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Harold Bruce Farncomb
Commander Harold Farncomb on the bridge of HMAS Shropshire
Nickname Uncle Hal
Born (1899-02-28)28 February 1899
Died 12 February 1971(1971-02-12) (aged 71)
Place of birth North Sydney, New South Wales
Buried at Ashes scattered at sea
Allegiance Australia
Service/branch Royal Australian Navy
Years of service 1912-1951
Rank Generic-Navy-O9.svg Rear Admiral
Commands held numerous
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Companion of the Order of the Bath
Companion of the Distinguished Service Order
Member of the Royal Victorian Order
Mentioned in Dispatches (3)
Navy Cross (United States)
Commander of the Legion of Merit (United States)
Other work Barrister and solicitor

Rear Admiral Harold Bruce Farncomb, CB, DSO, MVO (28 February 1899 - 12 February 1971) was a lawyer and Australian Rear Admiral who served in both World War I and World War II. He was the first Australian-born RAN officer to reach a flag rank in the RAN. Collins class submarine HMAS Farncomb is named in his honour.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Harold Farncomb was born in North Sydney, New South Wales on 28 February 1899, the second child of Frank Farncomb and Helen Louisa Farncomb, née Sampson. The family lived in Gordon on the north shore of Sydney. He attended Gordon Public School and Sydney Boys' High School before entering the Royal Australian Naval College (RANC) at age 13 in the RANC's first intake. Farncomb excelled academically at the RANC, graduating with very impressive scores and topped his final year (1916).[1][2] On completing his studies at the RANC he was promoted to midshipman on 1 January 1917 and left immediately on the steamer Naldera for training with the Royal Navy. Farncomb was stationed on board the battleship HMS Royal Sovereign in April 1917.[1]

Naval career[edit | edit source]

Farncomb served on Royal Sovereign until shortly after the end of World War I. On leaving Royal Sovereign Farncomb was promoted to sub-lieutenant and sent to HMS Excellent on Whale Island for course training. After completing training at Whale Island Farncomb was transferred to Woolsher, a small craft attached to the destroyer force at the Firth of Forth. He then received his first posting in Australia; stationed on board HMAS Stalwart for a year as a gunnery officer, this posting was followed by a year on the staff of Commodore Percy Addison, Commodore Commanding the Australia Squadron (CCAS).[1] In May 1925, after a 10-month war staff course in the United Kingdom, he took a posting as a staff officer (operations) with the CCAS.

Naval career summary[edit | edit source]

1913 Royal Australian Naval College, Osborne House, Geelong, Victoria
1917 promoted midshipman
HMS Royal Sovereign (in UK)
1918 promoted sub-lieutenant
HMS Excellent (Whale Island, Hampshire)
1920 promoted lieutenant - awarded the maximum of five first-class certificates for his lieutenant's courses
1921 gunnery officer, HMAS Stalwart (in Australia)
1922 intelligence officer, Commodore (Sir) Percy Addison's staff on the flagship, HMAS Melbourne
1923 Royal Naval College, Greenwich
1925 staff officer (operations) to CCAS (Commodore Commanding the Australia Squadron)
1927 promoted lieutenant commander
1932 promoted commander
1933 executive officer, HMAS Australia
1935 Naval Intelligence Division at the Admiralty
1937 first RANC graduate to be promoted captain
commander HMAS Yarra
1939 as commander, commissioned HMAS Perth
1940 commander HMAS Canberra
1941 commander of the flagship HMAS Australia, chief staff officer to Rear Admiral (Sir) John Crace
1942 Rear Admiral (Sir) Victor Crutchley replaced Crace
1944 commander HMS Attacker (in the Mediterranean)
assumed command of the Australian Squadron as commodore first class
commodore commanding H.M.A. Squadron (Fleet)
1945 flag officer-in-charge, New South Wales
commodore superintendent of training at Flinders Naval Depot, Westernport, Victoria
1946 commodore commanding H.M.A. Squadron (Fleet)
1947 promoted rear admiral
flag officer commanding H.M.A. Squadron (Fleet)
1950 head of the Australian Joint Services Staff in Washington
1951 retired from Navy

Post-military life[edit | edit source]

Farncomb left the service in 1951 and learned Latin to enable him to study for the Barristers' Admission Board examinations. Admitted to the Bar on 6 June 1958, he developed a reasonably busy practice in Sydney and subsequently joined the solicitors, Alfred Rofe & Sons.[2]

Heart disease eventually led to his retirement.

Honours and awards[edit | edit source]

Order of the Bath UK ribbon.png Dso-ribbon.png Royal Victorian Order UK ribbon.png

BWM ribbon.jpg Victory medal (UK) ribbon.png 1939-45 Star.png AtlanticStarRibbon2.jpg

Pacific Star.gif Italy Star.JPG War Medal 1939–1945 (UK) ribbon.png Australian Service Medal 1939-45 ribbon.jpg

GeorgeVSilverJubileum-ribbon.png GeorgeVICoronationRibbon.png US Legion of Merit Commander ribbon.png Navy Cross ribbon.svg

Order of the Bath UK ribbon.png Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB)
Dso-ribbon.png Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
Royal Victorian Order UK ribbon.png Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO)
BWM ribbon.jpg British War Medal
Victory medal (UK) ribbon.png Victory Medal
1939-45 Star.png 1939-45 Star
AtlanticStarRibbon2.jpg Atlantic Star
Pacific Star.gif Pacific Star
Italy Star.JPG Italy Star
War Medal 1939–1945 (UK) ribbon.png War Medal 1939–1945
Australian Service Medal 1939-45 ribbon.jpg Australian Service Medal 1939-45
GeorgeVSilverJubileum-ribbon.png King George V Silver Jubilee Medal 1935
GeorgeVICoronationRibbon.png King George VI Coronation Medal 1937
US Legion of Merit Commander ribbon.png Commander of the Legion of Merit Around 1942 (United States)
Navy Cross ribbon.svg Navy Cross 1945 (United States)

Personal life[edit | edit source]

On 31 March 1927 at Trinity Congregational Church, Strathfield, Sydney, he married Jean Ross Nott; they were to remain childless. "Jean provided staunch support throughout the vicissitudes of her husband's career".[2]

Retirement and death[edit | edit source]

Survived by his wife, Farncomb died of heart failure on 12 February 1971 in St Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst, and was cremated with Anglican rites. His ashes were scattered at sea on 2 March from the flight deck of his last flagship, HMAS Sydney, off the coast of Western Australia.[3]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 David Stevens, ed. 1996. The Royal Australian Navy in World War II. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-74114-184-2 pp. 234-235
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Alan Zammit, 'Farncomb, Harold Bruce (1899 - 1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, Melbourne University Press, 1996, pp 139-141.
  3. Lind, Lew (1986). The Royal Australian Navy: Historic Naval Events Year by Year (2nd ed.). Frenchs Forest, NSW: Reed Books. p. 281. ISBN 0-7301-0071-5. OCLC 16922225. 

External links[edit | edit source]

Military offices
Preceded by
Commodore John Collins
Rear Admiral Commanding HM Australian Squadron
1946 – 1949
Succeeded by
Rear Admiral John Eccles
as Flag Officer Commanding HM Australian Fleet
Preceded by
Captain Charles Nichols
Rear Admiral Commanding HM Australian Squadron
1944 – 1945
Succeeded by
Commodore John Collins

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