Vice Admiral Peter Maxwell Compston was a Naval pilot who led a flight in the battleship Anson to provide 'deep field' support for wartime Arctic convoys. Born on September 12 1915 and educated at Epsom College. After a brief sojourn in the Army, he was commissioned into the RAF as an Acting Pilot Officer in August 1936, serving with No. 72 fighter squadron at Church Fenton. Confirmed in the rank in June 1937, he joined No. 70 bomber squadron at Dibhan in Iraq. He joined the Navy as a Sub Lt (A) in 1938, with his RAF seniority in the rank.
Compston's first Fleet Air Arm squadron, in June 1938, was No. 822, flying Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers from the carrier HMS Furious. In August, he joined the Fleet Air Arm training squadron at RAF Gosport and in November underwent a short course to qualify as an air gunnery officer. His next carrier was Argus, first in the Home Fleet and then in 1939 based at Toulon as deck landing training carrier in the Mediterranean Fleet.
In February 1940, Compston joined No. 810 naval air squadron, flying Fairey Swordfish torpedo-bombers from the carrier Ark Royal in the Mediterranean, and in the Norwegian campaign from April to June. After a period ashore at HMS Merlin, the naval air station at Donibristle, Fife, in February 1942 he took command of zno. 700 squadron's flight of Walrus amphibians in the battleship Anson, flagship of the 2nd Battle Squadron, Home Fleet, providing "deep field" support for the Arctic convoys. In 1943 Compston went to HMS Cormorant II, at North Front airfield, Gibraltar, which provided a transit base and aircraft support for the amphibious landings in the Mediterranean in 1943 and 1944. His next appointment, in October 1944, was to the carrier Vengeance. He was on board for her commissioning in January 1945 and her trials but did not go out in her to join the British Pacific Fleet.
Instead, he went to HMS Flycatcher, at Middle Wallop, to organise the establishment of Mobile Naval Air Bases (MONABs) in support of the British Pacific Fleet. There were eventually 10 MONABs, in Australia, the Admiralty Islands and Hong Kong. Compston transferred to a regular RN commission in 1945 and joined the carrier Warrior, serving with the Royal Canadian Navy. Thereafter, he always considered himself an honorary Canadian.
In 1948, Compston joined the light fleet fleet carrier Theseus as air gunnery officer, for a most successful commission, first as flagship of the 3rd Aircraft Carrier Squadron, Home Fleet, and then in 1950 taking part in the Korean War. From October 1950 until April 1951, Theseus's aircraft flew over 3,440 sorties on 86 flying days, attacking shore targets. Compston was mentioned in despatches and was one of several officers promoted out of the ship.
From 1951 to 1953, Compston was on the Directing Staff of the RN Staff College. He was promoted Captain in 1955, when he had his first sea command, the destroyer Orwell, and as Captain (D) Plymouth. After a year at the Imperial Defence College, he was Naval Attaché in Paris, 1960-62.
In November 1962 Compston took command of the fleet carrier Victorious, which he always thought the high point of his naval career. He commissioned her in June 1963 and she sailed for the Far East in August with Buccaneer strike aircraft of No. 801 Squadron and Sea Vixen all-weather fighters of No. 893 embarked. Victorious's aircraft, operating for prolonged periods in Borneo and along the coasts of Malaya, played an important, if largely unsung, part in the 1960s "Confrontation" between Indonesia and Malaysia.
In 1964, there were mutinies in the armies of the newly independent countries of Uganda and Kenya, and in Tanzania (formerly Tanganyika), where President Nyerere asked for British help. Once again, the presence of Victorious's aircraft eased a tense situation.
Compston was promoted rear admiral out of the ship and went to Washington in 1965 as Chief of British Naval Staff and Naval Attaché. In 1967-68 he was Flag Officer Flotillas, Western Fleet. His final appointment before retirement in 1970 was as Nato Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic. He was appointed CB in 1967 and advanced to KCB in 1970. His talents as a diplomat and strategist ably supported by his socially skilful wife Angela, were much in evidence on his final tour.
In retirement, Compston was Life Vice President of the RNLI and proved to be one of the most successful fund-raisers in their history. He married first, in 1939, Valerie Bocquet; they had a son and a daughter. The marriage was dissolved and he married secondly, in 1953, Angela Brickwood, who died in 1994.
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