Naval Reserve Advisor: 1975 - 1980
Captain T.A (Thomas) Cooper OBE VRD* RNZNVR
Captain Cooper was born in Wellington in 1928 and lived, during his childhood, in Seatoun.
During his adolescent years he joined the Britannia Sea Scout Group in Evans Bay in Wellington and rose to be Troop Leader. He continued that interest, until he considered that he was not able to satisfactorily carry out his duties to that organisation as well as family, career and the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve.
His interest in the sea was clearly developed from an early age in Sea Scouts and during the Second World War, as a teenager, he helped crew the Naval Auxiliary craft that operated on Wellington Harbour on a voluntary basis. He spent some of that time in the launch LADY ETHYL with the late Charles Holmes, who was Commodore of the Evans Bay Yacht and Motor Boat Club.
Captain Cooper was part of the first intake into the Wellington Division of the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve when it reformed after the Second World War. He was engaged 18 October 1948 with the official number of 102031 which indicates that he was the 31st to be engaged.
He rose to the rank of Leading Seaman and in addition to being a keen and very competent small boat sailor spent a significant amount of time in the attached Seaward Defence Motor Launch. During his time as a rating he carried out training in HMNZS TAUPO, HMS VERYAN BAY and HMNZS KIWI.
He appeared before an Officer Selection Board in 1951 and was promoted Probationary Acting Sub-Lieutenant 19 October 1951. After completing his Divisional Course and NBCD Courses in HMNZS PHILOMEL, he was promoted Sub-Lieutenant 21 November 1952.
He was one of a group of New Zealand Volunteer Reserve Officers who were given the opportunity of undertaking extended training with the Royal Australian Navy and he spent five months from March until July 1953 in HMAS CERBERUS, HMAS WATSON in HMAS VENGENCE and at HMAS RUSHCUTTER.
He was promoted Lieutenant 17 October 1954 and during the succeeding eight years undertook the standard series of courses for Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve Officers including Gunnery, Tactical Anti-Submarine Warfare (TAS), Communications, and three courses in Coastal and Ocean Navigation., all of which he passed with distinction. This series of courses was based on the premise that Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Officers were seen as being trained for fleet supplementation as well as for their duties in the Seaward Defence Motor Launches. He gained his Command Certificate for these craft in July 1962, and for many years thereafter spent a great deal of time in those ships on the New Zealand coast.
His promotion to Lieutenant Commander was effective 17 October 1962 and during the next five years undertook a variety of posts within HMNZS OLPHERT, becoming Executive Officer before being promoted to the rank of Commander 31 December 1967.
He became Commanding Officer of the Wellington Division, Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve 1 June 1970. During the period leading up to that appointment, he had supervised the move of the Division from the Hinemoa Street Headquarters that it had occupied for all but a few years since 1928, to premises formerly owned by Cadbury Fry Hudson Limited in Ghuznee Street. This was no small task given the very small budget of $10,000 allocated for the move. It was testament to his leadership that so much was accomplished in developing that headquarters from voluntary labour by the members of the Division.
Four years later, he was appointed Naval Reserve Adviser to The Chief of Naval Staff, retaining in Command of HMNZS OLPHERT until the end of 1974.
The acquisition of the Otago and Waikato Class frigates and later the Lake Class Patrol Craft, by the Royal New Zealand Navy, as well as the emergence of the Naval Control of Merchant Shipping, signalled a move away from the traditional role of manpower supplementation for the Naval Reserve. In the four years from 1974 until 1978, Captain Cooper led a series of teams that developed the revised role of the Naval Reserve with emphasis on manning small ships of the Royal New Zealand Navy and undertaking the whole of the Naval Control of Merchant Shipping task. For the sea-going personnel this was a developing requirement for Resource Protection duties.
He continued as Naval Reserve Adviser until he retired 1 July 1980. Captain Cooper married Audrey Elizabeth Rowell. He and Audrey settled into a home in Mapuia and had two daughters.
Captain Cooper died in 2004 after a long and difficult battle with cancer.