Military Wiki
Sir Arthur Richard Hezlet
Nickname Baldy
Born (1914-04-07)April 7, 1914
Died November 7, 2007(2007-11-07) (aged 93)
Place of birth Pretoria, South Africa
Place of death Bovagh, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.png Royal Navy
Years of service 1928–1964
Rank Vice-admiral
Commands held HMS H44, HMS Unique, HMS Ursula, HMS Upholder, HMS Trident, HMS Trenchant, HMS Newfoundland

World War II

  • Occupation of Norway
Awards KBE CB DSO and Bar DSC Legion of Merit (United States) Mentioned in Dispatches
Other work N.I. president of the Royal British Legion
Member of the general synod of the Church of Ireland
council member of the University of Ulster, Author of several books.

Vice-Admiral Sir Arthur Richard "Baldy" Hezlet, KBE, CB, DSO and Bar, DSC, Legion of Merit (United States) (7 April 1914 – 7 November 2007) was a decorated Royal Navy submariner. He became the Royal Navy's youngest captain, aged 36, and its youngest admiral, aged 45. In retirement he became a military historian.

Early life

Hezlet was born in Pretoria, South Africa,[1] where his father Major-General RK Hezlet, CB, CBE, DSO, was serving in the British Army. Hezlet joined the Royal Navy in January 1928, aged 13. He attended the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth and the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and went to sea in 1932, serving as a midshipman on the battleships HMS Royal Oak and HMS Resolution.[1] By 1936, he was the correspondence officer on the destroyer HMS Daring, later volunteering to serve on submarines. He served on HMS Regulus.

Second World War

Hezlet was serving on the submarine HMS H43 at the outbreak of the Second World War, but quickly became First Lieutenant aboard the submarine HMS Trident. By early 1940, he was engaged in operations in the Norwegian Sea, as the Germans launched their occupation of Norway. He was mentioned in dispatches. Following the military disaster in Dunkirk, Trident was re-positioned in the English Channel to assist in repulsing an expected German attempt at invasion of mainland Britain. In 1940, Hezlet passed the "perisher" exam to become a submarine commanding officer, and took command of the obsolete coastal submarine HMS H44 in December.[2] He was then sent to Malta as a "spare CO". He commanded the submarine HMS Unique, one of the "Fighting" 10th Submarine Flotilla based in Malta from 1941 to 1944. The flotilla helped sink over 1,000,000 tonnes of Axis shipping. Hezlet was awarded the DSC for sinking the 11,000 tonne Italian troopship Esperia.[1] He also commanded HMS Ursula[2] on six patrols, and HMS Upholder on one patrol.

Hezlet returned to the UK in September 1941, with Ian McGeoch as his first lieutenant, to take command of Trident again.[2] In May 1942, he was involved in protecting convoys to North Russia.[1] He sank the German ore carrier Hoedur,[1] and picked up survivors from sunk merchant vessels.[1] He also operated on the surface as escort vessel for the large convoy PQ16, and was mentioned in dispatches again. He became a special training officer on the banks of the River Clyde in September 1942, at the informally named "HMS Varbel", training the crews of midget submarines to attack the German battleship Tirpitz.[1] He invented the "Hezlet Rail", bar and strap that kept men aboard the vessel. He was mentioned in dispatches after commanding the towing submarine HMS Thrasher.[2]

Hezlet then took command of the submarine HMS Trenchant,[2] based at Trincomalee, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He undertook long-range patrols in the Indian and Pacific oceans, earning him his first Distinguished Service Order (DSO). He sunk the long-range German U-boat U-859,[1] on 22 September 1944, near the Sunda Strait, as a result of Enigma intelligence information. The Trenchant also sank numerous Japanese submarine chasers, landing craft, coasters and a minelayer.

His crew conducted the last attack by two-man "chariot" submarines, on the Japanese-held harbour of Phuket in Thailand.

On 8 June 1945, Hezlet took Trenchant into shallow mined water in the $3 off Sumatra, to intercept Japanese heavy cruiser Ashigara. Despite being attacked by the Japanese destroyer Kamikaze, five out of eight torpedoes that he fired hit Ashigara, which quickly sank.[1] It was the largest Japanese warship sunk by a Royal Navy warship during the war.[1] Hezlet was ordered to Subic Bay in the Philippines, where he was awarded the U.S. Legion of Merit[1] by U.S. Admiral James Fife, Jr.. He was also awarded a bar to his DSO. Ordered to return to the UK, he ended the war as he began it, serving on a submarine.

Post-war career

After the war, Hezlet attended naval and three-service staff colleges. In 1946, he was one of a small group of Britons permitted to observe the U.S. nuclear bomb tests at Bikini Atoll.[1] He commanded the destroyer HMS Scorpion,[2] and then served in the Admiralty, and as Chief Staff Officer to the Flag Officer Submarines,[2] before taking command of the destroyer HMS Battleaxe and becoming Captain D of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla in 1955.[2]

In 1956, Hezlet was appointed as Director of the Naval Staff College at Greenwich.[2] After commanding the cruiser HMS Newfoundland,[2] he was appointed as Flag Officer Submarines[2] and promoted to rear admiral in 1959, aged 45, a post he held for 3 years. The submarine HMS Dreadnought, Britain's first nuclear attack submarine, was launched in early 1960. The task of the Flag Officer Submarines was to help formulate plans for support and training facilities in a force as yet unfamiliar with nuclear propulsion. He was also in office later that year, when the preferred option for the UK's nuclear deterrent moved from the air-launched Skybolt missile to the Polaris missile launched by ballistic missile submarines. He was appointed CB in 1961.

Hezlet's final tour was Flag Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland (FOSNI).[2] He was promoted to vice-admiral and appointed KBE before his retirement in 1964.[2]

Later life

Hezlet returned to his family home, Bovagh House, at Aghadowey in County Londonderry.[1] He was Northern Ireland president of the Royal British Legion for 25 years.[1] He also served with the RNLI,[1] a member of the general synod of the Church of Ireland,[1] and was an original council member of the University of Ulster.[1] He was a keen yachtsman, and his yacht Agivey was a familiar sight on the coast of Ireland and Scotland. He was appointed High Sheriff of County Londonderry for 1968.[3] Hezlet died at Bovagh, at the age of 93, in 2007. He was survived by his wife, Anne Joan Patricia Clark whom he married in 1948, and their two daughters.


In retirement, Hezlet wrote many books on naval matters. His first book, The Submarine and Sea Power (1967), foresaw the continuing invulnerability of the seaborne nuclear deterrent. In Aircraft and Sea Power (1970), he took the view that the Atlantic could be defended by land-based aircraft and submarines, with no surface vessels. Hezlet also wrote a history of the Ulster Special Constabulary, the "B Specials", in 1972.[1] He reviewed the use of electricity and electronics in naval warfare in The Electron and Sea Power (1976). He published a memoir, HMS Trenchant at War: from Chatham to the Banka Strait, in 2001, and his last book, the authoritative History of British and Allied Submarine Operations (2002), listed every patrol taken by an Allied submarine in the Second World War.


External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Royston Wright
Flag Officer, Scotland and Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Sir David Gregory

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