Vice Admiral Edward de Faye Renouf

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Vice-Admiral Edward de Faye Renouf, 1888–1972


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Edward de Faye Renouf rose to the rank of Vice-Admiral, commanded major warships and led on the development of special weapons


Early years and torpedoes

Edward de Faye Renouf was the son of Edward Binet Renouf, a solicitor of the Royal Court and for some time a Deputy of St Helier, and Lilian Mary, nee de Faye.

In 1903 he became a naval cadet at HMS Britannia. In 1911 he was posted to HMS Vernon, Portsmouth to qualify in torpedo duties and was appointed Lieutenant (T) of the dreadnought battleship Conqueror in 1914.

While on Conqueror he invented the Renouf Torpedo Tactical Instrument, a geometric calculating device helpful in determining how to achieve a viable attack position for firing torpedoes, or to help suggest manoeuvres to prevent the enemy from attaining this same position. These devices started to be manufactured and deployed after the end of the war. One of the first designed for battleship/battlecruiser use was allocated to the new HMS Hood.

Edward de Faye Renouf, second from left, wearing rank of Commander (1921-28)
HMS Sheffield visited Jersey for five days in 1939, and this photograph shows a reception being held aboard the ship. Commanding Officer, Captain Edward de Faye Renouf, is on the left (Picture Evening Post)

In 1918 Renouf was appointed to Vernon as a Lieutenant-Commander (T), and he continued to make important contributions in the field of torpedo control.

In the following years he had command of HMS Thames, was appointed to the Torpedoes and Mining Department of the Admiralty, became Fleet Torpedo Officer, Atlantic Fleet, aboard the battleship HMS Revenge, Executive Officer on the cruiser HMS Enterprise in the East Indies and, in 1929, with the rank of Captain, was made Commanding Officer of the destroyer HMS Vampire deployed to the Mediterranean.

Cruisers and early war service

After a spell as Naval Attaché in Buenos Aires, from 1934 – 1936, he was Commanding Officer of the cruiser HMS Orion, during some of which time he served as Flag Captain and Chief Staff Officer, 2nd Cruiser Squadron of the Home Fleet.

From 1936 - 1938 he was on the staff of the Royal Navy War College, Greenwich, before being given command from 1938 -1939 of the Town class light cruiser HMS Sheffield. Sheffield had been commissioned in 1937 and was the first ship in the Royal Navy to have radar.

In 1940 he served a period as Naval ADC to the King before becoming Rear-Admiral Commanding the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, aboard HMS Gloucester. The squadron, having successfully escorted a battle-crippled ship to Malta, came under heavy air attack as it sailed east to rejoin the rest of the fleet. Renouf survived a strike on the bridge by a dud bomb, the second time this had happened to him, and the stress began to tell. After safely reaching Alexandria he was flown home and spent ten months recuperating.

Special weapons

Fortunately, Renouf’s knowledge, understanding and skills relating to naval matters and weapons made him a sharp and imaginative appointee to the Directorate of Miscellaneous Weapons Development. As Director of Special Weapons he headed a small staff on secret projects concerning human torpedoes and midget submarines. He also became significantly involved with Barnes Wallis’ ‘bouncing bomb’ project. He quickly saw the potential of the weapon for attacks on capital ships and his enthusiasm for the concept helped move it forward. Two proposals were explored, for use against ships and dams, but the latter was to prove more successful.

Retirement

Renouf retired in 1943 and after the Liberation lived in St Peter, Jersey. For many years he was president of the Jersey branch of the Navy League and Commanding Officer of the Jersey Unit of the Sea Cadet Corps. In his working life and in retirement he had a reputation as a charming and gentle man, who was intelligent, hardworking and devoted to duty.

Decorations

In 1914 he was awarded the Silver Medal of the Royal Humane Society, its highest honour, for gallantry in rescuing a signal boy from drowning in the North Sea. He was made Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1931, and Companion of the Bath in 1944.

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