Navy mourns loss of friend and supporter Sir Donald Gosling

The Royal Navy has lost one of its greatest supporters and benefactors with the death of honorary Vice Admiral Sir Donald Gosling on Monday.

Sir Donald, who died at the age of 90 surrounded by his loved ones, was a successful entrepreneur and highly respected businessman. He was also munificent in his support of the Royal Navy, and generations of sailors and Royal Marines and their families have benefited from his generosity. 

Although it is more than 70 years since he left the Senior Service, he never forgot the grounding and opportunities the Royal Navy gave him in the final months of World War 2.

He joined the Royal Navy in 1944 and subsequently served in the cruiser HMS Leander in the Mediterranean. This left a lasting impression on him, and both his house and his yacht Leander G were named after the warship.

Following his departure from the Navy after the war, he teamed up with fellow ex-serviceman Ronald Hobson to buy a bombsite in London and turn it into a car park. Over the next 50 years, this venture grew into National Car Parks, covering 650 sites.

Sir Donald, who was knighted in 1976, was a long-time advocate, supporter and benefactor of the Royal Navy, including four years as chairman of the White Ensign Association.

The foundation he established has supported and rewarded the Naval family from Sea Cadets through to veterans.

His generosity has improved the lives of sailors, Royal Marines and their families at sea and on land, from helping with commissioning ceremonies and providing mess deck facilities, to paying for adventurous training opportunities around the world. Most recently, he provided the amenities fund of HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Sir Donald’s support for the Royal Navy was recognised with a series of honorary ranks, from Captain through to his appointment as Vice Admiral in 2015.

He also held the post of Vice Admiral of the United Kingdom, subordinate only to the Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom, the Duke of Edinburgh.

First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin, said “I am enormously saddened by Sir Don’s death. He was a close and warm friend to the Naval Service throughout his life, and there has been a tremendous outpouring of affection, gratitude and collective sorrow from across the Service.

“He shared our values; he laughed with us; and his humanity and generosity touched every single one of us. He will be sorely missed.”

Sir Donald was also passionate about the Royal Navy’s history, supporting Naval documentary makers, serving as a trustee of the Fleet Air Arm Museum and, in 2012, donating £25m to help preserve HMS Victory for generations to come.

His support of the National Museum of the Royal Navy over the past decade has assisted with the ongoing transformation of the UK’s four principal naval museums, and helped to push the historic dockyard alone to the cusp of one million visitors every year. It is fitting that a gallery in the Portsmouth museum bears his name.

“We are incredibly grateful for Sir Donald Gosling’s support of the National Museum over the years,” said Dr Caroline Williams, chairman of the NMRN’s board. “His amazingly generous support of HMS Victory was a game changer for the museum.

“Adding her to our historic fleet with the sure knowledge of having a legacy to build on allowed us to change direction and transform perceptions of our work. We are about to celebrate our tenth anniversary and it’s fair to say that without Sir Donald’s assistance, the museum would be in a different place.”