Admiral Sir Walter Couchman

The Times 5th May 1981

Career in naval aviation

Admiral Sir Walter Couchman, KCB, CVO, DSO, OBE, a former Vice-Chief of Naval Staff, died on May 2 at the age of 76.

Walter Thomas Couchman was born in India in March, 1905, and entered RN College, Osborne, in 1918. He specialized as an Observer in Naval Aviation and also gained a pilot’s licence. Many of his appointments were in aircraft carriers or in Naval Air Departments or establishments.

He was serving as a Commander in the Air Materials Division at the Admiralty at the beginning of the Second World War, and was appointed OBE in 1941, for work performed while in this post.

On leaving the Admiralty at the conclusion of this appointment, Couchman, while still serving as a commander, took command of HMS Veteran, a destroyer of the 6th Escort Flotilla. He also became Senior Officer of this Flotilla, and while in this command took part in convoy operations, being awarded the DSO for services in the Battle of the Atlantic. In 1941 he became Staff Officer (Plans) on the Staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean.

After promotion to captain in December, 1942, Couchman returned to the Admiralty as Naval Assistant (Underwater Weapons) to the Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff, but within a year he went to Lee-on-Solent as Chief Staff Officer to the Flag Officer Air (Home), which appointment he continued to hold until the end of the war in Europe.

In 1946 he took command of the aircraft carrier Glory, serving on the East Indies station. In the following year, he returned to the Admiralty again, this time as Director of Air Organisation and Training. In 1950 he took command of the Naval Air Anti-Submarine School at RN Air Station, Eglinton, Northern Ireland.

In the acting rank of rear-admiral he was appointed Flag Officer Flying Training in 1951 and was promoted rear-admiral in 1952.

For his part in the Coronation Naval Review, 1953, when he led the Fleet Air Arm Fly Past in a Vampire jet aircraft, he was made a CVO.

In 1953 he was appointed Flag Officer Heavy Squadron and later became the first officer to hold the appointment of Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers in October, 1954. He received the CB in the Birthday Honours List of that year.

From 1955 to 1956 he was at the Ministry of Supply as Deputy Controller of Supplies (Air) and from 1957 to 1960 was Flag Officer Air (Home). From 1960 to 1961, when he retired, he was Vice-Chief of Naval Staff. He had been created KCB in 1958.