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R Adm CHD Cooke-Priest CB CVO FRAeS

Published: 16 Apr 2020

The Association has learned of the death of Rear Admiral Colin Herbert Dickinson Cooke-Priest CB CVO FRAeS, on 6 April 2020.

Rear Admiral Colin Cooke-Priest CB CVO FRAeS

Colin Cooke-Priest entered the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, in 1957. After service worldwide in a variety of major warships, he joined the Observer School at the Naval Air Station Hal Far in Malta, in 1962 and gained his 'wings' the following year. Flying anti-submarine helicopters with 814 Squadron in HMS VICTORIOUS and HMS ALBION, he saw service in Aden - during which he suffered his first ditching; the Far East and in Borneo during the confrontation with Indonesia.


After a tour as Operations Officer in HMS RUSSELL, he served in the Royal Australian Navy for a two year exchange appointment with 817 Squadron in the aircraft carrier HMAS MELBOURNE - which included his second ditching. On return he was appointed Senior Observer of 824 Squadron in HMS ARK ROYAL and then as Senior Instructor at the Naval Observer School.


Colin was promoted to Commander in 1973 and in that rank commanded the frigates HMS PLYMOUTH and HMS BERWICK before taking over the 'Future Helicopter' desk in the Directorate of Naval Air Warfare and during which he wrote the first specification for the Sea King replacement - later the Merlin. In 1979 he was appointed Naval Assistant to the Commander-in-Chief Fleet. He was promoted Captain during this appointment and then returned to the Ministry of Defence as Assistant Director of Naval Air Warfare. His subsequent appointments included Director of the Maritime Tactical School and command of the Type 22 frigates HMS BOXER - bringing her out of build, and HMS BRILLIANT (1988) as Captain Second Frigate Squadron and during which, as Senior Naval Officer Middle East, he commanded the Royal Naval 'Armilla' Task Force in the Gulf. He was promoted Rear Admiral in 1989 on his appointment to SHAPE, Belgium as Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff (Operations) and Maritime Advisor to Supreme Allied Commander Europe. He became Flag Officer Naval Aviation in December 1990, the first observer to command the Fleet Air Arm, and served in this appointment until his retirement from the Navy in 1993.


On leaving the Navy he spent five years as the National Director (CEO) of the Trident Trust, an educational charity whose principal activity was placing over 150,000 young people annually in work experience from 60 offices around the Country.

Colin was a Liveryman and Past Master of the Honourable Company of Air Pilots; a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers, a Freeman of the City of London and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He was a Life Vice President of the Fleet Air Arm Officers' Association and a former Trustee of the Aviation Scholarship Trust, the Fleet Air Arm Museum, the RN Historic Flight and Canine Partners (an Assistance Dog charity). Colin was appointed CB in 1993, and CVO and an Extra Gentleman Usher to HM The Queen in 2009. Colin met his wife Sue at RNAS Hal Far, Malta, where she was serving as a Communications Wren; Sue survives him with their two sons and two daughters.

By kind permission of HMS Londonderry website

From References *


Wessex SM925 From VICTORIOUS off Aden whilst changing from ‘Doppler’ to ‘Cable’ mode at night, nose rose and aircraft ditched tail first at full power 10.9.63. (S/L FA Rock & Lt JE Yates injured, Lt CHD Cooke-Priest and AB PJS Speck OK, all picked up by ESKIMO); A/C not recovered.


* FAA helicopters since 1943 by Lee Howard, Mick Burrow and Eric Myall


**Wessex N7-211 was lost on 13 November 1969 in dramatic circumstances east of Jervis Bay. While conducted a stores transfer to the destroyer HMAS Vampire the helicopter winch cable snagged on a projection on the destroyer’s upper deck. Moments later the ship rolled, and the cable snapped and rebounded into the helicopter’s rotor head, causing the Wessex to ditch. The aircrew were all rescued.


**Australian Government website


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