Mountbatten entered the Royal Navy in 1916 during World War I and served in the Grand Fleet. He rose rapidly in the ranks, gaining expertise in communications. His first command was the destroyer Daring in 1934, and he was promoted to captain in 1937. In June 1939, he took command of the destroyer Kelly, and in September, he was appointed captain of 5th Destroyer Flotilla. The Kelly was mined once, torpedoed twice, and finally sunk off Crete on 23 May 1941. The exploits of the Kelly were the subject of No‘l Coward's 1942 film In Which We Serve, which Mountbatten promoted.
Mountbatten's exploits, dash, and popularity brought him to the attention of Prime Minister Winston L. S. Churchill, who selected him to be director of Combined Operations, with the rank of vice admiral. While he was director, several important raids were conducted, most notably against the French seaport of Dieppe on 19 August 1942. This operation was a costly failure, and Mountbatten bears much responsibility for this. The reverse did not affect his popularity, however, and it did provide lessons for future amphibious operations, particularly the Normandy Invasion of June 1944.
In August 1943, Churchill convinced President Franklin D. Roosevelt to make Mountbatten supreme commander of SEAC. He took up his post in October, first at Delhi in India and later at Kandy in Ceylon. Mountbatten was present at the summit conferences at Cairo in December 1943 and Potsdam in July 1945. As SEAC commander, he made a number of important decisions, including the decision to continue fighting during the monsoon season, which resulted in the defeat of the Japanese Fifteenth Army. He took steps to reduce malaria, and he restored Allied morale. He also played a key role in the defense of Imphal by diverting air assets there. Mountbatten personally took the Japanese surrender at Singapore on 12 September 1945. The British government did not wish to inflame nationalist sentiment in Burma. As the war ended, Mountbatten therefore ordered that Burmese who had at some point collaborated with the Japanese occupation should not suffer reprisals unless they had been personally involved in atrocities. Mountbatten remained at his post until May 1946.
Appointed the last viceroy and first governor-general of India, Mountbatten presided over the independence and division of India into the two states of India and Pakistan. He received an earldom in 1947. Mountbatten was first sea lord between 1955 and 1959, helping to carry out a restructuring of the British armed forces. He then became chief of the Defence Staff in 1960, retiring five years later. On 27 August 1979, Mountbatten was assassinated by the Irish Republican Army while at his vacation home, County Sligo, in the Republic of Ireland.
Eugene L. Rasor
Dennis, Peter. Troubled Days of Peace: Mountbatten and South East Asia Command, 1945–46. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987.; Rasor, Eugene L. Earl Mountbatten of Burma, 1900–1979: Historiography and Annotated Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.; Villa, Brian Loring. Unauthorized Action: Mountbatten and the Dieppe Raid. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.; Ziegler, Phillip. Mountbatten: The Official Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.; Ziegler, Phillip. Personal Diary of Admiral the Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander, South-East Asia, 1943–1946. London: Collins, 1988.