ADMIRAL SIR RICHARD FITCH
For an officer who had spent much of his career at sea, "Dick" Fitch took readily to Whitehall warfare, and coped ably with the inevitable pressures to reduce naval manpower. There were also the problems of a seemingly interminable series of defence reviews, recruiting levels and shortages of skilled manpower in certain specialisations.
He made strenuous efforts to mitigate the effect on young people of separation from their families, and of the "turbulence" inflicted by sudden and frequent changes of ship or shore establishment, which prevented people from making long-term plans. Under Fitch, officer recruitment had its best years for a long time. Among other reforms, an imaginative scheme was introduced whereby suitably qualified young Wren officers could read for engineering degrees at the RNEC Manadon. More controversial was the new Defence Studies Course at Dartmouth, which led to a fulminating leader ("Remember Nelson") in this newspaper and accusations that the college was abandoning the study of naval history. It was in Fitch's 10 years of office that the Sea Lords first began to countenance the prospect of Wrens filling complement billets in ships at sea. Richard George Alison Fitch was born on June 2 1929, the son of Instructor Captain Edward Fitch, who was on the teaching staff at Dartmouth. Young Dick joined the Navy as a cadet in September 1942. He first went to sea in 1946 as a midshipman in the cruiser Norfolk in the East Indies. Fitch served in the frigate Bigbury Bay, the destroyer consort in the Korean War, and the corvette Carisbrooke Castle, before specialising as a navigating officer in 1956. He then went to sea as navigating officer of the converted landing ship Narvik, for the British thermo-nuclear tests at Christmas Island in 1957, and in the carrier Victorious the next year, and then as first lieutenant of the destroyer Camperdown. His first command was the frigate Berwick in 1966, and he served on the staff of the Flag Officer Second in Command Far East Fleet from 1967 to 1969. His first shore appointment was in the Directorate of Naval Plans in the Ministry of Defence in 1969. His career now began to follow the classical pattern to promotion, alternating between sea time and the Ministry: command of the frigate Apollo from 1973 to 1974, naval assistant to the First Sea Lord from 1974 to 1976, commander of the carrier Hermes in the Mediterranean and at the Spithead Silver Jubilee Review in 1977, and Director of Naval Warfare in 1978. Promoted Rear Admiral, he was Naval Secretary in 1980. From 1983 to 1985 he was Flag Officer Third Flotilla and Commander of Anti-submarine Group Two. He was appointed KCB in 1985 and promoted to full admiral the next year. Fitch was a liveryman of the Coachmakers and Coach Harnessmakers Company, which had adopted Hermes. As a young man, Dick Fitch was determinedly non-athletic. As one friend said: "If there ever was an opposite to Outward Bound, then Dick was it." He pointedly listed one of his hobbies in Who's Who as "following" sport. But as a naval officer he had energy, professional ability and flair. Just when everyone thought he was determined to remain a bachelor, he married in 1969, then went on to have a son.
ADMIRAL SIR RICHARD FITCH, was from 1986 to 1988 Chief of Naval Personnel, Second Sea Lord and Admiral President of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich.
SIR RICHARD died aged 64 in 1994.
Taken from the Obituary of Richard Fitch in the Daily Telegraph, February 21, 1994