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Telegraph: "Commander Ken Frewer, Submariner – Obituary"


War Hero
"Commander Ken Frewer, who has died aged 87, was one of the first of a new elite in the Royal Navy who commanded nuclear-powered, ballistic missile-armed submarines.

Fifty years ago, to maximise the operational time of its new Polaris-carrying submarines, the Admiralty decided that each boat would have alternating captains and crews, and in 1967 Frewer was appointed the first commanding officer of Resolution (Starboard). In command of the Port crew was Commander Mike Henry.

Despite her destructive power, her size of 8,400 tons, and her battleship name, the submariners referred to her as a “boat”. Both crews attended the commissioning ceremony, but Henry contrived to lead on everything related to setting Resolution to work. Henry’s ambitions upset many, while the calm and collected Frewer did much to minimise the wariness of each crew towards the other.

Frewer overcame serious embarrassment in February 1968 during Resolution’s Demonstration and Shakedown Operation (DASO). Henry’s DASO was a complete success, but on Frewer’s turn weather conditions were worse and, while he was at a safe depth, the accompanying destroyer, carrying 35 journalists, ran down Resolution’s 100 ft tall telemetry mast. A replacement mast was fitted and “Reso”, as she was known, successfully completed her second test-firing of Polaris on March 4.

In command Frewer, who as captain of diesel-powered conventionally armed submarines had shown himself a fast-thinking, aggressive, but utterly safe hunter, with exceptional skills at close-quarters underwater manoeuvring, ably turned from poacher to gamekeeper – and proved adept at disappearing into the vastness of the oceans on months long deterrent patrols.

When John Winton, author and Daily Telegraph obituarist, visited Frewer’s boat he found the crew “typically cheerful, cynical and competent – the very best people in the world to serve with”, and he admired Frewer’s approach to his “awesome responsibilities which hardly bear thinking about”.

One of Frewer’s petty officers wrote: “I was honoured to serve with him … he was a tremendous captain, nothing fazed him and he was a true gentleman no matter what the circumstances. His crew would have followed him even into the jaws of death.”

Frewer earned the nickname “Fangio” because during quiet periods on patrol he would set up a Scalextric track, and with a car modified so that it would not run off when taking corners too fast, challenge all comers.

Such qualities have enabled the British deterrent to remain at sea continuously since April 1969.

A doctor’s son, Kenneth David Frewer was born on April 8 1930 in Burton-on-Trent and educated at Shrewsbury School. He entered the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, in 1947. As a midshipman in the cruiser Belfast he visited the war-torn ports of Japan, Hong Kong and China.

In Shanghai, a few weeks before it was occupied by the Chinese Liberation Army, he met his future wife whose family had been interned by the Japanese in 1942.

He specialised in submarines, serving as a lieutenant in 1952-53 with Henry in Alcide and passing the “perisher” in 1958.

From 1958 to 1960 he commanded the submarines Artful and Finwhale and in 1962-63, as commanding officer of the Singapore-based Andrew, he conducted special operations off the coast of Borneo during Kronfrontasi. All were delighted when he was promoted early to the rank of commander.

From 1964 to 1966, a time of sensitive collaboration with the US navy whose technical expertise was so crucial to the success of Polaris, he was the responsible British desk officer on the offices of the Director General Ships at Bath, while Mike Henry served in the US.

To the surprise of many, after appointments in the MoD, Nato and Defence Intelligence, Frewer was not promoted, and he retired in 1979.

He worked briefly for Marconi on a new heavy torpedo, before finding a stronger focus for his talent with people as coordinator for a Help the Aged hospice in Taunton. He drew together a disparate group and moulded them into a well-integrated team under the chairmanship of Charles, Count De Salis, to raise millions of pounds.

Frewer lived for more than 40 years in Upton Scudamore, near Warminster, where he and his wife were deeply involved in the community and he was church warden at St Mary the Virgin. He was appointed OBE in 1972.

In 1952 he married Gillian “Gilli” Sherwin, who survives him with two sons; another son predeceased him.

Commander Ken Frewer, born April 8 1930, died March 23 2018"
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