- A.N. Other and NHSA Webmaster
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- June 2003 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
REAR ADMIRAL SIR RICHARD TROUBRIDGE, who died on 9 May 2003 aged 83, was truly one of the remarkable naval career success stories of the twentieth century. He was born into a farming family and was educated at Andover Grammar School in Dorset, UK. In 1935 farming was in the doldrums and he left school at 15 to join the Royal Navy as a Boy Seaman, earning ninepence a day. He was subsequently commissioned in 1940 and served throughout the Second World War at sea. At the end of hostilities with Japan he was in the destroyer HMS Wakeful with the British Pacific Fleet, transporting repatriated prisoners of war to Sydney, under the overall direction of Lady Mountbatten. Troubridge was mentioned in despatches. Here he met Prince Philip, who was the first lieutenant of another ship in the 27th Destroyer Flotilla, when he witnessed the Japanese signing their surrender in Tokyo Bay, after atomic bombs had been dropped on Horishima and Nagasaki.
After the war Troubridge specialised in gunnery and later served in the Korean War. As Staff Gunnery Officer in Singapore he met and married his wife. However, their passage home was interrupted by the Suez crisis in 1956 and they were forced to enjoy a second honeymoon on a troopship which was diverted via Capetown.
Troubridge commanded the destroyer HMS Carysfort (as a commander) in the Mediterranean from 1956 to 1958, then served as second-in-command of the cruiser HMS Bermuda (1958-59) before returning to the gunnery school at Whale Island at Portsmouth, where he was promoted captain. From 1962-64 he commanded the Fishery Protection Squadron, a diverse group of small ships, where he made a lively, noisy and much-respected boss.
In 1967 he was appointed to command the guided missile destroyer HMS Hampshire, which was for several years the flagship of the Western Fleet, where he faced the always difficult problem of accommodating the Admiral’s staff, yet he managed to make Hampshire one of the happiest of ships. On joining he addressed the ship’s company: ‘I understand some of you can play football’. They did for Uncle Tom (as he was affectionately known) and later won the coveted Cock of the Fleet trophy. As a measure of his firm leadership during a disappointing period of mishaps during work-up at Portland, culminating with the crushing of the ship’s sonar dome alongside the jetty at low water, he promptly cleared lower deck of all officers and senior rates to state his dissatisfaction and a crisp warning that no more slipshod conduct would be tolerated – his terse message was received loud and clear, and the ship proceeded on to a highly successful commission, including a deployment round South America.
As Hampshire paid off for refit, Captain Troubridge was promoted Rear Admiral and appointed Equerry to the Queen and as Flag Officer Royal Yachts, where he commanded HMY Britannia from 1970 to 1975, an unusually long-serving and successful term while Britannia was enjoying one of the busiest periods of her life. His proposals for an energetic series of long voyages included one to Vancouver for the Queen’s visit to Canada, the Pacific and Indian Oceans and on to Australia.
In retirement five years later, Sir Charles Court, the Premier of Western Australia, sought him out for the vacant post of State Governor, which he accepted, arriving in 1980, with reassuring memories of his last visit to Perth on Christmas Eve in 1945 (which he had left four days later after a fine but vaguely recollected party!). Sir Charles recalled him as ‘. . . a man who didn’t stand on ceremony, he was very down to earth. He had a bit of an Australian way about him.’ An editorial in the West Australian commended the quiet dignity with which he had served WA and remarked on the responsible, loyal attitude he had shown to his adopted State.
‘On behalf of the Government and people of Western Australia, sincere sympathy is extended to Lady Troubridge and her family on the sad passing of Sir Richard. As Governor of Western Australia from 1980 to 1983 Sir Richard served the State with distinction and is remembered with respect’. Dr Geoff Gallop (WA Premier)