Rear Admiral Ian Herbert Richards

Deputy Chief of Navy (1983 - 1984)

Ian Herbert Richards was born on 15 June 1930 at Adelaide, SA. He entered the Royal Australian Naval College in 1944 and gained his colours for rowing and rugby, and on Passing Out from the college in 1947 he was awarded "maximum time," (early promotion to lieutenant) and the prizes for French, physics and chemistry.

He then proceeded to the United Kingdom for further training and served in the training cruiser HMS Devonshire during 1947-48 (serving in the West Indies and Baltic Sea) and the cruiser HMS Belfast which served in Northeast Asia. Richards was promoted Sub Lieutenant in January 1950 and commenced specialist seaman officer training courses at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich - for which he received first class passes for all subjects. After returning to Australia, Sub Lieutenant Richards was appointed to the destroyer HMAS Warramunga in November 1951.

Richards was promoted Lieutenant in January 1952 and the following month Warramunga deployed to Korea for active service in the Korean War. The destroyer conducted naval gunfire support for UN forces ashore, patrol duties and acted as an escort for aircraft carriers and minesweepers. These tasks were often conducted in atrocious weather conditions. Warramunga completed her deployment in July 1952 and returned to Australia. Lieutenant Richards served briefly in HMAS Arunta in late 1952 before joining the salvage tug HMAS Reserve as a watchkeeping officer in December 1952.

In early 1954 Richards proceeded to Britain to undertake the long navigation course at HMS Dryad. On return to Australia in early 1955 he served as the navigator in HMA Ships Barcoo (1955), Tobruk (1955-57) and Warrego (1957-58). Tobruk saw service in the Malayan Emergency including bombardment of Communist positions, in company with HMAS Anzac, in eastern Johore on 29 September 1956. Bombardment charts of the area were air dropped to the two ships by a RAF Sunderland, operating from Singapore, and a forward observer spotted the mission from an Auster aircraft and reported it was 'most effective'.

Richards returned to Britain in 1958 to undertake the advanced navigation course and, upon successfully completing the course, became the commissioning navigation officer of the Type 12 anti-submarine frigate HMS Blackpool in August 1958. Ian Richards was promoted Lieutenant Commander in January 1960 and returned to Australia in the middle of that year.

He joined the destroyer HMAS Vendetta as navigation officer in September 1960. During his time on board the ship was involved in a failed attempt to re-float the 13,587 ton cargo ship Runic, which had run aground on Middleton Reef (120 miles north of Lord Howe Island), during February 1961. The vessel could not be re-floated so Vendetta took the passengers and some crew to Sydney. The destroyer also conducted a deployment to Southeast Asia during March-October 1961 as part of the Far East Strategic Reserve with visits to Singapore, North Borneo, Hong Kong, Japan and the Philippines.

Richards traveled to Britain again in early 1962 to undertake the Royal Navy Staff Course during March - September 1962. On returning to Australia he was appointed to the Directorate of Tactics, Trials and Staff Requirements in Navy Office and was serving there when promoted Commander in December 1963. In early 1964 he became the the temporary executive officer at the RAN College and was there on the night that the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne collided with the destroyer HMAS Voyager off Jervis Bay with the loss of 82 lives when the destroyer sank. Richards was significantly involved in organising support for the survivors from Voyager as they were brought ashore at HMAS Creswell, management of the deceased and liaison with the media. On his return to Navy Office he conducted assorted staff duties before becoming the commissioning executive officer for the RAN's first guided missile destroyer, Perth, then being built in the United States.

Commander Richards traveled to the United States in June 1964 and joined the commissioning crew at the Defoe Shipbuilding Company in Bay City, Michigan. Here he led the RAN team in its many and varied preparations to commission the ship. HMAS Perth was commissioned in July 1965 and conducted her sea trials and work-ups in US waters before arriving in Australia in March 1966. Ian Richards was temporary Commanding Officer of Perth during 3 April 1966 - 12 May 1966.

Commander Richards returned to Navy Office in August 1966 as the Deputy Director Training in the Directorate of Manpower and Training. In late 1969 he was loaned to the Department of Defence and was serving there when promoted Captain in December 1970. On 7 January 1972 Captain Richards was appointed as the Commanding Officer of the destroyer escort HMAS Stuart; which carried the additional responsibility of commanding the Third Australian Destroyer Squadron consisting of six River Class destroyer escorts.

During 1972 Stuart deployed to Southeast Asia as part of the ANZUK forces and later that year was part of an Australian task force that went to Pearl Harbor for exercises with the US and Canadian Navies in August/September. She spent most of 1973 in Australian waters but took part in Exercise RIMPAC 73, in Hawaiian waters, in October and Exercise SANDGROPER off Western Australia in November. Feelings of regret as he was piped ashore at the end of his command in December 1973 were somewhat mollified by the award of the Duke of Gloucester's Cup to Stuart as the most efficient Fleet Unit in 1973.

After relinquishing command of Stuart, on 10 December 1973, Ian Richards was appointed as Director Appointments and Postings (Officers) in Navy Office in January 1974. The postion's title was changed to the Director of Naval Officers Postings in 1975. In December 1975 Captain Richards was appointed as Director Naval Plans also at Navy Office in Canberra. Demanding correspondence study in the 1970's was rewarded in 1977 with a Bachelor of Economics Degree from Queensland University with five Higher Distinctions including Commercial Law. He attended the Royal College of Defence Studies, in London, in 1977 and was promoted Commodore in December of that year.

Commodore Richards was then appointed as the Head of Australian Defence Staff, at the Australian High Commission in London, in January 1978. On return to Australia in early 1981 he joined Fleet Headquarters, in Sydney, as the Chief of Staff/Deputy Fleet Commander to the Flag Officer Commanding the Australian Fleet. This was a busy period for the fleet with major deployments to Southeast Asia and the North West Indian Ocean as well as uncertainty regarding the future of the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne.

Ian Richards was promoted Rear Admiral on 15 March 1982 and appointed as Chief of Joint Operations (Department of Defence) as part of Australia's early steps towards a joint force following the formal creation of the Australian Defence Force in 1976. On 31 October 1983 he was appointed as Deputy Chief of Naval Staff, however retired on 13 July 1984 after 40 years of service in the RAN.

Following his retirement from the Navy he became involved in a variety of organisations including the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. Rear Admiral Richards was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), on the Civil List, in the Australia Day Honours List 2002 for service to the community through the enhancement of the standing of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, and through executive membership of a broad range of health, national heritage and service organisations.

Rear Admiral Ian Richards passed away on 10 November 2022 in Mosman, Sydney.