Captain Sir James Charles, C.B., K.B.E., R.D.
Sir James Charles, C.B., K.B.E., R.D., Fleet Commodore of the Cunard Line. GGA Image ID # 142143acd6
IT WAS NOT UNUSUAL in Queen Elizabeth’s time for English knights to take command of trading vessels engaged in foreign voyages. In English naval history, several such knights occupied positions of prominence. In subsequent periods, however, titled sailors confined their activities to the Navy.
In the recent honor list presented to the British Parliament the name of the senior captain of the Cunard company appeared as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Subsequently, Sir James Charles was appointed Fleet Commodore of the Cunard Line. These appointments have apparently opened up a new era with respect to the position of the merchant navy's profession.
Few bridge officers of today are as well known to the travelling public and none are better liked than the capable commander of the Aquitania who is just rounding out forty-one years of service on the sea, twenty-six as a Cunard officer.
He was awarded the C. B. (Companion of the Bath) in 1911, in recognition of his services to the merchant marine. His C.B.E. (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) came to him in 1919 for his war work and he was subsequently promoted to K.B.E. (Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire) with the title of “Sir”.
He also has the Royal Naval Reserve Decoration (R.D.) and belongs to the Royal Naval Reserve (R.N.R.) in which he is senior captain on the active list.
He was born in Winchester, England, in 1855 and first went to sea in the British mercantile marine in 1880. serving his apprenticeship in sail.
Sir James has been on the Cunard Line staff since 1895. when he Joined the Lucania as fourth officer. In 1900, he became chief officer of the Etruria and four years later was placed in command of the Aleppo.
During the next ten years he commanded no fewer than ten Cunarders, being in command of the Lusitania with brief intervals from 1910 to 1914, when he was appointed to the Mauretania.
He has a distinguished war service, having been in charge of the Saxonia, Ausonia, Mauretania and Carmania during the various services of these ships as naval transports, hospital ships and in their various company duties.
He first assumed command of the Aquitania in March of 1918 when that vessel was under naval control as a transport. During the spring of that year the Aquitania transported 47,867 American troops in nine voyages. When the Aquitania re-entered service after her reconditioning and conversion into an oil burner, Sir James again took command.
In addition to his services on the commanding bridge at sea, Sir James has acted, 1912-1913, as a member of the British Departmental Committee on Boats and Davits and, 1913-1914, as Nautical Advisor to the British Delegation, International Conference on Safety, of Life at Sea.
Shipping Magazine, 10 April 1921, p. 23.