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Rear Admiral Harold Bruce Farncomb CB, DSO, MVO (28 February 1899 – 12 February 1971) was a senior officer in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) who served in the First and Second World Wars, and as a lawyer. He was the first Australian-born RAN officer to reach a flag rank in the RAN.[citation needed] The Collins class submarine HMAS Farncomb is named in his honour.

Harold Bruce Farncomb
Harold Farncomb.jpg
Commodore Harold Farncomb on the bridge of HMAS Shropshire, July 1945
Nickname(s)Uncle Hal, Fearless Frank
Born(1899-02-28)28 February 1899
North Sydney, New South Wales
Died12 February 1971(1971-02-12) (aged 71)
Darlinghurst, New South Wales
Service/branchRoyal Australian Navy
Years of service1912–1951
RankRear Admiral
Commands heldHM Australian Squadron (1944–45, 1946–49)
HMS Attacker (1944)
HMAS Australia (1941–44)
HMAS Canberra (1940–41)
HMAS Perth (1939–40)
HMAS Yarra (1937–38)
Battles/warsFirst World War
Second World War
AwardsCompanion of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order
Member of the Royal Victorian Order
Mentioned in Despatches (3)
Navy Cross (United States)
Commander of the Legion of Merit (United States)
Other workBarrister and solicitor


Early lifeEdit

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 careerEdit

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 summaryEdit

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
1934 made a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO)
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
1943 made a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). Citation: "For skill, resolution and coolness during operations in the Solomon Islands whilst commanding HMAS Australia"
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
made a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) and awarded the Navy Cross and made a Commander of the Legion of Merit by the United States
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 lifeEdit

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] A street in the town of Narooma is named in Farncomb's honour.[3]

Heart disease eventually led to his retirement.

Personal lifeEdit

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 deathEdit

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.[4]


  1. ^ a b c David Stevens, ed. 1996. The Royal Australian Navy in World War II. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-74114-184-2 pp. 234–235
  2. ^ a b c Alan Zammit, 'Farncomb, Harold Bruce (1899–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, Melbourne University Press, 1996, pp 139–141.
  3. ^ Australia's Argonauts: The remarkable story of the first class to enter the Royal Australian Naval College, Echo Books, Canberra, 2016, p.580
  4. ^ 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 linksEdit

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