Date of Birth : 18 Sep 1924
Service: Indian Navy
Last Rank: Vice Admiral
Years of Service : 1943 - 1984
Awards : PVSM, AVSM
Date of Demise : Jan 04, 2021
Vice Admiral Melville Raymond Schunker was born on 18 September 1924 in an Anglo-Indian family. He was commissioned into the Royal Indian Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1943 as a Midshipman during World War II and thereafter into the Royal Indian Navy. He was promoted to the rank of Sub-Lieutenant on 13 May 1944 and thereafter served onboard auxiliary patrol vessels as well as minesweepers. After the war, he was selected for a permanent commission in the Royal Indian Navy and was commissioned as lieutenant on 18 March 1947.
Indian Navy Career
The then Lt Schunker was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander on 18 March 1955. In 1956, when the Crown Colony Class cruiser HMS Nigeria was being refitted and commissioned as INS Mysore, Lt Cdr Schunker became a part of the commissioning crew as the gunnery officer. After serving on the ship for about two years, he was posted to the Gunnery School in Cochin. The long gunnery course was conducted in India for the first time and Lt Cdr Schunker was the course officer. In 1960, Lt Cdr Schunker was promoted to the rank of Commander and appointed Commanding Officer of the R-Class Destroyer INS Rana. He then moved to Naval Headquarters as the Deputy Director Naval Plans. After a short stint, in December 1961, he was appointed Fleet Operations Officer to the Flag Officer Commanding Indian Fleet. He was then selected to attend the Joint Service Staff College in Latimer, Buckinghamshire.
In 1967, the submarine arm of the Indian Navy was formed with the commissioning of INS Kalavari in December 1967. Subsequently three more submarines were to be acquired from the Soviet Union and the 8th Submarine Squadron was to be formed. To support these submarines, the Indian Navy acquired a modified Ugra Class submarine tender. Cdr Schunker was appointed the commissioning Commanding Officer of the ship. The tender was commissioned on 28 December 1968 and as the CO, Cdr Schunker read the commissioning warrant and ordered the colours to be hoisted. Three days later, on 31 December 1968, he was promoted to the rank of Captain. He led the ship in the sea trials off Odisha and brought her home to India in March 1969. For his command of INS Amba, the submarine Depot Ship, Capt Schunker was awarded the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) on 26 January 1970.
Capt Schunker then commanded the Provost headquarters in Mumbai – INS Kunjali. He was then promoted to the rank of Commodore and appointed Commanding Officer of the Electrical Engineering School INS Valsura in Jamnagar in coastal Gujarat. He was subsequently selected to attend the prestigious National Defence College (NDC) course from January to December 1973. After completing the course, he was appointed Chief of Staff (COS) of the Western Naval Command in Mumbai. After two years as COS of the Western Naval Command, Cmde Schunker was promoted to the acting rank of Rear Admiral and appointed Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet (FOCWF) in March 1976.
After a year-long stint heading the Western Fleet, he relinquished the command, handing over to Rear Admiral MP Awati. In late 1977, he took over as the Deputy Chief of Naval Staff at Naval HQ. Later in early 1978, he was promoted to the rank of Vice Admiral and appointed Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command at Visakhapatnam. After a two-year stint, in 1980, he relinquished command of the Eastern Naval Command, handing over to Vice Admiral MK Roy and moved back to Naval HQ. On 1 April 1980, he took over as the Vice Chief of the Naval Staff and on 26 January 1981, he was awarded the PVSM (Param Vishisht Seva Medal) for his distinguished service of the most exceptional order.
On 1 April 1982, Vice Adm Schunker took over as the third Director General of the Indian Coast Guard (DGICG), succeeding Vice Admiral Swaraj Parkash. Under him, the coast guard entered the air age as No. 800 Coast Guard Air squadron with Chetak helicopters was commissioned on 22 May 1982. Also, during his tenure, five ships were commissioned including the first indigenously built offshore patrol vessels (OPV). After a two-year stint there, and many accomplishments spread over decades of glorious service, he finally retired in the year 1984.
After his retirement, Vice Adm Schunker and his wife Mrs Anne moved to Goa to their residence in the Defence Colony in Porvorim in North Goa. One of Vice Adm Schunker’s creative habits was carpentry, and he even made some of his own furniture. In the subsequent years he went through a loss of his spouse Mrs Anne, and the simultaneous replacement of two knees. Besides being a deep rooted soldier, he was a family man too and doted on his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He also kept pace with times and picked up the newer technologies, and became quite adept at using the internet. Vice Adm Schunker remained a warm hearted gentleman, forthright, virtuous, with a great sense of humour. He was a great mentor, who led by personal example. He drove his own car and remained affable and clear headed till he passed away after a brief illness at the age of 96 on 04 Jan 2021.
Vice Admiral Melville Raymond Schunker left a lasting imprint on the Indian Navy and on the Coast Guard, with his single minded service oriented focus, integrity and fine qualities of a military leader. He is survived by his son Mr Colin Schunker, daughter Mrs Donna Suares, and son-in-law, Commander Keith Suares.
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