Rear-Admiral Peter Gerald Hammersley CB OBE (nicknamed Spam) (18 May 1928 - 16 January 2020) was an English Royal Navy officer. Hammersley won a scholarship to Britannia Royal Naval College to train as a deck officer but his eyesight was too poor so he chose to become an engineer instead, studying at the Royal Naval Engineering College. He trained onboard HMS Frobisher and HMS Duke of York and served on HMS Ocean during the Korean War. Hammersley later specialised in submarines and in 1959 served on secondment to the US Navy on the nuclear submarine Nautilus. Afterwards he served as nuclear engineering officer aboard the Royal Navy's first nuclear-powered submarine, HMS Dreadnought. Hammersley helped design the Swiftsure-class of submarines and commanded a number of shore installations including the Royal Naval Engineering College. He served as aide-de-camp to Queen Elizabeth II and was Chief Staff Officer Engineering for the fleet in the 1982 Falklands War. After retirement he served in roles in a number of commercial and charitable organisations.
1 Early life
2 Nuclear engineering
3 Senior commands
4 Personal life and retirement
HMS Duke of York
Peter Gerald Hammersley was born in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire on 18 May 1928. His father Robert had been severely wounded in action during the First World War and died when Peter was 17. His mother Nora was a school secretary and was able to find enough money for Peter and his brother David to receive a private education at Denstone College. Hammersley would have been nicknamed "Ham" from his surname but this was amended to "Spam" owing to the shortage of ham during wartime rationing and the relative availability of the processed meat. Hammersley won a scholarship to Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth to train as a naval command (or deck) officer. Poor eyesight prevented him from taking up this opportunity but he was able to switch to the Royal Naval Engineering College, Manadon from which he awarded a first class degree. Hammersley gained seagoing experience aboard the training cruiser Frobisher as a cadet.
Hammersley served on active duty aboard the battleship Duke of York, where he completed his training in engineering in 1948. He was promoted from acting rank to substantive sub-lieutenant (engineering) on 1 March 1949. He was promoted to lieutenant (engineering) on 22 November 1950 and during the Korean War (1950-53) served aboard the aircraft carrier Ocean. Hammersley specialised in submarines from 1954.
In the late 1950s Earl Mountbatten, as First Sea Lord was keen that the Royal Navy acquire nuclear submarines, such as those fielded by the US Navy. These vessels had the advantage over traditional diesel-electric models in that they could remain submerged for long patrols (the the world's first nuclear submarine, USS Nautilus, demonstrated this capability with a well publicised cruise beneath the ice of the North Pole in 1958). Mountbatten met with US Navy admiral and "father of the nuclear navy" Hyman G. Rickover to discuss the provision of expertise to a British nuclear submarine programme. Rickover agreed to provide Royal Navy officers with seagoing experience on US nuclear submarines but insisted on selecting the officers that would take part. Mountbatten refused this caveat and insisted on selecting the men himself. One of those chosen was Hammersley who, in 1957, was summoned from Imperial College London, where he was studying for a diploma in nuclear engineering, to meet with Mountbatten and Rickover. Rickover was apparently disinterested but Hammersley was approved to travel to the US to take part in the programme.
Hammersley was promoted to lieutenant-commander on 26 September 1958 and afterwards served aboard the USS Skipjack, commissioned in April 1959, under Commander (and future Vice-Admiral) W. W. Behrens Jr.. Rickover's orders prohibited British officers from standing watches unsupervised and stipulated that they must arrive in the US unaccompanied by their families. Hammersley became an exception, travelling with his new wife, and, after five months on board, being allowed to stand watches alone by Behrans. During this time Rickover approved the provision of technical support and the supply of a Skipjack-type nuclear propulsion system to the British under the 1958 US–UK Mutual Defence Agreement. This led to the construction of HMS Dreadnought.
Hammersley was recalled to the UK in October 1959 to assist in the completion of Dreadnought, whose launch took place on 21 October 1960. Hammersley attended the vessels commissioning in 1963 and served as her first nuclear engineering officer for the following 18 months. Afterwards he helped train nuclear engineers for the Royal Navy. He was promoted to commander on 30 June 1964, at which time he was an associate member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and of the Institute of Marine Engineers (IMarE). From 1964 to 1968 Hammersley worked on the design of the Swiftsure-class submarines at MOD Foxhill, Bath. One of the measures he implemented was urinals at the rear of the vessel, a feature found on the Skipjack but not incorporated into Dreadnought. This area of the Swiftsures was later known as "Spam's Folly" in his honour. Hammersley was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1965 Birthday Honours.
Hammersley was promoted to captain on 30 June 1971, by which time he had also become a member of the IMEchE and the IMarE. He served in a succession of senior posts, heading in succession MOS Foxhill, Her Majesty's Naval Base, Clyde (the navy's submarine base in Scotland) and Her Majesty's Naval Base, Devonport (the navy's nuclear repair and refuelling facility in Plymouth). Hammersley served as head of the Royal Naval Engineering College from 1978 to 1980, placing him in charge of the training of 500 junior engineer officers. He was visited here by Mountbatten who asked him for a few paragraphs of text about the machinery of Dreadnought for inclusion in his memoirs. Mountbatten left stating that "there's no hurry for a reply as I am off to Ireland for a month at the end of the week", whilst in Ireland Mountbatten and three other civilians were killed in an IRA bomb attack.
Hammersley was appointed aide-de-camp to Queen Elizabeth II on 7 January 1980, serving until 7 July 1980 when he was promoted to rear admiral. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in the 1982 New Year Honours and served as Chief Staff Officer Engineering to the Commander-in-Chief, Fleet (Sir John Fieldhouse) during that year's Falklands War.
Personal life and retirement
Hammersley retired from the Royal Navy on 7 October 1982. He served as chief executive officer of the Internal Combustion Engine Manufacturers' Association from 1982 to 1985 and as director of the British Marine Equipment Council from 1985 to 1991. He was also a founding member of the Worshipful Company of Engineers in 1983 and served as master in 1988. Hammersley was also a governor at Denstone College from 1984 to 1998 (including a period as chairman).
Hammersley met his wife, Cynthia Bolton, a radiographer, at a wedding and they married in 1959. They had two children together: Daphne, who became a general practitioner and Robert, a regional director for a drinks company. In his spare time Hammersley served as a parish councillor an was an active golfer and gardener. He had strong Christian belief: he was a regular churchgoer who prayed on his knees every night until he became too frail. Hammersley died on 16 January 2020, his last words were "game over, game over".
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