Stephen Roskill was born on 1 August 1903, the son of a senior barrister, and joined the Royal Navy in 1917 at the Royal Naval College, Osbourne, and then Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. He specialised as a gunnery officer, securing the prized appointment as gunnery officer on the Mediterranean Fleet flagship, HMS Warspite, in 1936. He then served in the Admiralty, 1939-41, and as executive officer of HMNZS Leander 1941-44. He ended the war on the staff of the British Admiralty Delegation in Washington DC as chief staff officer for administration and weapons, acting as the senior British officer at the Bikini Atomic tests in 1946. He served as Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence, 1946-48, before retiring due to increasing deafness.
In 1948 he was appointed by the Cabinet Office Historical Section to write the Official History of the Royal Navy in World War II. His three volume work, The War At Sea, was published between 1954 and 1961. In 1961 he was elected a senior research fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge, where he was instrumental in establishing the Churchill Archives Centre. He was a visiting lecturer at various universities, including being Lees Knowles lecturer at Cambridge in 1960, the US Naval Academy in 1965, and Richmond Lecturer at Cambridge in 1967.
His published works include
• HMS Warspite: the story of a famous battleship (1957).
• The Secret Capture (1959).
• The War At Sea three volumes (H.M.S.O. 1954-61)
• The Navy At War, 1939-45 (1960).
• The Strategy of Sea Power. Its development and application (1962)
• A Merchant Fleet At War. Alfred Holt & Co. (1962)
• The Art of Leadership (1964).
• Naval Policy Between the Wars, Volume I: The period of Anglo-American antagonism 1919-29 (1968).
• Naval Policy Between the Wars, Volume II: The period of reluctant rearmament, 1930-39 (1976).
• Documents relating to the Naval Air Service (Navy Records Society, 1969).
• Hankey: Man of Secrets, Volume I (1877-1918) (Collins, 1970).
• Hankey Man of Secrets Volume II (1919-31) (Collins 1972).
• Hankey Man of Secrets, Volume III (1931-1963) (Collins 1974).
• Churchill and the Admirals (1977).
• Admiral of the Fleet Earl Beatty: the last naval hero: an intimate biography (1980).
• Corelli Barnett in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (O.U.P. 2004).
• Barry Gough Historical Dreadnoughts (Seaforth, 2010).
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