Captain Peter Lachlan, who has died aged 92, was one of the last veterans of the Battle of the River Plate, when Royal Navy cruisers forced the scuttling of the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee.
Peter Graham Lachlan was born into an Army family on August 5 1920 and educated at Wellington College, where his principal memory was of sneaking out at night to cycle to The Crooked Billet, a pub near Wokingham. He joined the Navy as a special entry cadet in 1937. As a midshipman under training in the months before the war, Lachlan enjoyed an idyllic life on the South America station, enjoying the hospitality of the expatriate community . On the first day of the war, Ajax sank the German merchant ship Olinda off the river Plate, and the next day she intercepted the German merchantman Carl Fritzen, which was scuttled to avoid capture. After his service in Ajax, Lachlan volunteered for combined operations and took part in the landings in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. He was twice mentioned in despatches, and in December 1945 was appointed MBE for his distinguished service during the war in Europe. Post-war, Lachlan attended the Royal Navy staff course in the rank of lieutenant; the Joint Services Staff College at Latimer; and, as a captain, the Imperial Defence College in Belgrave Square. He served as commanding officer of the petty officers’ leadership school at HMS Royal Arthur, Corsham, Wiltshire, and as Director of Naval Service Conditions. Lachlan was one of the Navy’s most successful peacetime seagoing commanders; his ships included the corvette Hadleigh Castle (1945), the destroyer Crispin (1952-53) and the guided missile trials ship Girdleness (1960-61). From 1967 to 1969 he commanded the guided missile destroyer Fife, visiting both the East and West Coasts of the United States and the Pacific. He was commended for leading the rescue in rough weather of 79 people from the stranded passenger ship Tui Lau off Suva in the Fiji islands. After leaving the Navy, Lachlan worked for the John Lewis Partnership, and soon reached managerial status. His first challenge was the London distribution centre for Peter Jones . Lachlan could be ruthless towards those who fell short of his own high standards, but showed himself a firm friend to others, across the divide of class and rank. His privately printed and circulated autobiography, A Naval Career: Peter Lachlan 1937-1969 (2012) is a frank account of his life at sea. Peter Lachlan married, in 1942, Prue Stewart-Moore, who predeceased him by a week. Captain Peter Lachlan, born August 5 1920, died December 10 2012 Source: Telegraph via Forces War Records Blog.