Grandson of Richard Durnford, Bishop of Chichester, and nephew of Sir. Walter Durnford. Born 25th October 1891, died 7th February 1967. He joined the Royal Navy in 1904 at the age of 13. He
served in World War I; naval advisor to White Army, Russia (1919-1920); Imperial Defence College (1936); Chief Staff Officer, Malta (1937-1939); World War II; Second Naval Member, Australian Commonwealth Naval Board (1941-1942); Director, RN Staff College (1944); Director of Naval Training, Admiralty (1945-1947).
He served in HMS Argyll, HMS Shannon and Submarine P 39 (1914-1918). He was the Commanding Officer of HMS Suffolk (1939-1940) and of the battleship HMS Resolution in the Indian Ocean 1942-1943.
Married to Marie Durnford, He retired in 1948 to More’s Garden, Chelsea, where he served as Mayor 1962-63. He served as Chairman of The Chelsea Society 1964-66 and a member of its Council for ten years.
In addition to his love for Chelsea, and a staunch protection of her interests, the duties of Chairman of the Society require special qualities of leadership and capacity for exacting work. All of these, John Durnford possessed to a remarkable degree combined with an objectivity and patience in all personal dealings. He also had another great quality which made him so suitable for his service to the Society – that of humanity.
On every issue which confronted the Society, he took pains to ascertain the views of every member of Council and to achieve a consensus of opinion. At meetings of the Council he made effective use of open discussion which he never sought to dominate, and seldom checked, but which in practice led to an acceptance of conclusions that rarely ran contrary to his own judgement.
Naval career: Papers at the IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON: Papers, chiefly 1924-1952 (ref: P142, 143), including; semi-official correspondence 1924-1949; including two letters from V Adm Sir Thomas Hope Troubridge on the importance of training 1945; also two letters from AF Sir Algernon Usbourne Willis on the progress of operations in the Mediterranean 1943; typescript unpublished autobiography, written after his retirement in 1948, covering his career 1904-1948; photograph album relating to Durnford’s career 1911-1920, including; photographs relating to his service in HMS ARGYLL, HMS SHANNON and Submarine P 39 1914-1918; photographs of the British Military Mission to South Russia 1919-1920: photographs relating to the Allied Control Commission, Constantinople, Turkey 1920.