THERE was standing room only at Portsmouth Catholic Cathedral as 700 people crammed in for a memorial mass to celebrate the life of former First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Julian Oswald.
The current First Sea Lord and many of the navy’s top brass from the last two decades attended the mass to pay their respects to Sir Julian, who passed away on July 19 aged 77 following an eight-year cancer battle.
His widow Lady Oswald, children and grandchildren sat in the front row as the Bishop of Her Majesty’s Forces, The Right Reverend Richard Moth, led the mass.
He paid tribute to Sir Julian, who lived in Shedfield near Fareham, as ‘somebody who gave so much to the Royal Navy and to this nation’.
Yesterday’s lively 90-minute mass heard touching tributes and often humorous anecdotes from naval officers who served under Sir Julian – the head of the navy from 1989 to 1993.
The current First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, said: ‘We remember his whole-hearted commitment, his inspirational leadership and his humility.’
Sir Julian, who was awarded the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, took on the top role at the end of the Cold War.
During his tenure, he sent naval forces to Iraq during the First Gulf War in 1991 and made the order to allow women to serve in warships.
He joined the navy aged just 13 in 1947, retiring from the service as Admiral of the Fleet in 1993.
The service heard how he was committed to his wife of 53 years, Veronica, and their five children and 18 grandchildren.
At home he loved gardening and did a lot of charity and voluntary work, especially with the Sea Cadets and as a gliding instructor.
Rear Admiral Nicholas Wilkinson read the eulogy.
He said: ‘All of us who knew Julian Oswald were indeed very fortunate to have done so. He was not just a most distinguished naval officer and public servant, he was an unforgettable human being.’