Comm. Peter Wippell OBE
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Posted 01 August 2016 - 12:31 AM
"Commander Peter Wippell, who has died aged 85, devised improvements to the Navy’s missile systems that helped Britain win the Falklands War.
For several years before the conflict, Wippell had been systems engineer for the Navy’s two generations of long-range, anti-aircraft missiles – Sea Slug, first designed in 1947, and the more modern Sea Dart.
Practice firings with Sea Slug had involved a countdown to the big day of some six weeks, but Wippell was keen that there should be as little warning as possible for a ship to fire its missiles on trials or exercise, thus simulating war as closely as possible, and he successfully introduced the practice that ships should be required only to certify that routine maintenance was up to date and there were no defects in the missile system before any firing.
Wippell also had in hand a number of hardware and software improvements to Sea Slug and Sea Dart, and he compressed their introduction into a few weeks as the prospect of battle loomed: some of this work was completed in the ships on their way to the South Atlantic.
Sea Dart was credited with seven confirmed kills, including high- and low-flying aircraft, and that some of these kills were outside Sea Dart’s stated technical envelope was attributed to the modifications instigated by Wippell.
He was appointed OBE in 1983.
Arthur Peter Risien Wippell was born in Valletta, Malta. His father, Engineer Captain Arthur Wippell, was a veteran of the Battle of Jutland, and his mother, Gladys Risien, a white creole from British Guiana. He grew up in East Devon, where the Wippells were long-established; his great grandfather had founded the Exeter-based clerical and church furnishings supplier, J Wippell & Co. His uncles and cousins tended to be either admirals or clergymen.
Peter was educated at the naval colleges of Dartmouth, Manadon and Greenwich, and at Edinburgh University.
He specialised as an ordnance engineer and in 1954 on the battleship Vanguard claimed to be the last person to have fired her 15 in guns. Subsequent appointments saw him serving in the Admiralty at Bath, and in the guided missile destroyer Fife, before he joined Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment on Portsdown Hill."
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