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qprdave
04-09-2009, 13:02
Captain Sir Edward Archdale, Bt

Captain Sir Edward Archdale, 3rd Bt, who has died aged 87, was a submariner and gunnery officer noted for his excellent eye.

In 1942-43 Archdale completed 12 war patrols, mainly in the 600-ton submarine P42, Unbroken, which was commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Alastair Mars. Within moments of surfacing, its three-inch gun would be manned, and Archdale would be able to hit a target while the water was still draining off the boat's casing. His first victim, on April 26 1942, was the Italian sailing vessel Vale Formoso, damaged off Bordighera, Liguria.

Another typical target was a railway at Longobardi in southern Italy. In his book Unbroken: the Story of a Submarine (1953), Mars described what happened when Archdale opened fire: "The shell screamed through the air and exploded with a tremendous crash. A hit, by God! There was a vivid blue flash as the overhead wires were brought down, and in its brilliance I saw the engine detach itself from the coaches and idle down the track.

"Again the gun roared, and again. After five rounds, all of them hits, the carriages and trucks were crackling merrily with dancing yellow fires. The signal lights were out the power was off. Archdale transferred his attention to the engine and methodically blew it to pieces."

Archdale was at the "fruit machine", the submarine's analogue computer, when Mars attacked an Italian squadron in the Ionian Sea, having penetrated the heavy screen of destroyers and aircraft. With one salvo of four torpedoes, the submarine damaged both the heavy cruiser Bolzano and the cruiser Muzio Attendolo.

Archdale was awarded a DSC for his outstanding bravery, skill and devotion to duty.

Descended from a Plantation family in Northern Ireland, Edward Folmer Archdale was born at Portsmouth on September 8 1921. His grandfather had been a Tory MP at Westminster and later a member of the Northern Ireland parliament, becoming the province's minister of agriculture; he was created a baronet in 1928.

Edward's father was a First World War submariner who subsequently became Vice-Admiral Sir Nicholas Archdale, 2nd Bt. He served as an ADC to King George V and was later general inspector with the ministry of home affairs in Northern Ireland from 1931 to 1946.

Teddy Archdale's Danish mother sent him to Copthorne prep school in Sussex, from where he entered Dartmouth in the Rodney term of 1935. He continued his training in the cruisers Vindictive and Edinburgh after war broke out, and in early May 1940 was sent as a midshipman to the destroyer Sabre, under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Brian Dean. On May 30 Sabre made two voyages to Dunkirk, in which she embarked 1,500 men despite damage sustained from heavy air attacks.

After temporary repairs, Sabre made several more trips to the beaches, and on June 2 she answered Vice-Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay's call for volunteers: "The final evacuation is staged for tonight and the nation looks to the Navy to see this through."

By the time Sabre returned to Dover she had brought her tally of soldiers borne to safety to 5,765. Dean was awarded a DSO on June 6 for helping to organise the withdrawal under fire to England of 335,490 officers and men, and Archdale was mentioned in despatches for his part in it.

Six days later Sabre was sent on Operation Aerial, the evacuation of troops and civilians from ports in north-west France and the Bay of Biscay; and on June 23 Archdale helped to carry some 1,400 people from Alderney to Weymouth.

After completing his training in the battlecruiser Hood and the destroyer Bulldog, Archdale volunteered for "the trade".

When his time in Unbroken was up he returned to general service, teaching at the gunnery school, HMS Excellent, and serving in the Naval Ordnance Department. He was gunnery officer of the first-of-class large destroyer Daring and was fleet gunnery officer on the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, from 1956 to 1958.

Archdale was a member of the directing staff of the Royal Naval Tactical School from 1959 to 1962 and then served for two years at the Admiralty. He attended the Joint Services Staff College at Latimer, the Senior Officers' War College at Greenwich, and the Canadian National Defence College at Kingston, Ontario.

His last appointment was as Captain of the Dockyard and Queen's Harbour Master, Chatham, before he left the Navy to work in the somewhat shadowy world of defence sales.

After retiring from the Ministry of Defence, Archdale became involved in local politics in Northern Ireland, favouring a power-sharing agreement between the rival factions. As a councillor at Comber, outside Belfast, he was a strong supporter of the Comber Charity's aim to build better futures for children with disabilities.

Freed from the restraints of service life, Archdale was a trenchant letter-writer to The Daily Telegraph, particularly in defence of the Navy. He described John Nott's proposed cuts in surface ships, which were subsequently scuppered by the Falklands War, as a dazzling sleight of hand.

"A 12 per cent cut in manpower cannot be explained as strengthening our defences," he declared while the loss of two aircraft carriers could not be compensated for by the retention of two land-based Buccaneer squadrons already in service. He remained strongly suspicious of RAF ambitions to secure a disproportionate share of the defence budget.

He also defended the Irish language against suggestions that it was a bogus invention of schoolmasters and clergymen.

A Conservative for much of his life, he sympathised with the philosophy of Social Credit. On moving back to England in his later years, he gave his political allegiance to UKIP.

His former commander Alastair Mars, who won a DSO for his service in Unbroken, rated Archdale "very fair, very precise"; and friends appreciated Archdale's direct and determined character, his strong sense of humour and his ability to defuse the tensest of situations with a flippant remark. His children remember the magic tricks he performed at the breakfast table to persuade them to eat their boiled eggs.

Edward Archdale died on July 31. He married, in 1954, Elizabeth, daughter of Major-General Wilfrid Boyd Fellowes Lukis, Royal Marines. The marriage was dissolved in 1978. One daughter predeceased him, and he is survived by another, Lucinda, and by a son, Nicholas (born in 1965), who succeeds in the baronetcy.

Daily Telegraph