Admiral Wilbraham Tennyson Randle Ford


Wilbraham Tennyson Randle Ford was born in St Helier Jersey, Channel Islands on 19 January 1880, the son of Charles William Randle Ford, a Major in the British Army.

He was the Rear Admiral Commanding His Majesty's Australian Squadron from 19 April 1934 to 20 April 1936. One story concerning his time in Australia was that during the visit of the Japanese Training Squadron to Australia, in 1935, he was presented with a vase by the senior Japanese officer. Later Ford told his valet to throw it away as "we will be at war with those bastards in a few years time".

He joined the Royal Navy as a cadet on 15 January 1894 and was promoted to Sub Lieutenant in 1899. Ford was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 26 June 1902. He qualified as a Navigation Officer for First Class ships with a First Class rating on 23 August, 1906. Ford was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander on 26 June 1910 and to Commander on 31 December 1914.

Ford was promoted to the rank of Captain on 31 December 1920. He commanded the destroyer depot ship HMS Diligence during September 1922-March 1924 and then commanded the depot ship HMS Sandhurst during March to August 1924.

He married Violet Olive Dunsterville on 4 October 1924 and was appointed in command of the light cruiser Calliope on 23 October. In May 1929, he was appointed in command of the battleship HMS Royal Oak as part of the Mediterranean Squadron. Ford was appointed Captain of the HMS Dryad (Navigation School) on 20 June 1930.

Ford was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral on 2 November 1932 and was the Rear Admiral Commanding His Majesty's Australian Squadron between 19 April 1934 and 20 April 1936. He was appointed as a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) on 4 June 1934.

Between 26 January 1937 and December 1941 he was the Vice-Admiral-in-Charge, Malta and Admiral Superintendent Malta Dockyard with his flag in HMS St Angelo. Ford was promoted to the rank of Vice Admiral on 29 May 1937. He was appointed as an Officer of the Venerable Order of Saint John (OStJ) on 21 June 1938; Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) on 11 July 1940; and Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) on 1 January 1942.

Ford was promoted to the rank of Admiral on 31 December 1941. He served as the Commander-in-Chief, Rosyth and flew his flag in HMS Cochrane between 1 June 1942 and 1944. He was placed on the Retired List on 30 June, 1944 and formally retired from the Royal Navy in 1946.

Admiral Ford died in England on 6 January 1964.

Ġużè Ellul Mercer, in his war diary 'Taht in-Nar: Djarju ta' l-Ewwel Sena tal-Gwerra' ([Beneath the Flames: A diary of the first year of the war] (in Maltese), 1949. ISBN 9789993274049) describes Wilbraham Ford as follows in the entry for 27 October 1940:

Sir Wilbraham T Ford, who at the beginning of the war was Admiral Superintendent at the Dockyard, has now moved, together with many of his naval offices, to Lascaris. He is a big man, built like a bastion, always tirelessly on the go. And what's more, he is never grumpy or moody like most of the top brass around here. He wears khaki trousers and shirt, without ribbons, medals or epaulettes, and black shoes. To see him go by reminds one of an old-time constable on holiday. It's hard to believe he is one of the top three who will decide the fate of Malta and its people. From time to time he comes out of his office, which is close to where I work, lights up a cigarette, draws a hearty draft, and sets about teasing the janitors sweeping or otherwise working in the courtyard. I have seen him hide a broom or a bucket behind a door, and then act as if he has no idea where they went when a janitor comes looking for them. And after every prank, he bursts out laughing like a boy without a care in the world. Wherever one meets him, he is taking the mickey out of someone, repeating some silly phrase in Maltese, or teasing the menial workmen. He keeps his shirtsleeves rolled up, revealing a pair of heavily tattooed arms. He is as tough and strict with the English officers working under him as he is kind and gentle with the subordinates. It was terrifying once hearing him berate a Commander for some minor infringement - the poor officer could have died for shame. As long as England has people like Sir Wilbraham Ford in command, she may yet win a war which today, to me, appears lost.