Captain David Smith, who has died aged 86, was the driving force behind the restoration of the 19th-century sailing frigate Trincomalee.
Built in Bombay for the Royal Navy in 1817 by the Wadia family of Parsee shipbuilders, Trincomalee had been used as a school and accommodation ship for more than 100 years. By 1987, however, she was lying as a hulk in Portsmouth. Only the teak out of which the Wadias had built her (there being a shortage of oak in England in the early 19th century) had enabled her to survive for so long.
Smith arranged for Trincomalee to be transported from Portsmouth to Hartlepool by barge, and as chairman of the HMS Trincomalee Trust helped to raise more than £10 million over 13 years from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Hartlepool borough council, Teesside Development Corporation and many smaller donors. He also recruited a skilled workforce of some 50 men and women to carry out the restoration.
His task was the more difficult because he lived at Southsea in Hampshire, and had onerous official duties in London and Harwich; but every week he travelled to Hartlepool to supervise the renovation and fundraising. It is largely due to Smith’s drive and perseverance that the renovation is complete, Trincomalee’s masts towering magnificently over the port and dockyard museum in Hartlepool. In 2002 he was appointed OBE, and in 2011 he was awarded the gold medal of the Society for Nautical Research.
Trincomalee is the oldest British warship still afloat (although Victory, in Portsmouth, is half a century older, she is in dry dock), and the second-oldest floating ship in the world after the American frigate Constitution.
The son of a chauffeur, David Terence Smith was born on March 1 1927 in Marylebone, London, and educated in Windsor and at the Merchant Navy training school HMS Conway. During the war he elected to serve in the Royal Navy, then stayed on to enjoy a successful peacetime career as a specialist navigator.
His first ship, under training, was the battleship Rodney in the Home Fleet. He then served with the British Pacific Fleet in the cruiser Bermuda at the relief in 1945 of Formosa, Shanghai and Hong Kong. In the late 1940s he swept wartime minefields around Borneo and in the North Sea. In 1953 he chose to specialise in navigation, and was appointed to the Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean’s dispatch vessel Surprise. In 1959 he was assistant navigator of the Royal Yacht Britannia during the Queen’s visit to North America . He commanded the frigate Loch Lomond (1961-62) and was Senior Naval Officer Persian Gulf when security in the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf was successfully kept by a frigate and a squadron of landing ships of the Royal Navy. Smith’s visits, exercises, hydrographic surveys and salvage operations took him to Dar es Salaam, Djibouti, Mombasa, Aden, Bahrain, Doha and Abadan. From 1965 to 1967 he was second-in-command of the newly-rebuilt aircraft carrier Eagle during a deployment east of Suez which included 71 days on Beira patrol in the Mozambique Channel (intended to prevent oil reaching Rhodesia, which had declared independence). In 1970-71 Smith commanded the 2nd Destroyer Squadron, Far East Fleet, from the Leander-class frigate Andromeda. Once again on the Beira patrol, he received news that his support tanker, Ennerdale, had hit an uncharted coral pinnacle off the Seychelles. He raced to the rescue, but there was little to be done except destroy the wreck by explosives. Later that year, in home waters, Andromeda took part in a large clear-up operation after the Liberian tanker Pacific Glory ran aground off the Isle of Wight. His last appointment in the Royal Navy was as Commodore (Amphibious Warfare) . In 1976 Smith was sworn in as one of the 31 Elder Brethren of Trinity House, the lighthouse authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar; it is also a charity dedicated to the safety, welfare and training of mariners, and the licensing authority for deep sea pilots of ships trading in Northern European waters. Smith was a salaried assistant of Trinity House for 16 years, and a voluntary assistant for a further six . He was the first Director of Navigational Requirements (1977-87) and Managing Director (Operations) and Deputy Chairman of the Lighthouse Board from 1987 to 1991. He also supported many charities, and was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron. David Smith married, in 1952, Daphne Lidiard . She died in 2008, and he is survived by their two sons. Capt David Smith, born March 1 1927, died March 23 2013
Via: Forces War Records Blog.