Henry Boyle Townshend Somerville

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Henry Boyle Townshend Somerville (born September 7, 1863 in Castletownshend , County Cork , † March 24, 1936 there ) was a British naval officer, oceanographer and archaeoastronomer . In his retirement, Somerville was murdered by the Irish Republican Army , starting the resurgence of the IRA and long years of terror in Ireland.


Somerville joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1877 and was trained as a marine surveyor. In 1912 he was promoted to captain and on August 1, 1919 to vice admiral; on August 2, 1919, he retired. In retirement he was promoted to rear admiral. 1923 Somerville was chairman of a committee of the British Admiralty , which should standardize the tide forecasts ; from this work the work Ocean Passages for the World emerged.

He donated his extensive collection of objects from the indigenous peoples of the Solomon Islands to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford in 1895, which he had compiled during a survey trip in the western Pacific . In 1905 he commanded the HMS Skylark while surveying the Ceylon coast and an expedition in the Indian Ocean .

In 1908, during a survey trip in British waters, he read a book that suggested a connection between stone circles or menhirs and astronomical phenomena. He then devoted part of his time to surveying prehistoric monuments in Great Britain , Ireland and other countries. His expertise in archaeoastronomy was recognized and Somerville contributed to the "Antiquarian Magazine and Bibliographer".

Somerville's murder

Henry Somerville retired at The Point family home in Castletownshend near Cork , Ireland. There he was murdered on March 24, 1936 by members of the Irish Republican Army . In a letter of confession they left behind, they accused him of having recruited Irish for the British Army . The Bishop of Ross distanced himself from the act on behalf of the Catholic Church, and the government of the family expressed its condolences in the Irish Parliament. No one was ever arrested for the murder.

The attack was authorized by the commanding officer of the IRA in County Cork, Tom Barry, although he later distanced himself from the fact that he had not authorized an assassination. He accused Somerville of recruiting into the Royal Navy . The attack, along with another incident in which an informant was shot dead, led to a breakdown in relations between the IRA and the ruling Fianna Fáil party . On June 18, 1936, the IRA was declared illegal in the Republic of Ireland.

The writer Joseph O'Neill solved the murder in 1997. It turned out that his own great-uncle Tadhg Lynch, then a senior IRA officer ( adjutant-general ), Angela Lynch and Joe Collins had carried out the attack; he was also given the weapon. With all of the assassins dead by then, they could no longer be held responsible (Joe Collins had spent nine years in a British prison in connection with an attempted bomb attack in Manchester). In his book Blood-Dark Tract , O'Neill comes to the conclusion that Somerville had to die because he belonged to the Protestant minority in the Republic of Ireland. Numerous Catholic Irish who had also placed recruits in the British armed forces were never harassed by the IRA.


Somerville was awarded the Order of St. Michael and St. George for his service .

Various animal and plant species were named after Somerville:

  • Cycloseris somervillei (Gardiner 1909), a hard coral
  • Acanthopathes somervillei (Forster-Cooper 1909), a black coral
  • Begonia somervillei Hemsley

The Somerville Bank at 12 ° 40 ′  S , 60 ° 50 ′  E in the Indian Ocean was also named after him.


  • A Vocabulary in various dialects used in some islands of the New Hebrides, South Pacific (1892)
  • Notes on some islands of the New Hebrides (1893)
  • Songs and specimens of the language of New Georgia, Solomon Islands. With an introductory notice of Melanesia and New Guinea songs by Sidney H. Ray (1897)
  • Report on sounding cruise of HMS "Egeria" (Commander Morris H. Smyth) on the proposed Pacific cable route: N. Pacific Ocean, 1899 (1900)
  • Ocean Passages for the World (1923)
  • The Chart Makers (1928)
  • Commodore Anson's Voyage into the South Seas and Around the World (1934)
  • Will Mariner: a true record of adventure (1936)
  • Records of the Somerville Family of Castlehaven & Drishane from 1174 to 1940 (posthumously; with Edith Anna Somerville ; 1940)


Individual evidence

  1. ^ O'Neill: Blood-Dark Track ..., p. 292

Web links