Mark Kerr (Royal Navy officer)

Admiral Mark Edward Frederic Kerr CB CVO (26 September 1864 – 10 January 1944) was a Royal Navy and Royal Air Force officer during the First World War. Kerr was the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Hellenic Navy in the early part of the First World War, Commander-in-Chief of the British Adriatic Squadron in 1916 and 1917 and was involved in the work to create the Royal Air Force in late 1917 and early 1918.

Mark Edward Frederic Kerr
Kerr in 1916
Born(1864-09-26)26 September 1864
Died10 January 1944(1944-01-10) (aged 79)
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchRoyal Navy (1877–1918)
Royal Air Force (1918)
Years of service1877–1918
RankAdmiral (RN)
Major General (RAF)
Commands heldSouth-Western Area (1918)
Adriatic Squadron (1916–17)
Royal Hellenic Navy (1913–15)
HMS Hercules (1911, 1913)
HMS King George V (1912–13)
HMS Invincible (1908–11)
HMS Implacable (1907–08)
HMS Drake (1905–07)
HMS Mermaid (1899–1901)
HMS Bittern (1899)
Battles/warsAnglo-Egyptian War
Mahdist War
First World War
AwardsCompanion of the Order of the Bath
Commander of the Royal Victorian Order
Commander of the Order of the Redeemer (Greece)
Grand Officer of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus (Italy)
Officer of the Military Order of Savoy (Italy)
Other workWriter


Mark Edward Frederic Kerr was born on 26 September 1864, son of the Admiral Lord Frederic Kerr (1818–1896) and Emily Sophia Maitland, daughter of Gen. Sir Peregrine Maitland GCB. His father was the youngest son of William Kerr, 6th Marquess of Lothian and his second wife, Lady Harriet Scott, daughter of the Duke of Buccleuch. His cousin was the politician John Kerr, 7th Marquess of Lothian.[1]

Kerr joined the Royal Navy in 1877 following education at Stubbington House School.[2] He served in the Naval Brigade during the Egyptian War of 1882 and in Sudan in 1891, and from 1899 was in command of the destroyer HMS Mermaid, serving in the Medway Instructional Flotilla. He was appointed Naval Attache in Italy, Austria, Turkey and Greece in 1903.[2] In 1913, he succeeded Vice Admiral Lionel Grant Tufnell as head of the British Naval Mission to Greece, and as Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Hellenic Navy, a post he retained until 1915.[2] As commander of the Greek Navy at the outbreak of the First World War, Kerr helped keep Greece out of the war. In 1914, while on leave from his duties as head of the Greek Navy, Kerr learned to fly, making him the first British flag officer to become a pilot. He was awarded his Aviator's Certificate no. 842 on 16 July 1914.[3]

In May 1916 Kerr was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British Adriatic Squadron[2] which meant that he was unavailable to the Committee which was investigating the Dardanelles failure. Kerr returned to Great Britain in August 1917 and the Admiralty seconded him to the Air Board to assist in the formation of the Air Ministry and the Royal Air Force.[4] In late 1917, when the Government were considering the recommendations of the Smuts Report, Kerr intervened in its favour. His "bombshell memorandum" correctly identified a new heavy bomber that the Germans had just brought into service, although the memorandum overstated its payload capability. Additionally, using information Kerr had gained from Italian sources, Kerr stated that the Germans were developing a fleet of 4,000 heavy bombers and would soon be able to destroy large areas of South-East England. To counter this threat, Kerr urged the creation of a bomber force consisting of no fewer than 2,000 aircraft which would be under the authority of an air ministry with its own executive powers.[5]

Kerr was granted the rank of major general and served as Deputy Chief of the Air Staff at the Air Ministry in the months before the RAF came into being.[2] By Kerr's own testimony he found himself in disagreement on several matters of strategy with Sir Hugh Trenchard, the Chief of the Air Staff and on 1 April 1918, when the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps were merged to form the RAF, Kerr left the Air Council and was appointed General Officer Commanding No. 2 Area with his headquarters at Chafyn Grove School in the Wiltshire city of Salisbury. In May 1918, with a renaming of the RAF's areas, Kerr was redesignated General Officer Commanding South Western Area. He retired from the RAF in October 1918. He later became a writer, dying at the age of 79 in 1944.


Kerr married Rose Margaret Gough (1882–1944) on 10 July 1906. Rose was later to become a pioneer of the Girl Guides. Mark and Rose Kerr had two daughters:

  • Alix Liddell (b. 10 May 1907 – d. 1981)
  • Louise Rosemary Kerr (b. 22 November 1908 – d. ????)


Mark and Rose Kerr both died in 1944.



  • Flygning i fred och krig (Flight in Peace and War). Stockholm: Svensk Motortidnings. 1922.
  • Land, Sea and Air. London: Longmans, Green. 1927.
  • The Sailor's Nelson. London: Hurst & Blackett. 1932.
  • The Navy in My Time. London: Rich & Cowan. 1933.
  • Prince Louis of Battenberg: Admiral of the Fleet. London: Longmans. 1934.


  • The Destroyer and A Cargo of Notions. London: privately published (Hatchards, Piccadilly). 1909.
  • Nelson: A Poem. Portsmouth: Gale & Polden. 1910.
  • The Rubaiyat of Kram Rerk. London: Longmans. 1927.


  1. Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knighthood (107 ed.). Burke's Peerage & Gentry. p. 2403. ISBN 0-9711966-2-1.
  2. Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  3. Committee Meeting Flight International, 31 July 1914]
  4. Superior Force
  5. Hanson, Neil (2008). First Blitz. p. 422. ISBN 978-0-552-15548-9.


Military offices
Preceded by
George Patey
Captain of HMS Implacable
Succeeded by
Henry Tottenham
New title
Air council established
Deputy Chief of the Air Staff
January – March 1918
Succeeded by
Robert Groves
New title
Area established
General Officer Commanding No. 2 Area
Renamed South-Western Area on 8 May 1918

April – October 1918
Succeeded by
Philip Game
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