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1958

Rear Admiral Peter Purcell AO RAN (Rtd)

inducted 2017 Service

About Rear Admiral Peter Purcell AO RAN (Rtd)


Peter completed what is now Year 11 of his secondary education at CBC after earlier attending St Colman’s in Shepparton. He came to Warrnambool in 1957 when his father Pierce took over as Head at the Raglan St Primary School. His younger brother Gerald attended CBC and his sisters Maureen and Colleen attended St Ann's. Peter's strong memories of his schooling are the friendship provided to a newcomer by the group in his year, the excellent teaching, particularly in Maths from Br Flaherty, and the love of sport in the class he had joined at CBC. Although completing only part of his secondary education at the College, Peter has been keen to sign up for Alumni news. As a World War II baby and with a father who flew with the RAAF during WWII Peter was aware of the need for national defence and had a vague idea of what a career in the Navy might entail. This, the opportunity for travel, and living in Warrnambool, his first coastal town were the final influences on him to join the Navy and complete his schooling at the Royal Australian Naval College. Peter joined the RANC in 1958 and graduated Dux of his entry in 1960.

Peter was at sea as a Midshipman for the next 18 months in the frigate HMAS Quiberon and the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. He served in these ships in the Far East Strategic Reserve during the Malayan Emergency in 1961-62 and was awarded the Australian and Malaysian Service medals for this period of service.

With other officers selected for engineering training Peter took engineering studies at the Royal Navy Engineering College in Plymouth UK. He graduated with a London University engineering degree and was promoted Lieutenant in 1965. This was followed by applied engineering studies in the UK and USA. He joined the Guided Missile Destroyer HMAS Hobart for its second deployment of the Vietnam War 1968-9. During this deployment the ship came under friendly fire from US forces resulting in loss of lives, significant injuries to deck watch-keeping personnel and major damage to the ship's weapon systems. Repairs were made at the US Naval Base Subic Bay in the Philippines and following repairs the ship returned to the gun line. Peter was awarded the Australian Active Service Medal for this period of service.

In the 1970's he had appointments to the staff of the Australian Naval Attache Washington, USA followed by further training in the US and service at the Long Beach California US Naval Shipyard as part of the introduction of digital computing technology to the Australia's squadron of guided missile destroyers.

Peter was posted to Garden Island Dockyard in Sydney for the digital computing upgrade of HMAS Hobart in the mid 1970's and then as Weapons Electrical Engineering Officer of the ship and subsequently the guided missile destroyer squadron. He completed a Macquarie University degree in economic and financial studies in this period.

Talking about his time at sea Peter said “The Navy has a great culture of leadership;everyone is well trained and has a solid understanding of their dependence on others. Sailors and officers operate in an environment of trust and confidence in their ability to lead and everyone is called on to lead at some stage in the routine and extraordinary affairs of a ship.

Following his time at sea and at the waterfront Peter was appointed to a series of Navy and Defence positions in Canberra. Included among these he was appointed an Honorary Aide-de Camp to the Governor General 1988-9. Canberra postings culminated in senior positions in engineering, project management and governance as a Commodore and Rear Admiral over the period 1991-9. Included in these were Director General Naval Production, Chief Naval Engineer, Assistant Chief of Navy – Material and Head Systems Acquisition, Maritime and Ground Systems. Over this time frame much of the present RAN fleet of ships and submarines was acquired or significantly modified.

Peter’s own leadership was recognised in June 1995 when he was made an Officer in the Order of Australia for exemplary service to the Royal Australian Navy, particularly as the Director General Of Naval Production.

Following retirement from the Navy in 1999 Peter 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 to the present date he has worked as a senior adviser to Defence as a member of its project governance and assurance boards. Interleaved with this, he was a senior adviser to the Australian Customs Service in the renewal of its coastal surveillance capability.

Peter is a supporter of iCan - an international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons. In 2012 he joined more than 700 prominent Australians who appealed to the Prime Minister to support international efforts to ban nuclear weapons. Peter’s support to iCan is ongoing.

A former President and now Life Member of the RAN Ski Club, Peter was a competitor and coach with the Navy Inter-service Nordic and Biathlon team for two decades and can now often be seen around the cross country and biathlon trails at Mt Hotham with three generations of his family.

Peter’s very multi-national family has accompanied him around the world. Peter’s wife Joan is Canadian, his eldest son Mark was born in the UK (attending 14 different school’s during his education), his youngest son Chris was born in Australia and his daughter Cate was born in the US. Peter’s oldest son has followed in his footsteps - Rear Admiral Mark Purcell was made a Member of the Order of Australia in June 2016 - for exceptional service as Head of Navy's Engineering Reform Program and Head of Defence Maritime Systems.

View Peter's biography below:

Rear Admiral Peter Purcell AO RAN (Rtd)

Peter's biography