Frederic Charles Dreyer

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Admiral Sir Frederic C. Dreyer, 1936.
© National Portrait Gallery, London.

Admiral SIR Frederic Charles Dreyer, G.B.E.K.C.B.C.B., R.N. (8 January, 1878 – 11 December, 1956) was an officer of the Royal Navy during the First World War. He is chiefly known as the inventor of the Dreyer Fire Control Table, a fire control device which in varying forms equipped the majority of British dreadnoughts from 1911 to 1948. Dreyer, the son of the Danish-born astronomer J. L. E. Dreyer, joined the navy in 1891 and specialised in gunnery duties. In 1903 he fell under the wing of Vice-Admiral Sir Arthur K. Wilson. He was highly regarded within the Navy as its foremost gunnery expert, and became a devoted friend of John Jellicoe, serving as his Flag Captain at the Battle of Jutland in 1916. After the war he appeared destined for great things, but his abrasive personality and later determination to exonerate the Board of Admiralty of which he was a member of all blame during the Invergordon Mutiny presented an opportunity for his detractors to sideline him. Having retired in 1939, he saw varied active service during the Second World War as a Commodore of Convoys, liason officer with the British Army, Inspector of Merchant Navy Gunnery and finally as Chief of Air Services at the Admiralty.

Early Life & Career

Frederic Charles Dreyer was born on 8 January, 1878, in Parsonstown (now Birr) in the King's County, Ireland (now County Offaly). His father was Danish-born John Louis Emil Dreyer, astronomer to the Fourth Earl of Rosse. When he was eight months old the Dreyer family moved to Dunsink near Dublin upon John Dreyer's appointment to the Dunsink Observatory. In August, 1882, John Dreyer was appointed Director of the Armagh Observatory and the family moved to Ulster. He was educated with his two brothers, John and George, at home by governesses until he was sent to the Royal School, Armagh. In 1890 Dreyer "expressed a strong desire to become a naval officer" and his father was able to secure a nomination from the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord George Hamilton. He passed the entrance examination in June, 1891 and on 15 July 1891 was appointed to the training ship Britannia at Dartmouth.[1] Out of the sixty successful candidates for cadetships in the Royal Navy examined on 9 June, 1891, Dreyer had come thirty-third, with 1,199 marks.[2]

After "a grand time" in Britannia he passed out with First Classes in all subjects in July, 1893,[3] fifth out of his term of fifty-eight.[4] He was rated Midshipman on 15 July, 1893, having gained twelve months' time (service) in Britannia.[5] On 12 September he was appointed to the battleship Anson which was recommissioning for service in the Mediterranean Fleet. Anson left Chatham on 14 October for Malta. The usual drill consisted of rigging torpedo net defence, sailing races and occasional target practice and torpedo firings. At his first annual rifle practice Dreyer was recognised as a potential marksman and joined the ship's rifle team. At a rifle meeting in March 1895 he competed against a number of others in a 200-yard rapid-fire contest, and drew with the Commander of the flagship, Commander John Jellicoe.[6] Dreyer recounted in his memoirs:

Every time the targets appeared there was an outburst of rapid firing, except from Commander Jellicoe. He fired one shot each time—a well-aimed shot. I could see from the splash of each bullet in the butt that he was hitting his target.

When he had done this on seven occasions, firing each round with the utmost coolness and precision, I waited in anxiety, realising that if his target appeared an eighth time he would be the winner. It just failed to do so. Commander Jellicoe and Midshipman Dreyer tied, each with seven hits. What a lesson! Jellicoe had fired to hit, not merely in the hope of hitting. I never forgot this, my first meeting with Jellicoe, and the first of many lessons from him.[7]

On 1 April, 1895, Dreyer was lent to the the masted training ship Cruiser. In June he was awarded the First Prize for German in the examination of junior officers afloat, and on 22 August he returned to Anson. On 7 September, 1896, (Dreyer states 6 July in his memoirs) he was appointed to the battleship Barfleur, Captain Reginald N. Custance. In January, 1897, he passed in Seamanship with a First Class Certificate, with 904 marks, and was appointed Acting Sub-Lieutenant on 15 January. On the same day he was discharged from Barfleur He joined the Royal Naval College, Greenwich on 29 April for his Lieutenant's examinations, and in September, 1897 in Part I he obtained a Second Class Certificate with 931 marks, and in November, 1897, a First Class in Part II with 1,690. In February, 1898 he took a Second Class Certificate in Pilotage with 833 marks; in April he received a First Class in Gunnery with 543 and in May a First Class in Torpedo with 184 marks.[8] On 27 May 1898, Dreyer was confirmed in the rank of Sub-Lieutenant, dated 15 January, 1897.[9] He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 15 July.[10]


Dreyer applied to specialise in Gunnery duties and was given a good recommendation by Captain Groome and consequently was given a place on the course.[11] According to his Service Record, Dreyer's term of service in Repulse ended on 8 May, 1899 while in his memoirs he gives the date as 25 September. He was attached to Excellent for the duration of the course, which began on 30 September. By his account, he was one of eighteen officers who joined the Royal Naval College, Greenwich to qualify in Gunnery, with twelve who were studying to qualify in torpedo duties. By his own account, he passed with a First Class certificate for Gunnery Officer on 25 June, 1901. He then left Portsmouth on the train, picking up at the next station Lieutenant Francis H. Mitchell, his best man for his wedding.[12] The next day, 26 June, Dreyer married Una Maria Hallett, the only daughter of the Reverend J. T. Hallett. The wedding took place at Bishop's Tachbrooke Church, and was conducted by the Reverend Canon E. A. Waller.[13] His brother-in-law was Theodore J. Hallett,[14] who rose to flag rank in the Royal Navy.[15] According to Dreyer's Service Record, he actually passed his final Gunnery examination on 8 July. On 9 July he was appointed to Wildfire for service on the Junior Staff of Sheerness Gunnery School, and on 16 July he was appointed gunnery officer of the second class protected cruiser Scylla for the annual manœuvres. After Scylla was paid off, Dreyer was appointed to the Royal Naval College at Greenwich for a three month advanced course in mathematics, and he and his wife moved to Blackheath.[16][17] In his own words:

We learned under very high pressure advanced mathematics, physics, and quantitative chemistry. Mr. Chalmers, recently assistant to the Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, where he had also been a coach, told us that we were being taught in three months by Professor Lambert what undergraduates at Cambridge reading for an honours degree would take more than a year to cover.[18]

In January, 1902 Dreyer took up his post at Sheerness and he and his wife took rooms in a house on the sea-front. In his own words his "duties at times involved going to sea with firing classes in gunboats and destroyers. This, incidentally, gave me good practice in pilotage." That year Dreyer competed for the first time at Bisley in the United Services Cup, as part of the Royal Navy's rifle-shooting team. He had come fourth in the Navy's qualifying meet at Sheerness. The Navy came third, after the the Army and the Volunteers, but Dreyer entered for Lord Wantage's Prize in rapid-fire shooting with service rifles, and came joint first with a Sergeant-Major.[19] Dreyer remained at the Sheerness Gunnery School until 12 August, 1902, when he was lent as gunnery officer to the cruiser Hawke for a trooping trip to the Mediterranean. He was appointed to the battleship Hood in the Mediterranean on 23 September, but the ship's rudder had been damaged and the ship proceeded home to be repaired and paid off at Plymouth. Dreyer was reappointed to the Hawke on 13 January, 1903 and after another trooping voyage to Malta she was paid off on 12 March. On 13 March he was appointed to the staff of H.M.S. Excellent, then under the command of Captain Percy M. Scott, for whom Dreyer has nothing but praise in his memoirs. After two months at Excellent, Scott submitted Dreyer's name for appointment as Gunnery Officer to the new battleship Exmouth.[20]


Dreyer's appointment to the pre-dreadnought Exmouth was dated 2 June, 1903, but he joined her at Chatham a few days before she commissioned for service in the Mediterranean. Michael P. O'Callaghan was Captain, and Mortimer L'E. Silver was Commander.[21] In 1904 Exmouth was ordered back to Britain to join the newly reconstituted Home Fleet to recommission with the crew of the Revenge, becoming the new flag ship. Dreyer was allowed to stay on as Gunnery Officer, and on 18 May, 1904, Exmouth was commissioned as flag ship of the Home Fleet. The Commander-in-Chief, Sir Arthur K. Wilson, hoisted his flag on 13 June.[22]

In 1906, Dreyer submitted a proposal for a "Time and Range Machine", a concept that was described by a Royal Navy technical history account as "completely novel". It was forwarded to Admiral Wilson. Early in 1907, an improved version incorporating ideas from his brother, Captain John T. Dreyer of the Royal Artillery was submitted. A novel aspect of their system was to break down the work of a rangefinder mounting, much as was done with a gun with its layer, trainer and sightsetter, to permit one man to be solely focused on the task of obtaining the range cut - the training of the mount and later the data transmission task, would be reserved for separate numbers. Despite these claims, it was acknowledged that the service continued to take a dim view of the time and range system for a year or two more.[23]

On 7 January, 1907, Dreyer was appointed to the new battleship Dreadnought as additional Gunnery Officer for her trials.[24] The Channel Fleet lay at anchor in Arosa bay, and after being dined by Exmouth's wardroom he joined Dreadnought, which had arrived to pick him up.[25] After the trials in the West Indies, Bacon drew, "their Lordships attention to the great assistance rendered me by Lieutenant Dreyer, whose theoretical and practical gunnery knowledge has been of very great value in carrying out the gunnery practices."[26] On 14 April, by his account, Dreyer left Dreadnought and went on a week's leave.[27] According to his service record, he left Dreadnought on 15 April and was attached to Excellent as an additional Gunnery Officer until the 29th.[28] At any rate, on 29 April, Dreyer was appointed to the Naval Ordnance Department at the Admiralty,[29] where the D.N.O., Sir John Jellicoe, made him responsible for:

  1. Non transferable [turret] mountings except electrical.
  2. Sighting gear and rangefinders (except experimental).
  3. Communications, including fire control.[30]

In June Dreyer, in conjunction with his brother, put forward a proposal for a "Position Finder for determining Rate of Change of Range."


Dreyer was promoted to the rank of Commander in the half yearly promotions of 31 December 1907.[31] He was reappointed to President the same day.

On 10 March, 1908 Fisher wrote to Sir Julian Corbett that Dreyer had "the brain of a Newton!" but that "only 1 in a 100 could understand him."[32]

He was lent to Vivid at Devonport for trials of the new dreadnought battleship Vanguard on 5 November, 1909. He later wrote:

I joined her in the first week of November 1909 at Liverpool, where she was preparing for her acceptance trials.

Lieut. Stanley Wilton joined as First and Gunnery Lieutenant, and an officer of high executive ability as Torpedo Lieutenant, namely James Somerville, who became an Admiral of the Fleet and a G.C.B. for his services in the Second World War in command of Force "H" running convoys to Malta and, later on, as C.-in-C. in the Indian ocean. He was a born sailor and leader of men.
The Vanguard's trials were run late in 1909, Captain J. B. Eustace, R.N., in command. We then returned to Barrow for the boilers, engines, and gun-mountings to be overhauled to see how well they had stood up to the trials. This was the time for me, from experience during the trials, to get the lead of boats' falls altered, and a hundred and one other items adjusted, all small in themselves, but making just the difference to the efficiency of the ship.[33]

His appointment to Vanguard as Commander was dated 5 December, and the ship commissioned at Devonport on 1 March, 1910.

Jellicoe, now a Vice-Admiral appointed to command the Atlantic Fleet, wrote to Dreyer offering him the position of Flag Commander. Jellicoe had also written to Dreyer's captain, John B. Eustace. "I told him I was loth to leave the Vanguard, but since the appointment would lead to others, I told him I would like to accept it. He agreed, and Commander E. O. Ballantyne was appointed to relieve me."[34] Captain Eustace noted of Dreyer: "Gunnery, German & French. Has displayed exceptional judgt & zeal. Physically strong & able to stand continuous exposure. Recd for promn because of exceptional ability."[35] He was appointed to Jellicoe's flagship Prince of Wales on 20 December, 1910.

From 15 December, 1911, to 5 January, 1912, Dreyer served as a member of a Conference on Gunnery held at the Admiralty, representing Jellicoe and the Atlantic Fleet.[36]

On 19 December, 1911, Jellicoe had been appointed Vice-Admiral Commanding the Second Division of the Home Fleet, wearing his flag in the dreadnought Hercules, on which date Dreyer was again appointed Flag Commander.

A midshipman in Hercules, Stewart A. Pears (later Rear-Admiral), later wrote:

Dreyer, as a Commander, was of a contrasting type [to Jellicoe]. Tall, with a large head and brain, he was intolerant of lesser men. He would "fly off the handle" not just over a mistake, which might be understandable, but over the slightest hesitation in carrying out an often complicated instruction. He seemed to expect nothing but idiocy from his junior staff and while we admired his ability and devotion to his task we kept out of his way as much as we could. I remember being used as a "living" blast gauge before such things were invented. He had a wife and family but I do not recall any sight or sign of their existence during the year or more that I served in the same ship with him before the war. Later, my wife and I got to know them well and we have been in contact with one or another until quite recently. Meanwhile I encountered a mellowed Dreyer from time to time; on the last occasion before his death we reminisced over the early days in the friendliest manner.[37]

In August, 1912, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, noted Dreyer as "a good man" to receive a Civil C.B.[38] In November, 1912, he was appointed to Vivid for command of the scout cruiser Amphion, completing at Pembroke Royal Dockyard, being officially appointed in command on 1 January 1913. From 3 February to 7 March, 1913, he was lent to President for a Navigation Course,[Citation needed] and on 2 April he commissioned Amphion at Devonport.[39] His pendant was hoisted by his sons Richard and Desmond.


On 30 June, 1913, Dreyer was promoted to the rank of Captain in the half yearly promotions.[40] He was reappointed to Amphion the same day. In September he was asked by Rear-Admiral Sir Robert K. Arbuthnot, Bart., Rear-Admiral Second-in-Command in the Second Battle Squadron, to be his Flag Captain in H.M.S. Orion.[41] He joined Arbuthnot and his flag team and took command on 28 October at Portsmouth. Commodore, Second Class (later Admiral Sir) William E. Goodenough, commanding the First Light Cruiser Squadron, wrote of Dreyer:

An officer of the highest possible qualifications in all branches of the Service, combining judgt & knowledge of human nature with very exceptional brains.[42]

An officer in Orion, Sub-Lieutenant (later Admiral Sir) Angus Cunninghame Graham recalled of Dreyer:

Freddy Dreyer, the Captain, was quite a different type [compared to Arbuthnot], efficient, clever, one who did much for the Navy's gunnery and who rightly rose to high rank. He could be described as a caricature of the Navy's stock notion of a gunnery officer, an idea which does not fit most gunnery officers whom I have known, who were nice, able, normal people. Freddy did not inspire the lovable awe in which we held Sir Robert. He was obviously scared of his Admiral and seemed unwilling to assert his rights as a captain of his own ship in which Sir Robert was only a rather formidable lodger.[43]

In early 1914 Dreyer applied to join the Naval Wing of the Royal Flying Corps (later the Royal Naval Air Service), prompting the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, to write to the Fourth Sea Lord:

This is a remarkable application and comes as an agreeable surprise to me. It makes it possible for me to re-consider the view which you have several times pressed upon me, that we should appoint an Inspecting Captain of the Naval Wing who could later on succeed Capt. Sueter as D.A.D. I have hitherto always declined to allow officers previously unconnected with the Air Service to cut in front of the pioneers. But the accession of one of the most brilliant officer in the Navy to the Naval Wing at this stage in its development would be most valuable.[44]

In the King's Birthday Honours of 22 June Dreyer was appointed an Ordinary Member of the Third Class, or Companion, of the Civil Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (C.B.).[45] He was invested with the insignia of the honour at an investiture held at St. James's Palace on 29 June,[46] not July as Dreyer writes in his memoirs.[47]

Great War

Dreyer continued to draw the unstinting support and endorsement of his Admiral.

On 11 December, 1914, Jellicoe wired the Admiralty "for 1st Lord Personal" with general instructions as to the deployment of cruisers and squadrons, but only one human vessel is mentioned: "I sincerely hope DREYER will be left in "Orion" where he is of great use to me."[48]

On 30 September, 1915, Jellicoe wrote to the First Sea Lord, Sir Henry B. Jackson: "I don't know whether Bartolomé has told you I want Dreyer here instead of Lawson as Backhouse is leaving & I must have the brainy people here."[49] Jellicoe continued on 6 October: "Dreyer was always intended for Capn of Iron Duke had I gone to her in peace time, but I did not suggest the change until Backhouse asked to go. … Without Backhouse at hand I felt I ought to have Dreyer at hand. These two are unique in brain power amongst young captains."[50]

Iron Duke

He was appointed Captain of Iron Duke on 24 October, 1915.[51]

On 15 September he was appointed an Additional Member of the Third Class, or Companion, in the Military Division of the Order of the Bath (C.B.) dated 31 May.[52] In his service record appears the following appraisal from Jellicoe, dated 4 October, 1916:

An offr. of exceptional ability. Great power of command. Handles his ship exceedingly well. Absolutely thorough in everything he undertakes. As an authority on G. matters he is unrivalled, but possesses in addition great tactical insight. Strong physically, and fitted in every possible way for the highest commands afloat at an early age. The greatest authority on Fire Control in the British Navy.[53]


On 18 December, 1916, Dreyer was appointed Assistant Director of the new Anti-Submarine Division of the Admiralty War Staff.[54]

Director of Naval Ordnance

On 1 March, 1917, he was appointed to the new position of Director of Naval Ordnance,[55] divorced from the post of Director of Naval Ordnance and Torpedoes.

In 1917 he was awarded the Russian Order of St Anne, Second Class (with Swords).[56]

Having learnt that Dreyer was to be given a sea-going command, on 24 March, 1918, Beatty urged both Geddes and Wemyss that Dreyer ought to remain at the Admiralty because "there is nobody to take his place." Due to his efforts in pushing through the design and production of new shells for the Grand Fleet's dreadnoughts, Beatty described Dreyer in a letter to Wemyss on 3 June as "a most exceptional man."[57]

On 27 June, 1918, Dreyer was appointed Director of Naval Artillery and Torpedo (D.N.A.& T.).[58] His service record gives the date as 20 June.[59]

For "valuable services rendered during the War" Dreyer was appointed Commander of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) on 1 January, 1919.[60] Also in recognition of his services was the award of the American Distinguished Service Medal,[61] Japanese Order of the Rising Sun, Second Class.[62]

Empire Mission

On 11 February, 1919, Dreyer was appointed to the battle cruiser New Zealand as Commodore, Second Class, as Chief of Staff to Viscount Jellicoe on his tour of the Empire.[63]

After the mission Jellicoe recorded:

His ability is only equalled by his great capacity for work. Possesses exceptional qualifns for Staff work as well as for Comd. His services have been of supreme value during the tour of the Dominions. Is physically strong; & I look forward to seeing him rise to the highest posts in the Service in which he will be of great value to the Country. His Services during the Mission deserve special recognition.[64]

Home Service

Dreyer was appointed to President on 15 April, 1920, and Director of the Gunnery Division on 19 April.[65] At the end of his tenure, Chatfield, the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff, wrote:

Has organized the G. Divn of N. Staff with great ability & as Dir. of G. has worked with the greatest loyalty to superiors, zeal & exceptional ability to further the G. efficiency of the Fleet. Is possessed of immense capacity for work, unique G. experience & carries out Staff work with a thoroughness, imagination & energy that is quite remarkable. His talentsshd be of immense value to the Service in future. Ability exceptional.[66]

It was noted that "Adm. Beatty, 1SL, entirely concurs: "A v. exceptional officer." On 18 April, 1922, Dreyer took command of the battlecruiser Repulse.[67]

Dreyer was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral on 12 December, 1923, vice Rear-Admiral Alderson.[68]

On 7 January, 1924, Dreyer was appointed to the Senior Officers' Technical Course, followed by his appointment to the Senior Officers' War Course on 8 March.[69] In a lecture at the Royal Naval War College, Greenwich on 23 June, 1924, entitled "Study of War & of the Conduct of Naval Operations", he declared:

The Tactical encounter is the culminating act in war and is therefore of supreme importance, for though bad strategy may be redeemed by successful tactics, there is no remedy for defeat in battle.[70]

Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff

Dreyer succeeded Rear-Admiral Arthur K. Waistell as Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff on 9 October, 1924, having been at the Admiralty since 9 September.[71]

Giving evidence before the Colwyn Committee on 12 November, 1925, Dreyer declared that the Royal Navy did not want:

[a] corps separate from the Royal Navy, possessing its own sources of supply, administration, recruitment ..... On the contrary, the Naval Air Arm will be one with the Royal Navy in all the above important points ..... an integral part of the Navy as a whole.[72]

Admiral Commanding, Battle Cruiser Squadron

Dreyer succeeded Fuller as Rear-Admiral Commanding the Battle Cruiser Squadron on 21 May, 1927, and hoisted his flag in the Hood the following day.[73][74] As for signal purposes "Q" was used as the distinguishing flag for battle cruisers, Dreyer was known as "A.C.Q." His flag team consisted of Captain Wilfred French as Flag Captain, Paymaster Commander A. C. M. Edmonds, and Lieutenant Harvey Crombie as Flag Lieutenant. At the time the A.C.Q. was also responsible for the aircraft carriers Furious and Argus.[75]

Presumably while in command of the Battle Cruiser Squadron, Dreyer proposed the concept of group shadowing known as the "elastic ring", so that light forces, supported by battle cruisers, could shadow a heavier enemy force.[76]

Apparently as A.C.Q., Dreyer let his hobby for bird-watching once get the better of him. As later recounted:

At the height of a complicated exercise, a shout came from the voice-pipe to the compass platform, where the captain stood. 'French, French,' cried Dreyer. The captain dashed to the voice-pipe. 'Yes, sir, what is it?' he shouted back, believing the ship was in danger. A small, precise voice answered: 'Can you see that flight of guillemot passing across the bows?'[77]

On 1 March, 1929 Dreyer was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral, vice Vice-Admiral A. P. Addison.[78]

As A.C.Q., Dreyer received two glowing reports from the successive Commanders-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet. Admiral Sir Henry Oliver noted in 1927:

Exceptional. Leadership, influence, tact, personality all excellent. Excellent physical and social qualities. Outstanding mental ability & an authority on all technical matters connected with fighting materiel. Keenly interested in all the higher branches of his profession & after more experience as a Flag Officer afloat would be well fitted to command a large fleet. Recommd of most important Sqdn.[79]

Admiral Brand in 1929:

Exceptional. A Flag Officer with great professional knowledge. A keen student of war, strategy & tactics. Adml. Dreyer has produced a remarkably high state of efficiency & morale in the Battle Cruiser Squadron & has supported me most loyally at all times.[80]

Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff

On 30 June, 1930, Dreyer succeeded Vice-Admiral Sir William Fisher as Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff, having been at the Admiralty since 2 June,[81] with responsibility for the Plans, Operations and Intelligence Divisions of the Naval Staff, as well as the Hydrographic Department of the Admiralty.[82]


After the "mutiny" heads began to roll. Captain J. F. C. Patterson of Hood was relieved at the first opportunity. Captain R. M. Bellairs of Rodney and Captain Arthur D. H. Dibben of the minelayer Adventure weren't given another sea-going command when their ships paid off. Captain F. B. Watson of Nelson went to command the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy as planned and retired afterwards. Captain C. B. Prickett of Norfolk was denied command of H.M.S. Excellent, the Navy's foremost gunnery school. Rear-Admiral J. C. W. Henley was retired on promotion to Vice-Admiral and Rear-Admiral C. V. Usborne retired after his term as Director of Naval Intelligence ended.[83]

The Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth, Sir Hubert Brand, said of Dreyer:

The question of his [Kelly's] successor I approach with great diffidence. I have the greatest admiration for Dreyer's technical, professional, and administrative abilities but I do not think he should be selected for this command under the circumstances. He is not very human and for some reason he has lost the confidence of a good many of his juniors and I believe his selection for the Atlantic Fleet would be unpopular with officers and men.
I suggest Roger Backhouse should go to the Atlantic Fleet instead of him, and could not Dreyer go to the North America and West Indies Station.[84]

A meeting was held at the Admiralty with Sir Frederick Field on 6 January, 1932. The minutes record that when it was suggested by the Commanders-in-Chief that Kelly's tenure be extended, Field pointed out that it would, "seriously prejudice the careers of several outstanding officers." The Naval Secretary listed three officers, one of whose "careers would [have to] practically be terminated:" Pound, Dreyer, and Backhouse. The minutes go on to say that:

All three Commanders-in-Chief expressed the strongest possible opinion that Admiral Dreyer should not be given command of the Atlantic Fleet because of his unpopularity with the Officers and Men. First Sea Lord pointed out that Admiral Dreyer's service record was exceptional in every way and that he had given him the most complete satisfaction as D.C.N.S.
The Naval Secretary then read out extracts from Admiral Dreyer's record confirming the fact that no fault has ever been found with him and that no officer in the Service possesses a better record.
The Commanders-in-Chief concurred with the suggestion that Admiral Dreyer should be considered for the command of either China or West Indies Station.[85]

Dreyer himself recounted in his memoirs that he had been prevented "from becoming C.-in-C. Atlantic Fleet, which deprived me of subsequent chances of promotion."[86]

In his memoirs, Admiral Sir William James, who succeeded Dreyer as D.C.N.S., wrote:

… I have never understood why Sir Frederick [sic] Dreyer was a victim, because no papers on personnel matters ever reach the holder of that office. He was given the China Command, but if there had been no mutiny he would have commanded a main fleet and probably held other high appointments.[87]

In the King's Birthday Honours of 3 June 1932 Dreyer was promoted Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath and knighted.[88] On 31 December he was promoted to the rank of Admiral, vice Admiral Bertram S. Thesiger.[89]

In January, 1933, Field recorded:

Has performed duties of D.C.N.S. with marked success. His exceptional ability & conscientious work have been of the greatest assistance to me. I am strongly of opinion that his very high qualities as a flag offr. merit his further employt either at the Admy. or elsewhere on conclusion of his appt as China.[90]

China Station

On 9 January, 1933, Dreyer was appointed Commander-in-Chief on the China Station in succession to Vice-Admiral Sir W. A. Howard Kelly, and assumed command on 11 March.

Vice-Admiral Sir Charles J. C. Little was appointed to succeed him on 7 November, 1935, and he was superseded on 11 January, 1936.

In the King's Coronation Honours, Dreyer was appointed an Additional Member of the First Class, or Knight Grand Cross, of the Military Division of the Order of the British Empire (G.B.E.) on 11 May, 1937.[91]

Dreyer was placed on the Retired List on 15 May, 1939.[92]

Second World War

Upon the outbreak of the Second World War in September, 1939 Dreyer offered his services to the Admiralty as a Commodore of Convoys. His offer was accepted and he attended a course at the Admiralty "on the organisation for forming convoys at various ports and the orders, manuals, and signal books issued for the conduct of convoys at sea, including their defence by ships and aircraft of the Royal Navy and of Coastal Command. The course also dealt with the installation of weapons, life-saving rafts, and bridge protection, the supply of signalling gear, smoke-making apparatus, the fitting of communications from bridges to engine-rooms, the training of guns' crews in merchant ships, and other matters." A dozen other retired admirals took the course at the same time. Dreyer was appointed Commodore, Second Class, in the Royal Naval Reserve on 15 September.[93] Accompanied by his signal staff of three Royal Navy signalmen he sailed with his first convoy from Southend-on-Sea for Liverpool on 13 October, and proceeded to St. Johns, Newfoundland on 25 October in command of Convoy O.B. 25.[94]

He was appointed Inspector of Merchant Ship Gunnery at the Admiralty on 10 April, 1941.

On 11 July, 1942, Dreyer was appointed Chief of Naval Air Services at the Admiralty. The First Sea Lord, Sir Dudley Pound, explained his decision in a letter to Sir Andrew Cunningham:

I am aware that there will probably be a great deal of criticism of this appointment, but I am convinced that it requires not only an officer with great drive but also with the capacity of getting down to details so as to penetrate the mists which seem to surround the production of aircraft. During the war Admiral Dreyer has been given various jobs and has shown that he possesses these qualities to as great an extent as he always had.[95]

He was appointed Deputy Chief of Naval Air Equipment on 14 January, 1943.

Family Service

During the war, Dreyer's three sons all served in the Royal Navy. The eldest, Richard Christopher John Dreyer, served as Gunnery Officer in Hobart, Valiant and Renown. The second son, Desmond Parry Dreyer (1910 - 2003), served as Gunnery Officer of the light cruiser Ajax at the Battle of the River Plate and later as Assistant Fleet Gunnery Officer for the Home Fleet in King George V, and as Gunnery Officer in Duke of York. Dreyer's youngest son, Raymond Garnier served as Executive Officer of the destroyer Avon Vale and Signal Officer of the light cruiser Scylla.[96]


Dreyer died on Tuesday 11 December 1956 at Winchester aged seventy-eight years old.[97] His funeral took place at Winchester Cathedral on Saturday, 17 December. His coffin was carried to the Cathedral on a gun carriage and escorted by a party from H.M.S. Excellent. The pallbearers were Admirals of the Fleet Sir Charles Forbes, Lord Cunningham and Sir Arthur Power, Admirals Sir Wilfred French, Sir Vaughan Monroe and Sir William Andrewes, and Vice-Admirals Sir James Pipon and Sir Richard Bell Davies. He was afterwards cremated and his ashes scattered on the sea off Portsmouth from H.M.S. Dundas.[98] Shortly before his death, on 30 November, he had been guest of honour at a gunnery officers' dinner held at Excellent.[99] Admiral Sir William James, who was present, wrote to The Times that those who attended "will long remember the speech of the principal guest. The younger generation then realized why Frederic Dreyer had, in his day, been such a power in the Navy."[100] A memorial service was held at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London, on 4 January 1957.[101]

Lady Dreyer passed away on 8 January, 1959, aged eighty-two.[102]

See Also


  • Brooks, John (2005). Dreadnought Gunnery and the Battle of Jutland: The Question of Fire Control. Oxon: Routledge. ISBN 0714657026. (on and
  • Brooks, John (2004). "Dreyer, Sir Frederic Charles (1878–1956)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Coles, Alan; Briggs, Ted (1985). Flagship Hood: The Fate of Britain's Mightiest Warship. London: Robert Hale Limited. ISBN 0-7090-2024-0.
  • Cunninghame Grahame, Admiral Sir Angus Edward Malise Bontine (1979). Random Naval Recollections, 1905–1951. Gartochan, Dumbartonshire: Famedram Publishers Limited.
  • Dreyer, Lieut. Frederic C., R.N. (1900). How to Get a First Class in Seamanship: A Guide for Midshipmen of the Royal Navy. Portsmouth: Griffin & Co..
  • Dreyer, Admiral Sir Frederic C. (1955). The Sea Heritage: A Study of Maritime Warfare. London: Museum Press Limited.
  • James, Admiral Sir William (1951). The Sky was Always Blue. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd..
  • Roskill, Stephen (1968). Naval Policy between the Wars. Vol II. The Period of Reluctant Rearmament, 1929-1939. London: Collins.


Service Records

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
Odiarne U. Coates
Captain of H.M.S. Ferret
8 Jun, 1898[103] – 4 Aug, 1898[104]
Succeeded by
Odiarne U. Coates
Preceded by
Captain of H.M.S. Amphion
1 Jan, 1913[105] – 29 Sep, 1913[106]
Succeeded by
Thomas D. Pratt
Preceded by
Arthur W. Craig
Captain of H.M.S. Orion
28 Oct, 1913[107] – 14 Oct, 1915[108]
Succeeded by
Oliver Backhouse
Preceded by
Robert N. Lawson
Captain of H.M.S. Iron Duke
14 Oct, 1915[109] – 29 Nov, 1916[110]
Succeeded by
A. Ernle M. Chatfield
Preceded by
New Appointment
Assistant Director of the Anti-Submarine Division
18 Dec, 1916[111] – 1 Mar, 1917[112]
Succeeded by
Humphrey T. Walwyn
Preceded by
Director of Naval Ordnance and Torpedoes
Director of Naval Ordnance
1 Mar, 1917[113] – 20 Jun, 1918[114]
Succeeded by
H. Ralph Crooke
Preceded by
Arthur H. Limpus
President of the Shell Committee
26 Jun, 1917[115]
Succeeded by
Henry R. Crooke
Preceded by
New Position
Director of Gunnery and Torpedoes
20 Jun, 1918[116] – 1 Feb, 1919[117]
Succeeded by
John W. L. McClintock
Preceded by
New Position
Director of the Gunnery Division
19 Apr, 1920[118] – 18 Apr, 1922[119]
Succeeded by
Bernard St. G. Collard
Preceded by
A. Dudley P. R. Pound
Captain of H.M.S. Repulse
18 Apr, 1922[120] – 21 Nov, 1923[121]
Succeeded by
Henry W. Parker
Preceded by
Arthur K. Waistell
Assistant Chief of Naval Staff
9 Oct, 1924[122] – 21 Apr, 1927[123]
Succeeded by
A. Dudley P. R. Pound
Preceded by
Cyril T. M. Fuller
Vice-Admiral Commanding Battle Cruiser Squadron
21 May, 1927[124] – 21 May, 1929[125]
Succeeded by
A. Dudley P. R. Pound
Preceded by
Sir William W. Fisher
Deputy Chief of Naval Staff
30 Jun, 1930[126] – 9 Jan, 1933[127]
Succeeded by
Sir Charles J. C. Little
Preceded by
Sir W. A. Howard Kelly
Commander-in-Chief, China Station
9 Jan, 1933 – 11 Jan, 1936
Succeeded by
Sir Charles J. C. Little


  1. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. p. 25.
  2. "Cadetships in the Royal Navy" (News). The Times. Thursday, 2 July, 1891. Issue 33366, col C, p. 8.
  3. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. p. 26.
  4. Roskill. Admiral of the Fleet Earl Beatty. p. 64.
  5. Dreyer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. [ADM 196/44.] f. 353.
  6. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. pp. 26-27.
  7. Quoted in Dreyer. p. 27.
  8. ADM 196/44. f. 353.
  9. The London Gazette: no. 29673. p. 3388. 31 May, 1898.
  10. The London Gazette: no. 26988. p. 4354. 19 July, 1898.
  11. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. p. 31.
  12. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. p. 31.
  13. "Marriages" (Marriages). The Times. Saturday, 29 June, 1901. Issue 36494, col A, p. 1.
  14. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. p. 287.
  15. "Vice-Adml. Sir T. Hallett" (Obituaries). The Times. Monday, 3 June, 1957. Issue 53857, col C, p. 14.
  16. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. p. 32.
  17. ADM 196/44. f. 353.
  18. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. p. 32.
  19. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. pp. 32-33.
  20. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 353.
  21. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. p. 47.
  22. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. p. 48.
  23. Pollen Aim Correction System, Part I. p. 5, 7.
  24. Dreyer Service Record. f. 353.
  25. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. p. 56.
  26. "Report on Experimental Cruise." 16 March, 1907. The National Archives. ADM 116/1059. f. 5. Quoted in Brooks. p. 135.
  27. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. p. 57.
  28. Dreyer Service Record. f. 353.
  29. Ibid.
  30. Brooks. p. 135.
  31. The London Gazette: no. 28096. p. 34. 3 January, 1908.
  32. Quoted in Brooks. Dreadnought Gunnery at the Battle of Jutland. p. 144.
  33. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. pp. 60-61.
  34. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. p. 62.
  35. ADM 196/89. f. 166.
  36. G.024/1912. The National Archives. ADM 1/8328.
  37. Pears. Jellicoe and Beatty As Commanders-in-Chief, Grand Fleet. pp. 4-5.
  38. Churchill to Naval Secretary. Memorandum of 9 August, 1912. Churchill Papers. Churchill Archives Centre. CHAR 13/12/10.
  39. The Navy List. (July, 1913). p. 278.
  40. The London Gazette: no. 28733. p. 4640. 1 July, 1913.
  41. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. p. 74.
  42. ADM 196/89. f. 166.
  43. Cunninghame Graham. Random Naval Recollections. p. 22.
  44. Churchill to Lambert. Minute of 18 March, [1914]. Churchill Papers. Churchill Archives Centre. CHAR 13/6A/48.
  45. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28842. p. 4876. 19 June, 1914.
  46. "The King's Investiture" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Tuesday, 20 June, 1914. Issue 40563, col C, p. 11.
  47. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. p. 76.
  48. Grand Fleet Conferences, 1914. Telegram #374 on p. 226-227.
  49. Jackson Papers. National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth: 255/4/25.
  50. Jackson Papers. National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth: 255/4/27.
  51. The Navy List. (December, 1916). p. 395m.
  52. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29751. p. 9070. 15 September, 1916.
  53. ADM 196/89. f. 166.
  54. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. Register 11. f. 156.
  55. ADM 196/44. Register 11. f. 156.
  56. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30316. p. 10157. 1 October, 1917.
  57. Roskill. Earl Beatty. p. 260.
  58. Office Memorandum No. 190 of 27 June, 1918. Signed by Oswyn Murray. The National Archives. ADM 116/1803.
  59. ADM 196/44. Register 11. f. 156.
  60. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 31099. p. 111. 31 December, 1918.
  61. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 31553. p. 11583. 16 September, 1919.
  62. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 31811. p. 2865. 5 March, 1920.
  63. ADM 196/44. Register 11. f. 156.
  64. ADM 196/89. f. 166.
  65. ADM 196/44. Register 11. f. 156.
  66. ADM 196/89. f. 166.
  67. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. Register 11. f. 156.
  68. The London Gazette: no. 32894. p. 51. 1 January, 1924.
  69. ADM 196/44. Register 11. f. 156.
  70. The National Archives. ADM 1/8658/69. Quoted in Moretz. The Capital Ship Controversy in the Royal Navy. p. 274.
  71. ADM 196/44. Register 11. f. 156.
  72. The National Archives. ADM 116/2374. Quoted in Till. The Impact of Airpower on the Royal Navy in the 1920s. p. 312.
  73. "Naval and Military" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Saturday, 21 May, 1927. Issue 44587, col G, p. 9.
  74. ADM 196/44. Register 11. f. 156.
  75. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. p. 286.
  76. Moretz. The Capital Ship Controversy in the Royal Navy. p. 309.
  77. Coles; Briggs. p. 46.
  78. The London Gazette: no. 33747. p. 1575. 5 March, 1929.
  79. ADM 196/89. f. 166.
  80. ADM 196/89. f. 166.
  81. ADM 196/44. Register 11. f. 156.
  82. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. p. 291.
  83. Divine. Mutiny at Invergordon. p. 237.
  84. Letter entitled "Invergordon." The National Archives. ADM 178/129. f. 6.
  85. "Minutes of Meeting Held at Admiralty on Wednesday, the 6th January, 1932." The National Archives. ADM 178/129. ff. 5-6.
  86. Quoted in Dreyer. p. 297.
  87. James. The Sky was Always Blue. p. 162.
  88. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 33831. p. 3569. 31 May, 1932.
  89. The London Gazette: no. 33900. p. 127. 6 January, 1933.
  90. ADM 196/89. f. 166.
  91. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 34396. p. 3084. 11 May, 1937.
  92. The London Gazette: no. 34627. p. 3381. 19 May, 1939.
  93. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. p. 353.
  94. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. pp. 354-355.
  95. The National Archives. ADM 205/20 Quoted in Brodhurst. p. 250.
  96. Dreyer. The Sea Heritage. p. 463.
  97. "Adml. Sir F. C. Dreyer" (Obituaries). The Times. Wednesday, 12 December, 1956. Issue 53712, col E, p. 12.
  98. "Funeral" (Deaths). The Times. Monday, 17 December, 1956. Issue 53716, col B, p. 8.
  99. "Court Circular" (Court and Social). The Times. Saturday, 1 December, 1956. Issue 53703, col B, p. 8.
  100. "Sir Frederic Dreyer" (Obituaries). The Times. Saturday, 22 December, 1956. Issue 53721, col F, p. 8.
  101. "Memorial Services" (Deaths). The Times. Saturday, 5 January, 1957. Issue 53731, col B, p. 8.
  102. "Lady Dreyer" (Obituaries). The Times. Friday, 9 January, 1959. Issue 54354, col E, p. 13.
  103. Dreyer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 353.
  104. Dreyer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 353.
  105. The Navy List. (July, 1913). p. 278.
  106. Dreyer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 353.
  107. The Navy List. (October, 1915). p. 396h.
  108. Dreyer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 353.
  109. Dreyer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 353.
  110. Dreyer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 353.
  111. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. Register 11. f. 156.
  112. Dreyer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 156.
  113. Dreyer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 156.
  114. Dreyer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 156.
  115. Reports of the Shell Committee. 1917 and 1918. p. 14.
  116. Dreyer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 156.
  117. Dreyer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 156.
  118. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. Register 11. f. 156.
  119. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. Register 11. f. 156.
  120. Dreyer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 156.
  121. Dreyer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 156.
  122. The Naval Staff of the Admiralty. p. 123.
  123. Dreyer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 156.
  124. "Naval and Military" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Saturday, 21 May, 1927. Issue 44587, col G, p. 9.
  125. Dreyer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 156.
  126. Dreyer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 156.
  127. Dreyer Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. Register 11. f. 156.