Navy Net - Royal Navy Community

Register a free account today to join our community
Once signed in, you'll be able to participate on this site, connect with other members through your own private inbox and will receive smaller adverts!

Naval Related Obituaries

Lieut. Commander Doug TAYLOR RIP (5th May 1929 - 12th March 2019)

From 'pay-walled' Dee Tee Obit of 4 April 2019

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries/2019/04/04/lieutenant-commander-doug-taylor-naval-engineer-whose-ski-jump/


<<...The ski-jump would change the shape of the Royal Navy’s carrier fleet and play a decisive role in winning the Falklands War. Later ski-jumps were to be fitted in many other navies’ carriers.

Taylor’s rewards were the bronze medal of the James Clayton Memorial Prize of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers Royal Aeronautical Society and the James Martin gold medal of the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators, the MBE, and an interim payment of £25,000 by the Ministry of Defence. A full payment was never made... etc etc ...He took up flying in his late seventies and flew solo for a decade, and self-published his naval memoir, A Runway in the Sky, in 2015....>>
 
Commander John Lorimer DSO Royal Navy [1] (9th July 9 1922 - 1 December 2019)


From the 'pay-walled' Daily Telegraph of 23rd December 2019

Commander John Lorimer, who has died aged 97, was a sailor who in his midget submarine helped to put a mighty German battleship out of action; his war was 18 months of training, two weeks of operations and two years as a prisoner of war, including six months of solitary confinement.
His two weeks’ operations were in X-6, a midget submarine commanded by Lieutenant Donald Cameron and crewed by Lorimer, Sub-Lieutenant Dick Kendall and Engine Room Artificer Edmund Goddard, who set out on a suicidal mission to sink the pride of the Germany navy.
Operation Source, as it was known, began on September 11 1943, when six large submarines, each with an X-craft in tow, crept out of Loch Cairnbawn and headed for Kaafjord in Arctic Norway: their target was the German battleship Tirpitz, which was threatening the convoys to Russia.
Lorimer had joined the RNVR as soon as he could, and – “young, 19, and stupid” – he volunteered for special and hazardous duty without knowing that this involved an arduous training programme. Besides learning how to operate the four-man midget submarines, known as X-craft, he also had to train to trek great distances, in case he had to take the mountainous trail to Sweden after the operation.

“There was an awful lot we didn’t know, such as the dangers of diving to 100ft with pure oxygen, which kills you in half a minute,” he recalled. “This all had to be discovered by experimentation, and there were casualties. But that’s war.”

One in four of his fellow volunteers died, including Lorimer’s best friend, Paddy Kearon, who perished with his crew when a towrope broke and his submarine plunged to the depths. “Cast yourself back to the age of 21,” said Lorimer. “You’re in a war where everyone’s united. You drink like tomorrow we die, yet you feel immortal. One lost a lot of chums, but otherwise one enjoyed one’s war. I find this country so much more depressing today. We’re no longer united, and all anyone cares about is money.”

On the night of September 21/22, having penetrated deep into the fjord, Lorimer caught his first sight of Tirpitz. “It was surreal, lit up like a Christmas tree. My first thought was that she was so pretty, it seemed an awful shame to have to blow her up.”
Each X-craft had aboard a specialist diver trained to use bolt cutters on the thick steel underwater netting. However, X-6’s captain, Cameron, had a better idea, when through a leaking periscope he spotted a trawler carrying German sailors from shore leave, passing through a gate in the outer ring of nets.

Impetuously, Cameron followed just 10 feet behind in the boat’s wake. “We could see the sailors’ faces quite clearly, but they were too pie-eyed to notice us.” Astonishingly, they repeated the trick by following a small boat through the inner torpedo netting. “Then disaster struck,” Lorimer recalled. “We hit an uncharted rock. Our periscope caught fire. The boat broke surface at 45 degrees.”
Somehow Cameron managed to dive again, but the submarine was now blind, filling with noxious fumes and all but uncontrollable. “Right,” Cameron grimaced, “we’ll just have to ram the bloody Tirpitz.” X-6 dropped each of its two-ton Amatol explosive charges under the Tirpitz’s keel, before surfacing amid a hail of bullets and grenades. They were captured, and as they were herded aboard Tirpitz, Lorimer asked Cameron: “Skipper, shall we salute the quarterdeck?” “Why, of course,” answered Cameron – and this they did, to the consternation of the Germans.

At first the Germans were rough, but when their admiral arrived, evidently from a hunting trip ashore, he treated them more gentlemanly. At first, they held their silence, but when the German made to send divers down, “we were very British and said: ‘Don’t send those poor buggers down because in an hour they’ll be mashed potato.’  However, when the timed explosives did blow and Tirpitz was bodily lifted upwards, the Germans became very hostile and lined up their prisoners as though to shoot them. Lorimer remembered thinking that he wouldn’t give a sixpence for his life – “but mainly I was bloody furious that the ship was still floating.” However, Tirpitz was mortally damaged and never saw service afterwards.

“Good show! Good show!” said George VI when after the war he awarded the survivors two VCs, three DSOs and a CGM. The official despatch described the attack as one of the most courageous acts of all time.
When the raid was re-created in the film Above Us the Waves (1955), Donald Sinden borrowed Lorimer’s pipe as a prop.

John Thornton Lorimer was born on July 9 1922 at Kelso in the Scottish Borders, where his parents were doctors; his father was a naval surgeon in both world wars. Young John was educated at the United Services College in North Devon. Released from an initial “softening-up” spell in solitary, Lorimer found prisoner-of-war camp “just like public school” and joined various attempts to escape. One failed when heavy rain caused the collapse of a tunnel he was helping to dig; when Albert RN (a collapsible, life-sized dummy) was used to trick the German’s head count, Lorimer carried Albert’s left leg.

When taken prisoner, Lorimer had been engaged to a Wren, Judy Hughes-Onslow, one of the four daughters of Sir Geoffrey Hughes-Onslow. For the first six months of his imprisonment she did not know whether Lorimer was dead or alive, and when the camp was relieved, her soldier cousin, Tony Lithgow, came looking for Lorimer, and he was returned to Scotland in a flying boat.

Judy, sent to collect the mail from the boat, was surprised to find Lorimer crammed into the back. Asked how she felt, she said: “Oh, it was the same old John. Dull as ever.” They married in 1945. Postwar, Lorimer asked to stay in the Navy, and when this was refused, he was a rowdy and rumbustious, older undergraduate at Edinburgh, reading forestry. He joined the Ayrshire sawmill and timber company of Adam Wilson before setting up a forestry consultancy with Michael Barn, working until he was 85. Lorimer was a countryman who loved messing about in boats, and was Deputy Lieutenant of Ayrshire and Aran.
Lorimer havered when invited to join a reunion of Tirpitz’s crew, but returned from Germany full of good humour.

Judy predeceased him and he is survived by their son and daughter.

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Source



[1] The heading of this piece was amended by this c/s to reflect credit where it is due - The Obituary's anonymous author having neglected to include the subject's correct post-nominals; "DSO Royal Navy".

PS Some sleuthing by the Command WO resulted in Lt Cdr Lorimer's attendance as Guest of Honour at the S/M Service Annual Dinner in 2017:


RIP Sir & Resurgam
 
Relevant to the Post above ^^

From Glasgow Evening Times of Weds 13th November just:

<<... AMBULANCE chiefs are to apologise to a 97-year-old war hero who waited more than three hours in pain for help to arrive after breaking his hip.

Commander John Lorimer, thought to be the last survivor of one of the most courageous raids of the second world war (X Craft Vs Tirpitz), is understood to have suffered a fall at his home on Saturday. (that would be Sat 9th Nov 2019 then)

However it was three and a half hours before the ambulance turned up to take the great grandfather to hospital. The Royal Navy Veteran is said to have undergone emergency surgery on his hip on Monday. (Which would be Mon 11th November)...>>




Mmmm - That DT Obituary above gave his date of Death (Sunday,1st Dec) but without referring to the above 'incident'... Sadly the time between his Hip Op (reportedly planned for Mon 11th Nov.) and his death was a mere 21 Days.

Closer to home, but in N London, my younger brother (former skimmer Pinkie, bless 'im) broke his hip just a week ago and he spent two hours on the cold pavement. An Ambulance was called ATT but the one that did attend was 'coincidentally, just passing by, happened to see his plight & whipped him straight into the nearest A & E, cancelling the original. still outstanding 999 call'.

Luckily for him an emergency op. for plates & screws was carried out two days later and he was finally returned to his S London home by hospital txport very late last night, Christmas Eve.

Message for NHS Scotland & England, in particular?

Splash out - Buy more Ambulances & crew 'em up Two-Six. Grrr.
 
From the DT

Captain 'Spiv' Leahy, who died on Boxing Day aged 94, was one of the outstanding aviators of his age.

1582689895379.png


He ditched in the sea, made an emergency landing with a damaged wing, was set upon by MiG fighters and won a DSC

In 1952-53, during the conflict in Korea, Leahy was air weapons officer of 801 Naval Air Squadron flying the Hawker Sea Fury. On September 10 1952 while testing the carrier Glory’s rocket-assisted take-off gear, the gear failed and Leahy’s plane toppled over the bows, sinking quickly.
Leahy was trapped in his cockpit just long enough to miss the ship’s propellers and struggled with his straps until he heard the carrier pass over him before bobbing to the surface in Glory’s wake, choking because his oxygen mask tube was under water. He was picked up by a destroyer and returned by jackstay – grinning, unhurt, and subsequently fortified by a tot of rum.
801 Squadron flew an average of 61 sorties per day from Glory off Korea. On December 18 1952, after a premature explosion in his wing-mounted 20mm cannons, which left a gaping hole in his port wing, Leahy nursed his damaged plane to an emergency airstrip on the Allied-held island of Paengyong-do. The next day he was flying again.
Two months later Leahy was leading a flight of four Sea Furies returning from a mission over Hanchon, when he was jumped by a section of MiG-15 jets. The MiGs came in from very high and astern but after some aggressive manoeuvring, no damage was done. Leahy was awarded the DSC for courage, leadership and determination.

Alan John Leahy was born in Glasgow on May 17 1925. His father was a Dubliner, his mother from Colonsay. He was educated at Glasgow High and volunteered for the Fleet Air Arm in 1943.
He learnt to fly with the US Navy at Grosse Isle, Michigan, and Pensacola, Florida; his instructors were so amazed by his skills, that they used to draw lots to fly with him. But after VJ-Day there was a glut of young, redundant pilots: Leahy fought to stay in the Navy and was appointed to a ferry squadron, giving him the opportunity to fly many different types of aircraft over the next two years.
In May 1947 he joined a Sea Hornet squadron at Ford, Sussex, commanded by Dickie Law who, looking at Leahy’s wide lapels and colourful ties bought back from the US, remarked: “You look like a spiv.” The name stuck.
Leahy mastered the twin-engined de Havilland Sea Hornet. Once, when his port undercarriage failed to lower, he performed a one-wheel landing so faultlessly that the aircraft was soon repaired and flying again. .
In 1949 at St Merryn, Cornwall, Leahy qualified as an air weapons officer. From 1950 to 1952 he taught at the Naval Fighter School, Culdrose.
In early 1952 he had a break from flying when he trained the Fleet Air Arm field gun crew. Next, Leahy joined the newly-formed 800 Sea Hawk squadron as senior pilot, under the future Admiral Ray Lygo, in the carrier Ark Royal, displaying superb airmanship when, after his single-engined Sea Hawk jet suffered a flame-out during a low-level inverted run over Culdrose, he coolly made an engine-off landing.
Leahy then commanded 738 Squadron, the Sea Hawk training squadron, where his skills as a formation leader and display pilot were apparent. On a blustery day in 1956, at the presentation of the Queen’s Colour at Lee-on-Solent, Leahy was leading 80 jets five miles away on the final run-in when he was told to delay by seven minutes. Allowing for the strong wind, he determined a smooth 360º turn and arrived on schedule with his formation intact.

1582690083825.png
In 1957 Leahy formed an aerobatic team for the Farnborough Airshow. He had five Sea Hawks painted red with “Royal Navy” in large, white letters under the wings, while his engineers modified the aircraft to produce coloured smoke, and entertained the crowds to stunning displays.
Leahy was appointed MBE for his outstanding leadership and organisation.

In 1961, as commanding officer of 700Z squadron Leahy introduced the low-level Buccaneer bomber into service, and went on to serve as Commander (Air) in the carrier Hermes (1963-64). His captain, the future Admiral Sir Bill O’Brien, described him later as “a short, square, flat-faced, pug-nosed Scot... immensely popular within the Fleet Air Arm and admired by his peers for his skills as an aviator, who handled his men with great tact.”

As Director of Naval Air Warfare (1973-75), he campaigned for the Navy to acquire Sea Harrier jets and Lynx helicopters. In 1975 he was Commodore, Clyde, where his common sense and humour were invaluable in managing labour disputes. He was appointed CBE on his retirement in 1978.

Leahy flew more than 35 types of aircraft with a total flying time of 4,545hrs, including 444 catapult launches and 670 deck landings.

After the Navy, Leahy was a director of Bristow Helicopters and managing director of Helicopter Rentals, Bermuda. He wrote two books: From the Cockpit – Sea Hornet and From the Cockpit – Sea Fury.
In 1959 Leahy married Lena Svensson, who survives him with their daughter, and a son who was a submariner.

Captain A J Leahy, born May 17 1925, died December 26 2019

 
Vice-Admiral Sir Toby Frere, born June 4 1938, died March 5 2020

[Shared from the 'pay-walled' Daily Telegraph of 5.03 pm Thurs 9th Apr 2020.

A full and most interesting career (with oodles of 'Wow, I never knew thats'). When a Commander Toby Frere was known & respected as a VG egg by both crews of HMS Revenge* during my time on port crew under Cdr Paul Hoddinott, his opposite number.]


Vice-Admiral Sir Toby Frere, who has died aged 81, was an eminent Cold War submariner and logistician.

1586487096286.png

His first boat, Astute (1961-62), was on loan to the Royal Canadian Navy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and part of the 6th Submarine Squadron, when it deployed for war and formed a barrier on the Grand Banks to watch for the approach of Soviet submarines. Canadian rates of pay enabled Frere to buy a gull-wing Mercedes-Benz 300SL on his return to Britain.

He joined the submarine Ocelot while it was being built in Chatham and participated in trials of new torpedoes in the Mediterranean, but Frere had a taste for service overseas and, it is said, he slipped into the office where the forthcoming appointments were kept on a chalk board, and changed his next appointment from Scotland to Australia. In 1966-67 he was based in Sydney, whence he returned home in Taciturn across the Pacific.

In 1960, after Frere and his future brother-in-law passed the “perisher”, the submarine commanding officers’ qualifying course, he commanded the submarine Andrew in Singapore, returning to Britain via Australia, Fiji, Tahiti, Pitcairn, Cartagena and Barbados. His new wife sold his Lotus Elan in order to be able to follow Andrew across the Pacific.

In 1970-71 Frere was a divisional officer at Dartmouth, where he took Prince Charles under his wing. After two years teaching navigation and submarines he was appointed to Odin, taking her out to Australia to join the newly formed Australian 1st Submarine Squadron.

Within weeks of his wife and first-born arriving in Sydney, Frere was promoted commander, served in the Australian Navy Office and then studied at the Joint Services Staff Course.

Frere was chosen in 1975 to be “teacher” on the “perisher”. He was always calm, never shouted and let students make mistakes during dummy attacks, after which he would invite each individual to critique his own performance. In this way he produced several classes of good submarine commanders.

In 1976 he gained a diploma in nuclear engineering at Greenwich before commanding the *starboard* crew of the Polaris-firing Revenge, based in Faslane where, during a strike at the armament depot and on the orders of Prime Minister Jim Callaghan, his crew loaded missiles from the depot.

Frere was promoted chief of staff (1986-87) to the Flag Officer Submarines when Soviet submarines were challenging the superiority of their British and American counterparts in the Atlantic and Barents Sea.

He succeeded to be Flag Officer Submarines in 1991 at a difficult time, when the flotilla was coping with long-running technical problems and dwindling force levels; he was also obliged to make the case for preserving nuclear-powered boats at the expense of new, conventionally powered boats.

Frere set about restoring morale, a challenge which he met magnificently, dual-hatted, as Commander Submarines Eastern Atlantic. His Nato colleagues regarded him as an astute, highly effective leader and a totally reliable and dedicated ally.

Richard Tobias Frere-Reeves was born in London on June 4 1938. His father, Alexander, was managing editor (later chairman) of the publishers Heinemann; his mother was the daughter of the author and playwright Edgar Wallace.

He was evacuated to New York in 1940. Returning in 1942, he remembered lifeboat drill as other ships in the convoy were being torpedoed.

He was educated at Wellesley House, Broadstairs, and at Eton. His father wanted him to follow him into publishing, and his godfather, JB Priestley, and visiting authors such as Eric Ambler, Graham Greene, Georgette Heyer and Somerset Maugham, all emphasised to him the importance of Latin, Greek, English and History.

Young Frere, however, dropped the Classics to concentrate on scientific subjects, served in the RNVR as a national serviceman, transferred to the Royal Navy and was commissioned in 1956.

His first ship was the anti-aircraft frigate Leopard on the South American Station, on which Frere visited the Seychelles, Argentina, entered the Pacific via the Magellan Strait, voyaged up the Amazon, carried out hurricane relief in Mauritius, fought forest fires in the Cape – and was a judge at a Miss Nigeria contest in Lagos in 1959.

He also gained his bridge watchkeeping ticket and qualified in ocean navigation but, reluctant to spend his naval career staring at radar sets in big ships, Frere volunteered for submarines.

Promoted captain in 1979, he began a parallel naval career in logistics, first as naval assistant to the Chief of Fleet Support. After study at the Royal College of Defence Studies he headed the RN Presentation Team, touring the country to talk about the Navy.

He escaped to sea to command the frigate Brazen (1984-84) with Prince Andrew as his helicopter pilot; evacuated British citizens from Beirut; escorted tankers through the Strait of Hormuz and, as part of a Nato squadron in the Mediterranean, found himself berthed between the Greek and Turkish destroyers during port visits.

Promoted rear-admiral in 1988, Frere returned to the Ministry of Defence as Deputy Chief of Fleet Support during the first Gulf War.

On promotion to vice-admiral and as Chief of Fleet Support, with 24,000 staff and a budget of more than £2 billion, he oversaw the transfer of Rosyth and Devonport dockyards to commercial management and the smooth introduction into service of the Vanguard class submarines.

After leaving the Navy, his success at the Armed Forces Pay Review (1997-2002) led to him being asked by the government to set up a similar body for the Prison Service. The art, he noted, was to reach an annual recommendation on pay that kept the Prison Service and the Prison Officers’ Association equally disgruntled.

Frere was able and well-informed, and at the same time modest, good-humoured and taciturn. Behind his understated demeanour, however, lay a shrewd, tough, character who knew what he had to achieve and quietly got on with it.

Frere had a long-standing connection to the Worshipful Company of Grocers and was master of the company in 2004-05, and chairman of the governors of Oundle (2007-2010).

In 1968 he married Jane Barraclough, who survives him with their two daughters.
=================================================================
1586489843116.png
RIP, Sir Toby & Resurgam.
 
Last edited:
I don't know who compiled the obituary for Toby Frere but some of the information concerning his time in Australia is a bit muddled and misleading. I joined Trump in January 67 in Sydney and I am pretty sure he was the Jimmy. Taciturn was not in SM4 at that time. The only other boat out there was Tabard.
I remember him as a good,fair Jimmy.
 
I don't know who compiled the obituary for Toby Frere but some of the information concerning his time in Australia is a bit muddled and misleading. I joined Trump in January 67 in Sydney and I am pretty sure he was the Jimmy. Taciturn was not in SM4 at that time. The only other boat out there was Tabard.
I remember him as a good,fair Jimmy.
I was still in junior school
 
Lt-Cdr Matthew 'Matty' R Todd (3/5/1924 - 29/1/2020) Submariner & pioneer of S/M escape techniques

An off duty moment for the one-time OIC SETT of the RN S/M School, HMS DOLPHIN
Dated mid-1971 or earlier (eg Before the distinctive Dolphin S/M badges were awarded)

1587827671739.png
"The other half? Oh, go on then..."

BOBDIT
- Most of those 5,000-odd of us who qualified and/or re-qualified (Wet & Dry) in Submarine Escape between '63 & '74 are more likely to remember him as the Tank's eagle-eyed & authoritative 'Master of Ceremonies' surveying his swim boys & their charges (via visual & colourful UW CCTV) from his commanding pool-side throne position.
Overlooking and orchestrating all movement within the 100' S/M Escape Training Tank. whilst casually clad in flip flops, towelling dressing-gown and neck towel, our O-i-C's reassuring presence left us with the distinct impression that in any case of difficulty he'd surely leap straight in & drag the casualty out from the depths to safety - even by the short & curlies if necessary !

Whilst working with L/Cdr Matt on the same team (for a Brazilian SSK project at Vickers. B-in-F) I found that we shared a taste for Grants Glen Fiddich Malt & I was later more than happy to point a bottle in his direction in fair exchange for his RN doeskin greatcoat - Leaving the service he had no further use for it and, re-striped (downwards) it was to keep me smart-looking & warm through a fair few winters over the next 20 years...

===================================== =============================

Photograph, above, & Obituary below from the paywalled DT:

ByTelegraph Obituaries 21 April 2020 • 6:00am

Lieutenant Commander "Matty" Todd, who has died aged 95, a submariner and pioneer of S/M Escape.

Whilst commanding the SETT, where 5,000 men from many nations were trained, he also pioneered the replacement of the 50-year old, shallow-water Davis Submerged Escape Apparatus with a hood and suit capable of effecting escape from depth., besides overseeing the first ascent from depth by a woman.

Todd’s research put him at odds with established medical opinion and the diving community, but in 1970, during a series of trials off Malta, he demonstrated that an escape from a submarine at 600 feet could be achieved safely, thereby turning what had been a “death-dealing stunt into a routine event”.

In parallel, Todd advised the Special Boat Service in the techniques of covert exit and re-entry from submarines and designed a five-man diving chamber.

He also oversaw the first ascent from depth by a woman. When four members of the National Association of Underwater Instructors arrived (to be put through the SETT) well-wrapped in duffel coats. Todd was surprised when the SETT doctor told him that he could tell from their full-plate chest X-rays that one of them was a woman.

“For goodness sake!” Todd expostulated, “That sort of thing surely doesn’t show on an X-ray!” “No”, replied the doctor, “I can tell by reading their names on the plates.” Todd allowed her to continue.

“Todd is a legend who has earned this fine reputation by devotion and dedication to his most exacting job,” one of his last reports read. “His humane understanding of young people has been responsible for overcoming complex, personal fears and his own courage and stamina are public knowledge.”

Matthew Robert Todd born in Soham, Cambridgeshire, on May 3 1924, the son of Jack Todd, MP for Berwick-on-Tweed from 1929 to 1935. He was educated at home, where, despite eyesight problems (which he concealed throughout his naval career), he enjoyed mechanical hobbies, once taking apart a car and reassembling it.

Todd entered Dartmouth in 1938, recalling that it was miserable and unpleasant with nasty food: when his term dispersed to the various parts of the Navy in 1941, he joined the battleship Renown. From 1943, however, he served in submarines including Taku, Syrtis (just before her loss with all hands off Norway) and, under the command of the “difficult and unpleasant” Alastair Mars in the Pacific, Thule.

In the 1950s he commanded his own submarines, including the midget submarine XE-8, and he was the oldest attendee at the centenary in 2017 of the “perisher” course for submarine command.

He boxed in the Navy, sometimes incurring criticism from senior officers who thought it inappropriate for him to fight with ratings, an opinion he ignored.

He was appointed MBE in 1971 and retired from the Navy the following year. He spent some time diving commercially but eventually worked in the Civil Service editing manuals for the Ministry of Defence, in which he could use his love of correct English.

Todd was a great raconteur, but family was the centre of his life. He also kept in contact with his wider family including his term mates at Dartmouth. As a volunteer driver, he often drove people younger than himself to hospital appointments. He maintained his own car into his eighties, made wooden and whale tooth ornaments, and substantial pieces of furniture for St Barnabas, Swanmore. Previously, at St Peter’s, Titchfield, he was churchwarden and editor of the parish magazine.


RIP, Sir & Resurgam.

An autobiography, A Long Time Under Water, was privately printed in 2014.

He married Viv Tetlow (née North). She predeceased him, and he is survived by two stepdaughters, two daughters and a son, Mark, who was MP for South Derbyshire from 1997 to 2010.
 
Lt Col John Weston, born April 11 1928, died March 27 2020

Royal Marines intelligence officer who started a menagerie in Borneo, owing to an injury, he attained the rare privilege of being allowed to salute with his left arm

By Telegraph Obituaries 4 May 2020 • 6:14am

Lieutenant Colonel John Weston, who has died aged 91, was the intelligence officer of 45 Commando, Royal Marines, when it made a first-ever heli-borne assault from the sea at Suez, and later won an MC during the Konfrontasi with Indonesia.

On November 5 1956, as the dust and noise of the helicopters subsided to reveal the De Lesseps statue alongside the Suez Canal, a British fighter delivered a devastating attack, killing several marines and wounding others, including Weston and his commanding officer.

Weston was swiftly evacuated to Malta where an accomplished surgeon reconstructed his right arm, though it never regained full mobility. Subsequently he held the rare privilege of saluting with his left arm. Later he met the pilot, who insisted that he had attacked only after several protests to the forward air controller had been overruled.

On September 12 1966, Weston was commanding C Company, 40 Command in dangerous jungle along the border in Sarawak. Locating an enemy platoon, he executed a textbook pre-emptive strike, using lethal firepower and sound tactics, before withdrawing successfully and without casualties.

The citation for his MC identified his calmness under fire during an intense engagement in which some 30 enemy were killed: “Weston who, although severely handicapped himself by an arm badly wounded at Suez, never spared himself and has set a magnificent example to his men.”

John Culpeper Weston was born on April 11 1928. His father, Eric Culpeper Weston, would serve during the Second World War as a Major-General in the Royal Marines. An ancestor was Thomas Culpeper, beheaded by Henry VIII.

Weston joined the Marines in 1946 and was on amphibious training exercises in 1950 when he was urgently recalled to Eastney Barracks to take command of a detachment of bewildered marines. They were isolated in secrecy before being dispatched with sealed orders to Devonport, to join the frigate Austell Bay, whose captain seemed equally confused. Leaning over the bridge he called out: “Who the hell are you and what do you want?”

After the orders were opened the ship sailed two hours later for the Falklands, to deter one of the first post-war Argentine threats to invade the islands. On arrival in Port Stanley, Weston was presented with a white charger by a welcoming committee who thought this was the proper way for an officer to lead his men into town.

During service in Borneo (1963-66), Weston started a collection of wild animals, including two honey bears, a giant hornbill, several mongeese, a vicious monitor lizard and five pythons.

1588685752432.png
Royal Marines intelligence officer who started a menagerie in Borneo, owing to an injury, he attained the rare privilege of being allowed to salute with his left arm


Covertly shipped to his next posting, Singapore, one of the bears broke loose, but Weston managed to thrust the animal into the back of his car and, with a shaken young daughter beside him, sped off to his quarters at Johore Bahru while the bear rampaged on the back seat. His arrival coincided with a truck carrying the rest of the collection: “It’s OK, darling, I can explain everything,” he told his wife.

Weston subsequently served in the Admiralty, with the USMC in Virginia and in Scotland, and was universally popular and respected. In 1978, however, he took early retirement to assume a management role at the Design Council in London.

For almost 30 years he lived in Liss Forest where he was an active member of the community. A rare blood infection led to the amputation of both legs, which he bore courageously, while insisting that he should live at home to the end.

Weston married, first, in 1951, Pamela Bowden. She died in 1997 and he married, secondly, Jean Bruce, the widow of a brother officer and a former House of Worth model known as “Rowlande”. She died in 2013. He is survived by a son and two daughters.


RIP Royal.
 
Lieutenant Commander Gavin Menzies, born August 14 1937, died April 12 2020

Submariner turned author of far-fetched oceanic histories

By Telegraph Obituaries 14 May 2020 • 7:54pm


Lieutenant Commander Gavin Menzies, who has died aged 82, was a submariner and a banker who, in retirement, turned to writing controversial maritime histories.

Menzies’s long interest in cartography and astronavigation turned into a fascination with Chinese maritime history during a silver wedding anniversary trip in 1991 to Beijing. There he learned about the eunuch Admiral Zheng, who had made a series of voyages in a fleet of giant junks in the early 15th century and whose exploits inspired him to write a book.

Menzies’s first draft, a rambling manuscript, took 11 years to write, and was deemed unpublishable. His agent, Luigi Bonomi, using a ghost writer and a research team, restructured it, resulting in a historical detective story which grew to three times its original length as an avalanche of information poured in about the extent of Chinese voyaging.

A publishing deal was secured at a lecture Menzies gave to a packed Royal Geographical Society. The Daily Telegraph had run an article a week before the lecture which attracted many major publishers to the event.

Menzies believed he had evidence that the Chinese discovered the New World
A representative of Bantam Books made an offer of £300,000 for the worldwide rights to the book, provided that it was accepted on the spot. Bonomi asked for £500,000, an eye-watering sum for a first-time author of a work of non-fiction, and, when this was agreed, Menzies was told moments before he went on stage. “How he carried that lecture off, heaven alone knows,” Bonomi said later.

Menzies’s contentions included claims that transoceanic trade and migration were far older than the eurocentric “Age of Discovery”; that the Jesuits had facilitated an exchange of information between the Chinese emperor and the Pope, and that Christopher Columbus had benefitted from a Chinese map before he sailed to the New World.

Most iconoclastic was the proposition that Admiral Zheng had landed in the Americas, as evidenced by ancient charts which Menzies had seen in China and which contained details which could only have been known if they had been observed at first hand.

The ideas in the book were widely contested, leading historians rejected these ideas and refused to engage with Menzies, though others sided with him, and his interpretation of history was particularly welcomed in China.

However, every attempt to debunk Menzies boosted sales of the book and 1421: The Year China Discovered the World has not been out of print since 2002, running to 79 editions in 29 languages.

On the back of the book’s success, Menzies turned his five-storey north London home into a history machine, the 1421 Foundation, with one room given over to files of evidence on the top floor and a team of four graduates working in the basement.

Three more books followed: 1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance (2009) in which Menzies described the transfer of knowledge between East and West via a maritime silk route, which, he believed, had sparked the inventiveness of the Renaissance, and The Lost Empire of Atlantis: History’s Greatest Mystery Revealed (2011), in which Menzies hypothesised that Atlantis was an empire controlled by the ancient Minoan civilisation.

Who Discovered America?: The Untold History of the Peopling of the Americas (with Ian Hudson, 2013) brought together evidence that the Americas had been populated over thousands of years via multiple seaborne voyages, primarily from Asia.

Rowan Gavin Paton Menzies was born in London, but spent his first years in Hong Kong where his father, Captain GCP Menzies DSO, a submariner, was serving. Young Menzies was educated at Charterhouse and at Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.

Menzies was short-sighted and started his naval career as a supply officer, but he persuaded a reluctant medical fraternity that contact lenses were as good as eyes, and the Admiralty, perhaps influenced by his father’s wartime record, were sympathetic.

On transfer to the seaman branch, he joined “the trade”, and specialised in torpedo and anti-submarine warfare. He served one commission in the missile-carrying nuclear-propelled Resolution, before passing the “perisher” under the future admiral (Sir) Sandy Woodward in 1968.

His one command was the submarine Rorqual in the Far East, when he saw no more need for contact lenses as he could compensate by adjusting the periscope settings. As, according to submarine conventions, the periscope goes down on the captain’s settings, there was a flurried winding of settings whenever anyone else raised or lowered the periscope.

During his naval career, Menzies gained a diploma in nuclear engineering, and read Economics and Law. Though called to the bar, he never practised except once at a friend’s court-martial when his advocacy overturned what everyone expected to be a guilty verdict.

Menzies resigned from the Navy in 1970 to challenge Enoch Powell in his Wolverhampton constituency, standing as an Independent (he gained 777 votes, coming in second last), before joining the merchant bank Singer and Friedlander on a substantial salary.

An intelligent, generous man who conducted himself with great humility, Menzies inspired trust and loyalty in those around him.

In 1966 he married Marcella Marengo, an Italian woman whom he had met after they had both boarded the wrong train on the previous Boxing Day. She survives him with their two daughters.

1589523182052.png
 
Courtesy of Telegraph Obituaries 28 May 2020 • 2:25pm

Rear-Admiral Roger Morris, former Hydrographer of the Navy

During the 1979 Iranian revolution, the scholarly Morris chose an excerpt from the Koran to be painted on the nose of his ship’s helicopter

Rear-Admiral Roger Morris, who has died aged 87, commanded a flotilla of survey ships in the Gulf during the Iranian Revolution and later became Hydrographer of the Navy.

In early 1979, as the Iranian Revolution gained momentum, Morris in his flagship, the hydrographic survey ship Hydra, surveyed the south-eastern Iranian coast for a new seaport at Chabahar, which had been proposed by the Shah. As tensions grew, Morris, a scholar as well as a notable surveyor, who kept a translation of the Koran in his cabin, selected an excerpt from the sacred text to be painted on the nose of the ship’s helicopter.

While construction of the new port facilities faltered and international workers were arbitrarily detained, Morris liaised with the British resident naval officer ashore. He kept his four unarmed ships, in their distinctive white liveries, close inshore as a visible reminder of his presence, until at last the revolutionary authorities began to release their hostages from house arrest.

On his own initiative, Morris seized the chance to pluck several hundred Americans, British and other nationalities from the shores of Bandar Abbas (on the Gulf coast) and from small boats in the Gulf of Oman, and commenced a shuttle across the Gulf to the United Arab Emirates and to American warships further out to sea.

When Morris needed to replenish his ship, Foreign Office representatives in Dubai and Abu Dhabi vacillated, obliging him to make his own arrangements at Muscat. No journalists witnessed events, there was little reporting in the UK press, the thanks of the British government were muted, and no awards were made.

Later that year the US embassy in Tehran was occupied. It was also the end of a long era when the Gulf had been an area of British influence and peace had been maintained by a small squadron of the Royal Navy. Morris had the satisfaction that he had acted in the highest traditions of his Royal Navy predecessors.

1590749794923.png
Roger Morris: during the tensions of 1979 he rescued civilians from the Gulf of Oman

Roger Oliver Morris, a doctor’s son, was born on September 1 1932 and grew up within sight of Devonport dockyard. He was taught at Mount House, Tavistock, before joining Dartmouth in 1946.

He began specialising in hydrography in 1956. After surveys in ships in home waters and the Far East, three months under canvas on South Georgia, and then more surveys in the Indian Ocean and the islands of the South Pacific, his first command, as a lieutenant-commander, was the inshore surveying craft Medusa in 1964.

In 1968-70 he was given command of the brand-new Beagle; but he was rumoured to have been passed over for further promotion when sent to command Hydra on a survey in the Malacca Strait.

There, however, he was called to join the relief operation in East Pakistan after the devastating 1970 Bhola cyclone which killed 500,000 people, his task to find and mark channels for small craft to ferry in food and supplies, and for his success he was promoted to commander.

Subsequently, he commanded Fawn in 1972, Hecla 1975-77 on the west coast of Scotland and at the Jubilee Fleet Review, and Hydra 1978-80.

After the Iranian episode, Morris took Hydra to conduct surveys in the Minches between the Hebrides and the west coast of Scotland, as well as charting a shoal between St Kilda and Harris which he named Whale Rock, for a minke whale which watched over his work. Morris came ashore for the last time in 1980 to go first to the Hydrographic Office at Taunton, and then to Whitehall before being promoted to rear-admiral.

In 1985 he succeeded Rear-Admiral D W Haslam, who had taught him his craft 30 years before, as Hydrographer of the Navy, an appointment first established more than two centuries earlier.

He was made CB and retired to Somerset in 1990, where he wrote Charts and Surveys, in Peace and War (1995). Morris studied heraldry, was an ornithologist and a talented watercolourist, some of whose paintings were used to update Admiralty Sailing Directions.

Rear-Admiral Roger Morris, born September 1 1932, died April 18 2020

RIP, Sir.
 

Latest Threads

Top