Herbert Packer was born on 9 October 1894, the son of Dr. W. H. Packer of Cressage, Shropshire. He was educated at the Royal Naval Colleges, Osborne [Isle of Wight] and Dartmouth [Devon] and entered the Royal Navy in 1907.
During the First World War, Packer served aboard HMAS Australia in the Pacific and then HMS Warspite in the Grand Fleet, being promoted to Lieutenant in 1916. After the war, he served as Gunnery Officer in HMS Dublin in 1922, then in 1925 married Joy Petersen. In the following year Packer returned to the Warspite, before becoming Fleet Gunnery Officer with HMS Queen Elizabeth, from 1928-29. He was also promoted to Commander in 1929, then from 1932-33 served as Fleet Gunnery Officer with HMS Kent, before taking command of the Kent from 1934-36. He was promoted again in 1936, to Captain, but left his ship in the following year to become Naval Attaché for Athens [Greece], Ankara [Turkey] and Belgrade [Yugoslavia, later Serbia] from 1937-39. Returning to sea in 1939, Packer took command of first HMS Calcutta, then from 1940-1941, HMS Manchester. He then drew on his gunnery skills as Captain of the Gunnery School at Whale Island [Alaska], from 1941-43, before once again becoming Captain of HMS Warspite in 1943. In 1944 he served as first Commodore Administration then Chief of Staff to the Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean, Admiral Sir John Cunningham.
After the war, Packer became Rear-Admiral commanding 2nd Cruiser Squadron from 1946-48, then served as a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty and Chief of Supplies and Transport, 1948-50, finally ending his naval career as Commander-in-Chief South Atlantic Station, 1950-52. In the following year he retired to live in the Cape Peninsula, South Africa.
Packer was awarded the CB and CBE in 1945, and was knighted in 1950. He died on 23 September 1962.
The papers consist mainly of letters written during the course of Packer's naval career at sea 1912-1945, first to his father, then to his wife Joy, to whom many letters were written during the Second World War when they were apart for long stretches of time. It is a very interesting collection both from a naval and a personal point of view.
The papers of Admiral Sir Herbert Annesley Packer were given to Churchill College by his wife, Lady Packer, in May 1976.
The papers were in excellent order when they came to the College, arranged in eleven sections with explanatory notes by Lady Packer; and this arrangement was maintained on cataloguing. The files were renumbered when the catalogue was converted from paper to an electronic version in 2004, but the order remains unchanged.
The papers are owned by Churchill College, Cambridge.
The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge. Churchill Archives Centre is open from Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. A prior appointment and two forms of identification are required.
Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.
Please cite as Churchill Archives Centre, The Papers of Admiral Sir Herbert Packer, PCKR
Lady Packer based her book "Deep as the sea", published in 1975, on these documents.
A copy of this finding aid is available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, the National Register of Archives, London and on the Janus website, http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/.
This catalogue was prepared by Katharine Thomson of Churchill Archives Centre in October 2004 from an existing list.