Derek McKnight RN
An inveterate nomad, ‘Del’ was born in Northern Ireland, educated in Portsmouth, Scotland and Sussex University, culminating in a Bachelor of Science degree. He joined the Royal Navy as a Warfare Officer in 1989 in order achieve his burning ambition to become a Mine Clearance Diving Officer (MCDO). Undertaking a range of junior officer appointments in HM Ships BRISTOL, CORNWALL, ORKNEY, and SHEFFIELD across many regions including a Global deployment, crossing the Arctic Circle and Equator, Operations in the Gulf and Adriatic, and counter-drug and marine enforcement operations around the UK.
Qualifying as an MCDO in 1994 appointments as Operations and Executive Officer in HMS BROCKLESBY and MIDDLETON ensued, along with an exchange to MCMROTCREW CHARLIE, serving in USS CHAMPION and DEVESTATOR. Principal Warfare Officer (PWO) course followed specializing in Above Water Warfare. Qualifying in 1999 he was appointed to the frigates HMS IRON DUKE and LANCASTER as Operations Officer, both with the current First Sea Lord, AdmBen Key, as his Commanding Officer. Further specialization as an Air Warfare Officer (AWO) resulted in a position as the Operations Officer in the destroyer HMS SOUTHAMPTON.
Shore time had to come eventually and a brief posting in the Maritime Warfare School was cut short by an opportunity to join the J3 team in the UK Permanent Joint Headquarters. Two years at the Operational HQ, working in the Middle East Ops Team and then the Special Forces cell saw periods in both Iraq and Afghanistan as well traveling more widely in the Middle East and further afield. This was followed by an exciting Op Tour in Yemen helping to train indigenous forces in counter piracy and organizing one of the largest regional conferences on the subject in 2009.
A return to sea as the Second in Command of the destroyer HMS MANCHESTER (2009-11) he completed a busy operational deployment to the western Atlantic and Caribbean featuring in the BBCs programme “Royal Navy Caribbean Patrol”, some record breaking drug arrests, ashore for hurricane relief and the first Royal Navy visit to Cuba in half a century before paying her off.
Asked to join the Career Managers team, initially as the Air Warfare Officer’s appointer, and subsequently as the Diver and Mine Warfare appointer, the subsequent reward for several years dealing with the wicked problems involved in personnel management was a year on the Advanced Command and Staff Course at Shrivenham, and a Masters in International Relations.
Promoted to Commander in 2013 he joined the Maritime Warfare Centre where he became an expert in the Estimate process and Wargaming, with numerous trips to the Naval War College in Rhode Island to participate in carrier wargames ahead of the introduction of Queen Elizabeth class carriers into the Royal Navy, as well as teaching the Commanding and Executive Officer Courses.
An Op Tour to CENTCOM as an embed and the J3 Maritime Branch Chief enabled a “refresher” on the problems of the Middle East during a very exciting period, including the Farsi island incident. After this he returned to the UK to take up the post as Commanding Officer of the Fleet Diving Squadron in May 2016, with operational diving and EOD teams around the UK and across the globe. His team’s operational deployments included Guam, Sri Lanka, San Diego, Ukraine and the Middle East.
The most recent appointment was in the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) in the Ops Directorate’s CT&UK Ops team dealing with subjects as varied as BREXIT and leaving the EU, Maritime Security, organising the military elements of G7 and NATO 70 conferences, helping manage the Defence response to the COVID crisis and much more besides. Regularly briefing the Secretary of State for Defence, his deputies and senior officers such as the Chief of Defence Staff in the MOD it was a fascinating insight into the workings of UK Defence at the highest levels.
Married to Sara, Captain McKnight has two sons at University and enjoys trying to keep fit by running, cycling, triathlon, is a rugby referee and a keen advocate of the sport. In his few free hours, he is addicted to the literary art, and has far too many books to read in his lifetime.