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Rear Admiral Lyn Middleton CB DSO

Published: 12 Dec 2012

The association has learned of the death of Rear Admiral Linley Eric Middleton CB DSO on 3 December 2012, he was 84. He lived  in Surrey. He leaves a widow Pam.

From The Daily Telegraph 12 December 2012

Funeral at All Saints Church, Grayswood, Surrey on Monday, 17th December at 2.30p.m.
No flowers, if desired, donations to Fleet Air Arm Officers' Association or The Salvation Army c/o Luff and Partners of Haslemere on 01428 643524.

Linley Middleton was born in East London, in the Eastern Cape, South Africa,in August 1929. He was educated at Dale College, Kingwilliamstown, South Africa. He then enrolled as a pupil pilot in the South African Air-Force (SAAF), and then entered the Royal Navy, qualifying in 1952 as a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm (FAA). He subsequently served on various ships of the Royal Navy, during which time he took part in the the Suez Canal Crisis (1956).

Middleton then served as commanding officer of No. 809 Squadron, FAA, on board HMS Hermes, a ship he would later command. He thereafter served in varying capacities, including that of commanding officer of HMS Whitbyand Director of Naval Air Warfare (1978-1979). It was in 1980 that this flying sailor, hailing from South Africa, took over command of the aircraft carrier HMSA Hermes which two years later, he would take to battle in the South-Atlantic for the Falkland's War.

Following the Falkland's campaign, Middleton then served as Assistant Chief of Naval Staff, Operations, (1983-1984), before being promoted Rear-Admiral in 1984, and appointed Flag officer, Naval Air Command. Rear-Admiral Linley Middleton retired from the Royal Navy in 1987.

By Peter Hore from The Daily Telegraph

Rear-Admiral Linley Middleton, who has died aged 83, was the last captain of the strike carrier Hermes, flagship of the Task Force which won the Falklands conflict 30 years ago.

Middleton was appointed in 1980, while she was being refitted at Portsmouth with a 12-degree ski-jump to operate Sea Harriers . But in June 1981, a few months after she had emerged from the dockyard, Middleton learned that under the 1982 Defence Review his ship was to be scrapped. It required all Middleton’s leadership skills to reconcile his crew to this development, and he had just sent the ship’s company and the aircrew on Easter leave when Argentina invaded the Falklands. Middleton returned from his holiday in the Mediterranean, and in the course of a single weekend recalled his crew and stored his ship so that she was ready to sail three days later, on April 5 1982.

Hermes’s Sea Harriers had been increased from five to 12, and they were lined up on the flightdeck as she left Portsmouth to the cheers of crowds. In mid-Atlantic Hermes was designated the Task Force’s flagship, and Middleton became senior aviation adviser to the Task Force commander.

On April 21, Hermes made her first contact with the enemy when Middleton launched a Sea Harrier to investigate an Argentine Boeing 707 which was monitoring the progress of the British fleet. The Sea Harrier, though fully armed, had explicit orders not to open fire but the successful interception proved sufficient to deter further such reconnaissance flights.

During the 10 weeks of hostilities, Hermes’s air group was further strengthened to 16 Fleet Air Arm Sea Harrier fighters, 10 ground-attack Harriers of the RAF, and 10 Sea King helicopters. With this complement of aircraft Hermes took part in every type of operation during the Falklands conflict: air defence, ground attack, anti-submarine operations, and troop-lift, including Special Forces missions and air-sea rescue.

Between the first aerial combat on May 1 and the last on June 8, Sea Harriers from Hermes shot down 13 Argentine aircraft and destroyed three more on the ground. She also bombed and strafed the spy trawler Narwal, which, after capture, sank on May 10; the carrier’s helicopters also took part in the attempted salvage and subsequent evacuation of the destroyer Sheffield.

When Hermes returned to Portsmouth after an absence of 108 days, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was flown onboard to congratulate Middleton and his ship’s company. For his part, Middleton was modest about their achievements: “It was all absolutely routine, daily attacks, nothing untoward,” adding that “The battle was won on the ground, but they couldn’t have done it without us.” He was awarded a DSO.

Linley Eric Middleton was born in East London, in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, on August 17 1929 into a family which had settled in the early 19th century . After attending Dale College, King William’s Town, he did national service in the South African Army, then transferred to the South African Air Force, with which he learned to fly. In 1952 he joined the Fleet Air Arm.

Over the next 11 years he served in the carriers Indefatigable, Centaur, Bulwark, Eagle, Victorious and Ark Royal, with a brief break in the frigate Mounts Bay to qualify for his bridge watchkeeping ticket.

Middleton displayed great personal bravery during the course of 1956 when, flying Sea Hawk jet fighter-bombers in 897 Naval Air Squadron from Eagle, he almost drowned on three occasions. On July 7 his Sea Hawk suffered an engine failure while in inverted flight over the Mediterranean; he bailed out and was rescued by helicopter. On August 4 his Sea Hawk caught fire as he was being launched from the deck of Eagle, and, too low to eject, he had to ditch . Then, on October 12, his Sea Hawk fell into the sea after the catapult had failed as he was taking off. On the last two occasions the aircraft quickly sank, but Middleton had the presence of mind to stay in the cockpit until the ship had run over him, releasing the cockpit hood only when he could see that he was in the ship’s wake. As he bobbed to the surface on the first occasion, however, he looked certain to be run down by the rescue destroyer — but its bow wave pushed him aside. After the second ditching, he was unconscious by the time the rescue helicopter landed him on to the flightdeck and he was resuscitated by the ship’s doctor.

None of these misadventures discouraged him, and during his career he flew 2,643 hours and made 455 deck landings and 342 catapult launches. The many types he piloted included the Sea Fury ground-attack fighter; the Sea Hawk jet, on ground attack missions during Suez; the Scimitar day-fighter; and the Buccaneer low-level bomber.

In 1964-65 he taught young officers at Dartmouth to fly the Tiger Moth biplane, and in 1966-67 he commanded 809 Naval Air Squadron in Hermes, when the ship was still equipped to fly fixed-wing aircraft.

Unusually for a man of such vigorous action, Middleton was equally successful as a desk officer in the Ministry of Defence (1968–69) and on the staff of the Flag Officer, Naval Air Command from 1971 to 1973; he was chief staff officer to Flag Officer Carriers and Amphibious Ships (1975–77) and Director Naval Air Warfare in 1978–79, when the Sea Harrier was brought into service.

He was also captain of the frigate Whitby (1970–71), and of the 2nd Frigate Squadron, and commanding officer of the frigates Undaunted and Apollo (1973–75).

After commanding Hermes, Middleton was Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Operations) in 1983–84 and Flag Officer Naval Air Command from 1984 to 1987, when he retired from the Navy and became managing director of Robert Maxwell’s British International Helicopters. He was appointed CB in 1986.

Linley Middleton married, in 1965, Pamela Mannerings (née Lewis), who survives him with his three sons .

Rear-Admiral Linley Middleton, born August 17 1929, died December 1 2012


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