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Biography: Louis Mountbatten

LOUIS MOUNTBATTEN

Born 25th June 1900, at Frogmore House, Windsor. Mountbatten was the younger son of Prince Louis of Battenburg, and great-grandson of Queen Victoria. In 1913, he joined the Royal Naval College Osborne as a Cadet. In July 1916, he was assigned as Midshipman to Admiral Beatty’s flagship HMS Lion, and in February 1917, he transferred to HMS Queen Elizabeth. In July 1918, he was made a Sub-Lieutenant and appointed second in command of the Patrol Boat P31.

In 1919, Mountbatten was sent to Christ’s College, Cambridge. Whilst at Cambridge, the Prince of Wales invited his cousin to attend him on the forthcoming tour of Australasia in HMS Renown, and for his services during that tour, was invited to join the Royal Tour to India and Japan in the winter of 1921-2, and it was in India that Mountbatten became engaged to Edwina Ashley and married her on 18 July 1922.

In 1923, Mountbatten joined HMS Revenge, and specialised in radio communications. He was appointed as Assistant Fleet Wireless Officer in 1927, and Fleet Wireless Officer in 1931, serving in the Mediterranean and at Portsmouth. In 1932, he was promoted Commander and in April 1934 he obtained his first command, on the destroyer HMS Daring, and a few months later commanded HMS Wishart. In 1936, he was appointed to the Naval Air Division of the Admiralty.

Since 1938, Mountbatten had been contributing ideas to the construction of a new destroyer, HMS Kelly, and in June 1939, he took over as Captain, and on 20th September 1939 he was in command of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla. Whilst going to the assistance of a tanker which had been mined, Kelly was also mined and badly damaged. She was again put out of action in collision with HMS Mohawk early in 1940, but was repaired in time to play an important role in the evacuation of the allied force from Namsos after the German invasion of Norway in May 1940. On 23rd May 1941, during the battle of Crete, the ship was sunk; Mountbatten was one of the survivors but more than half of the crew were lost. Mountbatten’s sea service came to end after this event. In 1941, he was appointed Advisor on Combined Operations with the rank of Commodore, and became Chief of Combined Operations in April 1942, with the concurrent ranks of Vice-Admiral, Air Marshal and Lieutenant-General. Whilst in this position, he oversaw successful raids on St Nazaire, Vaagso and Bruneval, but tempered with the disastrous raid on Dieppe. He made a large contribution in planning the landing operations in North Africa (1942) and Sicily (1943), and the planning of the Normandy invasion in 1944.

In October 1943, Mountbatten was appointed Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia. In this position he set about raising the morale of the Allied forces in Burma, which had come to think they were the ‘forgotten army’. The reconquest of Burma was finally achieved during 1945, and on the 12th September 1945, Mountbatten accepted the formal surrender of the Japanese Expeditionary Force, Southern Region, in Singapore.

In June 1946, Mountbatten was raised to the peerage as Viscount Mountbatten of Burma. While preparing to return to his naval career, the Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, asked him to undertake the role of Viceroy of India, with the task of transferring sovereignty of India from the British crown to independent rule. Independence was achieved within five months of his arrival, although in the form of two independent states, India and Pakistan, amidst widespread massacres and riots.

At the end of 1947, he was created Earl Mountbatten of Burma, but continued to serve as Governor-General in India under the new constitution until June 1948. On his return home, he was promoted Vice-Admiral in 1949, and in 1950 appointed as Fourth Sea Lord, concerned with supplies and transport. In June 1952, he was given appointed Commander in Chief, Mediterranean Fleet, and, in the following year, was promoted to Admiral, and appointed Supreme Allied Commander of a new NATO Mediterranean command, in charge of the Mediterranean fleets of Britain, France, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. One of his tasks was to establish an integrated international naval/air headquarters in Malta.

In October 1954, Mountbatten became First Sea Lord, a position he held until 1959. In July 1959, he was appointed Chief of Defence Staff, and his main achievement was his reorganisation of the three individual service ministries, into a single, coordinated Ministry of Defence in 1964. In July 1965 he retired from naval service, but, the following year, the Home Secretary asked him to undertake an enquiry into prison security, in response to recent escapes. Mountbatten’s report was completed in two months, and most of the recommendations were implemented.

In his retirement, he continued to be extremely active, becoming Colonel of the Life Guards in 1965, and Governor of the Isle of Wight, becoming the first Lord Lieutenant when the island received shire status in 1974. In 1966, he was occupied by the filming of a television documentary series about his life but also devoted much time to running the family estates, putting his massive archive in order, and, in 1978, oversaw the opening of Broadlands to the public. In May 1979, he delivered one of his last major speeches at Strasbourg on the need for arms control.

On the 27th August 1979, Mountbatten was killed by an IRA bomb, when he and his family were out sailing, whilst on holiday at his Irish home Classiebawn Castle, in County Sligo. His funeral took place in Westminster Abbey and he was buried in Romsey Abbey. During his lifetime, Mountbatten had received numerous honours, and honorary degrees.

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© Royal Naval Museum Library, 2004
The information contained in this information sheet is correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for a bibliography of further reading materials, if available.

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