMEDA (1897) and HMS VENUS (1895) in the Mediterranean. From 1902 onwards he trained in gunnery and torpedo warfare at Greenwich and Portsmouth, and was involved in submarine trials at Barrow-in-Furness, before serving on HMS GOOD HOPE (1901) in the Cruiser Squadron based at Portland. He then trained at HMS VERNON and on the cruiser HMS FURIOUS (1896) at Portsmouth, before becoming torpedo lieutenant on the battlecruiser HMS INVINCIBLE (1907) in the Home Fleet. His next seagoing appointments were on the submarine depot ship HMS BONAVENTURE (1892), the battleship HMS ILLUSTRIOUS (1896) for the naval manoeuvres in 1912, then the armoured cruiser HMS SHANNON (1906) in the Home Fleet. During the First World War Thursfield was flag commander to Vice-Admiral Richard H. Peirse, Commander-in-Chief, East Indies, at Port Said. He was awarded the Order of the Nile (Fourth Class) by the Sultan of Egypt for his distinguished service in this period. He was then with the Grand Fleet, initially on the battleship HMS DREADNOUGHT (1906), then on the staff of Rear-Admiral William C. Pakenham on the battlecruiser HMS LION (1910). Thursfield was promoted to the rank of captain in 1920 and became Assistant Director of the Royal Naval Staff College at Greenwich. He then had appointments in the Mediterranean, including command of HMS CONCORD (1916), then HMS COMUS (1914), and a role with the British Naval Mission to Greece. In 1922 he was Senior Naval Officer at Smyrna during its reoccupation by Turkish forces at the end of the Greco-Turkish War. He then had appointments at the Admiralty in London, including Director of the Tactical Division of the Naval Staff before being in command of HMS ROYAL OAK (1914), flagship of the First Battle Squadron in the Mediterranean in 1930-1932. He was then briefly in command of the battlecruiser HMS RENOWN (1916) and an aid-de-camp to King George V before being promoted to the rank of rear admiral and being placed on the retired list. His service record can be found under the references ADM 196/47/72, ADM 196/91/71, ADM 196/125/329 and ADM 196/142/615 at The National Archives. Thursfield then followed in his father’s footsteps by writing on naval subjects and becoming a contributor to service journals. He was special correspondent for ‘The Times’ at the fleet manoeuvres in 1934-1935 and at the London Naval Conference in 1936. He succeeded Commander Charles N. Robinson as both naval correspondent for ‘The Times’ and as editor of ‘Brassey’s Naval Annual’ (later Brassey’s Annual’) in 1936. Thursfield also edited the volume ‘Five Naval Journals, 1789-1817’ for the Naval Records Society, was a trustee of the National Maritime Museum in 1948-1955, and was also a trustee of the Society for Nautical Research. Thursfield died in Norfolk in 1963. One of his sons, Sub-Lieutenant James Barry Thursfield, died while serving with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in Ceylon in 1946. .
Description The items numbered THU/112-113 were donated by Rear-Admiral Thursfield in 1958 and earlier. They consist of midshipman’s journals, and notebooks on pilotage and electrical engineering, relating to Thursfield’s training in the period 1898-1906. There are station and fire bills from his service as first lieutenant on the armoured cruiser HMS SHANNON (1906) in 1913; and night and standing order books from his command of the light cruiser HMS CONCORD (1916) in 1922-1923. Also from the 1920s are some printed copies of Thursfield’s lectures on naval tactics, and papers relating to his role as senior naval officer at Smyrna during the reoccupation by Turkish forces in 1922.

The items numbered THU/114-119 were donated by Thursfield in 1962 and consist of certificates and service papers, official and private letters,and ephemera from most periods of his career. There are drawing exercises, examination papers, reports and magazines from has training as a cadet on HMS BRITANNIA in 1897-1898. THU/117 has a long series of letters Thursfield wrote to his parents throughout the early part of his naval career, starting in 1897 and ending around the time of his father’s death in 1923. There are some letters written by his wife Celia Ethel Thursfield (née Taylor) in 1930-1931, plus a few letters relating to other family members. There are also menu and invitation cards, order of service booklets and other printed items reflecting Thursfield’s work as a naval journalist, attendance at commemorative and fundraising events, and other activities following his retirement from the Navy in 1932.
Date made 1882-01-01 - 1963-12-31

Finding Reference THU/101-119
Catalogue section Personal collections
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Extent 16 boxes; 1 oversize folder
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