Who's Who - Sir Berkeley Milne

Berkeley Milne Sir Archibald Berkeley Milne (1855-1938) served as Commander-in-Chief of British naval forces in the Mediterranean from 1912 until his replacement by Sackville Carden in September 1914.

The son of an Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Alexander Milne, Berkeley Milne entered the navy in 1869.  He owed his rapid rise thereafter rather more to his court connections than to any innate ability.

Known as 'Arky-Barky' to Queen Alexandra, Milne had no naval wartime experience prior to the outbreak of war in August 1914 (although he fought during the Anglo-Zulu War), having spent ten years in royal yachts (two as commander).  Having once said "they don't pay me to think, they pay me to be an Admiral", Milne was appointed to command of naval forces in the Mediterranean in November 1912, having risen from Rear-Admiral in 1904 to full Admiral in 1911.

Contemporary opinion of Milne was, on the whole, unfavourable.  Admiral John Fisher, the formidable former (and soon to return) First Sea Lord, regarded Milne with contempt, attributing (correctly) his successful naval career to be based upon royal favouritism.

In the days immediately prior to the start of war in August 1914 Milne was instructed to monitor the whereabouts of two German warships in the region commanded by Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, the cruisers Goeben and Breslau.

Milne reported seeing the cruisers on 4 August, a mere matter of hours prior to the expiration of the British ultimatum to Germany at midnight.  Instead of taking action on his own account (which would have flown in the face of Admiralty orders) he permitted the two cruisers to escape to the Dardanelles - with significant consequences for Turkey's subsequent decision to enter the war against the Allied powers.

Milne's failure to stop the Goeben and Breslau caused a furore in the British press and Milne was vilified.  Although exonerated of any blame by the Admiralty in London (well aware of their own failure in the matter), Milne was never again given an active command.

Formally retiring after the armistice Milne published a defence of his actions in 1921.

He died in 1938.

Observation balloons were referred to as 'sausages'.

- Did you know?

Who's Who