Frederick Sommerville DSO, RN

Frederick Avenel Sommerville DSO, RN (1883 - 1962)

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Vice Adm Frederick Avenel Sommerville DSO, RN
Born in Bitton, Gloucestershire, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
[sibling(s) unknown]
[spouse(s) unknown]
[children unknown]
Died in Southsea, Hampshire, Englandmap
Profile last modified | Created 13 Jul 2018 | Last significant change: 15 Nov 2018
13:34: Malcolm Cowan edited the Biography for Frederick Sommerville DSO, RN. [Thank Malcolm for this]
This page has been accessed 303 times.

Categories: Bitton, Gloucestershire | British Admirals | Royal Navy Officers | Royal Navy Submarine Depot Ship Commanders | HMS Mercury (1878) | HMS Adamant (1911) | HMS Dolphin (1882) | HMS Titania (1915) | HMS Emperor of India (1913) | HMS Coventry (1917) | HMS Valiant (1914) | HMS Ceres (1917) | HMHS Tagus (1899) | HMS Dolphin (1904) | Karmala (1914), Sailed Feb 1921 | Distinguished Service Order | 1914-1915 Star | British War Medal | Victory Medal | Chevaliers de la Légion d'honneur.

Gloucestershire flag
Frederick Sommerville DSO, RN was born in Gloucestershire, England.
Frederick Sommerville DSO, RN is a Military Veteran.
Served in the British Navy 1897-
Served in World War I and World War II

FamilySearch ID GMCN-BDQ


Family Background

Frederick Avenel Sommerville was the son of the paper manufacturer William Sommerville, who was the son in the William Sommerville & Son Company, which his grandfather, William Sommerville, had founded. In 1835 the William Sommerville & Son Company established the paper mill at Dalmore Mill, on the River Esk at Auchindinny, in Penicuik, and in 1849 bought the Golden Valley Paper Mill in Bitton, Gloucestershire See also


Personal Details

Frederick Avenel Sommerville

Photographed in uniform with his five medals: Distinguished Service Order, 1914-1915 Star, Victory Medal, British War Medal, Légion d'honneur

  1. Date of Birth 21 February 1883
  2. Place of Birth Bitton, Gloucestershire
  3. Father's Name Wm Sommerville, Paper manufacturer, J.P.
  4. Wife's Name Gladys Rothes Barlow
  5. Date of Marriage 07 February 1912
  6. Place of Marriage St Mary Abbots, Kensington
  7. Date Retired 02 April 1931
  8. Date of Death 1962
  9. Place of Burial

An account of his career can also be seen on the[1] website.

Early Years

Frederick Avenel Sommerville was born on 21 February, 1883 in Bitton, Gloucestershire[2]. His baptism took place on 15 Apr 1883 at St Mary's church in Bitton[3].

The 1891 England Census[4], shows him aged 8, living with his parents and siblings at The Grange, Bitton ( Individuals named at the address are his parents, William Sommerville and Marianne Somerville, and his siblings, Eleanor (19), Beatrice (18), William (17) , Evelyn (14) and Avenel (8) himself. Four members of staff are also named as well as a Governess, Mary Miller, and a visitor, Joanna Annandale (31), who appears to be a relative from Scotland.

Entry to the Royal Navy

At the age of 14 he began training in the Royal Navy. He underwent examinations for several days commencing on 20 July, 1897 and gained entrance to the Britannia term of August, 1897, his 1104 marks placing him second-to-last in merit among the sixty-three candidates accepted as naval cadets[5].

Royal Navy Ranks

Rank Date attainedSource
Entered Service 15 September 1897 ADM 196/48/10 Service History[6]
Midshipman 15 January 1899
Sub-Lieutenant 15 April 1902
Lieutenant 15 April 1903
Lieutenant-Commander 15 April 1911 ADM 196/143/79 Service History[7]
Commander 30 June 1914 ADM 196/125/340 Service History[8]
Captain 31 December 1918
Rear-Admiral 01 April 1931
Vice-Admiral 17 September 1935 ADM 196/91/28 Service History[9]
Commodore, Second Class, R.N.R. 16 September 1939
Retired List 23 September 1941 ADM 196/48/10 Service History[10]

Before the First World War

Sommerville was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 15 April, 1903[11].

Sommerville was appointed in command of the first-class torpedo boat T.B. 33 on 18 June, 1903, for manoeuvres[12].

On 2 April 1911 (England Census)[13], he is in Portsmouth aboard HMS Mercury (1878). He is 28 and a Lieutenant in the RN,

From 4 Feb 1911 to 15 May 1911 he was in command of submarine HMS D1[14][15].

Sommerville was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander on 15 April, 1911[16].

From 15 May 1911 to 1 July 1911 he was in command of submarine HMS D3[17][18][19].

He married Gladys Rothes Barlow on 7 February, 1912[20]. She was the daughter of Col. J.A. Barlow, of the Manchester Regiment.

Sommerville was promoted to the rank of Commander on 30 June, 1914[21] .

The Great War

Sommerville was thanked for his service in conducting trials of submarine indicating nets on 1 January, 1915[22][23].

Sommerville was landed in the Dardanelles for service in combined operations on 24 April, 1915 and re-embarked in Adamant on 3 May[24].

Sommerville was invalided out of command of Adamant in August, 1915 with severe typhoid, as reported in a telegram of 6 August. He left Alexandria for England on 18 September in the hospital ship HMHS Tagus and was admitted to Haslar Hospital on 28 September, 1915. A series of protracted hospitalisations followed, and he was not again found fit until 8 February, 1916. Three days later, he was appointed to Dolphin, additional, for work with submarines. On 26 September, he was promoted to Assistant to Commander (S) while still commanding submarines[25].

On 28 October 1918, Sommerville was appointed in command of the depot ship HMS Titania and as Commander (S) of the 11th Submarine Flotilla[26][27] based at Blyth.

After the Great War

After the Great War he received three medals: the 1914-1915 Star, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal[28][29].

Sommerville was promoted to the rank of Captain on 31 December, 1918[30].

On 28 Oct 1919 HMS Titania was commissioned at Chatham as the depot ship for the 4th Submarine Flotilla, China, with Sommerville as Captain[31].

On 12 Dec 1919 he was mentioned in the Supplement to the London Gazette[32]. He had become a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur. He appears under the heading "Decorations Conferred by the President of the French Republic", "Legion of Honour", in a list of 20 names under the sub-heading "Chevalier". The entry identifies him as "Capt. Frederick A. Sommervile, D.S.O., R.N." His name appears along with other Royal Navy figures such as Frederick W. Talbot-Ponsonby and Cecil P. Talbot.

Early in 1920, HMS Titania made the long journey with seven L-class submarines to Hong Kong, arriving there on 14 April 1920. Sommerville remained in command of HMS Titania until 31 December 1920. He was succeeded by Capt. Charles S. Benning, RN. Sommerville early in 1921 returned to England. The UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960[33], report that he arrived at the Port of London on 28 April 1921 aboard the Karmala, having sailed from Hong Kong.

On 27 July 1921 he was appointed in command of Fort Blockhouse in Gosport and in command of a submarine flotilla. Fort Blockhouse perhaps indicates a transition from Dolphin being the old composite screw sloop Dolphin and the shore training establishment at Gosport that would be forming[34].

On 26 Oct 1921 he was admitted to the Freemasons at the Phoenix Lodge, in Portsmouth[35].

According to his obituary, in 1925 he was the Chief Staff Officer, New Zealand Division Navy Office, in Wellington. There seems to be no direct confirmation of this, but he appears in the New Zealand Electoral Rolls in 1928, living in Wellington[36].

In May 1927 he took command of HMS Fisgard and days later went on to be the Inspecting Captain of Mechanical Training Establishments, a post which he held until 6 May 1929.

Sommerville was appointed in command of the battleship HMS Emperor of India in May, 1929.

In 1930 he took command of HMS Coventry and was soon afterwards appointed to the command of the battleship HMS Valiant. In February 1931 he was appointed to HMS Ceres and remained in command until 1 April 1931.

Sommerville was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral on 1 April, 1931 and was placed on the Retired List the following day[37].

Sommerville was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral on the Retired List on 17 September, 1935[38].

World War II

Sommerville was appointed as a Commodore, Second Class, R.N.R. on 16 September, 1939 and, in November sent to help with the Liverpool Convoy Pool. He was reverted to the Retired List when he took up an appointment with the Ministry of Aircraft Production on 23 September, 1941.

Note: The "Liverpool Convoy Pool" appears to be one of the "Merchant Navy Reserve Pools". They were administered by the Ministry of Transport, which had to allocate about 8,000 seamen each week to various merchant ships.

In 1943 his wife, Gladys, passed away.

After World War II

In December 1944 he married Elizabeth Hay McWhirter.

He passed away on 15 July 1962[39][40] in Southsea, Hampshire, or on Hayling Island. The address mentioned in his obituary is at Sevens, St. Catherine's Rd, Hayling Island.

F.A. Sommerville's Obituary



  1. #Dreadnought
  2. #Birth
  3. #Baptism
  4. #1891_Census
  5. #The_Times "Naval & Military Intelligence", Friday, Aug 13, 1897; pg. 8; Issue 35281
  6. #ADM_196_48_10 Service History
  7. #ADM_196_143_79 Service History
  8. #ADM_196_125_340 Service History
  9. #ADM_196_91_28 Service History
  10. #ADM_196_48_10 Service History
  11. #ADM_196_48_10 ADM 196-48 Service History
  12. #ADM_196_48_10 ADM 196-48 Service History
  13. #1911_Census
  14. #Navy_List_1 The Navy List, April 1911, p344
  15. #Service ADM 196/48/10 Service History
  16. #ADM_196_143_80 ADM 196/143/80 Service History
  17. #The_Times "Naval Appointments", Sat May 06, 1911, pg 8, Issue 39578
  18. #Navy_List_2 The Navy List, Jan 1912, p401
  19. #ADM 196_48_10 ADM 196/48/10 Service History
  20. #Marriage
  21. #ADM_196_125_340 ADM 196/125/340 Service History
  22. #ADM_196_48_10 ADM 196/48/10 Service History
  23. #Navy_List_3 The Navy List, Jan 1915, p268
  24. #ADM 196_48_10 ADM 196/48/10 Service History
  25. #ADM 196_48_10 ADM 196/48/10 Service History
  26. #ADM_196_48_10 ADM 196/48/10 Service History
  27. #Navy_List_4 The Navy List, Jan 1919, p920a
  28. #Medals: Medals
  29. #Kew: Medals
  30. #Service ADM 196-48 Service History
  31. #Navy_List_4 Navy List, Jan 1919, p920a
  32. #London_Gazette: London Gazette, 12 December 1919, Page 15432, Légion d'honneur
  33. #1921_Sailing
  34. #Service ADM 196-48 Service History
  35. #Masons
  36. #New_Zealand Wellington, 1928
  37. #ADM_196_48_10 ADM 196-48 Service History
  38. #ADM_196_91_28 ADM 196/91/28 Service History
  39. #Death
  40. #Probate


  • The Times: The Times (London, England)
1. The_Times "Naval & Military Intelligence", Friday, Aug 13, 1897; pg. 8; Issue 35281
2. The_Times "Naval Appointments", Sat May 06, 1911, pg 8, Issue 39578
  • Birth: England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915: Registration Year: 1883; Registration Quarter: Apr-May-Jun; Registration district: Keynsham; Volume: 5c; Page: 639 Ancestry Record 8912 #51791456
  • Baptism: Bristol, England, Select Church of England Parish Registers, 1720-1933: Baptism Date: 15 Apr 1883; Baptism Place: Bitton, St Mary, Gloucestershire, England Ancestry Record 9842 #7908
  • Service Record: UK, Royal Naval Officers' Service Records Index, 1756-1931: ADM - Records of the Admiralty, Naval Forces, Royal Marines, Coastguard, and related bodies; Division within ADM - Records of Service; ADM 196 - Admiralty: Officers' Service Records (Series III)
1. ADM 196/48/10 - Executive Officers' Services. Dates of entry: 1897-1898, Latest date of discharge: 1948. ADM 196/48/10 Name Sommerville, Frederick Avenel Date of Birth: 21 February 1883
2. ADM 196/91/28 - Flag officers and captains summaries of confidential reports. ADM 196/91/28 Name Sommerville, Frederick Avenel Date of Birth: 21 February 1883
3. ADM 196/125/340 - Summaries of confidential reports: vol 1. Dates are dates of promotion to commander, indexed. ADM 196/125/340 Name Sommerville, Frederick Avenel Date of Birth: 21 February 1883
4. ADM 196/143/80 - Summaries of confidential reports: Vol D. Dates are dates of entry, indexed by ADM 196/139. ADM 196/143/80 Name Sommerville, Frederick Avenel Date of Birth: 21 February 1883
  • Navy List 1911: UK, Navy Lists, 1888-1970: Year: 1911; Book Title: Navy List: 20 April 1911
  • Navy List 1912: UK, Navy Lists, 1888-1970: Year: 1912; Book Title: Navy List: 22 January 1912
  • Navy List 1915: UK, Navy Lists, 1888-1970: Year: 1915; Book Title: Navy List: 25 January 1915
  • Navy List 1919: UK, Navy Lists, 1888-1970: Year: 1919; Book Title: Navy List: 11 January 1919; Archive Name: Peter Singlehurst Ancestry Record 2406 #10207108
  • Marriage: England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915: Registration Year: 1912; Registration Quarter: Jan-Feb-Mar; Registration district: Kensington; Volume: 1a; Page: 197 Ancestry Record 8913 #26958152
  • London Gazette: Supplement to the London Gazette, 12 December 1919, Page 15432
  • Medals: UK, Naval Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1972: Class: ADM 171; Piece: 91; Name: Frederick A Sommerville DSO; Medal or Award: Star, Victory Medal, British War Medal; Service Year: 1914-1920; Service Location: Europe; Campaign or Service: World War I Ancestry Record 1687 #1454166
  • Kew: The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Shipping and Seamen Rolls of Honour WWI and WWII; Class: BT 339; Piece: 6; Piece Description: Piece 6 (1916 - 1920): List Date 12 Dec 1919 Ancestry Record 61000 #99362
  • Freemasons: Library and Museum of Freemasonry; London, England; Freemasonry Membership Registers; Country C 158-241 to Country D 242-297; Reel Number: 41: Freemason Membership Registers, 1751-1921, Lodge Number: 257; Folio Number: 102 Ancestry Record 60620 #855236
  • New Zealand: New Zealand, Electoral Rolls, 1853-1981: Electoral Year: 1928; District: Wellington Suburbs; Region or Province: Wellington Ancestry Record 1836 #6986016
  • Death: England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007: Registration Date: Sep 1962; Registration district: Portsmouth; Volume: 6b; Page: 407 Ancestry Record 7579 #44223540
  • Probate: England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, 1973-1995: Death Date: 15 Jul 1962; Death Place: Hampshire, England; Probate Date: 6 Sep 1962; Registry: London, England Ancestry Record 1904 #13921876

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It may be possible to confirm family relationships with Frederick by comparing test results with other carriers of his ancestors' Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA. However, there are no known yDNA or mtDNA test-takers in his direct paternal or maternal line. It is likely that these autosomal DNA test-takers will share DNA with Frederick:

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Images: 2
Frederick Avenel Sommerville
Frederick Avenel Sommerville

F.A. Sommerville's Obituary
F.A. Sommerville's Obituary


Frederick is 33 degrees from Rosa Parks, 31 degrees from Anne Tichborne and 15 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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