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Colomb, John Charles Ready (DNB12)

COLOMB, Sir JOHN CHARLES READY (1838–1909), writer on imperial defence, born in the Isle of Man on 1 May 1838, was fourth son of General George Thomas Colomb (d. 1874) by his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Abraham Bradley King, first baronet. Vice-admiral Philip Howard Colomb [q. v. Suppl. I] was his elder brother.

John Colomb was educated privately. He entered the royal marines in June 1854, and after a year of probation at the Royal Naval College, Portsmouth, was promoted to a lieutenancy in the R.M. artillery in August 1855. He retired with the rank of captain in August 1869. He was afterwards adjutant of the Cork artillery militia till May 1872. His mixed naval and military service, creditable but undistinguished, turned his mind to the consideration of our needs as the centre of a vast and far-spreading empire, and enabled him to realise, with a force then little understood, how the navy was the connecting chain of the whole. As early as 1867 he published an anonymous pamphlet on 'The Protection of our Commerce and Distribution of our Naval Forces'; and from the date of his retirement (1869) onwards he devoted himself largely to the attempt to induce the public to study these questions seriously and imperially. By addresses and papers at the Royal United Service Institution and Royal Colonial Institute, by pamphlets and by occasional volumes, he never ceased from his task, publishing in 'The Times' (17 April 1909), a month before his death, a long letter addressed to the chairman of the parliamentary labour party. He has been spoken of as the originator and apostle of 'the Blue Water School,' whose doctrines, in fact, travesty or parody his teaching. Contrary to those doctrines, he urged throughout the necessity of military preparation, and of an army for garrison at home, for field defence, and for expeditions; but he insisted as strongly that, in the face of a navy of sufficient strength, properly organised, any attempt to invade these islands must be on a very limited scale; and that the idea of preparing an array to defend the country, on the assumption that it had no navy, had smaller justification than the idea of a navy acting without the support of an army. He joined William Edward Forster [q. v.] in forming the Imperial Federation. He urged his views in the House of Commons, where he sat in the conservative interest as member for the Bow and Bromley division of the Tower Hamlets from 1886 to 1892, and for Great Yarmouth from 1895 to 1906. He was a member of the royal commission on the supply of food and raw materials in time of war, in 1905, and on the congestion of Ireland, in 1906-7. Having inherited the estate of Dromquinna, Kenmare, co. Kerry, he took part in Irish local government, and acted as chairman of appeals under the Local Government Act in 1898. He was nominated C.M.G. in 1887, K.C.M.G. in the following year, and privy councillor in 1903. He died, after an operation, at his residence, Belgrave Road, London, on 27 May 1909. Colomb married on 1 Jan. 1866 Emily Anna, daughter of Robert Samuel Palmer, and widow of Charles Augustus Francis Paret, lieutenant R.N.; she died in 1907, leaving a son and two daughters.

Colomb's chief publications are: 1. 'The Defence of Great and Greater Britain,' 1879. 2. 'Naval Intelligence and Protection of Commerce,' 1881. 3. 'Imperial Federation, Naval and Military,' 1886.

[Royal Navy Lists; Who's Who; The Times, 28 May 1909; Library Cat., R.U.S. Institution; information from the family.]

J. K. L.