ADMIRAL SIR JOHN KERR GCB DL FRIN
Admiral Sir John Beverley Kerr died on 2 December last aged 82. Sir John was Commodore of the RNSA
from 1992 – 1995 and was elected Life Vice Commodore in recognition of his sterling efforts not only in
support of the Association but also of the wider sailing community.
He was born and educated in Lancashire and entered Dartmouth in 1954, graduating in first place for
which he was awarded HM the Queen’s Gold Medal. He retired from the Navy in 1994 and settled in
A keen sailor, he was noted when a student at Dartmouth, for spending much of his time on the river and
later when on the staff there was heavily involved in running one of the Divisional yachts and the College
dinghy racing team.
A Navigation specialist, he taught the subject at both Dartmouth and, as the first British Exchange Officer,
at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis. Whilst there he was deeply involved with the Midshipmen
sailing their yawls in Chesapeake Bay and also privately in Long Island Sound.
Having held a wide range of sea appointments he commanded the frigate ACHILLES,the guided missile
destroyer BIRMINGHAM and the aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS. In this latter command he was wont to sail
round the ship in his Mirror dinghy Lusty One inspecting the boot topping. He observed that it helped him
keep his command in proportion! The Mirror was later replaced by a Wayfarer L usty Too which was much
used on family holidays in the West Country.
He was later a sea going Admiral responsible for the operational effectiveness of some 40 ships together
with oversight of operations in the gulf during the Iran-Iraq war. In parallel with these operational tasks
there were appointments in the Ministry of Defence at the most senior level principally concerned with
strategy and policy including the size of the Navy and its future equipment program, and Intelligence, this
latter task at the busy time of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw pact and the first Gulf War.
His final appointment was as Commander in Chief Naval Home Command responsible for the non
–operational activity of the Navy across the United Kingdom including the Reserves, training
establishments and the Naval bases. This appointment carried with it membership of the Admiralty Board.
In this post he lived in Admiralty House where his large Labrador Bosun was reportedly much taken with
his billet! His Flagship was HMS VICTORY used for representational and ceremonial occasions.
It was during his time as CINCAVHOME when he was the Association Commodore that he was resolute in
his efforts to have the RNSA accepted as the principal adviser to the Navy Board on sailing matters. A key
decision during this period was for the Association to cease being the organisers for the Whitbread Round
the World Race. He felt the race had become much about big business, vast sponsorship and professional
crews and far removed from the Corinthian beginnings that the RNSA initiated. The Silver Salver first
presented by Whitbread is still awarded by the Association as an offshore sailing prize.
On retiring from the Navy he held many senior posts in public life, notably with the Universities and the
Lake District Planning Board where he was Deputy Chairman. The University of Manchester appointed
him as a Pro Vice Chancellor on his retirement in 2012. He was the Patron of the RNR Officers Club,
Liverpool aka The Sea Urchins for many years where his wit and wisdom was greatly appreciated. He was
awarded the KCB in 1989,advanced to the GCB in 1993 and appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for
Lancashire in 1995. For his contribution to safe navigation during his Naval service and to offshore
yachtsmen he was elected a fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation.