WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2008-06 > 1214134255
From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [W-OBITS] WALTERS: John William Townshend Walters 2008
Date: Sun, 22 Jun 2008 12:30:55 +0100
Rear-Admiral John Walters
Last Updated: 11:43PM BST 09/06/2008
Naval barrister who persuaded Mrs Thatcher that the QE2 should be
requisitioned for the Falklands war.
Rear-Admiral John Walters, who has died aged 82, was a member of the elite
body of naval barristers whose careers alternate between legal and supply
In addition to being involved in several legal causes clbres, he was
responsible during the Falklands War for organising the transport of
everything from lavatory paper to new helicopters to the South Atlantic.
His single most significant task was to take over from John Nott, the
Defence Secretary, that of explaining to Margaret Thatcher why the liner
QE2, which was returning home from a cruise, should be taken up from trade
to transport 5th Infantry Brigade to the conflict.
The military members of the war cabinet were only reluctantly persuaded that
the unit would be needed, and there was considerable unease about the
publicity which would result if the world's greatest passenger ship was
sunk - as was thought quite likely.
A preliminary call indicated that the prime minister would give her assent.
But when Walters arrived at 10 Downing Street Mrs Thatcher began by saying
that she did not want the ship to go. Walters replied that there was nothing
else suitable available, and then suggested that they go down to the Board
of Trade to check.
"If that is what it takes," was the prime minsterial response.
Walters never attracted publicity as a serving officer. But shortly after
being called to the Bar by Middle Temple in 1956 he was involved in
preparing the papers for a controversial case on Malta.
Lieutenant-Commander Christopher Swabey was convicted of indecent assault
and dismissed the Service by a court martial after it was alleged that he
had stroked a young officer's thigh in a taxi while travelling back from
Walters, who was on the island at the time, was convinced that the
conviction was unsound, and several times found the case on his desk during
the next 16 years, before a courts martial appeal court, presided over by
the Lord Chief Justice, quashed the conviction.
In 1971 Walters was judge advocate at the trial for mutiny of sailors in the
minesweeper Iveston, the last occasion on which such a charge has been
brought in the Royal Navy.
Five of the ship's 33 crew members refused duty while at anchor, singing
Irish songs outside the wardroom and imitating characters from the Mutiny on
the Bounty, while one of their number struck a petty officer. The ratings
were found guilty.
As chief naval judge advocate, based at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich,
Walters was then responsible for bringing Wrens under the Naval Discipline
Act, so they could be fully integrated into service at sea.
He also pressed for the Navy's own barristers to be trained to provide
guidance for operational commanders on the laws of war and of the sea. In
1980-81 he was part of the British delegation to the United Nations
Convention on the Law of the Sea, making a significant contribution to its
The son of a Crown agent, John William Townshend Walters was born at
Guildford, Surrey, on St George's Day 1926, and was head boy at John Fisher
School, Purley. A dislocated hip meant that he wore a calliper during his
early years, but when a small boy he drew a picture of a boat and announced
that he wanted to be an admiral.
On entering the Navy at Eaton Hall, Cheshire, he scored the highest marks in
his entrance exams. His poor eyesight meant that he could only be a
"pusser", but, while serving as a junior officer in the battleship King
George V at the end of the war, his action station was so high up in the
ship's superstructure that it allowed him to identify enemy planes.
The ship was in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrendered, and Walters dined
out ever afterwards on his recollection of the American commander, Admiral
Chester Nimitz, sending a signal ordering the mainbrace to be spliced, and
then receiving back from King George VI the order: "Splice the mainbrace!"
Although this is now an expression used only in the American navy, which is
dry, two extra rations of rum were issued to British sailors that day.
Walters was secretary to Captain Charles Addis in the cruiser London when
she was hit by Communist Chinese artillery while trying to reach the frigate
Amethyst trapped on the Yangtse river in 1949. He was then marked out as a
high flyer when serving on Lord Mountbatten's staff in the Mediterranean.
While serving at the Admiralty, he was called to the Bar by Middle Temple.
In addition to his legal duties, Walters was secretary to the Naval
Secretary and then to the Chief of Fleet Support; he was Captain, Naval
Drafting, and director, Naval Administration Planning, before finally
serving as Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (personnel and logistics) during
the Falklands War.
Fair-minded, even-tempered and a reliable friend with an excellent sense of
humour, Walters was universally admired for his strong intellect and
professionalism. He was a part-time chairman of industrial tribunals. A
devout Roman Catholic, he was a visitor at Wandsworth and Winchester
prisons. He also owned a yacht called Lady Macbeth.
John Walters, who was appointed CB in 1984, died on May 7. He is survived by
his wife, Margaret Sarah Patricia Jeffkins, along with their daughter and
|[W-OBITS] WALTERS: John William Townshend Walters 2008 by "Peter McCrae" <>|