On this day in 1900, Lord Louis Mountbatten, British admiral and second cousin to King George VI, is born.
Louis Mountbatten was born in Windsor, England, the fourth child of Prince Louis of Battenberg and his wife, Princess Victoria, granddaughter of Queen Victoria. He entered the Royal Navy at age 13. Among his many assignments was that of aide-de-camp to the then Prince of Wales in 1921. He attained the rank of captain in 1932 and became a French and German interpreter shortly thereafter. When the Second World War broke out, he was given the command of the destroyer Kelly, which was attacked by 24 German bombers off the coast of Crete and sunk in 1941. (Mountbatten swam to shore and took control of the rescue effort.)
An able commander and a courageous soldier, Mountbatten was given ever greater responsibilities: first that of command of Combined Operations, then that of Supreme Allied Commander of Southeast Asia. His cousin, the king, would have to fend off accusations of nepotism in granting such appointments, despite Mountbatten’s gifts.
Mountbatten led the capture of Burma from Japanese control and later accepted the surrender of Japanese land forces in September 1945. He then went on to become the last British viceroy of India and an able negotiator of independence for both India and Pakistan. He was created Viscount Mountbatten of Burma in 1946 and admiral of the Royal Mediterranean fleet in 1956. Other positions he later held include that of chief of the U.K. defense staff, chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, and finally governor and lord lieutenant of the Isle of Wight.
Mountbatten’s distinguished career came to an end on August 26, 1979, when an Irish Republican Army bomb exploded on his boat, killing him.