ADMIRAL SIR JOHN KERR GCB DL FRIN
09 December 2019
We are very sad to announce that Admiral Sir John Beverly Kerr GCB DL (Qual N 1964) passed away on 2 Dec aged 82.
John Kerr was born in 1937, educated at a primary school in Preston and a new grammar school near Manchester, entered Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth in 1954 and was commissioned in 1957 (He graduated in first place, for which he was awarded HM the Queen’s Gold Medal). He retired from the Navy in 1994.
A navigation specialist, he taught the subject at both Dartmouth and, as the first British Exchange Officer, at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis. He held a wide range of sea appointments, initially responsible for navigation and operations. Subsequently he commanded the frigate ACHILLES, the guided missile destroyer BIRMINGHAM and the aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS. He was later a sea-going Admiral responsible for the operational effectiveness of some 40 ships, together with oversight of operations in the Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war period.
In parallel with these operational tasks there were appointments in the Ministry of Defence to the most senior level principally concerned with strategy and policy, including the size and shape of the Navy, the future equipment programme, the allocation of resources, and intelligence (the last at the busy time of the collapses of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, the independence of Eastern European states and the first Gulf War). His final appointment was as Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command (responsible for non-operational activity throughout the United Kingdom, including the Reserves, training establishments, the naval bases, and links with universities) and as a member of the Admiralty Board during a period of great change in the early 1990s. In this post his flagship was HMS VICTORY, used for representational and ceremonial purposes and where he and his wife gave dinners in Nelson’s Great Cabin.
Since retiring from the Royal Navy John Kerr has been involved at various times in a range of activities including being a member of the Central Committee of Management of the RNLI; Commissioner of the Museums and Galleries Commission; member, then chairman, of the Manchester Museum Committee; and Commissioner, then Vice-Chairman, of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. He has also been heavily involved with universities, including being on the governing body at Lancaster, then at the Victoria University of Manchester. He was a member of the small group which took forward the merger in 2004 of UMIST and the Victoria University, and was appointed the Pro-Chancellor of the resulting University of Manchester from which he retired in 2012 (he was awarded the University’s Medal of Honour). He has also been a member of separate national Independent Reviews dealing with major aspects of personnel matters in the Services, and pay and conditions of service in the Higher Education sector. By way of contrast in 2007 he was appointed by the Secretary of State at DEFRA to membership of the Lake District National Park Authority, and was then its Deputy Chairman until retirement in 2011.
He was awarded the KCB in 1989, advanced to the GCB in 1993 and appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Lancashire in 1995. In 2008 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation in recognition of his contribution to safe navigation during his service with the Royal Navy and subsequently as an offshore yachtsman. He and his wife Anne (a musician, who is also involved in the voluntary and not-for-profit sectors) live near Kirkby Lonsdale. Interests include sailing, travel, music, fell walking and matters historical.
In Sir John's his own words:
'Since retiring in 1994 I have been busy with a wide range of jobs and activities, such as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Museums and Galleries Commission, the RNLI Central Committee of management, the Lake District National Park Authority and in various roles in universities, including being the Pro-Chancellor at Manchester for the last 8 years. I have now genuinely retired from these organisations.
I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation in 2008 and am a fairly active member of its Scottish branch which has provided the opportunity for visits to ships and submarines (and airport control facilities) to see modern navigational features. I am also a member of the Fleet Air Arm Officers’ Association, based on my carrier experience. My wife and I sailed on the west coast of Scotland (and, for one season, in South Brittany) for ten years, mainly in a Vancouver 34. We logged nearly 10,000 miles in that time. Age has now caught up with us and we no longer sail regularly (and the boat has been sold).
There are inevitably chunks of my history which I had to leave out because of lack of space: one which might be of interest is that i was the Commodore of the Royal Naval Sailing Association during the period I was also CINCNAVHOME (1991 – 1994) after which I was appointed a Life Vice Commodore. I’m not active in that role, although my wife and I did a lot of sailing off the west coast in Scotland after retirement. Age has curtailed us in recent years!'
The funeral will be held at 11am on Saturday 14th December at St Mary’s Church, Kirkby Lonsdale. Friends of Sir John are welcome to join the family there, as well as in the Royal Hotel for drinks and light food afterwards. They ask that no flowers to be sent; instead if desired please make donations to one of the charities that were close to Sir John's heart – the Ocean Youth Trust Scotland and the Borders Forest Trust.