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Admiral Sir Max Horton (1883-1951)

Oil paintings

Object connections:

Collection Oil paintings, Fine art
Gallery locationNot on display
PeopleDepiction: Horton, Max

Object details:

Object ID BHC2783
Description A three-quarter length portrait to the left, showing Horton in his admiral’s undress uniform, wearing his cap; his left hand rests on a stanchion and he holds a telescope in his right. It is painted from a wartime photograph and signed ‘Wales Smith’. Max Kennedy Horton entered ‘Britannia’ as a cadet in 1898. Interested in the technical side of the Navy, he became a pioneer submariner. Aged 22, he was given command of ‘A.1’, a 200-ton submarine used for experimental work. He later commissioned ‘C.8’. In 1910 returned to general service in the cruiser ‘Duke of Edinburgh’, being awarded the Board of Trade’s silver medal for heroism in saving life when the P&O liner ‘Delhi’ was wrecked in a gale off Cape Spartel. He went back to submarines and at the start of the First World War was in command of the new, ocean-going boat ‘E.9’, in which he sank the German cruiser ‘Hecla’, the first enemy warship to be destroyed by a British submarine, and later the destroyer ‘S.116’. He was awarded to the DSO, and promoted commander in late 1914. He continued in submarines with successes in the Baltic between October 1914 and December 1915, gaining a bar to this DSO. After the war, he was again in the Baltic with a submarine flotilla to defend the Baltic states against Bolshevik aggression in 1920, for which he received a second bar to his DSO. He was promoted captain in June that year. After further submarine commands, Admiralty service and a period as chief of staff to Sir Roger Keyes at Portsmouth, Horton commanded HMS ‘Resolution’ in the Mediterranean. In October 1932 he was promoted rear-admiral and flew his flag in HMS ‘Barham’ as second in command of the Home Fleet. He was appoint CB in 1934 and went back to the Mediterranean the following year as commander of the first cruiser squadron, being promoted vice-admiral in 1936. In 1937 he was placed in charge of the Reserve Fleet, something of a backwater and a command many thought would be his last. But the approach of war and the sheer range of vessels under his command made the post appealing to the technically minded Horton and the entire fleet was ready to sail by the middle of 1939. He was made KCB and, after a spell in command of the northern patrol, he became flag officer submarines. His experience told and he was able to position his forces with skill during the German invasion of Norway in April 1940, where British submarines sank 21 enemy transports and supply ships. Two German cruisers were also sunk, a pocket battleship severely damaged and the battle-cruiser ‘Gneisenau’ put out of action. He declined the command of the Home Fleet, preferring to stay with submarines. Technical innovation continued with his encouragement of midget subs and human torpedoes. In November 1942, again exploiting his submarine experience, he was appointed commander-in-chief of the western approaches, improving convoy protection and anti-U-boat operations with considerable success. He retired at the end of the war, being promoted GCB in June 1945. There is a memorial to him in Liverpool Cathedral.
Date made circa 1945

Artist/Maker Wales-Smith, Arthur Douglas
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 762 mm x 610 mm; Frame:
  • Admiral Sir Max Horton (1883-1951) (BHC2783)
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