Rear Admiral Peter Terence Purcell

Peter Terence Purcell was born in Colac, Victoria on 6 March 1942 and educated at St Coleman's School, Shepparton and St Joseph's College in Warrnambool. He joined the RAN College as a Cadet Midshipman in 1958 and graduated as dux of his entry in 1960. He completed his Cadet Midshipman training in HMAS Swan in 1961 and also saw service as a midshipman in HMA Ships Quiberon and Melbourne, in Southeast Asia as part of the Far East Strategic Reserve, during 1961-62. He was promoted Sub Lieutenant in September 1962.

Purcell was then selected for engineering training and undertook studies at the RN Engineering College at Manadon, UK. He was promoted Lieutenant in 1965 and graduated with a BSc (Engineering) Honours from London University in 1966. This was followed by applied engineering studies at the RN Electrical Engineering School (HMS Collingwood) and at the US Navy Schools at Mare Island, Vallejo, California. In the United States, Lieutenant Purcell also undertook weapons electrical engineering courses to prepare him for service in the RAN's new guided missile destroyers.

He served in the guided missile destroyer HMAS Hobart during her second deployment to the Vietnam War during March-October 1968. On 17 June 1968, while the ship was operating of Cap Lay, she was struck by friendly fire when a US aircraft fired missiles at the destroyer. Two members of the ship's company were killed and several others wounded. Hobart was badly damaged and withdrawn to the US Naval Base at Subic Bay, in the Philippines, for repair. She returned to the gunline on 26 July 1968.

Lieutenant Purcell was appointed as an instructor at the RAN Apprentice Training Establishment, HMAS Nirimba, at Quakers Hill in western Sydney in November 1969. In 1971 he was posted to Navy Office in Canberra to the Weapons and Electrical Engineering and Design Branch. Purcell was promoted Lieutenant Commander in July 1972, while serving as the Staff Officer Weapons Electrical Engineering to the Australian Naval Attache in Washington DC. This was followed by further training at the US Naval Command School, at Mare Island, and service at the Long Beach, California Naval Shipyard where he was involved in the introduction of digital technology into missile and command and control systems for guided missile destroyers.

On return to Australia, in 1976, Lieutenant Commander Purcell joined the staff at Garden Island Dockyard for the digital upgrade of HMAS Hobart and was promoted Commander in December 1976. In August 1977 he joined Hobart as her Weapons Electrical Engineer Officer (WEEO). His appointment also carried the additional responsibilities as the WEEO of the 1st Australian Destroyer Squadron. Hobart was in extended refit when Commander Purcell joined her and she commenced sea trials in late 1978 and deployed to Hawaii for COMPUTEX 1/79. In 1979 the destroyer conducted Exercises KANGAROO 3, TASMAN EXPRESS and SEA EAGLE in Australian waters.

Commander Purcell was posted to Navy Office in December 1979 as the Assistant Director Fleet Maintenance. This posting was followed, in early 1982, by an appointment as the Assistant Director Surface Weapons in the Directorate of Naval Weapons Design. Purcell was promoted Captain in December 1983 and appointed as the Director of the Inshore Mine-Hunter Project, in early 1984, overseeing the design and introduction into service of the mine hunter inshore (MHI) HMA Ships Rushcutter and Shoalwater. He was appointed an honorary Aide-de-camp to the Governor-General during 1988-89.

In 1989 he became the Director-General Equipment Projects and was promoted Commodore in March 1990. Commodore Purcell became the Director General Naval Production in 1991 and was promoted Rear Admiral, in 1994, and appointed as Chief Naval Engineer and Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Materiel). Rear Admiral Purcell was appointed as an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO) in the Queen's Birthday Honours List 1995 for exemplary service to the Royal Australian Navy, particularly as the Director General of Naval Production.

Rear Admiral Purcell took up his appointment in 1997 as Head Systems Acquisition (Maritime and Ground Systems) in the Department of Defence. His service in Canberra during 1989-99 saw major changes to the RAN as new ships, submarines and aircraft were introduced into service. He retired from the Royal Australian Navy in 1999.

Following retirement he joined the boards of Celsius Pacific Pty Ltd and the Australian Submarine Corporation and remained on these boards until the Swedish parent company, Celsius, sold its Australian interests. From 2000 he has worked as a senior advisor to the Defence Materiel Organisation/Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group, as a member of their project governance and assurance boards. He has also been a senior advisor to the Australian Customs Service in the renewal of its coastal surveillance capability.

Peter Purcell and his wife Joan have lived in Canberra since 1980 and have three children - one of whom, Mark Purcell, joined the Navy in 1985 and also reached the rank of Rear Admiral.