Western Approaches HQ marks the Birthday Anniversary of Admiral Sir Percy Noble

Admiral Sir Percy Lockhart Harnam Noble, GBEKCBCVO

(16 January 1880 – 25 July 1955).

(c) Britannia Royal Naval College; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Today Western Approaches HQ marks the birthday anniversary of Admiral Sir Percy Noble , the first Commander in Chief of Western Approaches HQ based in Liverpool . Noble was acknowledged by his successor Admiral Sir Max Horton as a great leader , “who splendidly dealt with the adverse state of affairs he found himself facing” in 1941 and ’42 with few ships and a huge U-boat threat in the Atlantic. Noble went on to act as the critical naval liaison in Washington and was central in managing constructive relations with the US navy who did not respond so well to Horton !

Noble  was remembered with fondness and respect by those who worked for him , the detail of his career can be found here here, so rather than repeat this we thought that we would share some of these memories with you .

‘we all went up in two trains, two special trains. And the admiral, who had been I think C-in-C Plymouth, came to Liverpool. It was Admiral Dunbar-Naismith. And he wasn’t there very long. I think he was quite old, but looked it. And then he was succeeded by Admiral Sir Percy Noble, who had… I don’t know where he was from but he was very nice, very good, very social and he, he gave parties once a month. So, you didn’t always get asked every month because you couldn’t get through the numbers like that. But I remember meeting Mrs Roosevelt at one of the parties. And, well, it was very busy.’ Joyce Openshaw, Signals Officer 


‘Well, just for instance one night I was coming off night duty at about eight o’clock, and I was going to London because my father was working at the Admiralty at the time and we used a, a machine to roll off and it stained you and your hands purple.  And if it was a secret one we had to deal with those. And so I’d come off duty with purple hands and a ladder in my stocking and I was waiting on the platform to get on the train. This was Lime Street. And a head popped out of the window, the admiral, and said “I’ve got a carriage to myself would you like to join me”? So I did. So I mean that was pretty decent really wasn’t it?’ Joyce Openshaw, Signals Officer

 ‘Norman Robertson became the personal chauffeur of Sir Percy Noble in 1941 and this is his story.

The car he drove was an Austin Princess. Sir Percy Noble was resident at Derby House, he had a suite of rooms on the first floor overlooking Exchange Flags. Each morning when Norman reported for duty, there was a Royal Marine at Sir Percy’s door. 

Sometimes the order would be to drive to Sefton Park. That would mean that the Admiral was going for a walk, which would take about 15 minutes. Then he would return to the office a little more relaxed.

Norman remembers the Admiral as a pleasant, fair and considerate man. 

On one occasion, his orders were to take Sir Percy to the Adelphi and collect Sir Winston Churchill and take both of them to Gladstone Dock where Captain Walker awaited them. Norman describes what happened next, ‘My car was ready and flying the flag (the cross of St George). Sir Percy entered the hotel and came out with Winston Churchill, who stood on the steps and refused to get in the car as he wanted an open topped car so he could wave to the crowds.‘ 

and finally from “Horton and the Western Approaches” by Chalmers a Staff Officer said

” I remember our horror when we were hear that Max was to succeed Percy Noble. P.N. was of course liked and respected by everybody, including the Wrens , and his departure was greatly mourned”.

Happy Birthday Sir !!





Admiral Sir Percy Noble died on 25 July 1955. In 1957 a memorial was placed in the north choir aisle of Liverpool Cathedral.