Lieutenant Alexander David Boyle is the only known New Zealander to have served at all three major naval battles of World War One.
Always known by his middle name David, Lieutenant Alexander David Boyle came from a very well connected family. The son of Alec Boyle, his first cousin was Sir Bernard Fergusson, Governor-General 1962-1967, and his grandfather was David Boyle, 7th Earl of Glasgow and Governor of New Zealand 1882-1897.
Born at Otaio Canterbury New Zealand in 1887, Boyle was educated at Christ’s College and Wanganui Collegiate School before joining the Royal Navy as a Midshipman and serving in the Channel Fleet, and HMS Powerful, flagship of the Australian Squadron. Later he was a Sub Lieutenant in HMS Triumph with the Home Fleet before his appointment to HM Royal Yacht Victoria & Albert where he was promoted to Lieutenant.
In 1913 he was serving in HMS New Zealand when the ship visited this country to show the nation the gift warship they had provided to Britain and the Royal Navy. He continued to serve in this ship and saw action at Heligoland Bight and the Battle of Jutland on 31 May – 1 June 1916, during the battle he was the Officer in Charge of X turret, with its 2 x 12” guns which was hit during the action. For his actions during the Battle he was Mentioned-in-Despatches.
Listen to a recording of Boyle’s Battle of Jutland experiences here. The words are from Boyle’s original account of the action. For the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland, the Navy Museum had the account recorded by currently serving Lt Cdr Mark Hadlow.
Boyle was also present at the Naval Action of Dogger Bank for which he was awarded the Croix de Guerre. This makes him the only known New Zealander to have been present at all three major naval battles of WWI. He returned to New Zealand in HMS Chatham and retired from the Royal Navy in 1920 as a Commander.
In 1928 Commander Boyle was appointed the first Commanding Officer of the Canterbury Division of the RNZNVR, serving until 1934. He returned to the active list in 1939 and was posted to the Navy Office Wellington, as Staff Officer for Technical and Material duties. From 1941 to 1943 he was Naval Officer in charge of Lyttelton. He was later promoted to Captain and appointed Naval Officer in Charge of Wellington where he remained until 1945. He was awarded the United States Legion of merit in the same year and replaced on the retired list.
He spent his remaining years on his farm in Temuka, until his death aged 78 in 1965.