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First serving on the battleship Ajax as a midshipmanWalker as a sub-lieutenant went on to join the destroyers Mermaid and Sarpedon in and respectively. He married Jessica Eileen Ryder Stobart, with whom he had three sons and a daughter.
He took a course at the newly founded antisubmarine warfare training school of HMS Ospreyon the Isle of Portlandwhich was established in Walker consequently became an expert in this particular type of warfare, and was appointed to a post specialising in this field, serving on a number of capital ships.
Still a commander, he had been passed over for promotion to captain and indeed had been scheduled for early retirement.
He gained a reprieve, however, due to the commencement of war and in was appointed as Operations Staff Officer to Vice-Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay. Even so, Walker still had not been given a command, despite expertise in antisubmarine warfare that would no doubt be indispensable in the Battle of the Atlantic.
The evacuation was a success with overBritish and French troops being rescued and brought back to England, or to Brittany. He was Mentioned in Despatches for his work during this operation. The escort group comprised two sloops including the Stork and six corvettes and was based in Liverpoolthe home of the Western Approaches Command.
Initially his Group was primarily used to escort convoys to and from Gibraltar. Walker's first chance to test his innovative methods against the U-boat menace came in December when his group escorted Convoy HG 76 32 ships. During the journey five U-boats were sunk, four by Walker's group, including the U which was depth-charged and rammed by Walker's own ship on 19 December.
The Royal Navy's loss during the Battle for HG76 was one escort carrierthe Audacityformerly the German vessel Hannover; one destroyer, the Stanleyand two merchant ships.
This is sometimes described as the first true Allied convoy victory in the Battle of the Atlantic. He was given the Distinguished Service Order DSO on 6 January"For daring, skill and determination while escorting to this country a valuable Convoy in the face of relentless attacks from the Enemy, during which three of their Submarines were sunk and two aircraft destroyed by our forces".
He finally returned to a ship command when he became commander of the 2nd Support Group inconsisting of six sloops.
Walker led from Starlinga newly commissioned Black Swan-class sloop. The group was intended to act as reinforcement to convoys under attack, with the capacity to actively hunt and destroy U-boats, rather than be restricted to escorting convoys.
The combination of an active hunting group and a charismatic, determined, and innovative antisubmarine specialist such as Walker proved to be a potent force.
One eccentric aspect of his charismatic nature was the playing of the tune A Hunting We Will Go over the ship's Tannoy when returning to its base. In June Walker's own ship Starling was responsible for the sinking of two U-boats.Johnnie Walker gives his straight talking views for the month.
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