Royal Navy obituary in the Times newspaper
Royal Navy obituary in the Times newspaper

Royal NavyObituaries

The following obituary for George Digby Morant appeared in the Times newspaper.

Obituary in the Times newspaper
15 February 1921


The death took place on Sunday, at his home in Redcliffe-square, S.W., of Admiral Sir Digby Morant, K.C.B., who retired from the Royal Navy in 1901, after a distinguished career of over 50 years, and for a long period served as chairman of the Royal Humane Society.

George Digby Morant was the eldest son of George Morant, of the Grenadier Guards, and of Shirley House, Carrickmacross, Ireland, who died in 1874, and of Lydia, daughter of John Hemphill, of Rathkenny, Co. Tipperary, and sister of the first Baron Hemphill. Born in Dublin, in 1837, the Admiral was educated at Dr. Burney’s Naval Academy, and passed into the Navy in 1850. He was destined to see much active service during his early years at sea.

He was a midshipman of the Fox during the whole of the Burmese War of 1852-3, and was actively engaged in the capture of Rangoon, the storming of the Dollah stockades, the capture of Bassein, and minor operations in the Irrawaddy, being awarded the Burma medal and Pegu clasp. As midshipman of the Prince Regent, he served in the Baltic during the war with Russia in 1854, and was present at the bombardment of Hango Fort. The next two years found him in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azoff, as midshipman of the Curlew, and for his services there he received the Fifth Class of the Medjidieh, the Crimean and Turkish medals, and the Sevastopol and Azoff clasps. He became a lieutenant in 1858, and in the next year served in the Cormorant in the engagement between the squadron under Vice-Admiral Sir James Hope and the Taku forts during the war with China. He afterwards commanded the gunboat Grasshopper, in 1865-6, in several successful operations against pirates. On one occasion he was specially thanked by the Admiralty and Foreign Office for destroying one pirate lorcha and capturing two others, after an action lasting six hours, thereby liberating five cargo junks.

This gallant affair brought him early promotion to commander on February 6, 1866, and after a period in the coastguard at Deal, he commanded the gunboat Cockatrice in the Mediterranean in 1872-3, after which he was promoted to captain. In this grade his first appointment was as Inspector of Irish Lights, which he held until October, 1878, when he was given command of the frigate Valorous on particular service, remaining in her for four years, when he was transferred to the Achilles, in the Channel Squadron. After less than two years in the Achilles, he went out to Hong-kong as Commodore-in-Charge of the dockyard and naval establishments, where he served from 1884 to 1887. Returning home, he received a somewhat similar post as Superintendent of Pembroke Dockyard, and held this until promoted to rear-admiral on January 1, 1889. His special experience in the dockyards was utilized by the Admiralty in his being selected to supervise the supply of the fittings of ships building by contract under the Naval Defence Act of 1889. For two years he was employed in this duty, and during this period he took a prominent part in the organization of the Royal Naval Exhibition at Chelsea, in 1891, as a member of the general and executive committees and as chairman of the sub-committee on models and exhibits of steering appliances. In 1892 he became Admiral-Superintendent at Chatham Dockyard, where he remained until 1895, being promoted to vice-admiral during this period. He was advanced to full admiral on March 13, 1901, and on May 25 of that year retired from the Service. In the following November he was awarded the K.C.B.

In the work of the Royal Humane Society Sir Digby Morant took a keen and practical interest, and was rarely absent from its meetings, in spite of his advancing years. He was also actively associated with various undertakings, industrial and other, connected with the Navy, including the Fairfield Shipbuilding Company, Limited, of which he was a director. His genial, cheery nature and success as a raconteur made him very popular among a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, by whom he will be sincerely missed.

Sir Digby Morant married, in 1866, Sophia, the youngest daughter of Colonel Eyres, of the Grenadier Guards, and had three sons and four daughters. His youngest son, Commander Edgar R. Morant, R.N., was awarded the D.S.O. for bravery and devotion to duty during mine-sweeping and mine-laying operations in the war.

The funeral will take place at St. Matthias', Earl’s Court, at 1.30 on Thursday, and the interment at Putney Vale.

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