A funeral with full military honours was held for Vice Admiral David Willoughby Leach AC, CBE, LVO, RAN (Ret’d) who served as Chief of Naval Staff from 1982 to 1985 on Friday, 31 January 2020 at the Garden Island Chapel.
Vice Admiral Leach had a distinguished 43-year career and was the last former Chief of Naval Staff, now known as Chief of Navy, to have served in the Royal Australian Navy during the Second World War.
Hundreds of mourners including the Governor of New South Wales, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, the Mayor of Woollahra, Councillor Susan Wynne and Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, AO, RAN turned out to farewell Vice Admiral Leach.
The coffin of Admiral Leach, draped with the Australian White Ensign and with the admiral’s sword and cap placed on it, was transported on a gun-carriage flanked by 136 junior sailors and the Navy Band. Six sailors acted as pall bearers.
Eulogies and tributes were delivered by the Admiral’s family and navy members.
As part of the ceremonial tribute, the three pound saluting gun battery at the end of Garden Island fired 30 times and an honour guard of 24 fired a three-volley salute.
Vice Admiral Leach joined the Royal Australian Naval College in 1942 at the age of 13.
Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Michael Noonan praised his predecessor’s courage and expertise, notably while captain of HMAS Perth (II) in the Vietnam War.
“While under his command, HMAS Perth provided accurate bombardment of shore targets and avoided 30 rounds of counter battery fire from enemy shore emplacements,” Vice Admiral Noonan said.
“For this, the crew of Perth were awarded the US Meritorious Unit Commendation and Vice Admiral Leach was a made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for distinguished service and devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.
“His leadership skills during this and other times of conflict were exemplary.”
Vice Admiral Leach went on to serve as Director of Naval Plans, the Director General of Naval Operational Requirements, the Australian Naval Representative in the United Kingdom, the Chief of Naval Materiel, and the Chief of Naval Staff.
For his service, Vice Admiral Leach was recognised when he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia and later a Companion of the Order of Australia and a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order.
Vice Admiral Leach retired in 1985 after three years as the Chief of Naval Staff. He continued his commitment to public service as a member of the Council of the Australian War Memorial and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
He was also the Mayor of Woollahra, an alderman, the Chairman of the Australian Vietnam War Veterans Trust and a patron to many ex-service organisations.
Vice Admiral Leach passed away on 19 January 2020 at the age of 91.
Admiral Leach is survived by his widow Pamela, daughter Nicola and son Michael.
Imagery is available on the Navy Image Gallery: https://images.navy.gov.au/S20200652.