Sir William May –

The Times, July 30, 1919

Retirement of Sir William May

To-morrow Admiral of the Fleet Sir WIllaim Henry May, G.C.B., G.C.V.O., retires from the active list on reaching the age of 70..


Although no official intimation has been given in regard to his successor, it is expected that, following the usual custom, the King will exercise his prerogative in four of the senior officer on the list of admirals who has fulfilled the conditions of advancement to the highest rank. THis officer is now Admiral Sir Henry Jackson, G.C.B., K.C.V.O., F.R.S., who, who it has been officially announced is to be relieved as President of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich on Friday, by Vice-Admiral Sir William Parkenham, K.C.B.

The King’s regulations provide that Admirals of the Fleet will be selected by his Majesty from the admirals on the active list who have served with distinction as flag officers, without regard to seniority. Early in the war, the Board decided that, in selecting officers for promotion, they should be required to have served as First Sea Lord for upwards of 12 months, or to have commanded the principal Fleet for a period of 12 months, or to have performed special war or other conspicuous service since the attainments of the captain’s rank. Sir Henry Jackson served as First Sea Lord from May 28, 1915 to December 4, 1916 and thereby fulfilled the first of these requirement. Only on two occasions in recent years has the Sovereign passed over the senior officer qualified for promotion. In 1892, Queen Victoria exercised her right of selection to promote Admiral Sir John E Commerell, in preference to Admiral Sir Algernon de Horsey, who stood first on the list; and on April 2, 1917 King George approved the promotion of Admiral Sir George Callaghan, Lord Jellicoe’s predecessor in command of the Home Fleets, although Admirals Sir Richard Poore, Sir Berkeley Milne, and the Marquis of Milford Haven were senior to him.

Sir William May’s Services

During the war, Admiral of the Fleet Sir William May has served as chairman of the Admiralty Reconstruction Committee. Although his last command was as Port Admiral at Plymouth in 1911-13 he hoisted the Union Flag in the Euryalus in July and August 1913, as Umpire-in Chief for the Naval Manoeuvres. His energy and keenness in his profession may be judged from the fact that he specialized in gunnery and torpedo duties, served in the 1875-76 Arctic Expedition, and obtained his first independent command before he was 30 years of age. His services as captain were of an important and varied nature. When commanding the Imperieuse in China, he annexed Christmas Island. He also served as Naval Attache for Europe, Assistant Director of Torpedoes, Chief of Staff to Admiral Sir Michaell Culme-Seymour in the Mediterranean, and Flag Captain to Admiral Sir Nowell Salmon at Portsmouth. He commanded the naval contingent in the Diamond Jubilee procession in London, and for the next three years was in charge of the Gunnery School in Portsmouth. Obtaining his flag in 1901, he served as Director of Ordnance, Controller of the Navy, and Second Sea Lord; and also was Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic and the Home Fleets.

  • To visit the full Genealogy Page please click on:- May


  1. Sir Wm. H. May is my great,great,great,great,great Grandfather on my fathers mothers side of our family.Grandma was Daphne May. She married my grand dad Frederick Henry Powell. Their oldest son Fred is my father who will be 90 years old on September 27th 2017.

    • I do not have any information on a Daphne May – can you give me more data on her – the name of her parents etc.. You show that William was your 5th great grandfather which does not make any sense as, as an example he was my great grandfather. My 5th great grandfather was born in the 1600s.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.