Mark (later Lord) Tennyson was serving in HMS Bicester when she escorted the famous convoy taking desparately needed oil to Malta

  March 25, 2009

HMS Bicester

Just seen your weblog by chance. The man wanting to know about his father serving in HMS Bicester might be interested to know that Mark (later Lord) Tennyson was serving in Bicester when she escorted the famous convoy taking desparately needed oil to Malta. He was awarded a DSC for saving a seaman who was wounded below decks. He has given me a description of that successful operation. He died in Cape Town in 2006. I could send a photograph of him. You are welcome to pass on my email address.

See "Joseph Henry Warburton served in the Campbell and the Bicester between 1939 and 1945"

Elizabeth Hutchings Freshwater Bay Isle of Wight, near the Tennyson family home. I have a son, Nigel living in Port Melbourne.


Thank you for that, I would be pleased to get the report about Bicester and her part in the Malta convoy attack, your photo is also welcome, so we might add more depth to the AHOY piece on that now famous convoy.

I live but a few kilometers from Port Melbourne, and it on that foreshore that the Naval Heritage Foundation of Australia Inc. ( I am President ) seeks to erect a 7 foot six inch bronze statue of a WW2 Sailor to honour and remember all the Naval men and women who have passed that way to serve their country since the Victorian Colonial Navy days of the 1850's.

Small world indeed.

Best wishes, 

March 25, 2009 5:51 PM

Just a quick early morning thank you for this reply Mac. Will find the pictures and send later. I have several of Mark in civies here on the Island but yesterday was shown one with a group in uniform. Post war I believe. Will get it scanned.

Am copying this to Chris Jarman who has the photograph asking him to bring it to our Tennyson Society meeting on Thursday - or maybe even scan it you direct. Can you tell me the code name for that famous convoy? I just can't remember it, and do we know the name of the oil tanker - unfortunately sunk of course AFTER it had discharged its precious cargo? Will take another look at Ahoy later today. Can you give me the exact link please. Also copying to Nigel who likes to know what his mother is up to and eldest son Keith likewise.
Just seen you write Bichester.

Best wishes,


Operation Pedestal was the name given for the relief of Malta, and the tanker was OHIO.

The URL for AHOY is : http://ahoy.tk-jk.net 

Thanks for pointing out my typo on Bicester.


To Mackenzie Gregory
March 26, 2009

This is Mark, Lord Tennyson with Belinda Norman-Butler, great granddaughter of William Makepeace Thackeray. At Aldworth the Haslemere home of Tennyson where he died in 1892. Mark had just unveiled the statue of his great grandfather. Mark's father was the England cricketer Lionel Tennyson. Lionel's father was Hallam, Lord Tennyson -  Governor of South Australia and then Governor General of the first Autralian Commonwealth - in Melbourne. Chris Jarman very busy this week but I'm sure he will be sending you the Naval photograph of Mark as soon as he has time.

Mark, Lord Tennyson with Belinda Norman-Butler
Mark, Lord Tennyson with Belinda Norman-Butler

More anon,

March 31, 2009
Good evening Mac.

Just seen your time as I skyped my son Nigel. Here is the obituary I wrote. I will be sending you the photograph I have of him with fellow Naval officers. My friend will hopefully have managed to 'erase' a photographer's rubber stamp. It has Southsea on it so presumably it was taken in Portsmouth. Perhaps just as he had taken command of his ship after the Malta convoy.

Must go. Telephone playing up so am going to turn off computer!!!

Remembering Comdr. Mark, Lord Tennyson DSC, RN (Rtrd)
March 28 1920 - July 3 2006

Break, break, break
On thy cold gray stones, O sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

These are the words I remember being recited by Mark, Lord Tennyson following his dedication of Mignon Morisot Jones' bust of his great grandfather in All Saints Church in Freshwater. This was in 1992 when he and his wife were on the Island for the centenary celebrations of the Laureate's death. The Farringford Tennyson Society had commissioned the bust. In 1996 Lord Tennyson was again here to unveil the plaque beside the newly planted sequoia tree at Farringford. The Society had planted it in memory of Emily, Lady Tennyson whose centenary it was. Sadly of course she and her beloved Alfred were parted in death - she here in Freshwater and he in Westminster Abbey. The tree has become a symbol of Garibaldi's visit when he planted the original tree in 1864. This giant was felled last year for safety reasons and I am promised a piece of it for my garden. The heartwood is a wonderful blood red.

Mark Tennyson was the youngest son of Lionel Tennyson, the England and Hampshire cricket captain. He told me once that, 'Daddy was never at home'. As a result Mark and his elder brother, Harold were brought up at Farringford by Sir Charles Tennyson with his three sons, Frederick Penrose (who married Nova Pilbeam), Charles Julian and Hallam. Penrose and Julian were both killed during the war. Hallam and Mark have told me of their idyllic childhood on the Island. 

Following in the footsteps of his uncle, Harold Tennyson, Mark went to Dartmouth Naval College at the age of 12.  Harold had been there and at Osborne with Prince Albert, the future King George Vl. Mark Joined the Royal Navy in 1937 and had a distinguished career. He was second in command on H.M.S. Bicester, one of the escort ships in Operation Pedestal, the famous convoy taking vital oil to Malta. He gave me a graphic description of the successful outcome. He was awarded his DSC for bravery attending to an unexploded bomb below decks. But recently he told a reporter from The Sunday Times, Cape Town that ‘his most scary moment during the war was just after Dunkirk when he was taken by his mother to lunch with Prime Minister Churchill. Other guests included a British General, a French Admiral and two Royal Navy Admirals, one being Lord Louis Mountbatten. After lunch Churchill asked everyone to be quiet whilst “Mark tells us all about his Dunkirk experiences.”

On his return to England he was given his own command and his first task was to take King George and Queen Elizabeth for their visit to Northern Ireland. After the King's death Mark, with some of his fellow officers dined with the Queen Mother at Clarence House each year. Very merry occasions according to him. On one they were joined by the very junior officer, Prince Charles who boasted of having Admirals as his parents.

On leaving the Navy in 1960 he went to Rowntree Mackintosh and was subsequently sent out to South Africa by them. There he met and married a widow, Deline Budler, who sadly died in 1965. I remember taking them for a drive round the West Wight for his wife to be shown where he had enjoyed his childhood. They also visited my wild garden and ate raspberries.

I last saw Mark at Aldworth, the Tennyson's home in Surrey, where Thomas Woolner’s cloaked and bearded bust of Tennyson is in a dell in the garden. As a final touch to their restoration of the house and garden the new owners, from South Africa had commissioned a seated figure of the Laureate facing the wonderful view looking towards the coast. Shades of Farringford. After unveiling it and greeting his distinguished ancestor he and Thackeray's great granddaughter, Belinda Norman-Butler, sat either side of the figure and chatted about their shared days of long ago. What was recited? You have guessed. I once asked why always that poem and the answer came in a flash, 'It is the only one I know by heart, dear lady'.

The new Lord Tennyson is David, living in New Zealand and descended from the Laureate's younger son, Lionel who was born at Farringford.

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