We regret to advise the passing of Fleet Air Arm luminary, Commander Brian Dutch GLEX(P) RAN (retd) on 7th December 2023 in a Nursing Home in Walkerville, Adelaide, following a very debilitating illness. There has been a private family cremation in Adelaide and a “Celebration of his Life” will take place in Adelaide some time early in 2024.

Brian Aubrey Dutch was born in Sydney in 1933. As a young man he was a Jackeroo and a wool classer. While in Albury, NSW, he obtained a Private Pilot’s Licence on a Tiger Moth DH82 and was called up for National Service in the Army, from which sprang his interest in flying in the Navy, which he joined as a recruit naval airman in September of 1957.

Following initial training at HMAS Cerberus and HMAS Albatross, Brian completed No. 33 Pilots Course at Pearce in 1959, was awarded his wings, and confirmed in the rank of Acting Sub Lieutenant with a Commission on the Supplementary List. At HMAS Albatross he joined 724 Squadron for conversion training to Sea Venom fighters.

On 15 June 1960, at the end of a night interception exercise in Sea Venom WZ927, Brian experienced extreme turbulence during his circuit rejoin to runway 26. A severe downdraft, strong crosswinds and low circuit altitude (standard for the time) all contributed to the aircraft impacting trees, requiring Brian and his Observer ‘Sandy’ Sandberg to eject.  It was the first crew-initiated aircraft ejection in the RAN.

In July 1960 the then Lieutenant Dutch joined 805 Squadron for carrier work-ups embarking in HMAS Melbourne for a short cruise to New Zealand, and later on a long cruise in 1961 as part of Australia’s commitment to the Far East Strategic Reserve. In December that year he married Joyce in the Dockyard Church at Garden Island.

In July 1961, he was posted to 723 Squadron at Nowra for Sycamore helicopter conversion training, and then on to 725 Squadron for conversion and operational training on the Wessex 31A.

In February 1963, 817 ASW Squadron was reformed operating Wessex, and Brian embarked variously in HMAS Melbourne until July 1964 when he applied for, and was granted, a transfer back to 724 Squadron and a return to Sea Venoms.

In November 1964 he was assigned to 816 Squadron, B Flight, and in May 1965 he embarked in Melbourne as part of a flight of four Sea Venoms assigned to bolster the escort for HMAS Sydney on her first voyage to South Vietnam.

In 1966 he was selected to undertake the Royal Navy Air Warfare Instructor Course at HMS Excellent, Whale Island, Portsmouth. The course covered air weapons theory, followed by flight training at 764 Squadron on the Hunter G9 fighter at RNAS Lossiemouth in Scotland. On completion Brian graduated as an Air Warfare Instructor before travelling to the US where he undertook A4 Skyhawk weapons familiarisation training at USNAS Lemoore, and Tracker weapons familiarisation at USNAS North Island, San Diego.

Returning to Australia, he rejoined HMAS Albatross in late 1967 for conversion to the new A4 Skyhawk after which he performed the dual role of Station Air Warfare Instructor (AWI) and flying duties with VC724 Squadron where he assisted in curriculum development for the first Skyhawk course.

Promoted Lieutenant Commander on 18 May 1969, Brian’s next posting saw him return to sea in 1970 as one of the commissioning crew of the new destroyer escort HMAS Torrens. He was awarded his Bridge Watchkeeping and Ocean Navigation certificates before returning to flying in January 1971, initially in VC724 Squadron and then as the Senior Pilot VF805 Squadron embarked in HMAS Melbourne.

In July 1972 he rejoined VC 724 Squadron as its Commanding Officer and in July 1974 was promoted to commander and posted to the staff of the Director General Naval Manpower in Navy Office until January 1975, when he assumed command of HMAS Harman in Canberra.

His next posting in July 1975 was to the Joint Services Staff College, followed in 1976 by a posting to the UK as a member of the Directing Staff at the Royal Naval Staff College at Greenwich (London) where he remained until December 1977. On his return to Australia in January 1978 he was appointed the Executive Officer of the guided missile destroyer HMAS Perth.

Returning to aviation in January 1979, Brian served as Commander Air at NAS Nowra, before being appointed as the Fleet Aviation Officer on the staff of the Fleet Commander in 1980. Commander Dutch’s final posting was in 1981 as the Naval Officer Commanding South Australia (NOCSA). In 1982 he lost his wife Joyce to cancer and resigned his commission to care for his four boys, settling in South Australia.

He was then offered the position of Registrar of the Collegiate School of St Peter where he served for three years, marrying Susan, the daughter of Professor and Mrs H.G. Andrewartha, in 1984. He then became the Executive Director of the Association of the Private Coach and Bus Operators of South Australia for three years. During this time he became President of the Naval, Military and Air Force Club of South Australia from 1989 to 1991.

The next three years were spent as the Services Member of the Veterans Review Board prior to his final retirement in 1994. Brian and Susan then shared many adventures, including seven years living in their yacht L’Oiseau, based in Queensland. In 2015 they returned to Adelaide, South Australia.

There are many of us who knew Brian well and who owe to him much of our knowledge of naval aviation tactics and combat proceures. His contribution to Australian naval aviation policy and operations cannot be overestimated.

May he rest in peace.

With thanks to Jeff Dalgliesh and Murray Smythe.