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Power, Sir Arthur Johnlocked

(1889–1960)

Power, Sir Arthur John (1889–1960), naval officer, was born in London on 12 April 1889, the son of Edward John Power, corn merchant, and his wife, Harriet Maud Windeler. He entered the Britannia in 1904 and won the king's gold medal for the best cadet of the year. In his sub-lieutenant's courses he gained first-class certificates in each subject and in 1910 he was promoted lieutenant. In 1913 he was appointed to the Excellent to specialize in gunnery. His service in the war included appointments as gunnery officer of the battleship Magnificent, the cruiser Royal Arthur, the monitor Raglan in which he took part in the Dardanelles operations, and the battle cruiser Princess Royal in the Grand Fleet.

Power was promoted commander in 1922 and served for two years in the Admiralty as assistant to the director of naval ordnance. He was selected for a staff college course in 1924 and, after passing, joined the battle cruiser Hood as executive officer. From 1927 to 1929 he was on the instructional staff of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and after promotion to captain in 1929 became naval member of the ordnance committee. He commanded the cruiser Dorsetshire from 1931 to 1933 as flag captain and chief staff officer to E. A. Astley-Rushton, rear-admiral commanding 2nd cruiser squadron, and to his successor Percy Noble. He was appointed to the Imperial Defence College as naval member of the directing staff in 1933, and from 1935 to 1937 commanded the naval gunnery school Excellent. He was in charge of the naval party which drew the gun carriage at the funeral of George V in January 1936 and was appointed CVO.

In January 1938 Power was appointed to command the new aircraft-carrier Ark Royal and was still holding this appointment at the outbreak of the Second World War. The target for many attacks by the German air force which claimed her sinking many times, she was torpedoed off Gibraltar in November 1941. Meanwhile Power was called to the Admiralty in May 1940 as assistant chief of naval staff (home) and was promoted rear-admiral one month later.

In August 1942 Power returned to sea to fly his flag in the Cleopatra as flag officer commanding 15th cruiser squadron, but early in 1943 was appointed flag officer, Malta, as acting vice-admiral, a post of particular importance at that time since it was in Malta that the planning and organization of the invasions of Sicily and Italy were being prepared. Power's keen brain and his gifts of quick decision making and high organizing ability did much to ensure the rapid success of both invasions with remarkably few casualties. After the surrender of Italy he went to sea again in command of the naval force occupying Taranto and was appointed head of the allied military mission for administration to the Italian government. His promotion to vice-admiral was dated 4 August 1943, and for a brief period he acted as second in command of the Mediterranean Fleet.

In January 1944 Power arrived in Ceylon as second in command of the Eastern Fleet. Many of the bombardments and naval air strikes carried out against the Japanese positions in the East Indies were under his active leadership. On the formation of the British Pacific Fleet in November 1944 Power became commander-in-chief, East Indies, initiating many of the naval strikes and assaults which brought the Japanese to defeat in Borneo and Malaya. Flying his flag in the Cleopatra he entered Singapore on 3 September 1945, the first ship of the Royal Navy to do so since 1942.

Power returned to England in 1946 and for the next two years was a lord commissioner of the Admiralty and second sea lord, an appointment in which he was in charge of the complicated run-down of the personnel of the navy to its peacetime strength. He was promoted admiral in 1946 and in 1948 took command of the Mediterranean Fleet. In 1950–52 he was commander-in-chief at Portsmouth and while holding this post was promoted admiral of the fleet (1952). He was also in that year allied commander-in-chief, channel and southern North sea. The previous year he had been made first and principal naval aide-de-camp to the king.

Power was twice married: in 1918 to Amy Isabel (d. 1945), daughter of Colonel D. A. Bingham, with whom he had three sons; second, in 1947, to Margaret Joyce, a second officer in the WRNS, daughter of A. H. St C. Watson, of Hendon. Power died at the Haslar Royal Naval Hospital, Hampshire, on 28 January 1960.

According to his Times obituarist Power was recognized as one of the leading naval officers of his generation. 'Good looks, a strong character, and a complete mastery of every branch of his profession in which he had served, combined to make him a man of mark' (The Times, 29 Jan 1960). For his war services he was appointed CB (1941), KCB (1944), and GBE (1946). He was promoted GCB in 1950 and held a number of foreign decorations.

Sources

  • The Times (29 Jan 1960)
  • personal knowledge (1971)
  • S. W. Roskill, The war at sea, 1939–1945, 3 vols. in 4 (1954–61)

Archives

  • BL, corresp., diaries, notebooks, and papers, Add. MSS 56093–56098

Film

  • BFINA, ‘Singapore surrender’, British News, 31 Sept 1945
  • BFINA, news footage
  • IWM FVA, actuality footage

Likenesses

  • O. Birley, oils, 1945–1948, Royal Naval Staff College, Greenwich
  • W. Stoneman, photograph, 1947, NPG
  • K. Hutton, photograph, 1949 (with Louis Mount-Batten), Hult. Arch.

Wealth at Death

£18,681 3s. 10d.: probate, 24 May 1960, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

(1920–)
Calendars of the grants of probate … made in … HM court of probate [England and Wales]