Obituary: Rear-Admiral Sir Kenneth Buckley

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The Independent Online
Kenneth Robertson Buckley, naval officer, born 24 May 1904, Commander 1942, Captain 1949, Rear-Admiral 1958, ADC to the Queen 1956-58, Director of Engineering and Electrical Training of the Navy and Senior Naval Electrical Officer 1959-62, KBE 1961, married 1937 Bettie Dugmore (one son, two daughters), died Lee-on-Solent 28 August 1992.

I FIRST MET Kenneth Buckley when I joined HMS Marlborough in Electrical Training School at Eastbourne in 1945. I was a Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Midshipman and he was the commander of the establishment, and having just been through the training establishments of HMS Royal Arthur and HMS Glendower with their intimidating routines, to be welcomed by the gentle-giant figure of Commander Buckley, as he then was, gave one a sense of well-being and security, a feeling of belonging and, for the first time since I joined the Royal Navy, a feeling of equality.

He was an officer and a gentleman, who achieved results from those under his command by kindness and encouragement. He was a very private person but, at the same time, shrewdly inquisitive into the welfare of others and his detailed knowledge of those under his command was an outstanding feature of his personality.

Buckley was a pre-war and wartime torpedoman who figured prominently in the formation of the Electrical Branch of the Royal Navy after the war. Until the formation of the 'L' (Electrical) Branch, all electrical equipment aboard Royal Navy ships had been the responsibility of the Torpedo Branch, but the speed and complexity of electrical and electronic developments at that time made the separate formation of the Electrical Branch an obvious necessity.

Torpedo officers had executive rather than technical status, and since this was considered to be superior, because of the power of command that it encompassed, for many torpedomen the choice of a change to a non-executive status was cause for concern and doubt. For Buckley, although surrounded by many ex-RNVR 'boffins' with great technical ability, there was no hesitation concerning his change to the Electrical Branch, and he smoothly spearheaded many of the radical changes necessary from the pre- electronic era of the Torpedo Branch and the sophistication of the impending electronic era.

Upon the inception of the Electrical Branch on 1 February 1947, the inevitable split with Torpedo Branch occurred - the home of Torpedomen remained at HMS Vernon, that of the Electrical Branch became HMS Collingwood at Fareham, on Portsmouth Harbour, where Buckley was completely involved in the enormous development of that establishment.

He was then made the Fleet Electrical Officer of the Home Fleet, first in HMS Implacable and then in HMS Vanguard. Further expansion of the Electrical Branch led to the formation of a training school totally concerned with Electrical and Electronic developments in the Fleet Air Arm - HMS Ariel at Warrington, on Merseyside. This establishment was geographicaly fragmented into three separate camps, and it was decided to move the whole into a single unit at Worthy Down, near Winchester. Buckley was the architect of this move and on completion of this task he returned to HMS Collingwood as Officer Commanding. He was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral in 1958 and soon after became Director of the Electrical Branch at a time of exciting electronic developments, both in ships and aircraft.

Kenneth Buckley's qualities of kindness and concern continued throughout his retirement and he became actively involved in Soldiers Sailors Air Force Families Association (SSAFA). When I saw him just a few days ago, his questions still revealed the tremendous care he felt for others.

(Photograph omitted)