-H.M.S. Hood Crew Information-
Biography of Admiral William Milbourne James
By Paul Bevand, MBE
Updated 06-May-2014

Admiral William Milbourne James, G.C.B., K.C.B., C.B. commanded the Battle Cruiser Squadron from aboard H.M.S. Hood from 1932 to 1934.

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Photo of Admiral William Milbourne JamesWilliam Milbourne James was born on 22nd February, 1881 the son of Major WC James of the 16th Lancers and his wife Effie. James was educated at Trinity College, Glenalmond. During his early childhood years, his likeness was used to advertise for the nationally famous Pear brand of washing/soap powder. It was from this that he was given (much to his chagrin) the nickname "Bubbles". Following his naval education at H.M.S. Britannia he was promoted to Sub-lieutenant in 1901 and Lieutenant in 1902.

James was promoted to Commander in 1913. He subsequently served as Executive Officer aboard the battle cruiser H.M.S. Queen Mary. The war years saw his marriage to Dorothy Duff (1915). The couple were to have one son and one daughter. From 1916 to 1817, he served aboard H.M.S. Benson as Flag Officer to VADM Sir Doveton Sturdee, commander of the 4th Battle Squadron.

By the end of the War James had attained further promotion to the rank of Captain (October 1917). He subsequently served first as the Assistant Director and later as the Deputy Director of Intelligence Division, Admiralty. He left this position in 1919 to assume command of the light cruiser H.M.S. Curlew on the China Station. He left this position in 1921 to become Flag Captain and Chief of Staff to VADM Alexander Duff, China Station.

Admiral James and his family, mid 1930sThe years 1923 to 1926 saw Captain James serving at the Royal Naval Staff College at Greenwich - firstly as Deputy Director and later, from 1925, as Director. The following year, 1926, saw James assume command of H.M.S. Royal Sovereign.

In 1927 came appointment as Naval Assistant to the First Sea Lord which was followed in 1929 by further promotion to Rear-Admiral and appointment as Chief of Staff, Atlantic Fleet - a post which he held from 1929 to 1930. He would have received his C.B. during this timeframe. Towards the end of 1930 he was posted as the Chief of Staff, Mediterranean Fleet.

1932 saw James take up Command of the Battle Cruiser Squadron - a post which he held from 1932 to 1934 and which included his period in Hood. Promotion to Vice-Admiral came in 1933. Around this time, his family suffered a great tragedy when his young daughter died suddenly. From 1935 to 1938 he was Lord Commissioner of Admiralty and Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff. He received the K.C.B. during this timeframe.

During 1938 he was promoted to Admiral. The following year saw him appointed Commander in Chief, Portsmouth in which he was to serve until 1942. He took up his final Naval post as Chief of Naval Information in 1943 and remained there until 1944. During this same timeframe (1943), James entered Parliament as a Conservative member for Portsmouth North. He received the G.C.B. and retired in 1944.

The signature of Admiral William Milbourne JamesThroughout his life Admiral James was a writer and he has left many books which give us not only an insight into his own naval career but also to life generally in the navy during the first half of the 20th century. Amongst his published works are:

Admiral James died on 17th August, 1973.

Sources and References
Navy Lists (courtesy of J.N. Houterman)
Nixie Taverner and Royal Naval Museum Library (Photos)
The National Archives (signature)