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Campbell Tait

Admiral Sir William Eric Campbell Tait KCB MVO (12 August 1886 – 17 July 1946) was a senior British naval officer, courtier and the fifth Governor of Southern Rhodesia, serving from 1945 to 1946.

Sir Campbell Tait
William Campbell Tait00.jpg
Born12 August 1886
Morice Town, Devon
Died17 July 1946
Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia
AllegianceUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
Years of service1902 - 1945
Commands heldHMS Dragon
HMS Capetown
HMS Delhi
HMS Shropshire
Africa Station
South Atlantic Station
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Member of the Royal Victorian Order
Order of Orange-Nassau
Spouse(s)Katie Cynthia Grenfell (1894-1962)

Naval careerEdit

Born in Morice Town, Devon to Deputy Surgeon-General and author, William Tait, and his wife Emma, Tait entered the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth in 1902. Following his graduation, Tait became a career naval officer, serving in the Pacific, Atlantic, Mediterranean and China.[1] He became a friend of the royal household of King George V, serving as a mentor to his two oldest sons, the future kings Edward VIII and George VI. [2]

After serving in World War I, during which he was made a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO), Tait married Katie Grenfell, daughter of Captain Hubert Grenfell, inventor of illuminated night sights for naval guns, on 3 November 1919. They had two daughters.[1] Under the name Cynthia Tait (1894-1962) his wife became a well-known botanical illustrator, particularly of South African flowers. [3][4]

Tait was promoted to Commander in 1921 and Captain in 1926, gaining his first command in 1928 as Commanding Officer of HMS Dragon.[5] There followed commands of HMS Capetown and HMS Delhi before service as Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence before returning to the sea as Commanding Officer of HMS Shropshire.[5]

Made Rear Admiral, Tait was Naval Aide-de-camp to King George VI in 1938,[5] a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1940 and Vice Admiral in 1941.[5] before becoming Commodore of the principal naval depot at Portsmouth.[6] It was in this position that Tait was recognised for the smooth mobilisation of the fleet at outbreak of World War II.[6] After serving as Director of Personal Services at the Admiralty,[6] Tait served as Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic Station from 1942,[5] and in this capacity, he established and headed a Combined Headquarters in Cape Town, where he led the Royal Navy, South African Army and South African Air Force, which was considered an important factor in maintaining allied domination around the Cape.[6]

Tait was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in 1943 and a Grand Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau 1945[1] and was appointed Governor of Southern Rhodesia on 20 February 1945.[7] Tait's tenure as Governor proved to be fleeting as, ailing for some time, Tait relinquished the Governorship in February 1946 after twelve months and died at Government House, Salisbury, five months later, less than a month before his 60th birthday.[8]

There is an Admiral Tait Primary School in Harare, Zimbabwe, named in honour of Tait.


  1. ^ a b c ed. Matthew, H & Harrison, B. (2004) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 53, Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ "Edward VIII letter archive to auction with $73,000 estimate". Picollecta. Archived from the original on 18 April 2015. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c d e "Royal Navy (RN) Officers 1939-1945", Unit Histories, Accessed 8 September 2008
  6. ^ a b c d Little, C (1946) "Admiral Sir Campbell Tait: An Appreciation", The Times, 22 July 1946.
  7. ^ Rasmussen, R. Kent, & S. Rubert (1990) Historical Dictionary of Zimbabwe, Second Edition, The Scarecrow Press, London. ISBN 0-8108-2337-3.
  8. ^ The Times, "Sir Campbell Tait", 20 July 1946
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Algernon Willis
Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic Station
Succeeded by
Sir Robert Burnett
Government offices
Preceded by
Robert James Hudson
Governor of Southern Rhodesia
Succeeded by
Fraser Russell