Tributes to “inspirational” Admiral Sir Clive

Topic: PeopleSenior leaders Storyline: People

Tributes have poured in from across the naval and defence ‘family’ for one of the leading figures in the 21st-Century Navy who died suddenly at the weekend.

Vice Admiral Sir Clive Johnstone served nation and Navy for 35 years, taking part in – and later directing – key operations, then championed the cause of veterans when he retired from the service.

For the past 12 months he served as National President of the Royal British Legion and it was shortly after the end of its annual conference, held in Newport, South Wales, that he was taken ill and died.

Leading tributes was First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key said Sir Clive was “an outstanding officer and inspirational individual who positively impacted the lives of so many. He will be sorely missed” while the RBL described him as “an extraordinary military leader and person of great integrity and intellect” who was passionate about the Legion (“the best and most amazing charity”).

Clive Johnstone’s career was as rich and varied as many whose time in the Navy spanned the final years of the Cold War, through conflicts in the Adriatic and Middle East to global operations and most recently the resurgent challenge of Russia.

Sir Clive joined the RN in 1985 after reading anthropology at Durham. After navigating Ton-class minehunters, he served in carrier HMS Invincible, principal warfare officer in HMS Boxer during the early stages of the Balkan conflict and again on the staff of the 1st Frigate Squadron.

As First Lieutenant of the Royal Yacht, he took part in the final acts of Britannia’s outstanding career: the Prince of Wales’ historic visit to Northern Ireland, the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, the final summer cruise of the Western Isles.

His first command was frigate HMS Iron Duke which supported operations in Kosovo in the late 90s and as the Fleet Programmer in the early 00s was involved in choreographing the navy’s response to a string of events at home (the national firefighters’ strike) and abroad (the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Caribbean hurricanes and the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami).

The pace did not let up in command of the nation’s amphibious flagship, HMS Bulwark, which was thrust into the global media spotlight in the summer of 2006 when she coordinated the evacuation of British citizens and entitled civilians from the Lebanon.

Bulwark was Sir Clive’s last permanent seagoing appointment, although as Flag Officer Sea Training he oversaw – and visited – scores of RN and allied vessels readying for deployment.

After two and a half years as Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff, Sir Clive was appointed as the Commander of NATO’s Allied Maritime Command, based at Northwood, a post he held for three and half years.

Knighted in the 2019 New Year’s Honours, Sir Clive left the Royal Navy at beginning of 2020.

Since then, Sir Clive has worked in the shipbuilding industry, volunteered as vice patron of the Battle of the Atlantic Memorial in Liverpool and chaired the Naval Review, the long-standing journal championing naval thinking for the betterment of the Senior Service.

Sir Clive leaves behind his widow Alison and their two daughters, Phoebe and Emily.