Obituary: Air Chief Marshal Sir Neville Stack

Thomas Neville Stack, air force officer: born Sidcup, Kent 19 October 1919; served North Atlantic 1939-45; Coastal Command 1945-52; Transport Support in Far East (Malaya Ops) 1954-59, (Borneo Ops) 1962-65; AFC 1957; Deputy Captain, Queen's Flight 1960- 62; CVO 1963; CBE 1965; Commandant, RAF College Cranwell 1967-70; CB 1969, KCB 1972; UK Permanent Military Deputy, Cento, Ankara 1970- 72; AOC-in-C, RAF Training Command 1973-75; Air Secretary 1976-78; Air ADC to the Queen 1976-78, Gentleman Usher to the Queen 1979-89, Extra Gentleman Usher 1989-94; Director-General, Asbestos International Association 1978-89; married 1955 Diana Todd (one son, one daughter); died London 26 January 1994.

NEVILLE STACK was one of that select band of pre-war Cranwell- trained officers who survived the Second World War and later rose to the highest ranks of the Royal Air Force. Essentially a maritime aviator, he was rarely involved in

policy-making but made his mark in several important operational appointments and subsequently as a key figure in RAF training.

Born at Sidcup, in 1919, 'Jimmy' Stack was the son of an air pioneer who set up several long-distance records. He entered the RAF College Cranwell as a flight cadet in 1937, and on graduating in 1939 was awarded the Sword of Honour. He was immediately selected for Coastal Command where he spent most of the war piloting one of the great instruments of victory in the Battle of the Atlantic, the Sunderland flying boat. Serving with 201 and 204 Squadrons and with 2 School of General Reconnaissance he flew from bases as far apart as the Shetlands and West Africa, yet on his own admission never saw a U- boat. Such unspectacular, tedious but always demanding patrolling was the lot of most Coastal Command crews, and it was essential in combating the U-boat peril, described by Churchill as the only thing that really frightened him during the war.

For several years afterwards, Stack remained in the maritime role, serving on the staff at Headquarters Coastal Command and also as Chief RAF Instructor at the Joint Anti-submarine School, Londonderry. Here, working alongside the Royal Navy and often flying the Lancaster, he helped develop the techniques and tactics so necessary to counter the rapidly developing Soviet submarine threat.

In 1954 came a change of scene when he was appointed to command the Far East Transport Wing, based in Singapore at Changi. Here the main task of his Dakota and Valetta squadrons was to support the army's counter-insurgency operations in Malaya by providing communications, dropping and landing supplies, delivering leaflets and evacuating casualties. The eventual success of the long Malayan campaign owed much to air transport, and for Stack's own part during his two-year stint he was awarded the Air Force Cross in 1957.

This experience was now put to use at Headquarters Transport Command, where he worked with the Parachute Brigade and the Air Transported Brigade on mobile operations. In 1958, following the assassination in Iraq of King Faisal, he commanded the transport forces in Cyprus which delivered the Parachute Brigade to Jordan in order to protect King Hussein.

Three years later, after a spell as Deputy Captain of the Queen's Flight serving under Sir Edward Fielden, he returned to the Far East for his last operational appointment. He served as senior Air Staff Officer at headquarters 224 Group, based at Seletar, for the first two years of the Confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia. His group was responsible for the air support of the British troops seeking to protect the Borneo territories against Indonesian incursions, and air supply - with helicopters of particular importance - was central to their operations. Indonesian Confrontation was a classic example of the careful application of limited force and the subsequent pattern of events in South-East Asia owes much to its success.

Stack was back home by 1965, served a period at Flying Training Command, and in 1967 - to his delight - returned to Cranwell as Commandant, a post for which his relaxed, extrovert personality was especially suited. It was his diplomatic skills that were used next, when he went to Ankara in 1970 as United Kingdom Permanent Military Deputy to the Central Treaty Organisation and had to cope with the politico-military problems of a major international alliance.

There followed three years as Commander-in-Chief of Training Command, where he was responsible for all aspects of RAF training, and from 1976 until his retirement in 1978 he was the last four-star incumbent of the post of Air Secretary, in which he oversaw the careers of all RAF officers. This was a post for which his long and varied RAF experience and his ability to get on with people were eminently suitable.

On retirement he became Director General of the Asbestos International Association but always found time to retain his links with the Service, particularly as an enthusiastic and influential President of the Old Cranwellians' Association.

The RAF will remember him for his dignified bearing; his gentle yet effective style of leadership; his great personal charm; his approachability; his kindness. It was always a pleasure to be in his company.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Recruitment Genius: HR Advisor

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our Client has been the leader ...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project