A MEMORIAL service is to be held at Wick, near Pershore, for Dick Plath, a former US Navy submarine commander and veteran of Cold War confrontations with the Soviet Union, who married a Worcestershire farmer’s daughter and relocated to the UK to live the life of an English countryman.

Mr Plath, who was 77, died in St Richard’s Hospice, Worcester after a short battle with leukaemia, his wife Penny and favourite Labrador Magnet by his side. His memorial service will be on Wednesday, July 4, American Independence Day.

A keen country pursuits enthusiast, Mr Plath planted 11,000 trees on 25 acres near the family home at Wick, which became part of his local shoot. He was also a former treasurer of the Leadon Vale Basset Hounds, while his wife used to ride with the Croome Hunt.

Shooting was a skill that came easily to Dick Plath. He had always shot since he was a youngster, usually game or vermin around the family home at Reno, Nevada and this natural talent came to the fore in the navy.

He was picked to shoot small bore for the Naval Academy team and in 1962 was selected an "All American", a national recognition given to only 10 people each year from those shooting for universities across the country.

After leaving the Academy, Mr Plath went for nuclear submarine training. In the following years he cruised beneath the ocean's waves on a series of Polaris and then fast hunter-killer submarines. A typical Polaris patrol would last for two months with the sub carrying a crew of 115 men and 14 officers

"I reckon I've spent well over five years of my life submerged," he said in an interview with this paper in 2008. “The aim of the patrols was to keep the peace, to act as a deterrent and be ready to respond in case the Soviets decided to throw any of their nuclear missiles at the United States.

"We were also gathering intelligence. It was a game of cat and mouse with the Russians subs, which were also out there. There were a few incidents, but no submarine purposely rams another submarine. If you do, you're going to die."

Following nine Polaris missions, Mr Plath switched to hunter-killer subs. He served on three and spent three years commanding his last, USS Skipjack, from 1977-1980.

His later years were spent on developing submarine tactics and in an extraordinary post at Nato Command HQ at Northwood, Middlesex, where in effect, he acted as air traffic controller for the Polaris submarine movements in the eastern Atlantic. These involved the Americans, the British and the French, none of whom wanted the others to know where they were.

Mr Plath retired from the US Navy in 1989 and by that time had been married to Penny for more than 10 years. They'd met back in 1977, after his submarine pulled into Sardinia, where Penny Dowson, daughter of a Pershore farmer, was selling property. They were introduced by a mutual friend at a drinks party.

The couple married at Elmley Castle in the spring of 1978, the groom, somewhat uniquely for a south Worcestershire wedding, in his US Navy officer's uniform. Berrow's Worcester Journal splashed the story across its front page.

On retirement, they settled back home in Worcestershire, where Mr Plath’s first task was to complete their house on the family farm. "I went from one day being a Captain in the US Navy to the next being a builder, a plumber and electrician in England," he said.

Mr Plath became the shooting representative for Worcestershire of the British Field Sports Society (the forerunner of the Countryside Alliance) and by the time Labour brought forward its Hunting Bill in an effort to ban the sport, the Plaths were firing on all cylinders, holding a Blessing of the Hounds at their home.

Dick Plath’s memorial service will be held at St Mary’s church, Wick, on July 4 at 2.30pm.