Two of a Kind

NPG x44457; Sir George Edwin Patey by Walter Stoneman
Admiral Patey. Image: NPG.

On 2 January 1909 two Captains in the Royal Navy were promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral. This was not particularly unusual, as occasionally more than one officer was promoted at the same time. What was unusual was that the two officers in question, George E. Patey and Julian C. A. Wilkinson, had both been born on 24 February 1859. They both entered the Royal Navy in January, 1872, and then the climb up the greasy pole began. Patey was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 10 August 1881, while Wilkinson was promoted on 29 June 1883. Patey specialised as a gunnery officer, while Wilkinson remained a line officer. Promotion to Commander and Captain was solely by selection. Patey’s promotion to Commander came on 31 December 1894, and Wilkinson followed exactly a year later. Both officers were promoted to the rank of Captain on 1 January 1900. Thereafter, provided they had their sea time in and remained fit, both men were guaranteed their flag, which was governed strictly by seniority. Despite the large number of promotions to flag rank which marked this era (there were 21 in 1908 and 14 in 1909) both men managed to be promoted to Rear-Admiral on the same day. One would hope both officers went out and placed large sums of money on a horse the day they learned of their promotions.

Patey went on to retire as an Admiral having commanded the Australian Fleet and the North America and West Indies Station, dying in 1935. Wilkinson, whose health had never been great, retired in 1911 and died in 1917.