Rear Admiral John Bryan Stevenson

John Bryan Stevenson was born on 7 August 1876 at Toxteth Park, Lancashire, England, son of John Stevenson, insurance broker, and his first wife Eleanor Alicia, née Bryan. From the Royal Naval College, HMS Britannia, he became a Midshipman in the Royal Navy in 1892, Sub Lieutenant in 1896, Lieutenant in 1898 and Commander in 1911. He served continuously with the Royal Australian Navy from 1 July 1912, first on loan as Commander, then as acting Captain from 1 January 1913 and Captain from 1 January 1919; he permanently transferred to the RAN on 4 May 1919.

While serving in HMS Camperdown in the Mediterranean in January 1893, Stevenson saw her collide with HMS Victoria which then sank with the loss of 400 lives, including Admiral Sir George Tryon. Stevenson later watched the Russian fleet en route to its destruction by the Japanese at the battle of Tsushima in 1905.

His service in the RAN in 1911-31 placed him in sea and shore commands, at courses and in liaison duties in Britain, and as a member of the Australian Naval Board. His sea appointments included HMAS Encounter (1912-13), and command of Berrima (1914), Encounter (1916-18), Brisbane (1921-22), Adelaide (1922-24) and Sydney (briefly in 1928). He took Berrima to New Guinea in 1914 and Adelaide on a cruise to Britain in 1924 with the RN special service squadron led by Vice Admiral Sir Frederick Field in HMS Hood.

Second naval member of the Naval Board from 1 September 1927 to 11 June 1929 (except for his brief command of Sydney from 10 April to 8 May 1928), Stevenson was acting first naval member from 12 June to 27 October 1929. His other appointments ashore included service at HMAS Cerberus, the naval depot at Williamstown, Victoria, in 1913-14, and then in 1915-16 in command. He was director of naval ordnance at Navy Office in 1918-20. In England he attended the senior officers' war course at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, in 1920-21 and was Australian naval representative in London from 10 October 1924 to 15 July 1927. On 28 October 1929 he succeeded Captain HP Cayley as captain superintendent Sydney; Captain HJ Feakes took over from him when Stevenson retired as rear admiral on 6 August 1931.

At St David's Anglican Cathedral, Hobart, on 4 June 1914 Stevenson had married Olive Brooke Bailey (1886-1978), a nurse. Their first son, James, a spitfire pilot in the Royal Air Force, was killed over Dunkirk in 1940; their daughter, Noel, was mentioned in dispatches in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force in World War II, and their second son, Captain John Phillip Stevenson, served in the RAN in 1935-69.

He was an active member of the United Service Institution, the Returned Sailors’, Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and the Navy League (President 1937). Stevenson was appointed CMG in January 1925. He received the thanks of the Admiralty in 1927 for his work as Australian naval representative. In 1931 the Naval Board sent him their ‘deep appreciation’ that he had ‘played an important part in the successful development of the Australian Navy’. Survived by his wife, son and daughter, he died at Wahroonga, Sydney, on 13 July 1957.