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Admiral of the Fleet Sir Neville Syfret (1889-1972)


Object connections:

Collection Sculpture
ExhibitionsWar Artists at Sea
Gallery locationQH (Floor plans)
PeopleDepiction: Syfret, of the Fleet Neville

Object details:

Object ID SCU0053
Description Head-and-part-shoulders bronze bust, standing on the arched base formed by the chest and back line of the figure, the shoulders being hollow and open at each side. The sitter is facing forward in full-dress uniform with stand-up sword-and-oak-leaf collar, and his short hair brushed back. Only the top ends of the epaulettes are included and the medals on the left breast are also cropped off at the shoulder and the base lines. The sitter's name, 'SYFRET', is cast in large capitals in the right breast. The head and face are highly finished, the uniform retaining the sculptor's broad hand-modelling as a deliberate contrast. The bust was commissioned by the War Artists Advisory Committee and transferred on permanent loan from the Imperial War Museum in November 1947. Edward Neville Syfret was born in South Africa, joined the Navy in 1904 and was commissioned in 1909. A gunnery specialist, he was gunnery officer of the battle cruisers 'Aurora', 'Centaur', and 'CuraƧao', in the First World War, all of which served for varying periods as flagship of Reginald Tyrwhitt commanding the Harwich force. He became captain in 1929 and on the outbreak of the Second World War was commanding the battleship 'Rodney' in the Home Fleet. However, his intellectual and organizational skills were then well known and in November 1939 he was selected as naval secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty, serving both Churchill until he became Prime Minister in May 1940 then, briefly, A. V. Alexander. Promoted rear-admiral in 1940 he was next appointed to command one of the Home Fleet cruiser squadrons, flying his flag in the 'Edinburgh'. He almost immediately distinguished himself in support of Somerville's 'Force H' , getting a supply convoy through to beleaguered Malta. He then succeeded Somerville and early in 1942 led 'Force H' in the capture of Diego Suarez, Madagascar, held by pro-Vichy French forces. In August, back in the Mediterranean, he commanded 'Force H' in the resupply of Malta by 'Operation Pedestal' and later in the landings in North Africa. In 1943, after illness, he became Vice-Chief of Naval Staff and much involved in both the planning of the Normandy invasion and the later despatch of British naval forces to help the American war-effort in the Pacific. After peace came in 1945 he was for three years commander-in-chief of the Home Fleet, managing to keep morale and readiness high through a difficult period of demobilization and reduction. He became a full admiral in 1946 and retired in 1948. Wheeler (1892-1974) developed a reputation as a 'traditional modernist' sculptor in the inter-war years and was elected RA in 1940. Both during and after the war he did a number of naval portraits and memorials, including Jellicoe's bust for Trafalgar Square. He was President of the Royal Academy for ten years from 1956.
Date made circa 1944

Artist/Maker Wheeler, Charles Thomas
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Presented by the War Artists Advisory Committee 1947
Materials bronze
Measurements Overall: 419 mm x 300 mm x 210 mm x 13 kg
  • Admiral of the Fleet Sir Neville Syfret (1889-1972) (SCU0053)
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