Obituary: Lt Ronald Seddon

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RONALD SEDDON was very much a product of the times into which he was born in 1917. He was just old enough to benefit from Liverpool's enlightened secondary school post-war programme and fortunate that his family lived where they did, as this brought him under the tutelage of the city's finest headmaster, R.F. Bailey, at Quarry Bank School.

He was a younger schoolfriend of my brother, who was 10 years older than me, and I remember that Seddon captained his House swimming team, played cricket for the School Second XI and made a sufficient name for himself at soccer in the First to turn out for Liverpool's reserves.

He left immediately after gaining his School Certificate, seeking work as the Depression settled on the area. After leaving school he started to make a career at the Liverpool Playhouse, then approaching the height of its standing in the repertory world. He was something of an idol to those still at school.

Seddon typified the generation which sooner or later was absorbed into the Second World War: better educated than their parents in the First and much more sensibly mobilised. The Navy, anxious not to have a manpower surplus to requirements when the war ended - as they had had in 1919 - recruited almost all the men it needed into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, to the chagrin of some of that body's pre-war members. Seddon was clearly a potential officer, and spent the minimum time on the lower deck, specialising as a wireless telegraphist before being commissioned in 1942.

Thereafter he served out the war in Coastal Forces where the relationship between the RN and the RNVR was particularly close. He soon graduated from First Lieutenant of a Harbour Defence Launch to command of the seagoing Motor Launch 145, based at Lowestoft for the defence of East Coast conveys. In company with ML 150 she sank the German E-boat S 96 in September 1943; Seddon picked up 13 German prisoners and was mentioned in despatches.

His career blossomed in the world of what some called cloak-and-dagger work but which were officially Irregular Operations under their own Deputy Director in the Operations Division. Based near Dartmouth on the Helston River, and trying not to look too pusser, too much like the RN, they operated in Fairmile "Dog" boats. These were modified for the high-speed transport of individuals such as Special Operations Executive (SOE) and Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) agents, escaping aircrew and other "Joeys" (passengers) whose names were seldom known and never mentioned.

Seddon's first trip, in the misnamed Motor Torpedo Boat 718 which now lacked torpedo tubes, was a joint operation in April 1944 with MGB 502 - which still had her guns - when six agents and their baggage were safely and accurately landed on the Brittany coast. At the same time 10 individuals were retrieved. Three German patrol vessels interfered with their return until crafty signalling misled them into friendly silence.

In May, MTB 718 carried out the unit's first Norwegian mission, collecting two SIS agents and their native hosts; fortunately fog compensated for the shortness of the nights. The next few missions were again to France; on one, the First Lieutenant and two seamen were perforce left behind because of a dragging anchor and a duff radio set, but they made their way home safely within the month.

That September Seddon successfully landed ammunition and stores west of Lorient on the Brittany coast for the Forces Francaises de l'Interieur (FFI), but with questionable wisdom and in clear breach of security succumbed to a request for fire support in a skirmish. He got an unexpectedly bloody nose and was fortunate in extricating his damaged boat from German defence forces. He was even more fortunate that his squadron Commanding Officer was on board; the latter's appreciation of the Nelson touch made the point and pre- empted further comment.

Seddon made five more Scandinavian trips, all hairy but the last the worst: he was lucky as well as skilled in February 1945 when despite the advice of native pilots he went into the Skagerrack to land agents and supplies for which he was awarded the DSC. His school Roll of Honour also credited him with a little-known Croix de Guerre, not suprisingly in view of his many clandestine trips to the enemy occupied coasts of France.

After the war he married and worked at his father-in-law's toy-making firm, eventually taking over the running of it.

Ronald Franklin Seddon, naval officer: born Liverpool 14 December 1917; married 1946 Luca Kaplan (died 1969; two sons, one daughter); died London 18 October 1998.

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