Royal Naval Museum




Biography: Michael Le Fanu


Born 2nd August 1913, at Lindfield, Sussex. After junior officer’s training, Le Fanu spent three years in destroyers, before qualifying as a Gunnery Officer in 1938. He was appointed to the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean until October 1939, when he left to become Gunnery Officer of the cruiser HMS Aurora. He was Mentioned in Dispatches for his competence and bravery during the Norwegian campaign, and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his services in a successful night action against a heavily escorted Italian convoy in the Mediterranean in 1941.

In June 1942, Le Fanu joined the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, as Gunnery Assistant. In March 1944, he was promoted Commander, and served as Gunnery Officer in HMS Howe, serving with the Far Eastern Fleet. He was appointed Liaison Officer to the United States Navy, a post which he held until the end of the war with Japan. He was tasked with the arrangements for the Japanese surrender onboard the USS Missouri on 2nd September 1945. He distinguished himself in this role, and received the Legion of Merit in recognition for his services to the US navy.

At the end of World War II, Le Fanu served in a variety of staff appointments, and in 1949, was promoted Captain. In 1951, he undertook his first command with the 3rd Training Squadron at Londonderry, undertaking anti-submarine activities. In 1952, he was employed on special duties in the Admiralty, under the Chief Scientist, to investigate the problems of atomic warfare. He then served for one year at the Imperial Defence College, before taking command of the boys’ training establishment HMS Ganges in 1954. In 1957 he was given command of the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle, and in 1958 promoted Rear-Admiral, with his first appointment being Director-General, Weapons. He held this post until 1960.

In 1960, Le Fanu was appointed Companion of the Bath, and served for one year as second-in-command of the Far East Station, and promoted to Vice-Admiral. From 1961, he served as Controller of the Navy, with a seat on the Board of Admiralty, and in 1963 he received the Knight Commander of the Bath. Le Fanu was promoted Admiral in 1965, and became Joint Commander of the three services in the Middle East, for one year, during the period of British evacuation from the area. In 1968, he was appointed First Sea Lord, and made a Knight Grand Cross of the Bath (GCB). In October 1970, he was about to take over as Chief of the Defence Staff, when serious illness prevented this, and he retired at the age of fifty-six with the rank of Admiral of the Fleet. He died in London an month later on 28th November. Le Fanu married Prudence Morgan in 1943, and they had two sons and one daughter.

For more information on the Navy's People in the twentieth century, visit our Sea Your History website

© 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.

Return to Top of Page | Return to Index