Dudley Burton Napier North was born at Great Yarmouth on 25 November 1881, fourth son of Colonel Roger and Fanny Ellen North. In 1909 he married Eglantine Campbell (died 1917), then in 1923 Eilean Flora Graham with whom he had a son and three daughters.
North entered the navy as a naval cadet on Britannia in 1896 and then served in cruisers, destroyers, and battleships as a midshipman. He became sub-lieutenant in 1902 and lieutenant in 1903. During the First World War, North took part in the battle of Heligoland (1914), of the Dogger Bank (1915) and Jutland (1916) in the New Zealand. He then served as naval assistant to Captain Lionel Halsey. In 1919 North, as a captain, was a naval equerry on a series of world tours by members of the royal family.
From 1930-2 North was director of operations at the Admiralty, then chief of staff, Home Fleet. From 1934-9 he commanded the royal yachts. During the Second World War, North was Admiral commanding the north Atlantic station and admiral superintendent at Gibraltar. In September 1940 the French squadron passed the Strait of Gibraltar to Dakar where it played a part in repelling the attack of the Franco-British force. Although North was only unofficially aware of the operation, he did not receive any orders from the Admiralty and took no action. He was relieved of his command as a result of this "unforgivable lack of initiative" (Gretton). There was no official enquiry into the incident but North's name was cleared in 1957.
North died on 15 May 1961.
The collection held at Churchill Archives Centre mainly covers Admiral North's dismissal from his command at Gibraltar in 1940 and the efforts made by him and his friends to clear his name.
The collection was deposited at Churchill Archives Centre by Lady North in 1973.
Some duplicates were disposed of in 2005 when the collection was repackaged.
The papers have been sorted into four sections: Official letters and documents (NRTH 1), Correspondence (NRTH 2), Personal (NRTH 3) and Other correspondence (NRTH 4).