James Rawe was born on 14 July 1925 and died on 15 April 2023. He was a Fellow of the Society for 71 years.
James joined the Royal Navy in 1943 as an officer cadet. While he had originally intended to join the submarine service, he was apprehensive that by the time he completed the submarine training course, the Royal Navy would have won the war without him. He volunteered for Combined Operations when he discovered that not only would the training be very short but also that volunteers would be given a week's leave. After completing a commando training course near Fort William, in the spring of 1944, he was appointed First Lieutenant on LCT 977. The squadron worked up in the Sound of Jura, practising changing formation, testing guns, beaching and, most importantly, judging when to let go the kedge anchor, which was essential to pull themselves off. They practiced on every suitable beach from Oban to the Isle of Arran before moving south to Falmouth where they continued day and night landing exercises. As an 18-year-old midshipman on LCT 977 he landed the US 12th Infantry on Utah beach in the early morning of 6 June 1944.
After the war, with the fleet shrinking and the prospect of spending time in the Reserve Fleet, he was anxious to spend more time at sea and volunteered for the Royal Navy’s Hydrographic Survey Service. He served on HMS Cook in UK waters and landed the 1951 Oxford and Cambridge expedition in Spitsbergen and got as far as 80° 18 mins North before having to turn back due to the ice. Having invaded much of the Inner Hebrides during the war, he much enjoyed surveying the islands during peacetime and, against naval regulations, took a motor launch through the Gulf of Corryvreckan - ‘for fun’. He subsequently served in the Far East on HMS Dampier, engaged in survey operations in the South China Sea.
In 1955, he joined what subsequently became the Royal Nigerian Navy and played a major role in its formation and development. After independence, he was asked to stay on by the then Governor General and was in the peculiar position of being a serving naval officer but also a civil servant, as a member of Her Majesty’s Overseas Civil Service. Having navigated a delicate path through the military coups in January 1966 and July 1966, he played an active role in planning and executing a series of seaborne landings during the Nigerian civil war (1967 – 1970). He retired as a Captain in 1969.
After the war, John St Jorre wrote a book entitled ‘The Nigerian Civil War’, which suggested that he was a swashbuckling mercenary. With Leon Brittan (later Home Secretary) as his barrister, James launched a successful libel action against the author and Hodder and Stoughton and, in April 1974, the defendants admitted libel, paid damages and costs and issued an apology.
After a period as a probation officer in Oxfordshire, he opted for early retirement and moved to Dorset.
He was made MBE (military) in 1964, OBE (military) in 1967 and awarded the Legion d’honneur in 2016.
He celebrated his 70th wedding anniversary in October 2022 and is survived by his wife, three sons, nine grandchildren and one great grandson.