Sir Herbert Richmond was described as “perhaps the most brilliant naval officer of his generation” who became a naval historian, known as “the British Mahan”. He led the Royal Navy’s intellectual revolution that stressed continuing education, especially in naval history, as essential for an understanding of naval strategy. He acted as a “Gadfly” to the Admiralty, and his criticisms caused him to be denied the role in the formation of policy and the reform of naval education which his abilities warranted.
He was born 15 September 1871, joining the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1885, developing a serious interest in naval history while serving between 1897 and 1900, turning himself into a first-rate historian without formal university education. After serving as assistant to Jackie Fisher, he was inspired by the work of Julian Corbett and began archival research on the naval aspects of the war of Austrian Succession, which he completed in 1914, but could not be published before 1920 due to the war. In 1912 he founded The Naval Review in order to promote innovative thought throughout the Royal Navy. After command of HMS Deadnought he served at the Admiralty as assistant director of operations, running up against Winston Churchill, the First Lord, and Sir John Jellicoe, C-in-C Grand Fleet . After a spell attached to the Italian fleet he returned to the Grand Fleet when Beatty became C-in-C, and finally became director of staff duties at the Admiralty. He had a number of flag appointments after the war ending as Commandant of the Imperial Defence College, retiring from the Royal Navy in 1931.
He was appointed Vere Harmsworth Professor of Imperial and Naval History at Cambridge University, a chair he held from 1934 to 1936. In 1934 he was also elected Master of Downing College, a post he held until his death in 1946. He delivered the Ford Lectures at Oxford University in 1943.
His publications include
• Papers relating to the Loss of Monorca in 1756 (Navy Records Society, 1913).
• The Navy in the War of 1739-48 (C.U.P., 1920).
• Private Papers of George, Second Earl Spencer, First Lord of the Admiralty, 1794-1801, Volume III (Navy Records Society, 1924).
• Private Papers of George, Second Earl Spencer, First Lord of the Admiralty, 1794-1801, Volume IV (Navy Records Society, 1924).
• Command and Discipline (Edward Stanford, 1927).
• National Policy and Naval Strength and Other Essays (Longman, 1928).
• Naval Warfare (William Hodge, 1930).
• The Navy in India 1763-1783 (Ernest Benn, 1931).
• Economy and Naval Security: A Plea for the Examination of the Problem of the Reduction in the Cost of Naval Armaments on the Lines of Strategy and Policy (Ernest Benn, 1931).
• Imperial Defence and Capture at Sea in War (Hutchinson, 1932).
• Sea Power in the Modern World (G Bell, 1934).
• Statesmen and Seapower. The Ford Lectures (Clarendon Press, 1946).
• Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond by George Macaulay Trevelian (C.U.P., 1946).
• Portrait of an Admiral: The Life and Papers of Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond by Arthur Marder (O.U.P., 1952)
• Mahan is not Enough: The Proceedings of a Conference on the Works of Sir Julian Corbett and Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond, edited by James Goldrick and John Hattendorf (Naval War College Press, 1993)
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