Tributes paid to Admiral The Lord Boyce – a great leader and champion of submariners

Topic: PeopleSenior leaders Storyline: People

The Royal Navy has lost one of its great Cold War warriors and post-Cold War leaders with the passing of Admiral The Lord Boyce.

The former submariner, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Defence Staff died on Sunday night at the age of 79 having served the Royal Navy, nation and numerous good causes.

He championed the causes of young and old connected with the Royal Navy, from supporting Sea Cadets to keeping alive the memory of those involved in the Channel Dash.

And above all, he was a submariner through and through, spending the bulk of his operational career beneath the waves after beginning his naval career at Britannia Royal Naval College in 1961.

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key said Admiral of the Fleet Lord Boyce had served the Royal Navy and the Nation with distinction for over four decades.

He continued: “From commanding three submarines and a frigate at the height of the Cold War, through to the highest level of command as First Sea Lord and then Chief of the Defence Staff, he was a deeply professional and respected military leader

“However, his remarkable life's accomplishments spread far beyond Defence through the many organisations and causes he supported right through to his last days.  The thoughts of the entire Royal Navy are with his family at this time.”

Born in Cape Town in 1943, a young Michael Boyce opted for a career as a submariner and served in both conventional and nuclear-powered boats, commanding three – Oberon, Opossum and finally hunter-killer HMS Superb – as well as frigate HMS Brilliant as a captain in the mid-1980s.

Thereafter came a series of senior training and operational appointments: head of submarine training, Flag Officer Sea Training – responsible for preparing all RN ships for front-line duties – senior RN officer in the Middle East and Flag Officer Surface Flotilla.

Between 1995 and his retirement at the end of 2003, he held the three highest posts in the Royal Navy: Second Sea Lord, Commander-in-Chief, Fleet, and First Sea Lord, then the most senior military role in the UK, Chief of the Defence Staff, during military operations in Afghanistan, then the invasion of Iraq.

And he was the last naval officer – to date – to be promoted to the Royal Navy’s highest rank, Admiral of the Fleet, appointed by Her Majesty the Queen in 2014.

The admiral was created a life peer – Baron Boyce of Pimlico – in 2003 and upon retirement from the military at the end of that year, succeeded The Queen Mother in the historic post of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.

It was one of a string of posts and honorary positions which Lord Boyce held in retirement, among them chairman of the RNLI, Vice President of the White Ensign Association, trustee of the National Maritime Museum, president of the RN Submarine Museum in Gosport, and a patron of a string of worthy causes from the Trafalgar Woods initiative to various youth and military charities, plus the Submariners’ Association.

Earlier this year, he greeted the then Duke of Cambridge, the honorary head of the Silent Service, at the unveiling of the new multi-million-pound monument to submariners at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Commodore Paul Dunn, the head of the Service, said submariners had lost one of the greatest members of their proud family.

It is with deep sadness to the Submarine Service as we mourn the loss of Admiral of the Fleet the Lord Boyce,” he added.

“An outstanding Naval Officer and inspirational leader who was a true advocate for and friend of the Submarine Service.”

Among Lord Boyce’s many other titles and positions were: Freeman of the City of London, Elder Brother of Trinity House, Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London and, only in December last year, he was given the honorary rank of Vice Admiral of the United Kingdom.

In amongst these many causes and activities he found time for his family, sport (Royal Navy squash especially), and opera and ballet.