Victor Crutchley

Admiral Sir Victor Alexander Charles Crutchley VC, KCB, DSC, DL (2 November 1893 – 24 January 1986) was a senior Royal Navy officer during the Second World War and a First World War recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Sir Victor Crutchley
Sir Victor Crutchley AWM.jpeg
Victor Crutchley in 1942
Born2 November 1893
Chelsea, London
Died24 January 1986 (aged 92)
Nettlecombe, Dorset
St Mary's Churchyard, Powerstock
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchRoyal Navy
Years of service1906–1947
Commands heldRoyal Navy Dockyard, Gibraltar (1945–47)
HM Australian Squadron (1942–44)
HMNB Devonport (1940–42)
HMS Warspite (1937–40)
Fishery Protection and Mine-Sweeping Flotilla (1936–37)
HMS Diomede (1930–32)
Battles/warsFirst World War
Second World War
AwardsVictoria Cross
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Cross
Mentioned in Despatches
Croix de guerre (France)
Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit (United States)
Order of Polonia Restituta (Poland)

Early life

Crutchley was born on 2 November 1893 at 28 Lennox Gardens, Chelsea, London, the only son of Percy Edward (1855–1940) and the Hon. Frederica Louisa (1864–1932), second daughter of Charles FitzRoy, 3rd Baron Southampton. His mother had been maid of honour to Queen Victoria.[1] He was a godchild of Queen Victoria (from whom he derived his first two names). He joined the navy in 1906 and was educated at the Royal Naval College, Osborne.

First World War

In September 1915 Crutchley was promoted to lieutenant and posted to a battleship of the Grand Fleet, HMS Centurion. Centurion participated in the Battle of Jutland. After the battle Roger Keyes assumed command of Centurion and acquired a highly favorable impression of Crutchley. Keyes selected Crutchley for the Zeebrugge Raid of 23 April 1918; he was assigned by Keyes as first lieutenant to Commander Alfred Godsal, also of Centurion, on the obsolete cruiser Brilliant.

Brilliant and Sirius were to be sunk as blockships at Ostend. The Germans had moved a navigation buoy, and so the ships were beached in the wrong place under heavy fire. But Crutchley performed well and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Crutchley volunteered for the Second Ostend Raid on 9 May, and was posted to the cruiser Vindictive, again commanded by Godsal. When Godsal was killed and the navigating officer incapacitated, Crutchley took command. When a propellor was damaged on the quay, preventing the vessel fully closing the canal, Crutchley ordered its scuttling and personally oversaw the evacuation under fire.

Crutchley transferred to the damaged motor launch ML 254. When its wounded captain Lieutenant Geoffrey Drummond collapsed, Crutchley took command. Crutchley oversaw bailing operations, standing in water up to his waist, until the destroyer HMS Warwick, carrying Admiral Keyes, came to its aid.

Although the second raid also failed fully to close the Bruges Canal to submarine traffic, Crutchley, Drummond and Rowland Bourke were awarded Victoria Crosses for the action.[2][3] When there were more worthy recipients than VCs to award, the men were allowed to elect those to receive a VC. Crutchley was one of the last elected VCs. During the final months of the war, Crutchley served on HMS Sikh in the Dover Patrol, the Channel force commanded by Keyes.


In 1920, Crutchley spent a tour of duty on board the minesweeper Petersfield on the South American and South Atlantic station. He then served on the royal yacht Alexandra in 1921, the cadet-training dreadnought Thunderer in 1922–1924, and the royal yacht Victoria and Albert III in 1924.

In 1924 he went to the Mediterranean Fleet for four years, serving under Roger Keyes, now Commander-in-Chief at Malta. Crutchley was on HMS Queen Elizabeth in 1924–1926, and then on the light cruiser HMS Ceres in 1926–1928.

Crutchley was a polo player, and was invited to play for Keyes' polo team, the Centurions. At one point in 1927, Crutchley played on the same team as Keyes, the Duke of York, and Louis Mountbatten. Crutchley was promoted to commander in 1928. In 1930, he married Joan Elisabeth Loveday of Pentillie Castle, Cornwall, the sister of Air Chief Marshal Alec Coryton.

In August 1930, Crutchley joined HMS Diomede in the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy where he served until 1933. Serving as executive officer, Crutchley was present at the relief operation after the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake, and towards the end of his tour, when the captain was chronically ill, took command of Diomede until he was promoted to captain. He was posted home in 1933. Crutchley was senior officer, 1st Minesweeper Flotilla (1st MSF) from 1935–1936 aboard the minesweeper HMS Halcyon at Portland, Dorset. In November, 1935 Crutchley took the 1st MSF to join the Mediterranean Fleet in Alexandria, and cruised to Famagusta, Cyprus for 10 days during the winter. On 16 April 1936, Crutchley was relieved by Captain W. P. C. Manwaring and appointed Captain, Fishery Protection and Minesweeping with overall command over the Royal Navy's Minesweeping and armed trawler fleet.

On 1 May 1937, Crutchley took command of HMS Warspite, which had been completely refitted in three years at Portsmouth. Due to acceptance trials Warspite was not present at the Coronation Fleet Review of King George VI. Additional engineering work on the steering gear (which still suffered from damage taken at Jutland) and other equipment resulted in weekend leaves for the crew being curtailed, leading to very low morale. Comments appeared in British newspapers, which culminated in an anonymous letter from a crew member. This provoked an inquiry by the Admiralty. The inquiry led to the removal of three of Crutchley's officers, including his executive officer. Crutchley disagreed with the findings of the Inquiry, and made sure that the confidential report on his executive officer would lead to a promotion to captain.

Warspite eventually proceeded to the Mediterranean Fleet to serve as the flagship of Admiral Dudley Pound, Commander-in-Chief. Crutchley served as Flag Captain to first Pound and then to Admiral Andrew Cunningham up to the outbreak of war.

Second World War

North Sea

Map of Narvik and its environs.

After the outbreak of war on 3 September 1939, Warspite was assigned to the Home Fleet. Due to the lack of anti-submarine precautions at the North Sea naval bases, it was some time before she reached Scapa Flow, the main fleet anchorage. Until the start of the Norwegian campaign on 9 April 1940, action had been severely limited by the U-boat threat. A significant German naval presence in the North Sea saw the Home Fleet off the coast of Norway. The inconclusive first battle of Narvik was on 10 April.

On 13 April, Crutchley commanded Warspite in the second battle of Narvik. She accompanied nine destroyers into Ofotfjord, where eight German destroyers were sunk or scuttled. Warspite's catapult plane even sank a U-boat.

After this action, Crutchley was appointed commodore of Royal Naval Barracks, Devonport, overseeing the preparation of crews for assignment to ships. While there he was greeted by a detachment of sailors who had served on Warspite at Narvik.

A very surprised and delighted Commodore came over to his old 'Shipmates' and shook every one by the hand. In the conversation he disclosed that he had been given a shore job as Commodore, Plymouth and he was not a happy man.[4]

South West Pacific Area

After the opening of hostilities with Japan, Crutchley was promoted to rear admiral and lent to the Royal Australian Navy for service in the South West Pacific Area. On 13 June 1942 Crutchley succeeded Rear Admiral John Crace in command of Task Force 44, the Australian Squadron, based in Brisbane, the last Briton to do so.

Battle of Savo Island

During the landings on Guadalcanal, on 7 August 1942, Crutchley commanded Task Force 62.2, the covering force, with his flag in HMAS Australia. TF 62.2 included three Australian and five American cruisers, fifteen destroyers, and some minesweepers. He was under Admiral Richmond K. Turner USN, commander of the amphibious force. TF 62.2 was on constant alert, rendering support to the landings or fending off Japanese air attacks.

On 8 August, Vice Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher withdrew the aircraft carriers that had provided air cover. Turner decided the amphibious force must also leave the next day. He summoned Crutchley and Vandegrift (commander of the troops on Guadalcanal) to an evening conference on his flagship. Crutchley took Australia to the amphibious anchorage, leaving five cruisers and six destroyers on guard to the west.

That night a powerful Japanese cruiser force attacked. They caught TF 62.2 by surprise, and sank four Allied cruisers, including HMAS Canberra. In the wake of this disaster, Crutchley was heavily criticized – for leaving his command, and for an ineffective deployment which allowed the Japanese to get close without being picked up by radar.

Crutchley nonetheless retained the confidence of his superiors. Crutchley remained with the RAN in the South West Pacific, commanding TF 44 (redesignated TF 74 in 1943) for another 23 months. His command of the Australian Squadron ended on 13 June 1944.[5]

In September 1944 Crutchley received the American Legion of Merit in the degree of Chief Commander.

Later years

Crutchley's final command was Flag Officer Commanding Gibraltar after the war. He retired in 1947. In 1949 he was promoted to admiral.

Crutchley enjoyed a long retirement at Mappercombe Manor, near Bridport in Dorset. In 1955 he was appointed High Sheriff of Dorset and in 1957 Deputy Lieutenant for Dorset.[6] He was one of the last surviving admirals from World War II when he died in 1986 at the age of 92. In 1945 Crutchley had bought two paintings (Capriccio: The Lagoon, Venice and La Torre di Marghera) by the landscape artist Bernardo Bellotto; these were given to the nation in lieu of tax and presented to the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery in 1988.[7]


  1. ^ Morgan, Henry James, ed. (1903). Types of Canadian Women and of Women who are or have been Connected with Canada. Toronto: Williams Briggs. p. 66.
  2. ^ "No. 30870". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 August 1918. p. 10084.
  3. ^ "No. 30870". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 August 1918. p. 10088.
  4. ^ "My Life My War". BBC – WW2 People's War. Retrieved 31 July 2007.
  5. ^ "Australian War Memorial". Collection Database. Archived from the original on 27 March 2008. Retrieved 31 July 2007.
  6. ^ "Africa Wood". Trafalgar Project. Archived from the original on 11 September 2007. Retrieved 31 July 2007.
  7. ^ The two paintings have suspect provenance for the period 1933–1945. Formerly listed on this no-longer functioning British government link, [1] Archived 2 February 2006 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Rear Admiral John Crace
Rear Admiral Commanding HM Australian Squadron
Succeeded by
Commodore John Collins
8th Fleet (Imperial Japanese Navy)

The IJN 8th Fleet (第八艦隊, Dai-hachi Kantai) was a fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) established during World War II.

Battle of Savo Island

The Battle of Savo Island, also known as the First Battle of Savo Island and, in Japanese sources, as the First Battle of the Solomon Sea (第一次ソロモン海戦, Dai-ichi-ji Soromon Kaisen), and colloquially among Allied Guadalcanal veterans as The Battle of the Five Sitting Ducks, was a naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II between the Imperial Japanese Navy and Allied naval forces. The battle took place on August 8–9, 1942, and was the first major naval engagement of the Guadalcanal campaign, and the first of several naval battles in the straits later named Ironbottom Sound, near the island of Guadalcanal.

The Imperial Japanese Navy, in response to Allied amphibious landings in the eastern Solomon Islands, mobilized a task force of seven cruisers and one destroyer under the command of Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa. The task forces sailed from Japanese bases in New Britain and New Ireland down New Georgia Sound (also known as "the Slot"), with the intention of interrupting the Allied landings by attacking the supporting amphibious fleet and its screening force. The Allied screen consisted of eight cruisers and fifteen destroyers under British Rear Admiral Victor Crutchley VC, but only five cruisers and seven destroyers were involved in the battle. In a night action, Mikawa thoroughly surprised and routed the Allied force, sinking one Australian and three American cruisers, while suffering only light damage in return. The battle has often been cited as the worst defeat in a fair fight in the history of the United States Navy.After the initial engagement, Mikawa, fearing Allied carrier strikes against his fleet upon daybreak, decided to withdraw under cover of night rather than attempt to locate and destroy the Allied invasion transports. The Japanese attacks prompted the remaining Allied warships and the amphibious force to withdraw earlier than planned (prior to the unloading of all supplies), temporarily ceding control of the seas around Guadalcanal to the Japanese. This early withdrawal of the fleet left the Allied ground forces (primarily United States Marines), which had landed on Guadalcanal and nearby islands only two days before, in a precarious situation, with limited supplies, equipment, and food to hold their beachhead.

Mikawa's decision to withdraw under cover of night rather than attempt to destroy the Allied invasion transports was primarily founded on the high risk of Allied carrier strikes against his fleet upon daybreak. In reality, the Allied carrier fleet, similarly fearing Japanese attack, had already withdrawn beyond operational range. This missed opportunity to cripple (rather than interrupt) the supply of Allied forces on Guadalcanal contributed to Japan's inability to later recapture the island. At this early critical stage of the campaign, it allowed the Allied forces to entrench and fortify themselves in sufficient strength to successfully defend the area around Henderson Field until additional Allied reinforcements arrived later in the year.The battle was the first of five costly, large-scale sea and air-sea actions fought in support of the ground battles on Guadalcanal itself, as the Japanese sought to counter the American offensive in the Pacific. These sea battles took place every few days, with increasing delays on each side to regroup and refit, until the November 30, 1942 Battle of Tassafaronga (sometimes referred to as the Fourth Battle of Savo Island or, in Japanese sources, as the Battle of Lunga Point (ルンガ沖夜戦)) —after which the Japanese, eschewing the costly losses, attempted resupplying by submarine and barges. The final naval battle, the Battle of Rennell Island (Japanese: レンネル島沖海戦), took place months later on January 29–30, 1943, by which time the Japanese were preparing to evacuate their remaining land forces and withdraw.

Charles FitzRoy, 3rd Baron Southampton

Charles FitzRoy, 3rd Baron Southampton (28 September 1804 – 16 July 1872) was a British peer.


Crutchley is a surname. Notable holders of this surname include:

Bobby Crutchley (born 1970), English field hockey player and coach

Edward Crutchley (1922–1982), English cricketer

Ernest Crutchley (1878–1940), British civil servant

Gerry Crutchley (1890–1969), English cricketer

John Brennan Crutchley (1946–2002), American murderer

Josh Crutchley (born 1987), British basketball player

Percy Crutchley (1855–1940), English cricketer

Ron Crutchley (1922–1987), English footballer

Rosalie Crutchley (1920–1997), English actress

Sir Victor Crutchley (1893–1986), Royal Navy admiral

David Leach (admiral)

Vice Admiral David Willoughby Leach (born 17 July 1928) is a retired senior officer of the Royal Australian Navy, who served as Chief of the Naval Staff from 1982 to 1985.

Donald Chalmers

Vice Admiral Donald Bruce Chalmers, (born 29 April 1942) is a retired senior commander of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), who served as Chief of Navy from 1997 to 1999.

Harold Farncomb

Rear Admiral Harold Bruce Farncomb (28 February 1899 – 12 February 1971) was a senior officer in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) who served in the First and Second World Wars, and as a lawyer. He was the first Australian-born RAN officer to reach a flag rank in the RAN. The Collins class submarine HMAS Farncomb is named in his honour.

Hastings Harrington

Vice Admiral Sir Wilfred Hastings "Arch" Harrington (17 May 1906 – 17 December 1965) was a senior officer in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), who served as First Naval Member and Chief of the Naval Staff from 1962 to 1965.

Ian MacDougall

Vice Admiral Ian Donald George MacDougall (born 23 February 1938) is a retired senior commander of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), who served as Chief of Naval Staff from 1991 to 1994. He also served as Commissioner of New South Wales Fire Brigades, and is Patron of the Submarines Association Australia.

Index of World War II articles (V)

V-1 flying bomb

V-2 rocket

V-3 cannon

V-42 Stiletto


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V and W-class destroyer

V Bomber Command

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V–J day in Times Square

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Vz. 24

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Vz. 52 machine gun

Vz. 52 rifle


Vélodrome Buffalo

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John Augustine Collins

Vice-Admiral Sir John Augustine Collins, (7 January 1899 – 3 September 1989) was a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) officer who served in both World Wars, and who eventually rose to become a vice admiral and Chief of Naval Staff. Collins was one of the first graduates of the Royal Australian Naval College to attain flag rank. During the Second World War, he commanded the cruiser HMAS Sydney in the Mediterranean campaign. He led the Australian Naval Squadron in the Pacific theatre and was wounded in the first recorded kamikaze attack, in 1944.

John Eaton (Royal Navy officer)

Vice Admiral Sir John William Musgrave Eaton, (3 November 1902 – 21 July 1981) was a Royal Navy officer who served as Commander-in-Chief America and West Indies Station from 1955 to 1956.

John Eccles (Royal Navy officer)

Admiral Sir John Arthur Symons Eccles, (20 June 1898 – 1 March 1966) was a Royal Navy officer who served as Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet from 1955 until his retirement in 1958.

John Gregory Crace

Vice Admiral Sir John Gregory Crace (6 February 1887 – 11 May 1968), also known as Jack Crace, was an Australian who came to prominence as an officer of the Royal Navy (RN). He commanded the Australian-United States Support Force, Task Force 44, at the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942.

Percy Addison

Admiral Sir Albert Percy Addison, (8 November 1875 – 13 November 1952) was a senior officer in the Royal Navy. He was the Rear Admiral Commanding His Majesty's Australian Fleet from 30 April 1922 to 30 April 1924. During the First World War he was recognised by the British Admiralty as an authority on submarines, and his knowledge of that class of ship was used extensively.

Robin Dalglish

Rear Admiral Robin Campsie Dalglish, CB (3 December 1880 – 17 December 1934) was a senior officer in the Royal Navy. He represented Great Britain in Fencing at the 1920 and 1924 Summer Olympics. He was the first Australian-born admiral in the Royal Navy.

Thomas Erskine Wardle

Vice-Admiral Thomas Erskine Wardle, (9 January 1877 – 9 May 1944) was a senior officer in the Royal Navy. He was the Rear-Admiral Commanding His Majesty's Australian Fleet from 30 April 1924 to 30 April 1926.

Wilfred Custance

Rear Admiral Wilfred Neville Custance CB (25 June 1884 – 13 December 1939) was a senior officer in the Royal Navy. He was the Rear Admiral Commanding HM Australian Squadron from April 1938 to September 1939.

Wilfrid Patterson

Admiral Sir Wilfrid Rupert Patterson (20 November 1893 – 15 December 1954) was a senior officer in the Royal Navy. He was the Commodore Commanding His Majesty's Australian Squadron from September to November 1939. He participated in the naval battle that sunk the German battleship Bismarck.

Rear Admiral Commanding HM Australian Fleet
Rear Admiral Commanding HM Australian Squadron
Flag Officer Commanding HM Australian Fleet
Maritime Commander Australia
Commander Australian Fleet


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