Physical Appearance Edit
She was a strikingly beautiful woman, with golden blonde hair and blue-green eyes. (HH4)
Hemphill was the granddaughter of Vice Admiral Robert Hemphill, Baron of Low Delhi, who served the Navy as Third Space Lord. In the early 20th Century PD, she was heiress to the barony and by 1921 PD she had inherited the title, though she chose to rarely take her seat in the House of Lords. Instead she deferred her vote to one of her cousins as her proxy. (Companion, HH4, HH11, HH14)
Sonja Hemphill was born in the Star Kingdom of Manticore in the first half of the 19th Century PD, the daughter of a noble family. She made a career in the military, and by 1855 PD had risen to the rank of Lieutenant Commander, working on Project Gram.
At the turn of the 20th Century PD, Admiral Hemphill led the second school of tactical thought called jeune ecole, which theorized that the growing number of better weapons and technology would make the traditionalist view outdated and outmoded. With Admiral Hemphill's cousin (Admiral Janacek) as First Lord of Admiralty, the jeune ecoles were able to be in the top Navy positions. In particular, Admiral Hemphill received the chairwomanship of the Weapons Development Board, the body which oversees and directs all research and development for the RMN.
In 1900 PD, Admiral Hemphill authorized the top secret refit of the light cruiser HMS Fearless to be fitted with the experimental grav lance technology. During the war games shortly thereafter, Admiral Lady Hemphill commanded the defender fleet. During a battle with a Havenite Q-ship at Basilisk, Honor Harrington saw the massive flaws behind the experimental grav lance refit, and later expressed her reservations to the Weapons Development Board. (HH1, OBS)
During Pavel Young's court-martial, Hemphill ignored considerable pressure to acquit Young, and instead voted to convict him. Though she would not support a death sentence, she decided that it was unacceptable to allow Young to escape justice, and so she voted for his dishonorable discharge from the Navy. (HH4)
Despite her past disputes with Hemphill, Harrington championed her proposals for superdreadnoughts with hollow missile pod cores and "super light attack craft". These proposals would later prove essential to the breakthrough in naval warfare that allowed the RMN and GSN to essentially smash the far larger PRN with minimal losses in Operation Buttercup, signaling a change in naval tactics. (HH10)
With the beginning of the Second Havenite-Manticoran War, Sonja Hemphill was appointed to head the Bureau of Weapons by Admiral White Haven, her former adversary and the onetime leader of the "traditionalist" school. The development of Project Mistletoe, stealthed recon drones with laser and nuclear warheads designed to kill fixed defenses, and Project Apollo, the development of a faster-than-light communications missile, took place under her supervision and guidance. (HH11)
After the formation of the Grand Alliance, Admiral Hemphill, who was "firmly on board" with the sharing of technology between the Havenite and Manticoran navies, led a technical mission to Haven's Bolthole so that she and Manticore's surviving R&D staff could combine forces with Vice Admiral Shannon Foraker to "push the bleeding edge of hardware development". This mission departed in or near July 1922 PD, after a provisional treaty had been confirmed by both the Manticoran and Havenite legislatures. (HH13)
Hemphill was described by Captain Jonas Adcock as brilliant and energetic but overenthusiastic and highly tactless, prone to inadvertently offending others. (HOS) Over the years, Honor Harrington's opinion of her changed from a person in love with her own theories to an overenthusiastic but fundamentally intelligent and excellent officer.
Hemphill somehow managed to avoid being addressed as "Admiral Low Delhi", despite her succession to the barony of said name. This greatly annoyed Michelle Henke, who found herself unable to avoid being known as Vice Admiral Gold Peak. (SI2, HH14)
Service Record Edit
- Chairwoman, Weapons Development Board, 1900 PD (HH1)
- Commanding Officer, task force of Home Fleet, 1901 PD (HH1)
- Commanding Officer, Grendelsbane Station, 1907 PD (HH5)
- Fourth Space Lord, Commanding Officer, Bureau of Weapons, 1920 PD (HH10, HH11)
- ↑ This marked the transition of her character from a theorist with a few good ideas who won't listen to criticism, to a character with integrity, who may have some bad ideas but never abuses her position or deliberately makes mistakes.