Military Wiki
Sir Cecil Burney
Sir Cecil Burney
Born (1858-05-15)May 15, 1858
Died June 5, 1929(1929-06-05) (aged 71)
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.png Royal Navy
Rank Admiral of the Fleet
Commands held Atlantic Fleet
Coast of Scotland
Portsmouth Command
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George
Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold (Belgium)
Order of St. Vladimir (Russia)
Croix de Guerre (France)

A 1917 portrait of Cecil Burney by Francis Dodd.

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Cecil Burney, 1st Baronet GCB GCMG (15 May 1858 – 5 June 1929) was a British Royal Navy admiral.

Early life and service before flag rank[]

Burney was born in Jersey, son of a Royal Navy Captain. He was educated at the Royal Naval Academy, Gosport and entered HMS Britannia as a Naval Cadet in July 1871. He was promoted Midshipman in October 1873, serving on the Pacific and North American Stations, and was commissioned as a Sub-Lieutenant in October 1877. For the next three years he mainly served ashore, with short periods in the troopship HMS Serapis and the Royal Yacht, where he was promoted Lieutenant on 30 August 1879.[1] He then joined the corvette HMS Carysfort with the Mediterranean Fleet and served ashore in command of a Gatling Gun team at the Battle of Tell al-Mahuta and the Battle of Qassasin in August 1882. In 1882 he also accompanied Sir Charles Warren's expedition in pursuit of the murderers of Professor Palmer and his associates. In 1884 he served in the operations against Osman Digna near Suakin.

The next two years were spent at the gunnery schools at Portsmouth and Devonport, followed by over five years as a gunnery officer with the North American Squadron, Reserve Squadron and Channel Squadron. On 1 January 1893 Burney was promoted Commander[2] and became Executive Officer of the cruiser HMS Hawke with the Mediterranean Fleet. In 1896 he became commanding officer of the boys' training establishment in HMS Boscawen and HMS Minotaur at Portland, being promoted Captain on 1 January 1898.[3]

In September 1899 he took command of his old ship HMS Hawke and in 1900 became the captain of HMS Sappho, initially on the North American Station, but soon transferring to the Cape Station for service in the South African War. Sappho struck the Durban bar on 3 May 1901, although she was under the command of a pilot at the time and Burney was not to blame, and returned to the United Kingdom for repairs. In May 1902 Sappho became the flagship of Rear-Admiral George Atkinson-Willes and then Rear-Admiral Edmund Poë in the Home Fleet. In June 1904 Burney transferred to the command of the battleship HMS Triumph and then, in July 1905, to HMS Impregnable as inspecting captain of boys' training ships.

Promotion to flag rank[]

On 10 October 1907, Burney was promoted Rear-Admiral in command of the Plymouth Division of the Home Fleet.[4] In February 1911 he took command of the 5th Cruiser Squadron and at the end of the year he took over the Atlantic Fleet as Acting Vice-Admiral. In 1912 he was transferred to the 3rd Battle Squadron in the Mediterranean and on 20 September 1912 was confirmed as a Vice-Admiral.[5]

In April 1913 he was sent with his squadron to Antivari on the coast of Montenegro to take command of the international naval force sent to deal with the disturbances in Montenegro and Albania at the close of the Second Balkan War. From May to November he also commanded the international force occupying Scutari. For his successful handling of this situation he was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in the 1913 Birthday Honours and Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) on 27 October 1913.[6]

First World War[]

At the end of 1913 he returned to England and took command of the Second Fleet and Third Fleet. On the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 these were combined into the Channel Fleet, which Burney also commanded. In December 1914 he was given command of the 1st Battle Squadron, in which capacity he also served as second-in-command of the Grand Fleet under Sir John Jellicoe. He commanded the squadron at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916, where his flagship HMS Marlborough was torpedoed, necessitating the transfer of his flag to HMS Revenge. On 9 June 1916 he was promoted Admiral and he was also promoted to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) and awarded the Russian Order of St. Vladimir, 2nd Class (with Swords) "for distinguished service rendered in the Battle of Jutland".[7] Although Jellicoe had great faith in him this faith was not shared by many other flag officers, who regarded him as over-cautious, lacking in initiative, and not being in good health, and were worried that he might succeed Jellicoe in command of the Grand Fleet.

In November 1916 Burney was appointed Second Sea Lord. However, in September 1917 he was removed, despite the opposition of Jellicoe, now First Sea Lord, on the insistence of the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty, who believed he was too old and too inefficient for the post, and they instead appointed him Commander-in-Chief, Coast of Scotland. In March 1919 he became Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth. He effectively retired due to ill-health the following year.


Burney was promoted Admiral of the Fleet on 24 November 1920,[8] created a baronet in the 1921 New Year Honours,[9] and promoted to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB) in the 1922 New Year Honours.[10] He officially retired on 24 November 1925.[11]



  • Biography, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

External links[]

Military offices
Preceded by
Sir John Jellicoe
Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet
Succeeded by
Post abolished
Preceded by
Sir Christopher Cradock
Vice-Admiral Commanding 3rd Battle Squadron
Succeeded by
Lewis Bayly
Preceded by
Sir Frederick Hamilton
Vice-Admiral Commanding 2nd and 3rd Fleets/Channel Fleet
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Sir Lewis Bayly
Vice-Admiral Commanding 1st Battle Squadron
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Madden
Preceded by
Sir Somerset Gough-Calthorpe
Second Sea Lord
Succeeded by
Sir Rosslyn Wemyss
Preceded by
Sir Frederick Hamilton
Commander-in-Chief, Coast of Scotland
Succeeded by
Sir Herbert Heath
Preceded by
Sir Stanley Colville
Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth
Succeeded by
Sir Somerset Gough-Calthorpe
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New title Baronet
(of Preston Candover)
Succeeded by
Dennistoun Burney

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