In 1931 Irving joined the Royal Naval Surveying Service. In 1944, when in command of HMS Franklin, Irving resurveyed a number of the ports and harbours in north-west Europe as they fell into allied hands. After his ship berthed in Terneuzen his surveys of the Schelde enabled allied shipping to carry military supplies to Antwerp.
In 1948 Irving carried out sea trials of the newly developed two-range Decca system for fixing the position of surveying ships when out of sight of land in HMS Sharpshooter.
In 1960, as a rear admiral, he was appointed Hydrographer of the Navy. In this position he convinced the Admiralty that purpose-built survey vessels would be cheaper than converted naval vessels, the first being launched as HMS Hecla in 1964. He retired in 1966, subsequently working for the Decca company.