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Rear-Admiral Hugh Edleston

Hugh Eldeston

Rear-Admiral Hugh Edleston, who has died aged 67, became a cool-headed, and highly successful commanding officer of several warships after serving during the Falklands conflict.

Source: The Telegraph

On the morning of June 12 1982, off the Falklands, Edleston was the senior warfare officer on watch in the operations room of the destroyer Glamorgan. During the night Glamorgan and two frigates had given gunfire support to the Royal Marines ashore, her ship’s company had just fallen out from action stations, and she was preparing to depart for her daytime duty of giving anti-aircraft cover to the fleet away to the east.

Then at about 0626, a flash was seen from the shore but was assessed as tracer. On the bridge Lieutenant Ian Inskip began to manoeuvre Glamorgan violently as, almost simultaneously, a further flash was seen, and a radar echo and an Exocet homing radar were detected in the operations room. Edleston’s quick reactions, deep in the heart of the ship, enabled him to alert all weapons and sensors, to give a general warning to prepare for a missile hit and, in the few seconds of the Exocet’s flight, to fire a Seacat surface-to-air missile.

His actions helped to minimise the Exocet’s lethality when it slammed into Glamorgan. Under the force of the explosion, the ship heeled over, fires broke out, and the lights flickered, but Edleston at his command console managed the confusion with calmness and skill. His accurate and timely reactions and his advice to others, including the captain on the bridge, was key to maintaining the ship’s fighting ability and to her survival.

Hugh Anthony Harold Greswell Edleston was born into a naval family on January 24 1949 and educated at Wellington College, where in later life he became a governor.

He entered Dartmouth in 1967, qualified as an advanced warfare officer in 1980, and became one of two Senior Air Warfare Officers in Glamorgan when she emerged from a refit in late 1980. After trials and work-up she was designated as the flagship of a small British task group sent to the Gulf, under the command of the Flag Officer First Flotilla, Rear-Admiral “Sandy” Woodward. Edleston brought his skills into play to make Glamorgan a highly capable flagship, ensuring that the crew of the operations room reached a level of proficiency consistent with Woodward’s high standards. This enabled the admiral to obtain maximum advantage from a series of exercises with an American battle group led by USS Coral Sea, which examined anti-carrier operations, anti-surface warfare, and utilising a submarine in close support. All these scenarios were later to be critical to success in the Falklands.

It was as a commanding officer, however, that Edleston was to excel. He was first lieutenant of the destroyer Southampton, under Captain David Dobson and then Christopher Morgan, and with his leader frequently away on visits to other ships, Edleston was able to hone his command skills.

Subsequently his own command of the destroyer Glasgow (1986-88) was a resounding success. The ship deployed to the Caribbean where she took part in counter-narcotics patrols with the US Coast Guard. There were also 24 flag-waving visits to the islands, including a rare opportunity to call at Haiti, shortly after the Papa Doc regime was overthrown.

Between 1996 and 1998 Edleston commanded Exeter and Cardiff and was a highly respected captain of the 5th Destroyer Squadron. Professionalism with a sense of fun was his mantra. He was equally at home in the operations room, in action, or on exercise, meeting his sailors on their mess decks, or entertaining VIPs. He also masterminded a memorable squadron ball held across the flight decks of four ships in Portsmouth.

Edleston’s desk jobs were equally successful, at the navigation school, HMS Dryad (1992-95), with responsibility for military assistance to the Middle East, and (1998-2001) as director of public relations for the Royal Navy. He enjoyed responding to the 24-hour demands of the media, gave firm direction on increasing the Navy’s profile, and proved adept at briefing ministers.

Promoted to rear-admiral, Edleston spent two years (2001-3) as commander of the UK Task Group. Then from 2002 to 2004 he was military adviser to the high representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Paddy Ashdown, with a special remit to integrate the armies of the former warring factions, and where he proved to be an exceptionally diligent “safe pair of hands”.

Edleston’s wife also played a significant role in the multinational charity Hope and Homes for Children which, during his time in Sarajevo, changed its focus from rebuilding children’s orphanages to closing them down and reuniting children with their birth families, or placing them with foster parents.

On retirement in 2004 Edleston was a consultant to several international defence and non-governmental organisations, including Transparency International, set up to counter corruption in the international defence and security sector.

Edleston’s interests included The Daily Telegraph crossword, annual visits to the Brussels jazz festival and sports cars, the latest being a deep blue AC Cobra.

In 1973 Edleston married Lynne Taylor; she survives him with their son and daughter.

Rear Admiral Hugh Edleston, born January 24 1949, died June 13 2016