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TRIBUTES have been paid to the ‘inspirational’ head of the navy during the 1991 Gulf War, who has died aged 77.

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Julian Oswald, who lived in Shedfield near Fareham, lost his long-running battle with cancer on Monday.

As First Sea Lord from 1989 to 1993, Sir Julian led naval forces into war against Saddam Hussein and paved the way to allow women to serve in warships.

He also led a major review of defence policy after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which shaped Britain’s nuclear deterrent and the military for years to come.

His friend Sir Jock Slater, who served as First Sea Lord from 1995 to 1998, said: ‘Julian Oswald was one of the most outstanding and highly respected officers of his generation.

‘Modest, courteous and considerate, but no soft touch, he was a foremost thinker and debater on defence policy – not least on nuclear deterrents.

‘He led the Royal Navy as First Sea Lord with calm determination and authority at a demanding period when a peace dividend was called for after the fall of the Iron Curtain. He will be greatly missed.’

Sir Julian’s tenure saw one of the greatest post-war changes to the Royal Navy – the deployment of women at sea.

Initially sceptical about the idea, the Admiral was won over, not least by a study by the then Captain Alan West, himself a future First Sea Lord, which recommended the change in naval policy.

Lord West said: ‘He was a man of great moral integrity.

‘In some ways, he had old-fashioned values but he realised the world was changing and the changes that were needed. He would listen to people and he was quite a visionary.

‘He was a man of great faith and he showed huge fortitude in his illness which he fought for many years. He was a great man and it’s a great loss.’

Sir Julian, who was knighted in 1989, was also appointed as First and Principal Aide-de-Camp to the Queen during his time as First Sea Lord.

In retirement, he continued to shape defence thinking, publishing The Royal Navy – Today and Tomorrow in 1994 and numerous articles commenting on strategy and defence policy.

He was hugely popular and known as someone incoming First Sea Lords could go to for sound advice.

Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, who was head of the navy from 2002 to 2006, said: ‘He was an inspirational man and a huge support to me in particular when I was First Sea Lord.

‘He was an incredibly capable naval officer and incredibly nice human being who bravely fought cancer for many years. We are all very sad to see him go.’