Admiral Henry Cecil Bovell D.S.O joined the Navy in 1910 and retired in 1948 as Vice-Admiral. He Captained the Argus aircraft carrier and then Victorious as its first Captain. She was rushed unfinished out of dock to hunt the Bismark, where she launched Swordfish seaplanes to torpedo the German ship. Bovell was awarded a Distinguished Service Order for his efforts for this and the relief of Malta in 1943.
Admiral Henry Cecil Bovell D.S.O (1893-1963)–
Born and raised in Barbados and lived on his families plantaion. He joined the Navy in 1910 and retired in 1948 as Vice-Admiral. He Captained the Argus aircraft carrier and then Victorious as its first Captain. She was rushed unfinished out of dock to hunt the Bismark, where she launched Swordfish seaplanes to torpedo the German ship. Bovell was awarded a Distinguished Service Order for his efforts.
Henry Cecil Bovell was born in Barbados on the 4th of January 1893 the only son of the Sir Henry Alleyne Bovell KC, Attorney General of Barbados, and Lady Annie Cecil (nee Briggs) Bovell. He died aged 70 on 31st March 1963.
He left Hazelwood School ( In Collymore Rock) in the summer of 1905 for the Royal Naval College, Osborne going on in 1907 to the Royal Naval College Dartmouth where he left in March 1910 with a” First Class” pass in seamanship and engineering. On the 15th of May 1910 he was appointed as a Midshipman in the Royal Navy and was posted to HMS “Lord Nelson”. In 1912 he was posted to HMS “Achilles” as acting Sub-Lieutenant. On the 30th of June 1913 he was promoted to Sub Lieutenant and joined HMS “Collingwood”.
On the outbreak of war in August 1914 he was appointed to HMS “Goliath” and was promoted to Lieutenant on the 30th of September 1914. He was serving on HMS ”Moresby” in 1917. He was serving on HMS “Druid” when it was involved in the sinking of the German battleship the Blucher.
From the 3rd of May 1918 to January 1919 he served as Gunnery Officer on board the destroyer HMS “Vampire” on flotilla duties.
On the 11th of March 1922 he was posted as Gunnery Officer to HMS “Vivid”. On the 19th of April 1923 he was granted a Certificate of Service as Master of a Foreign-going Ship by the Board of Trade. He was promoted to Lieutenant Commander on the 30th of September 1922 and from the 1st of September 1924 he served as Gunnery Officer on HMS “Douglas” and served as Squadron Gunnery Officer and Staff Officer (Operations) on the Staff of the Commodore commanding the Atlantic Fleet, leaving the post in January 1925.
He was married to Beatrice Gertrude Laila (nee Springman) on the 8th of August 1923 at All Saints Church Liverpool; they had a daughter.
From September the 20th 1926 until July 1927 he served aboard HMS “Barham” in the Mediterranean. On the 30th of June 1928 he was promoted to Commander and on the 9th of July 1928 he was appointed to the Admiralty at HMS “President”. From the 24th of December 1928 he was a member of the Training and Staff Duties Division leaving in April 1930. On the 21st of January 1931 he began a staff course at Camberly which finished the following month. On the 31st of December 1931 he was given command of the cruiser HMS “Norfolk”. He was promoted to Captain on the 31st of December 1934. From the 8th of April 1935 he spent three months on an Imperial Defence course and on the 2nd of March 1936 he resumed staff duties at the Admiralty, attending a tactical course at Portsmouth for a month from the 6th of May 1938.
He was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal in 1935 and the King George VI Coronation Medal in 1936. On the 17th of December 1938 he was given command of the cruiser HMS “Vindictive” a position he held until August 1939.
From the 7th of October 1939 to the 16th of August 1940 he commanded the aircraft carrier HMS “Argus” when she was re-commissioned at the beginning of the war for training purposes. On the 15th of May 1941 he was given command of the aircraft Carrier HMS “Victorious” when she was launched. On board was 825 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm, equipped with Fairey Swordfish aircraft, and they were sent immediately to the North Sea where the carrier’s aircraft crippled the “Bismarck” ultimately leading to her sinking. Lieutenant Commander E. K. Esmonde won the Victoria Cross for leading the strike which cost him his life. For his part in the action Henry Bovell was awarded the CBE on the14th of October 1941 and he left the ship on the 23rd of November 1942.
Bovell was awarded the Distinguished Service Order on the 10th of November 1942 for his part in Operation “Pedestal”, the relief of Malta. From the 10th of May 1943 to the 17th of March 1944 he was a Commodore, being Second in Command of Naval Air Stations. He was awarded the CB in the King’s birthday honours list of the 13th of June 1946 and retired with the rank of Vice Admiral.
Bovell was also Captain when the Tirptiz was attacked several times, eventually putting her out of action.
Aircraft Carrier HMS Victorious
27 Jan 1941
While still in Walker Yard fitting out, she was narrowly missed by 2 bombs during a German air raid.
24 May 1941
Sailed from the Clyde despite being in incomplete state to take part in the hunt for the Bismarck. Her planes carried out 2 attacked and scored torpedo hits (3 claimed) on the battlewagon but were unable to slow her down (see Ark Royal entry).
23 Jul 1941
Sailed from Scapa Flow escorted by heavy cruisers Suffolk and Devonshire and 6 destroyers for an attack on German bases at Kirkenes and Petsamo, North Norway.
The task force was spotted by a German scout plane on 30/7 and the attackers received a hot welcome, sustaining heavy losses.
9 Mar 1942
Launched 12 Albacore torpedo bombers against the Tirpitz at her anchorage. 2 planes were shot down by the defences and no damage was done to the battleship.
21 Nov 1942 (position 46.16, -17.09)
German U-boat U-517 was sunk in the North Atlantic south-west of Ireland, in position 46°16’N, 17°09’W, by depth charges from Albacore aircraft (Sqdn 817/I) of the British carrier HMS Victorious.
The last of the four ‘Formidable-Class British aircraft carriers.
With the loss of the USS Hornet (Famous Doolittle raid on Japan) and heavy damage to USS Enterprise, Britain leant America HMS Victorious and was assigned the name USS Robin and was readied for action in the Pacific providing air cover for Operation Cartwheel. She was struck twice by Kamikaze attacks. She then returned to Britain in October 1945.