Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Noble, Sir Percy Lockhart Harnam (1880–1955)

British navy admiral. Born 16 January 1880 into a military family stationed in India, Percy Noble entered the British navy in 1894. Seven years later, he took part in Queen Victoria's funeral. Before and after World War I, the energetic and diplomatic Noble qualified as a signal specialist and served on a wide variety of destroyers and cruisers and on the royal yacht, often in staff positions. He also headed two boys' training establishments and served on the naval staff as director of the operations division. Promoted to rear admiral in 1929 and vice admiral in 1936, when he was also knighted, Noble became fourth sea lord in 1935 and commanded the China station from 1937 to 1940. Here he skillfully handled numerous Japanese threats against Hong Kong and Shanghai without provoking outright hostilities.

In February 1941, Noble became commander in chief, Western Approaches, based at Liverpool, with primary responsibility for interdicting U-boat attacks on British-bound convoys. Realizing that specialized antisubmarine training was the key to success, he instituted intensive programs and exercises to this end and also improved coordination within convoy escort groups, greatly enhancing the effectiveness of convoy protection. A highly visible leader, Noble frequently went to sea with ships under his command and flew with Coastal Command aircraft. His efforts laid the foundations for the eventual success of British antisubmarine efforts in the Atlantic.

In November 1942, Noble went to Washington as head of the British Admiralty delegation to the Combined Chiefs of Staff. His qualities of tact, firmness, and common sense all proved valuable in planning smoothly coordinated joint naval operations with U.S. forces. In 1943, Noble became first and principal naval aide-de-camp to King George VI. He retired in January 1945 as rear admiral of the United Kingdom and died in London on 25 July 1955.

Priscilla Roberts


Further Reading
Chatterton, Edward K., and Kenneth Edwards. The Royal Navy: From September 1939 to September 1945. 5 vols. London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1942–1947.; Howarth, Stephen, and Derek Law, eds. The Battle of the Atlantic, 1939–1945. London and Annapolis, MD: Greenhill Books and Naval Institute Press, 1994.; Hughes, Terry, and John Costello. The Battle of the Atlantic. New York: Dial, 1977.; Macintyre, Donald. The Naval War against Hitler. New York: Scribner's, 1961.; Roskill, Stephen. The War at Sea. 3 vols. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1954–1961.
 

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