Obituary - Captain Ian McKechnie OBE RN (retd) (1959) (with the kind permission of Ian's sons, written by Douglas Potter 1959
|Ian McKechnie died on 1st January 2003 aged 60 while on holiday in Mexico following an emergency operation for an abdominal complaint.
Captain Ian McKechnie OBE RN (retd) (1959) - Click image for full size picture
Ian attended Portsmouth Grammar School. During this time he gained the Queen's Scout award. Then he joined the pre-sea cadet course at the School of Navigation, Warsash from September 1958 until July 1959, graduating as JCC (Boats). In those days, all P & O indentured apprentices were required to attend an Outward Bound School before joining their first ship. Having completed this, Ian joined the "Salsette", a typical 'tween deck cargo liner of that era, and made two voyages to the Far East. During the second, while in the Philippines, he saved a fellow cadet from certain drowning.
His second ship was P & O's second tanker, "Mantua", which he joined at the builder's yard in Middlesborough, for what became a one-year round-the-world voyage. His rewards for this were to join the P&O passenger liner "Strathaird" as a cadet officer and thus meet his future wife. Having passed for Second Mate, he was accepted for a commission on the supplementary list of the Royal Navy to train as a fixed-wing pilot in the Fleet Air Arm. Marking time until his course at Dartmouth was due to start, he served as mate of an east coast collier for a few months. Ian passed out from Dartmouth at Easter 1964.
He then commenced flying training, in the later stages of which, by then flying his operational aircraft the Sea Vixen, he was involved in a mid-air collision during a practice dog-fight and was obliged to bail out with his observer. The only casualty, other than the loss of the aircraft, was to Ian's back.
Later, he was lucky enough to be able to use the "Torrey Canyon", a laden tanker aground off Land's End, for target practice. Still flying the Sea Vixen, he served in No 899 Squadron aboard HMS "Eagle" and, during that commission, covered the withdrawal, not a peaceful one, from Aden in late 1967. By the time "Eagle" had returned to UK waters, the prospects for continued front-line fixed-wing flying in the RN had greatly diminished - this was before the advent of the Sea Harrier. So Ian re-trained as a helicopter pilot.
In this role, as flight commander aboard HMS "Andromeda" (F57), he was off Cyprus in the autumn of 1974 when Turkey invaded northern Cyprus in response to the deposing of the president, Archbishop Makarios, by Samson, a Greek-Cypriot puppet of the Greek junta of colonels who had earlier seized power in Athens. In the fog of war, a Turkish destroyer was sunk at night by friendly fire, and Ian evacuated 72 of her crew to safety in the course of many flights in his small Wasp helicopter at night and in difficult weather conditions. In recognition of this mission, carried out well beyond the operating envelope for such an unsophisticated (by today's standards) aircraft, and in unknown hostile conditions, the Turkish authorities, with the approval of the RN, awarded Ian their Distinguished Service Medal - thought to be the only time it has been awarded to a foreigner. He was also awarded the Boyd Trophy for that year for the best flight in the Fleet Air Arm.
Naval service continued, both in the air and as executive officer of a frigate, until Ian was appointed commanding officer of the naval air station in Ayrshire. HMS "Gannet" remains the operating base for much larger helicopters engaged primarily in anti-submarine duties, thus guarding the RN's principal nuclear submarine operating base. Later, he was appointed to the Clyde as Queen's Harbour Master and Commander of the Port, a job which required new management skills where his work force of civilian employees was concerned. During this period he was promoted to Captain (and his job description changed accordingly). Ian's service in this area resulted in his being awarded the OBE for services to the local community.
What was to be Ian's last appointment in the RN was to Norfolk, Virginia on the staff of the USA admiral commanding, and for this he received a citation from the USA Secretary of the Navy. Ian was part of the "peace dividend" and in 1993 he had to retire from the RN after thirty years' service.
He then became the bursar of the Strathclyde Graduate Business School, and later was involved in e-commerce and in running a maritime consultancy in Venezuela. At the time of his death he had more or less retired, and was enjoying a holiday in Mexico with his second wife when he was struck down by a recurrence of an abdominal problem in a more acute form from which unfortunately he did not recover.
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