Graphical version

National Maritime Museum

May, Admiral of the Fleet Sir William Henry (1849-1930)


Reference code(s): GB 0064 MAY

Held at: National Maritime Museum

Title: May, Admiral of the Fleet Sir William Henry (1849-1930)

Date(s): 1864-1919

Level of description: Collection

Extent: 1 1/2ft; 46cm

Name of creator(s): May | Sir | William Henry | 1849-1930 | Knight | Admiral Of The Fleet


Administrative/Biographical history:

May joined the Navy in 1863 and in the following year went to the VICTORIA, flagship in the Mediterranean, until 1867. From that year until 1870 he served in the LIFFEY in the Pacific, being promoted to sub-lieutenant in 1869. He then joined the HERCULES in the Channel between 1873 and 1874, after which he took the course at the gunnery school in HMS EXCELLENT. He next served during the British Arctic Expedition, 1875 to 1876, under Sir George Nares in the ALERT. Becoming a captain in 1888, he held a series of important posts, including Flag-Captain in the IMPERIEUSE on the China Station; Naval Attachee, in Europe; Assistant Director, Torpedoes; Chief of Staff, Mediterranean and then at Portsmouth; Captain of EXCELLENT and finally Director of Naval Ordnance and Torpedoes. Having reached flag-rank, he spent four years as Third Sea Lord from 1901 to 1905. This was followed by a period as Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, 1905 to 1907, Second Sea Lord, 1907 to 1909, Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, 1909 to 1911 and finally at Devonport, 1911 to 1913. In retirement, he was appointed to the Dardanelles Commission, 1916 to 1917. He wrote his autobiography, Life of a sailor (London, 1934).


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Sir William Henry May, comprising logs, 1864 to 1873 and, for the Nares Expedition, there is a detailed weather log, a personal journal, a sledging journal and some bills of plays performed in the ALERT during the Arctic winter. There are also reports on torpedoes, 1884; the international situation, 1908 to 1909 and 1914; naval manoeuvres, 1912 to 1913; the Dardanelles Commission, 1916 to 1917 and on Reconstruction and other post-war problems, 1919.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue online at the: National Maritime Museum website .


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were presented by May's son, General Reginald May, in 1948.



Archivist's note: Edited by Sarah Drewery, Sep 2011.

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: 2010-08-26

Expeditions | Travel
Torpedoes | Weapons | Military equipment | Equipment
World War One (1914-1918) | World wars (events) | Wars (events)
International relations

Personal names
May | Sir | William Henry | 1849-1930 | Knight | Admiral Of The Fleet

Corporate names
HMS Alert
Royal Navy