Vice-Admiral Sir Arthur Pedder

Vice-Admiral Sir Arthur Pedder

This appeared in The Times in 1995:
Vice-Admiral Sir Arthur Pedder, KBE, CB, Commander, Allied Naval Forces Northern Europe. Born on July 6, 1904. Died on June 22 1995, aged 90.
 
Beginning his seagoing career in national service in big ships just after the First World War, Arthur Pedder, transferred to naval aviation in the 30s and rose to become Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers as his penultimate appointment, in the 1950s. In the intervening period he had seen the Fleet Air Arm escape from the control of the Royal Air Force, under which it languished in comparative neglect, and start to be acknowledged as playing a central role in naval operations. It owed this to such wartime actions as the destruction of the Italian fleet at Taranto and the crippling of the German battleship Bismarck. Arthur Reid Pedder was the son of John Pedder, a distinguished civil servant who, as a principal assistant secretary in the Home Office department in charge of licensing, had been responsible for the experiment of state management of licensed premises in Carlisle and Invergordon. Arthur Pedder joined the Royal Navy at Osborne College at the age of 13 in 1917. Despite misgivings about a career in a service subject to the anomieís of the ill-starred Geddes of the day, he passed out from Dartmouth in 1921. He served as a midshipman in the battleship Valiant in the Mediterranean and then in the cruiser Cape Town in the Caribbean. While a lieutenant in the battleship Malaya he qualified as a French interpreter and in 1930 took the unusual step of volunteering to become observer in the Fleet Air Arm. Throughout much of the Fleet Air Armís history, recruitment for the backseat role of "looker" or observer, not glamorous but tactically every bit as important as the pilot, had been through pressed men rather than volunteers. After being awarded his qualifying wings, Pedder was appointed in 1931 to the aircraft carrier Courageous, a converted cruiser which was at that time the first carrier to be fitted with flight deck arrester wires, though not with crash barriers. However, the landing speed of the Fairey III F biplane onto a deck that was steaming rapidly into wind made the impacts of those days far less hazardous than was the case later. A tour in the cruiser Sussex, again in the Mediterranean, was followed by a return to Courageous on the staff of the Rear-Admiral Aircraft Carriers, Home Fleet and a similar post in the Eagle on the China station. Promoted commander in 1937, he was in the Naval Air Department of the Admiralty during the critical period when the control of the Fleet Air Arm was passed from the RAF to the Royal Navy, and maritime strategic thinking was beginning to recognise the importance of air power. The outbreak of war accelerated the expansion of naval aviation, in technique, technology and numbers. Pedder coped with these challenges until posted in 1940 for two years to the cruiser Mauritius as second-in-command. Mauritius operated in the East Indies and Pacific theatres, narrowly escaping on one engine and crowded with civilian families to Ceylon from the Japanese invasion of Singapore in early 1942. Mauritius subsequently escorted convoys against German commerce raiders throughout the Indian Ocean and the South Atlantic. A further tour in the Naval Air Department was rewarded at the end of the war by promotion to captain and command of the escort carrier Khedive. Pedder used to recall his unhappiness at having to return this vessel to the United States Navy at the end of the war. When commanding the cruiser Phoebe in the Mediterranean in 1947, Pedder took part in the politico-military operations designed to prevent Marshal Tito, the Yugoslav leader, from absorbing Trieste. His post-war career continued in the Admiralty and, from 1950 to 1952, as fourth naval member of the Australian Commonwealth Naval Board. This post, illustrative of the contemporary relationship between the Royal Navy and its younger sister services in the Commonwealth, was concerned with getting a fledgling aviation policy for the Royal Australian Navy and was perhaps the tour that Pedder enjoyed the most. Promotion to rear-admiral saw Pedder appointed as Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff, 1953-54, and Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers, 1954-56, in overall control of the squadron consisting of the carriers Eagle, Ark Royal, Centaur and Albion. This was the period which saw the introduction into the Navy of the angled flightdeck, the deck landing mirror sight and the steam catapult. As a vice-admiral, Pedder's final tour of duty was as the naval commander for all Nato naval forces in the northern region, based at Oslo. He retired in 1959, being appointed KBE. A man of unaffected modesty and charm, Pedder took somewhat uneasily to the world of commerce and spent some three or four years trying to find a niche. From 1961 he was for two years the bursar of Braeboeuf Manor, the College of Law at Guildford, until a deep-seated need to get back to the land after a lifetime at sea drew him into farming. For the next 16 years he built up his farm near Godalming, a very successful enterprise of some two hundred acres of beef-rearing. Throughout his life he was an active sportsman, fishing in Norway and playing polo at Malta both when a young officer and later as a rear-admiral. He is survived by his wife Dolly, whom he married in 1934, and their two sons.
 
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