VICE-ADMIRAL Sir Hugh Stirling ``Rufus'' Mackenzie KCB DSO* DSC, one of the most distinguished submarine captains of the Second World War, and later the first Chief of Polaris Executive, has died at the age of 83. Rufus (or Red) Mackenzie, so nicknamed to avoid confusion with another submarine CO, Black Mackenzie, was born on July 13, 1913 and was the son of the Medical Superintendent of the Inverness District Asylum.

His happy childhood among the hills and fields of the Great Glen instilled in him an

everlasting passion for nature and its wildlife, which helps to explain why he became director of the Atlantic Salmon Trust later in life.

His destiny to become a naval officer is less easily accounted for, but nevertheless he walked through the gates of the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth as an ``unfamiliar and unsure'' thirteen-year-old in January 1927. He was to have his fair share of hair-raising incidents, even before he took command of a submarine - the Service that Winston Churchill described as the most dangerous during the war - when he nearly lost his life bird-watching on a cliff whilst at naval college, and as a junior officer when his submarine HMS Seahorse was rammed and almost sunk by a destroyer.

These incidents were harbingers of greater dangers to come, for when he took command of HMS Thrasher, a member of the Submarine First Flotilla based on Alexandria, operating in the highly dangerous waters of the Mediterranean, he immediately found himself in the thick of the action.

The most famous of his incidents was the one in which a German aircraft bombed his submarine following his successful attack on a convoy. He thought that his rapid evasion had ensured his submarine's survival, but ominous clanging noises in the casing when he returned to periscope depth soon dispelled the myth. Subsequent investigation, when on the surface, revealed two unexploded bombs trapped on the pressure hull, and there was no alternative but to put the lives of two of his men at high risk to remove them.

For their successful disposal of the bombs over the side, Mackenzie's First Lieutenant, Lt Peter Roberts, and his Second Coxswain, Petty Officer Tommy Gould, were both awarded the Victoria Cross. Gould described his captain as ``a generous man in thought, word, and deed, and ice-cool in action''.

These qualities were to reveal themselves later when he confronted the young pilot and navigator of a Royal Navy Swordfish aircraft who mistakenly bombed his cherished Thrasher to within an inch of her life when sailing to her patrol area. His retribution against them, after giving them a drink, was simply to show them the damage they had done.

During his six patrols in Thrasher he was awarded the DSO and bar, and sank more than 40,000 tons of enemy shipping, including Mussolini's yacht Diana. His next command was HMS Tantalus in the Far East where he earned the distinction of conducting the longest patrol of any British submarine during the war, covering 11,692 miles during 55 days at sea. He was awarded the SCE.

He was promoted Commander soon after the war, and Captain in 1952. After commanding the Underwater Detection Establishment at Portland for two years, he returned to sea as Captain (D) of the crack First Destroyer Squadron in command of HMS Chevron. After a year at the Imperial Defence College in 1956, he returned to submarines as Chief Staff Officer, based at Gosport. During this appointment he was invited to spend 24 hours at sea in USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, and was the first foreign officer to be given the privilege of witnessing her capabilities. The trust that existed (and still exists today) between the two submarine services was to prove vital in his appointment as the man charged with introducing the Polaris Weapon System as the national deterrent in 1963.

Before then he commanded HMS Ganges, the Boys' Training Establishment at Shotley, Suffolk and ``with his education complete'', he was promoted Rear Admiral in 1961. He became Flag Officer Submarines. After a short 18 months in a job that he loved, he was hand-picked to undertake possibly the greatest challenge he ever had to face - that of introducing the brand new concept of Polaris into the Royal Navy - starting from a blank piece of paper.

The fact that he and the management team he gathered around him succeeded, and on time when the f8 first British rocket flew in 1968, is testimony to their dedication and hard work and was a triumph for British industry. Yet throughout the trials and tribulations of those five years, during which he covered more than 250,000 miles in the air, he lost neither his sense of humour nor his personal touch. One famous incident was when he was lecturing a group of young engineers on the advantages of the stable home life offered by serving in a Resolution Class with their three-month operating cycle. One wag from the audience worked out that given the cycle ``he would never be at home for the birth of his children''. ``Never mind,'' retorted the Admiral, ``I promise that I will have you there for the conception!''

Rufus Mackenzie was knighted in 1966, and retired as a Vice-Admiral in 1968. He was much sought after in retirement, and happily gave of his time to the Navy League (now Sea Cadet Association), and to the Atlantic Salmon Trust, which he helped to put on a sound financial footing and which is now a major international voice wherever salmon conservation is mentioned.

Yet his life was to be threatened yet again when in 1982 a horrendous car crash on the M1 left him and his beloved wife, Maureen, with severe burns. This traumatic experience forced him into quieter pursuits, with fishing and marching with the Submarine Old Comrades Association at their annual

service on the Embankment being his greatest exertions.

The world is a poorer place for this inspirational leader's passing, and he will be sadly missed by his submarine crews and all who knew him.

He married Helen Maureen Bradish-Ellames in 1946, and they had a son and two daughters.