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Sir John Kelly
Born 1871
Died 1936
Allegiance Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Service/branch Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
Years of service 1884 - 1936
Rank Admiral of the Fleet
Commands held HMS Dublin
HMS Devonshire
HMS Weymouth
HMS Princess Royal
Atlantic Fleet
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath

Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Donald Kelly GCVO, KCB (1871–1936) was a Royal Navy officer known for his leadership during the Invergordon Mutiny and the First World War

Early lifeEdit

Kelly was born in 1871 in Hampshire, the second son of Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Holdworth Kelly of the Royal Marine Artillery (1842-1919) and his wife Elizabeth Collum.[1] He joined the navy in 1884[2] serving on the Australian Station and qualifying in gunnery.[3] He served in the Second Boer War in HMS Forte.[2]

First World WarEdit

Kelly was captain of HMS Dublin at the outbreak of war, serving in the Mediterranean.[2] On 4 August 1914, just prior to the outbreak of war, he was assigned by Sir Berkeley Milne to shadow the German squadron under Rear-Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, consisting of the cruiser SMS Breslau and the battlecruiser SMS Goeben.[4] Kelly did so, but eventually lost sight of the German ships.[4] Kelly's younger brother Howard, commanding HMS Gloucester, also became involved in the subsequent chase.[5] Dublin re-encountered the Germans at 1.30 a. m. on 6 August while sailing to join Rear-Admiral Ernest Troubridge's squadron, and passed news of the sighting to his brother and to Troubridge, before losing them again.[5] Howard Kelly continued to shadow the Germans, and at 8.30 p.m. Milne ordered Dublin, sailing in company with two destroyers, to launch a torpedo attack that night.[6] Using the reports from Gloucester of the Germans' speed and course, Dublin and the destroyers took up position on the Germans' bow, and waited to intercept them. They hoped to make contact at 3.30 a.m. on the morning of 7 August, but the British had been spotted by Breslau, which warned Goeben. The Germans passed unseen to starboard.[6]

Later during the First World War, Kelly served in the Mediterranean commanding the cruisers HMS Devonshire, HMS Weymouth and the battlecruiser HMS Princess Royal.

Post warEdit

After the war he served in the Admiralty as director of the Operations Division of the Naval Staff between 1919 and 1922, being promoted to rear-admiral in 1921. He afterwards served in the Mediterranean, commanding the Fourth Battle Squadron[2] in the Dardanelles and Bosphorus. He became Fourth Sea Lord in 1924, holding the post until 1927,[2] being promoted to vice-admiral in 1926. Kelly commanded the First Battle Squadron from 1927,[2] as second in command of the Mediterranean Fleet. He became the admiral commanding reserves in 1929,[2] was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath on 3 June 1929,[7] and was promoted to admiral in 1930. He took command of the Atlantic Fleet,[2] subsequently renamed the Home Fleet,[2] after the Invergordon Mutiny in 1931. He was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order on 13 July 1932.[8] He served as the First and Principal Naval Aide-de-Camp between 1934 and 1936.[2] Kelly ended his career as Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth between 1934 and 1936.[2] He was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet in 1936.[2] He died on 4 November 1936 and was buried at sea on 7 November.

The destroyer HMS Kelly was named after him.[9]


  1. Elizabeth Eleanor Collum
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  3. Sir John D. Kelly, 1871-1936, British Admiral History of War
  4. 4.0 4.1 Massie. Castle's of Steel. pp. 36–7. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Hough. The Great War at Sea. p. 76. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Bennett. Naval Battles of the First World War. pp. 20–1. 
  7. The London Gazette: no. 33501. p. 3667. 31 May 1929. Retrieved 7 July 2009.
  8. The London Gazette: no. 33848. p. 4788. 22 July 1932. Retrieved 7 July 2009.
  9. HMS Kelly at


Military offices
Preceded by
The Hon. Algernon Boyle
Fourth Sea Lord
Succeeded by
Sir William Fisher
Preceded by
Sir Michael Hodges
Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet
Succeeded by
Post disbanded
Preceded by
New Post
Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet
Succeeded by
Sir William Boyle
Preceded by
Sir Arthur Waistell
Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth
Succeeded by
Sir William Fisher
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt, Bt.
First and Principal Naval Aide-de-Camp
Succeeded by
The Earl of Cork and Orrery

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