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Admiral Sir Henry Harwood Harwood, KCB, OBE (19 January 1888 – 9 June 1950), was a British naval officer who won fame in the Battle of the River Plate.

Henry Harwood
Henry Harwood.jpg
Harwood is greeted by the British Minister to Uruguay, Eugen Millington-Drake after his arrival at Montevideo after the Battle of the River Plate.
Birth nameHenry Harwood Harwood
Born(1888-01-19)19 January 1888
St George Hanover Square, London
Died9 June 1950(1950-06-09) (aged 62)
Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
Goring-on-Thames parish churchyard[1]
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy
Years of service1904–1945
Commands heldHMS Cumberland (June 1927 – June 1928)
HMS Warwick & 9th Destroyer Division (August 1929 – April 1930)
HMS London (March 1932 – January 1934)
HMS Exeter (September 1936 – August 1939)
South American Division of the North America and West Indies Station (25 August 1939 – April 1940)
a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty (December 1940 – April 1942)
Commander-in-Chief, Levant
Admiral Commanding, Orkneys and Shetlands (April 1944 – March 1945)
Battles/warsWorld War IIRiver Plate
AwardsKCB (1939)
OBE (1919)
MID (1941)
War Cross (Greece) (1943)
Gold Medal of Concepcion (Chile) (1939)
Grand Officer, Order of Merit (Chile) (1940)
RelationsKate Harwood

Early lifeEdit

Following education at Stubbington House School, Harwood entered the Royal Navy in 1904[2] and specialised in torpedoes.[3] He served in the First World War.[2] In 1919, he served on the battleship HMS Royal Sovereign, 1st Battle Squadron. By 1929 he had been promoted to captain and become the Commanding Officer of the destroyer HMS Warwick and Senior Officer of the 9th Destroyer Division.

In 1931 and 1932, Harwood attended the Imperial Defence College.[2] Upon completion of the course in March 1932, he became flag captain of the heavy cruiser HMS London whilst at the same time serving as Chief Staff Officer to the Rear-Admiral Commanding the 1st Cruiser Squadron. From July 1934 until 1936, Harwood served on the staff of the Royal Naval War College at Greenwich (HMS President).

In September 1936, Harwood was appointed commodore and given command of the South American Division of the America and West Indies Station, whilst at the same time serving as commanding officer of the cruiser HMS Exeter.[2] At the outbreak of the Second World War, command of HMS Exeter passed to Captain F.S. Bell.

Second World WarEdit

Harwood commanded a squadron consisting of the heavy cruisers HMS Cumberland and HMS Exeter, and the light cruisers HMS Achilles and HMS Ajax. He flew his broad pennant in Ajax as his flagship.[2] The squadron was deployed to the South Atlantic against the Admiral Graf Spee, which was attacking Allied shipping there.

Vice-Admiral Harwood inspects ratings at HMS Canopus, the Royal Navy training base in Alexandria, in September 1942.

Harwood suspected that Graf Spee would try to strike next at the merchant shipping off the River Plate estuary. With Cumberland being absent for repairs, Harwood deployed his other three cruisers off the estuary on 12 December. In the ensuing Battle of the River Plate on 13 December, Harwood's cruisers were damaged, but so was Graf Spee, which fled to Montevideo in neutral Uruguay. She was scuttled there a few days later.[4] For this action, Harwood was promoted to rear admiral and knighted.

From December 1940 to April 1942, Rear-Admiral Harwood served as a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty and Assistant Chief of Naval Staff.[2] In April 1942, Harwood was promoted to vice-admiral and Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet, and flew his flag at HMS Nile.[2] The command was later split, and he became Commander-in-Chief, Levant, in February 1943, with responsibility for flank support and seaborne supply of the British Eighth Army.[2]

In April 1944, Harwood became Admiral Commanding, Orkneys and Shetlands[2] (HMS Proserpine). He retired on 15 August 1945 with the rank of admiral, having been declared medically unfit for further duty.[2]


Sir Henry Harwood died in Goring-on-Thames in 1950. Harwood Avenue, the main thoroughfare in the town of Ajax, Ontario, was named after him.[5] In the 1956 film, The Battle of the River Plate, Harwood was played by Anthony Quayle.[6]


Midshipman 1904
Acting sub-lieutenant 1907-07-30
Sub-lieutenant 1908-04-09, seniority 1907-07-30
Lieutenant 1908-07-30
Lieutenant-commander 1916-07-30
Commander 1921-06-30
Captain 1928-12-31
Commodore 2nd class 1936-09-17?
Commodore 1st class 1939-08-25?
Rear-admiral 1939-12-13
Vice-admiral 1942-02-06
Acting admiral 1942-04-22?
Admiral (retired) 1945


Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath 23 December 1939 action with the Admiral Graf Spee, 13 December 1939
Officer of the Order of the British Empire 17 July 1919 ?
Mentioned in Despatches 1 January 1941 New Year 1941
Greek War Cross[7] 17 April 1943 services to the Greek Navy
Gold Medal of Concepcion (Chile) 1939? Concepcion earthquake 1939-01-24
Grand Officer, Order of Merit (Chile) 1940-09-06 Concepcion earthquake 1939-01-24


  1. ^ Noomen, E. J. (1998–2010). "Graves of World War II personalities". Retrieved 3 May 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  3. ^ Houterman, Hans. "Royal Navy (RN) Officers 1939-1945 (HARV to HAYW)". Unithistories. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
  4. ^ Battle of the River Plate, December 1939 Naval History
  5. ^ "Harwood Avenue named for British naval officer". 6 October 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  6. ^ "The Battle of the River Plate". IMDb. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  7. ^ Greek War Cross

External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Andrew Cunningham
Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet
April 1942–February 1943
Succeeded by
Sir Andrew Cunningham
Preceded by
New Post
Commander-in-Chief, Levant
February 1943–June 1943
Succeeded by
Sir John Cunningham
Preceded by
Sir Lionel Wells
Admiral Commanding, Orkneys and Shetlands
April 1944–March 1945
Succeeded by
Post disbanded