Naval historian took part in re-enactment of famous Mayflower voyage

Woodbridge resident and naval historian Peter Padfield with his wife Jane while walking in Switzerland

Woodbridge resident and naval historian Peter Padfield with his wife Jane while walking in Switzerland - Credit: THE PADFIELD FAMILY

Tributes have been paid to an "inexhaustibly creative" historian who was among the crew that participated in a famous re-enactment of the Mayflower voyage to America. 

Woodbridge resident Peter Padfield gained a berth as a mariner on board the replica 17th-century bark Mayflower II in 1957 for the recreation of the Pilgrim Fathers’ voyage from Plymouth in Devon to Plymouth in Massachusetts in 1620. 

The vessel was created in 1955-56 as part of a project inspired by journalist Warwick Charlton, in collaboration with the Plimoth Patuxet museum in the US, to commemorate the wartime co-operation between the UK and US. 

The expedition was commanded by Alan Villiers and left Plymouth on April 20, 1957, arriving in Plymouth, Massachusetts on June 22, 1957, before being towed up the East River to New York to be heralded in a ticker-tape parade. 

During his time on board, the keen sketch artist drew the ship’s sails and intricate rigging, while not on watch, and the replica ship is still on display at Plymouth, Massachusetts. 

Peter Padfield and wife Jane at Kyson Point near Woodbridge

Peter Padfield and wife Jane at Kyson Point near Woodbridge - Credit: THE PADFIELD FAMILY

However, Mr Padfield, who was born in Kolkata, India, is better known to scholars as a naval historian.  

He has produced ground-breaking work on how naval power has shaped the modern world, as well as authoritative and controversial biographies of Nazi leaders among a literature cannon spanning five decades and more than 30 books.   

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A particular focus has been on the Spanish Armada and the Victorian and Edwardian navy, while he has also written three naval adventures. 

After spending his early years in India, Mr Padfield - who died at home on Monday, March 14 aged 89 - moved to England where he was educated at Northcliffe House Prep School and Christ’s Hospital School in Sussex before attending The Thames Nautical Training College on HMS Worcester. 

He spent time in the US and the British Solomon Islands where he sailed local craft and panned for gold in disused mines on Guadalcanal. 

In 1960, Mr Padfield married his wife Jane and moved to East Anglia, settling in Suffolk and raising three children, Guy, Deborah and Fiona, while he also has two grandchildren- Max and Megan. 

His maritime interests continued when he bought a 1900 Norfolk shrimper replica to sail on the River Deben with his children, while he enjoyed travelling, especially to Switzerland for cross-country skiing in winter. 

His other interests included tennis, sea swimming and sketching and painting watercolours. 

Sadly, his wife died four years ago and he had since created a memorial garden to her at his home, while he also collated the diaries from his time on board Mayflower II into a sketch book. 

Guy said: “He was just inexhaustibly creative, he was always writing, creating, making things. He could never sit down and relax. The last few years had been incredibly difficult for him because he had been unable to do the things he wanted to do.”