ADMIRAL Sir Stephen Berthon, who rose to be Deputy Chief of Defence Staff before retiring to the Wiltshire countryside to indulge his love of hunting, has died at the age of 84.

Sir Stephen was almost obliged to go to sea, having been born near Plymouth Hoe, and he trained at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, before the Second World War broke out.

He was at sea for almost the entire war, seeing service in the Mediterranean aboard HMS Orion and in the Arctic with HMS Offa.

While on leave in 1944 he met his future wife Elizabeth Leigh-Bennett, the daughter of his parents' closest friends, who was serving with the Wrens. The couple were married in 1948.

After the war Sir Stephen thought he would try his hand at farming, a lifelong ambition, but found the half pay he was on from the Royal Navy was insufficient to raise a growing family.

He returned to the Navy, was made Captain and went to Australia as Naval Attaché. On his return he was made Deputy Director of Signals, where he played a considerable part in introducing satellite communications to the Navy.

He also devised the "two man rule" for the firing of Polaris missiles, which had just been introduced.

In 1972 he and his wife purchased their home in Stert, near Devizes, but it was to be nine years before he could enjoy it to the full.

In the meantime he had postings as Commander of naval barracks HMS Drake in Devonport before promotion to Rear Admiral brought him to Chatham as Flag Officer Medway and thence to the appointment as Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Operational Requirements), where he had to fight the Navy's corner against the competing needs of the other services.

Finally in 1981 he retired to his country retreat at Stert and was invited to become joint master of the Avon Vale Hunt.

Sir Stephen took a full part in the life of the congregation of St James's Church in Stert, serving as church treasurer and chairman of the parochial church council.

He was also president of the Warminster Beagles, and interests took in riding, gardening, painting, walking, playing tennis and horse racing.

But his enduring love was his family. His two sons, two daughters and 12 grandchildren were his pride and joy.

A family funeral in his home village has already taken place. A service of thanksgiving will take place at St Michael and All Angels Church, Urchfont, on March 15 at 2.30pm.