Friends of Hastings Cemetery

John Harper Narbeth continued

The Dreadnought embodied revolutionary changes recommended by a powerful committee over which Sir John Fisher had presided.  They included an armament of all big guns, higher speed, turbine propulsion, and underwater protection. Narbeth completed the detailed design, finding solutions to the many problems encountered with such an innovative vessel.

On promotion in 1912 to a chief constructor, health reasons prompted Narbeth to request a change of duties, and he was made directly responsible to the director for the design and construction of minor war vessels; these included high-speed motor boats, oil-carrying ships, mine-sweepers, and sloops.

He made improvements in the design of each of these widely differing types of vessel.  He became joint secretary to the Royal Commission on Fuel and Engines under the chairmanship of Fisher.  During the First World War Narbeth designed the Flower-class sloops, with special design measures and procedures to allow for these vessels and mine-sweepers to be built in large numbers in small shipyards in record time.

Improvements in aircraft during and after the war and their widening use in warfare led to demands from the Navy for special ships to carry them.  The director arranged for Narbeth, who from 1919 was Assistant Director, to deal with the new designs involved.  A few seaplane carriers were first obtained by modifying merchant ships: then, by converting warships, carriers were produced with a deck suitable for landing or launching aircraft.  Narbeth again contributed many innovative ideas to these projects, and worked closely with a joint Admiralty and Air Ministry technical committee over which he presided (1918–23), resulting in ships which, when completed, were satisfactory to both pilots and naval officers.

Narbeth wrote several books on Naval Construction and published articles in technical journals including biographies of naval architects and engineers.  

In recognition of his achievements he was appointed MVO (1906), CBE (1920)  and CB (1923).and he was regarded as the 'Father' of the Institution of Naval Architects.  

Narbeth retired in 1923 and moved to Lawrenny, 65 Sedlescombe Road South, St.  Leonards-on-sea.  His father had been a Methodist lay preacher and Narbeth  also became a preacher,  temperance worker  and a president of the Hastings Federal Council of the Free Churches.   He was very active at  Park Road Methodist Church, particularly with the Boys Brigade.

After his retirement he became Technical Advisor to the Chilean Naval Mission in 1927.

At the time of his death during World War II he was a consultant to the Admiralty for the benefit of current naval technicians.  He was also vice president of the Canadian ex-servicemen's  Association.