that is, until now!!

Now to some of you, this might sound like a shaggy-dog story, but with great sincerity and after several hours of dedicated research, I can assure that the story is 'pukker' and moreover, of great interest.

Part of the ramifications of it not being researched in the past and the results published, is that JACKSPEAK does not expand in a meaningful way, on the saying which you will all know. Neither does it have a listing in the Oxford English Dictionary as a stand-alone word, and as far as Google [or indeed any search engine is concerned] or sites like Wikipedia, forget it, the subject is dead-in-the-water.

Some of you will remember my research into the Herbert Lott story, a story never hitherto published or, believe it or not, known about or understood in the Admiralty and thus in the Navy. If you Googled HERBERT LOTT, you would find pages about certain awards but you would not find anything about him and his life unless you read my story which I published to both my sites, this one and the RN Museum of Radar and Communications. If you missed it, you can find that story here


and there are other stories which show on my site which have the headlines for the first time ever.

This is yet another subject, which has no mention today, and yet in the first half of the 20th century, everybody in the navy from the Admiral of the Fleet down to a Boy 2nd Class knew and benefitted from. 

I was searching for Admirals who were immensely famous for putting the enemy to the sword, and thereby winning famous naval battles. I had already amassed a great deal of data, and more or less, the last piece I had, was of Admiral Tovey in HMS King George V inter alia seeing off Admiral Lutjens in the Bismarck - Note: under the Nazis, the old title of SMS which preceded the ship's name, was dropped and not replaced.  SMS meant 'Seiner Majestt Schiff' translated as His Majesty's Ship, archaic, because the King, Kaiser Wilhelm II, had fled to Holland and abandoned the German Throne in 1918 before the end of WW1.  What then of the period post 1918?

What interested me as much was the story of the Roman General [cum Admiral] who won the naval battle of Actium against his Roman adversary Mark Anthony and Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, whose love affair transcends all others in antiquity. He was associated with, or related to, Octavia, Caesar Augustus, Emperor Augustus, Emperor Tiberius, Emperor Caligula, Emperor Nero. That is what is meant by being 'well connected' and being born with the highest count of gold carats imaginable in the spoon which filled his mouth at birth. His name was General Agrippa, and his credentials can readily be found on the internet.

General Agrippa survived all his 'war battles' as he did his 'staff battles' back home in Rome and ended his days as a man giving to charities looking after the welfare of his former soldiers and sailors, defined today as a philanthropist. This sentence conjures up in ones mind the perfect human being.  We were fortunate in having many brilliant men as admirals from WW1 onwards [accepting of course those mega brilliant admirals of yore] but, seemingly, only one of them could have been thought of in these terms. I am in the mind-set that mentioning surnames in naval circles doesn't always pinpoint the person in question, and it is a pity [I think] that certain famous admirals share the same name! There are two names which come to mind, namely those of Cunningham and Fisher. Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Browne Cunningham nearly always outshines Admiral of the Fleet John Cunningham [who were contemporaries in WW2] and yet John Cunningham, were it not for his namesake, would have filled many more pages of history than he actually did. Admiral of the Fleet John [Jackie] Fisher is often stated as being a reincarnation of Lord Nelson, such was his fame.  However, he had a near-peer [both were involved in Jutland for example], in Admiral Sir William Wordsworth Fisher, a name hardly remembered today, who was known pan navy as "The Great Agrippa" and for good reason.  He once said "The Archangel Gabriel is only just good enough for such a Service. For the rest of us, it is only a question of the degree in which we fail to live up to the Navy."

Just a couple of weeks ago my wife and I were in a large UK City, she shopping and me at the City Library Reference Section, meeting for afternoon tea before coming on home. It was whilst there that I came upon a 1946 magazine, London Pictorial, which was about the Armed Services and how they were doing "putting the war machine to bed."  It contained basically facts and figures, but inter-dispersed with such data, were various army/navy anecdotes and humorous stories supported by cartoons. I was quite surprised, nay, amazed, to read the word Agrippa since the very first time I had seen the word was when down at Kew looking for Admirals.

I had the article containing the word Agrippa copied and brought it on home. Just like my friend Herbert Lott, there was nothing on the internet whatsoever about my newly found story, so once again, back to the NA at Kew. There I was able to confirm the detail of the article, and once back home I was able to search Hansards with a clear lead acquired from the NA date-time-stamping on the case files.

So! - what had I found?

Simply the origins of the word GRIPPO. Have a read of this.

Sir Henry had been knighted for his services to the country just after WW1.  The Freeman family, with twelve sons, had enormous wealth, with, it is said, Henry being the richest of all of them. However, the thing that marked them out as an exceptional family was their insistence upon having a complete and totally private business and personal life, and in the decade which followed the Great War, known as the 'Golden Twenties' in the UK and the 'Roaring Twenties' in the USA, this was not easy to achieve. There are no published interviews with Sir Henry or indeed with any other family member available in the public domain, but there is a mention of him in Hansards and in Admiralty papers post 1926.

Unlike many of his brothers, Henry did not marry nor had any issue. His titles [Knighthood - KBE] and his Life [Peerage - Baron] died with him as did his Coat of Arms.

I am not sure when Henry [Harry] died, but I believe it was in the late 1950's.  He was born in 1887.  One of his younger brothers, Sir Bernard Freeman [1896-1982] was the Chairman of Metro Goldwyn Mayer [MGM] of Australia.

His money paid for many entertainments not supplied in any quantity by the Admiralty, hard put to even supplying the absolutely necessary stores and provisions, replacing where necessary war losses both in 'the water' and on terra firma.

These 'gifts' included the provision of sports pitches, pavilion's and tackle; cinemas, cinematograph projectors and sound systems; libraries, books and quiet rooms; canteens and bars; indoor games rooms; laundry rooms and washing machines/driers; and virtually anything and everything which would 'sweeten' the life of all in the navy, and pan-navy at that. It has been said that he was of the same ilk as Agnes Weston, but with his money, the Admiralty could do much more materially and world wide, not just in Malta, Portsmouth and Plymouth, ameliorating the lot of thousands of royal navy men and the women of the WRNS.

By all accounts, he didn't seem to mind that Jack Tar had changed his Barony from Agrippa to Grippo and it wasn't until just before WW2 that Jack Tar used the word like we use it today and have done in depth since the late 1930's. Putting a "strangle hold" on an easy and relatively wealthy host when ashore became almost a game, but the bonhomie 'oiled the wheels' of a successful showing the flag visit and the willing host enjoyed Jack's company as much as Jack enjoyed theirs.  Jack had very little to give back and even less opportunity in terms of an entertainment space, but the grippo's machine never stopped, and many a family in a far off land hosted our Royal Sailors "up homers."

Whilst Harry's generosity was not enduring [his 'gifts' soon wore out and needed to be replaced] and there are no tangible signs today of his bequest, unlike those given by Agnes Weston [in kind] and Herbert Lott [in money] he must have been a wonderful man to spend a fortune on such a worthy cause. There is no apparent reason for his bequest, unlike Herbert Lott who gave his money to better naval gunnery and subsequent investments to encourage efficiency in the Fleet. He was probably affected personally by the two world wars and gave a little back to the men who fought them at sea.  On the other hand, he may have made his fortune from a trade protected by the navy, and was grateful to them for his deliverance from disaster caused by the dreaded Hun.

Other than this, we will never know....unless of course YOU might like to expand upon my story.