Obituary: Captain John Moore, naval officer and editor

Captain John Moore, naval officer and editor. Born: 11 November, 1921, in St Illario, Italy. Died: 8 July, 2010, in East Sussex, aged 88.

AS an influential and highly respected naval officer John Moore was committed to improving the efficiencies of the Royal Navy. As the editor of Jane's Fighting Ships he was committed to publishing the truth, whether it upset the establishment or not. In either case, he was rarely a man for compromise.

Born just outside Genoa on Remembrance Day 1921, John Evelyn Moore was the son of an import-export merchant. The family then moved to the southern hemisphere, settling in New Zealand before Moore was sent to Sherborne, an independent boys' boarding school in Dorset, to complete his education.

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A keen sportsman, he enjoyed rugby, a passion which had moved with him from New Zealand. In those days powered flight was in its infancy so all long journeys were made by sea rather than by air. It was the seemingly endless months on transport ships that fuelled his obsession with the open ocean and influenced his decision to join the Royal Navy in 1939.

A highly adept student and talented academic, as a naval officer Moore began as a specialist in hydrographic surveying and in 1942 was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

By 1944 he had moved below the waves to become a submariner and went on to captain five submarines. He was well known as a problem solver, keen to improve efficiencies and operating procedures.

During the Second World War, Moore noted that getting men from submarines to land was a tricky business, especially as submarines and shallow water do not mix.

A practical man and one who did not accept defeat lightly, Moore challenged himself to solve the problem. Inspired by the work of the Special Boat Service (SBS), the elite Royal Marine commandos, when off the coast of Singapore in the mid-1960s, Moore built on work already carried out by the Navy during development of "Goldfish", which allowed submariners to enter and exit their craft while submerged.

His contribution was to design a piece of technology that allowed submariners to locate their craft in the hours of darkness. It was a simple invention but one which helped revolutionise the way the SBS operates.

He also aided the SBS by developing a parachuting exercise which allowed commandos to rendezvous with waiting submarines. Although under specific instructions not to test this technique himself, Moore ignored his orders and used himself as the guinea pig. Thankfully, his confidence paid off and he reached his intended landing site unharmed.

During his time working alongside the SBS, Moore came in to contact with a young Royal Marine, Paddy Ashdown (later to become and MP and latterly, Lord Ashdown).

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Ashdown helped test Moore's latest problem-solving invention, a torpedo-turned-underwater personnel carrier.Promotion to commander followed and, after a spell with the Turkish navy and an Admiralty tour, he took charge of 7th Submarine Squadron.

Many in the upper echelons of the Royal Navy would have placed bets on Moore steadily progressing through the ranks, but in a typical display of single mindedness he retired in 1972 to take on an altogether different challenge, the editorial seat at Jane's Fighting Ships.

The annual reference book, which is now also published online, started life in 1898, the brainchild of John FT Jane as Jane's All the World's Fighting Ships and provides comprehensive details on all the world's warships.

The publication soon became the bible for ocean-going military operations as it provided information as detailed as silhouettes, enabling both sides to identify friend and foe from distance.

Moore took over as editor in 1973 and, within 15 years, he had used his extensive contact list to bulk out the publication, taking its listing of 108 navies to 152, effectively increasing the information content by half, all before the advent of computers. It was good old-fashioned research done brilliantly well, in a garden shed in East Sussex.

Moore's outlook was simple: no flannel, no propaganda, no misinformation and no lies. He was interested in publishing the truth, and had no intention of being diverted by any amount of external influence. The annual publication was, therefore, met with trepidation by the Navy, of which Moore had no compunction about providing accurate information, regardless of how damning that might be.

His network of contacts infiltrated almost every national navy and he was privy to some highly classified information, dealing with defectors from Communist states, government officials, serving naval officers, retired naval staff and many other sources.

When arrested in China for taking photographs of a warship, he was released purely because of his reputation as the editor of Jane's.

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Moore's stewardship of the publication was the first for a former naval officer and his experience held him in good stead when it came to sorting through the thousands of photographs and letter he received. True to his values, Moore was unbiased in his assessments, which only added to the respect in which Jane's and Moore himself were held.

His experience of geographical surveying also proved handy, as he explained strategies based on geography and region, political leanings, vessels and weaponry.

He was well known for his inability to shy away from what needed to be said, and had the reputation for being an affable and witty man for whom the truth was of paramount importance, whether some people liked to hear it or not.

He wrote and co-wrote 12 books, all non-fiction and all centred around maritime activities.He was an honorary professor of both Aberdeen University (1987-1990) and the University of St Andrews (1990-1992).

A keen ornithologist and rugby fan, Moore kept his passion for humour and the sea to the very end, planning his own funeral to end with a rendition of Yellow Submarine.

Married twice, Moore is survived by his son and two daughters from his first marriage. His second wife died in 2008.