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Naval Obituaries A collection of notes on those who have crossed the bar.

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Old 24-08-2009, 16:20
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Default Vice-Admiral Sir David Clutterbuck

Vice-Admiral Sir David Clutterbuck

David Clutterbuck’s naval career included front-line service throughout the whole of the Second World War, and he took part in several of its significant battles.

His career began at the hard school of the training ship Conway, moored in the Mersey primarily for the education of young Merchant Navy officers. On graduation, he was awarded the King’s Gold Medal and won the Torr Prize. Promoted to midshipman in January 1931, he served in the cruiser Sussex in the Mediterranean and, after the normal progression of courses, examinations and promotions, was appointed as a watchkeeping lieutenant in the cruiser Dunedin in the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Defying the dictum that early promotion depended upon “paying attention to detail and marrying late”, Clutterbuck, below the age of entitlement to “marriage allowance”, met his wife Rose Mere Vaile in Auckland and they were married in London in 1937.

After commanding a motor torpedo boat at Portsmouth, he qualified as a specialist navigator and was appointed to the sloop Deptford based at Bombay on the East Indies station, arriving in March 1939. When war broke out, Deptford was recalled and deployed from January 1940 to Liverpool for the defence of Atlantic convoys in the Western Approaches.

Clutterbuck joined the light cruiser Ajax as the navigating officer in May 1940, the ship having been repaired after the close-fought victory over the pocket battleship Graf Spee at the River Plate. In the Mediterranean, Ajax was first engaged with the Italian navy in October when, surprised at night by three torpedo boats, she suffered damage and 35 casualties including 13 killed, her defensive fire sinking two of the opposition. Four Italian destroyers arrived on the scene, Ajax so damaging the Artigliere and Aviere that Artigliere later sank. The C-in-C, Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham was full of praise for Ajax’s resolution and skill, “as this was the first night action by a newly-commissioned ship”.

Ajax then took part in virtually all the major engagements of the Eastern Mediterranean, escorting several convoys to beleaguered Malta, bombarding shore targets at Tobruk, Bardia and Benghazi, landing and then evacuating troops from Greece, including Lieutenant-General Sir Bernard Freyberg, VC, commander of the New Zealand Division.

The cruiser fought fierce night actions against Italian convoys and during the German seaborne invasion of Crete. In March 1941 her radar was useful in Cunningham’s famous night victory off Cape Matapan which resulted in the sinking of three Italian heavy cruisers and two destroyers. She escorted the important “Tiger” convoy of May 1941 to Alexandria with tanks for the Middle East. Ajax was twice damaged by near-misses from the Luftwaffe at the end of May during the inevitable evacuation of Crete, an operation which in Cunningham’s words was “a disastrous period in our naval history” with a terrible toll of sinkings, damage and casualties. But the rescue of 18,000 British and Imperial troops prompted him to remark that it only took two or three years to build a ship but three hundred to build a tradition.

At one point Ajax was one of only two serviceable light cruisers in the theatre. She was withdrawn for a well-earned refit at Chatham, arriving in June 1942.

There was little rest for Clutterbuck, however, who, now a lieutenant-commander, was appointed in October as the navigating officer of the new heavy cruiser Newfoundland. On completion of trials and work-ups, she was deployed in February 1943 to the Mediterranean, where the tide had definitely turned.

Her actions included the bombardment and landings on the island of Pantelleria and the subsequent invasion of Sicily that involved several attacks on towns and coastal installations. Clutterbuck was awarded a mention in despatches for his contribution.

While on passage in July she was torpedoed by the Italian submarine Ascianghi, causing her to have to make for the United States and repairs in the Boston Navy Yard, steering all the way on main engines as her rudders were unusable.

Newfoundland emerged in February 1944 and, having returned to Britain for radar updates, proceeded to the eastern Mediterranean and eventually to Sydney as part of the British Pacific Fleet. Thereafter, awed by the immense size, professionalism and logistic expertise of the US Navy, he assisted in the capture of New Guinea by the Australians in May 1945, the pre-invasion bombardment of Truk and, finally, bombardments of the Japanese mainland of Honshu, Tokyo and Yokohama.

After the dropping of the two atom bombs, he was present at the signing of the Japanese instrument of surrender aboard the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. Newfoundland was then employed collecting and succouring prisoners of war. Clutterbuck was awarded a second mention in dispatches.

Promoted to commander, he commanded the modern Battle-class destroyers Sluys and Cadiz. As a captain, he was appointed naval attaché in Bonn in 1954 and also commanded the 3rd Training Squadron in HMS Zest, based at Londonderry. His final sea command, from 1960 to 1962, was the newly commissioned cruiser Blake with its fully automatic 6in and 3in gunnery armament, the last conventional cruiser to be built for the Royal Navy.

Blake was the flagship of the admiral commanding the Mediterranean flotillas, and a contemporary remarked on Clutterbuck’s sharp intellect, his high standards and his solid but unostentatious professional self-confidence. His courtesy and his gentle good humour made him easy company afloat and ashore. Promoted to rear-admiral in 1963, Clutterbuck was chief of staff to the C-in-C Home Fleet, which subsumed the Nato post of C-in-C Allied Forces Eastern Atlantic. He was appointed CB in 1965.

His final tour as a vice-admiral was deputy to the Nato Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic based in Norfolk, Virginia. As this American admiral was also C-in-C of the US Atlantic fleet, Clutterbuck’s role was primarily to make sure that Nato interests, strategies and war plans — especially those of European nations — were not neglected. He was appointed KBE and retired in 1968.

He became the first director-general of the Association of Masters of Business Administration. He was noted as a talented watercolour painter and played the piano beautifully. In his youth he was tried for the navy rugby team. He skied, and sailed his boat, Starsight, annually until he was 85.

His wife, Mere, died on January 12. Their two daughters survive their parents.

Vice-Admiral Sir David Clutterbuck, KBE, CB, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic, 1966-68, was born on January 25, 1913. He died on December 13, 2008, aged 95
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Old 18-10-2009, 09:36
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ceylon220 ceylon220 is offline
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Default Re: Vice-Admiral Sir David Clutterbuck

I served aboard the frigate ZEST in 56/7 when David Clutterbuck was her captain, he was a Commander at that time,I found him to be a friendly guy,and was always fair when he had defaulters and request men,I was married whilst aboard the Zest and he granted me a weeks leave, my son was born on the day we arrived in Portsmouth 10 months later and apparently he saw the ships telegram from my father in law letting me know of the arrival,he immediately granted leave again without going in front of him to request it, the day that I came back to rejoin her she was lying out in the Solent and I had to wait on Railway Jetty for the ships boat to pick me up,it eventually did with my kit bag and draft orders to EXCELLENT.
All the time that I was aboard that ship I did not realise what a war marvelous record that man had, I am proud to have known him and served with him in peace time waters.
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