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  • Obituaries

    Major Terence Murphy

    ~ ~ ~

    Major Terence Murphy was a naval pilot whose spot of DIY with a machine gun led to the attack helicopter.

    Major Terence Murphy, who has died aged 79, came up with the idea of a helicopter gunship and fought guerrillas in southern Africa before settling there.

    Murphy led 45 Commando’s Air Troop when, in March 1966, it was brought in during the Aden Emergency (1963-67). The senior of three RM pilots, Murphy was lent to the Army Air Corps and used Army helicopters for training in both mountainous territory and desert conditions. One exercise involved a tricky landing among rocks overlooking Aden’s Crater. Only when safely landed did Murphy point out the iron grid where the local Parsi left their dead for flocks of vultures to feast on.

    Once, flying at fairly low level over a desolate inland area in the unarmed Sioux helicopter, he saw a lone Arab on a hill raise his rifle and take aim. Feeling exposed, Murphy decided to fix a machine gun on the starboard side of the aircraft, allowing his pilots to fire back. Though attack helicopters were then in development in America, Murphy claimed that he was the first to arm helicopters in this way, and thus that he was the inventor of the modern attack helicopter.

    Terence Patrick Murphy was born at Grimsby on August 27 1934 and educated at Belmont Abbey, Herefordshire. He was commissioned into the Royal Marines in 1953 and after two tours in 40 Commando, he volunteered for flying training .

    He gained his wings in 1959, joining 806 Naval Air Squadron flying Seahawk jet fighters. The next year he made his first operational decklanding, on the fleet carrier Albion, becoming the first RM pilot to fly in a jet squadron.

    When the concept was developed of the assault ship carrying helicopter-borne marines, Murphy volunteered again and in 1961 became one of the first assault helicopter pilots (known as “junglies”), joining 848 NAS in the commando carrier Bulwark.

    After a tour on general duties in 43 Commando, he passed the instructors’ course at the RAF Central Flying School and joined the School of Army Aviation, where he became a helicopter instructor. He returned there following his service in Aden.

    In 1966 Murphy attended Shrivenham for the General Staff Science course and then the Army Staff College, Camberley.

    Two years later he reluctantly went to the MoD as a desk officer, remaining there for two years before moving to Singapore as a company commander in 42 Commando. A couple of years later he decided to return to England overland with his wife, driving through India and Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and Greece.

    In 1972 Murphy took command of 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron (BAS), then considered to have a poor safety record. Two years later, at the end of his tour, the squadron won the Army Air Corps Flight Safety Trophy. He also set up annual mountain flying training at Saillagouse in the Pyrenees.

    After leaving the Service in 1974, Murphy turned down an offer to become Aristotle Onassis’s personal pilot, and in August that year joined the Rhodesian Air Force, with which he flew during the closing years of the Rhodesian Bush War. After Zimbabwean Independence, he transferred to the South African Armed Forces, reaching the rank of colonel before retiring aged 61.

    During the interregnum between the Afrikaner government and the election of President Nelson Mandela, Murphy was recalled to command a camp of 7,000 ANC guerrillas and to integrate them into the new South African Army. In this he was aided by Gilbert Ramano, head of the armed wing of the ANC, who later became Chief of the Army.

    Murphy settled in Simon’s Town, Cape Province, where he enjoyed fishing and sailing. He married, in 1967, Brigitte Couët, who survives him with their three children.

  • #2
    Phillip Green

    ~ ~ ~

    Born: 19 December, 1948, in Cardiff. Died: 11 February, 2014, in Inverness, aged 65

    When Phil Green spotted an advert for army pilots it was the catalyst for a career that would see him take on a pioneering role in Scotland’s helicopter air ambulance service.

    Phil Green: Former army pilot who pioneered the helicopter air ambulance service in Scotland

    Originally a radio technician with the Royal Signals, he went on to fly for the Army Air Corps before leaving the armed forces for the North Sea, where he ferried crews back and forth from oil platforms and transported keepers and their supplies to lighthouses around the coast.

    But when the opportunity arose to pilot the country’s first helicopter air ambulance it proved irresistible and over the next two decades he completed more than 2,000 mercy missions, skillfully manoeuvring his aircraft into the tightest of spaces to help save the lives of patients from infants to accident victims.

    One of his most memorable missions was the birth of a baby boy on a remote Highland mountainside, when he had to land the helicopter alongside a loch as the youngster made his entrance ten weeks prematurely. Despite the complications of a breech birth and having the cord wrapped around his neck, the baby survived, having been resuscitated all the way by paramedics, as Captain Green battled worsening weather to reach the hospital in Inverness.

    Other rescues included those of a farmer impaled on a fence post and so many road crash victims that any family trip to the north of Scotland was inevitably accompanied by a series of “I’ve landed here” observations as they passed the locations of accidents he had attended.

    Born and raised in the Welsh capital, the son of a fireman and a local councillor, he left Cardiff High School at 15 to join the army, signing up with the Royal Signals in 1964. He trained at the Army Apprentices College in Harrogate, qualifying as a radio technician with his first posting to Cyprus where, within a week, he had met his future wife Cathy.

    The couple married at Ladybank Church in Fife and, in 1973, after several years’ service in the UK, he noticed the army was advertising for pilots.

    He successfully applied and qualified as a pilot in the Army Air Corps the following year, before serving in various locations including Northern Ireland and Germany. However, after the birth of his first son in 1978, he decided to leave the army and return to the UK.

    The move marked the start of his career with North Scottish Helicopters, subsequently Bond Helicopters, where for the first year he provided a service for North Sea platforms, based offshore with a helicopter for some of the time. By 1980 he was working on the Northern Lighthouse Board contract and nine years later got the chance to become involved in the helicopter ambulance service. He immediately knew it was a role he wanted and for which was delighted to be selected.

    The service was initially based in Dundee for six months and its first flight was a routine hospital transfer.

    Very soon it was involved in a wide range of missions, including the airlift of a toddler savaged by a dog, before transferring permanently to Inverness in early 1990.

    At the start, Green was the sole pilot and the job, based at Raigmore Hospital, only covered weekdays with no evening or weekend flying. But even before the service had moved north for an initial trial it had proved its worth, saving two women with spinal injuries from long and gruelling road ambulance trips across the remote Highlands – just because it had happened to have been in the area when they needed its help. In time, the crucial service was expanded to offer 24-hour cover, seven days a week, with a team of pilots and a permanent base established at Inverness Airport.

    Meanwhile, he gained an enviable reputation for being able to put his machine down in the smallest and most challenging of spaces and was very much aware that he was fulfilling a vital service in a rural area where a number of patients would not survive the traditional road journey. That view was endorsed by several grateful passengers who thanked him for his skills, acknowledging that they owed their lives to the air ambulance.

    Green, who remained with the service until retiring from flying single-pilot helicopters in 2008, also shared his extensive experience of helicopter ambulance transfers by helping to establish the Essex air ambulance and becoming involved in the early days of the Cornwall air ambulance. He concluded his career with a return to the North Sea, flying Super Puma helicopters for Bond until 2012.

    Around the millennium he had also taken the opportunity to return to flying with the army, supporting the regular force as a member of the Territorials, and had enjoyed piloting army helicopters again, travelling all over the UK and into Europe from their base in Leuchars.

    He was also passionate about cars and motorsport, loved getting out into the hills on foot and was a keen walker, completing Munros all over Scotland, as well as spending time in the Lake District. He helped out at his local Scout troop in Croy, tutoring boys for their planespotters’ badge and, ever practical, he and his wife built their own home, where his myriad DIY skills encompassed teaching himself how to do all the plumbing.

    His is survived by his wife Cathy and their sons Justin and Chris.


    • #3
      Charles Thomas Dennehy 'Sox' Hosegood

      4th January 1921 - 17th February 2014

      ~ ~ ~

      Charles Thomas Dennehy Hosegood, affectionately known as ‘Sox’, was born on 4 January 1921 at Castres, St Lucia, the elder son of Captain T W H Hosegood. He will be remembered, particularly, as an outstanding helicopter test pilot.

      Sox was educated in the ‘British School’ in Hong Kong and in Prior Park College, Bath, from which He joined the Royal Navy on 6 November 1939. He joined the Number 9 Pilots Course and gained his Fleet Air Arm Wings in July 1940. In December that year He was appointed to ‘A’ Flight, 702 Squadron, and joined HMS Alacantra, the first armed merchant ship fitted with an aircraft catapult, flying Fairey Seafoxes on convoy protection duties.

      In January 1942, following his 21st Birthday, he was given command of the two-aircraft Unit and held that position until the Flight was disbanded in Free Town a year later.

      On the homeward passage in March 1943, his ship was torpedoed one night and Sox was rescued from the sea, along with only five others, by HMS Spey, an accompanying frigate.

      Following a period of Observer training in 751 Walrus Squadron flying from the River Tay at Dundee, he was one of the six original Naval Pilots sent to America to convert to helicopters on the Sikorsky R4.

      After returning to the UK, he was attached to the General Aircraft Company, which had the contract to assemble helicopters imported from the USA. In March 1945, Sox became the Navy test pilot at the Joint Service Helicopter Test Unit of the Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment (AFEE) at Beaulieu. In July of that year He was appointed to HMS Saker, New York, for helicopter duties for the British Army in the USA. In November 1945 He returned to the UK, rejoining the AFEE where he remained until He left the Navy in November 1946 with a flying assessment of ‘Exceptional’.

      After a two-year term with the Trinidad Petroleum Development Company at Palo Seco in Trinidad, he accepted an invitation to join the Bristol Aeroplane Company at Filton as a test pilot. He was appointed Chief Test Pilot of the Helicopter Division under Raoul Hafner in 1951.

      Sox was responsible for flying the later marks of the Bristol Sycamore and particularly the test flying to obtain its Certificate of Airworthiness – the first for a British helicopter. He carried out the test flying from an aircraft carrier to clear the Sycamore for operation with the Royal Australian Navy and in 1953 flew a Sycamore to The Netherlands to assist with flood evacuation work after the great North Sea Surge of that year.

      He made the maiden flights of all of the Bristol Tandem-Rotor Types 173 Mk1, and 173 Mk2 with wings and carried out sea trials of the Mk1 on HMS Eagle. Sox made the initial flights of the much larger Type192 Belvedere, seeing it into service with the Royal Air Force. He set up several records with the Belvedere including time between London-Paris-London city centres.

      When Westland acquired Bristol Helicopter and closed the site in 1963, the majority of the innovative and successful Bristol Team, found employment at other UK or overseas companies. Sox joined the South-western Electricity Board to set up their Helicopter Unit for power-line inspection duties. He managed this until his retirement 20 years later. By that time the Helicopter Unit had grown in size and stature with four helicopters and a support team that also carried out all of the overhead power-line patrols for the four neighbouring Electricity Boards.

      Sox was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He served on the Test Pilots Committee of The Society of British Aircraft Constructors and on their Flying Control Committee for which he demonstrated various helicopters for 12 consecutive years.

      He was a founder member of the British Helicopter Association and a member of the British Helicopter Advisory Board. Sox was awarded the Master Pilot Certificate of the Guild of Pilots and Air Navigators in 1960 and the Alan Marsh Medal by the Royal Aeronautical Society in 1962.

      His sporting activities showed more enthusiasm than ability but he set running records in Hong Kong. Of his two most-loved sports, he played Cricket until about 40 and then Golf until the end.

      Captain of his school XI, He played regularly for combined Schools of Hong Kong, and was a member of the ‘XL Club’.

      He had been captain of the Weston-super-Mare Golf Club, Captain of the Somerset Golf Captains Society and of The Aero Golfing Society.

      He died, aged 93, on 17 February 2014. In 1950 he married Jane, née Jacob. He is survived by Jane, their two sons, Nigel and Ian and three Grandchildren.

      Obituary courtesy of the Royal Aeronautical Society


      • #4
        Charles Frederick Hughesdon

        10th December 1909 - 11th April 2014

        ~ ~ ~

        Charles Hughesdon, who has died aged 104, was a daredevil aviator, champion ballroom dancer, insurance broker and airline executive who married the film star Florence Desmond and boasted of affairs with Shirley Bassey and Margot Fonteyn.

        In the mid-1930s Hughesdon was an aspiring young insurance salesman. As a fledgling pilot, however, he kept an eye on the sky and his chance for a daring flight of fancy came in the 1936 Schlesinger African Air Race. With a route running 6,000 miles from Portsmouth to Johannesburg, the contest aimed to promote the Johannesburg Empire Exhibition and offered a £10,000 prize.

        The late Charles Hughesdon

        At dawn on Tuesday September 29, Hughesdon and his co-pilot, David Llewellyn, took off in a Percival Vega Gull wood-and-fabric monoplane from Portsmouth aerodrome. Their dinner jackets were safely stowed in the hold.

        Their passage took them smoothly through Budapest, Cairo, Khartoum and Juba before continuing for their penultimate landing in Abercorn (now Mbala) on the southern tip of Lake Tanganyika in Zambia. As night fell, however, smoke from forest fires obscured their destination and their troubles were exacerbated by a leak in the plane’s auxiliary fuel tank.

        With only a few minutes’ fuel remaining they desperately searched for an emergency landing site. “Just as the engine finally cut out we saw in the moonlight a yellow strip, which we presumed was sand, almost against the shore of the lake,” recalled Hughesdon. They crashed into the clearing; the tail of the plane came off on a tree, the undercarriage came up through the Gull’s wings and both men were injured. “We sat there for a while in silence,” wrote Hughesdon later, “before one of us remarked that it would have been a good idea if we had bothered to read up on the wildlife of Africa between packing our dinner jackets.”

        Outside they were overwhelmed by insects — dousing themselves in Napoleon brandy only made the situation worse — as they hacked through the tropical undergrowth to get to the lake’s shore. There the pair slept on a narrow belt of sand peppered with crocodile tracks. The following day they were rescued by a local who guided them to his village chief. Hughesdon briefly considered the possibility that their saviours might be cannibals. “I was in trouble if they were,” he stated, “because Llewellyn didn’t carry much meat on him.”

        Charles Frederick Hughesdon was born at St Margarets, outside Richmond upon Thames, on December 10 1909 — the year, he liked to point out, that Louis Blériot first flew the English Channel. Hughesdon’s origins were humble. “Socially my family were in a kind of no-man’s land,” he said. His father’s parents ran a sweet shop in Dulwich, while his maternal grandfather was a milliner. His father (after whom Charles was named) was chief engineer at the Johnny Walker & Sons warehouse on Commercial Road, a position that allowed, often to the chagrin of his family, for an unlimited supply of whisky.

        Charles Hughesdon and Florence Desmond leaving Croydon by air for honeymoon, in Paris in 1937​

        While Hughesdon’s father was “somewhat inflexible”, he instilled a strong work ethic in his son and a love of motor vehicles (he gave him his first motorcycle, a Douglas EW, in reward for obtaining his General School certificate).

        During the First World War the family moved to a flat above the Johnny Walker offices, and Hughesdon was educated at the nearby Raine’s Foundation Grammar School. A notion (soon abandoned) that he might be suited to the priesthood allowed for a short spell in 1922 at a seminary near Dublin, where he attended the funeral of Michael Collins.

        After school and temporary jobs at Johnny Walker and Balfour Beatty he joined Provident & Accident White Cross Insurance in 1927 as a clerk. He soon passed professional examinations to become a regional representative. At this time he also learnt ballroom dancing and was selected for the first English ballroom team. “Dancing,” he asserted, “was a further step into the high life.” He went on to represent England at an international tournament in Copenhagen.

        Hughesdon made his first “sale” to a slot-machine shop, insuring their cigarette and chocolate dispensers. He was hooked. “I vividly remember the thrill of that first piece of business,” he recalled late in life. His other lifelong addiction, flying, arose circuitously through his job. With friends from his competitors — Lloyds, Willis Faber, and London & Lancashire — he set up the Insurance Flying Club (with their venture duly underwritten).

        “I didn’t feel superior but detached,” he recalled of his first flight. “I had a sudden new perspective on all my problems and difficulties. It is a feeling I have never lost.” Learning to fly (in Gypsy Moth biplanes) during the early 1930s was a precarious business: there were no radios and no brakes. “Once you were up and flying,” stated Hughesdon, “you were on your own.”

        Charles Hughesdon and Florence Desmond at home in 1957

        He got his flying instructor’s licence and was commissioned in the RAF Reserve in 1934. He got a commercial pilot’s licence two years later — by which time he had flown Sparrowhawks and Hawker Tomtits in the Isle of Man race and King’s Cup, and been half way across the world on the race to Johannesburg.

        Simultaneously his career and private life soared. He joined the brokers Stewart Smith, developing their airline insurance business, and was introduced to the actress Florence Desmond (who turned up to their first date wearing crossed silver foxes and later joked that Hughesdon sold her three policies over dinner). Florence was the widow of the aviator Tom Campbell Black, who had been killed preparing for the Schlesinger Race. Hughesdon and Florence married in 1937.

        At the outset of war he was made an RAF instructor — being considered too old at 30 for Fighter or Bomber Command — but was soon seconded to General Aircraft as its chief test pilot, flying alongside Polish pilots at Heston Airfield, testing Spitfires for the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit and 70ft tank-carrying gliders. The tests, he said, could be a “a bit hairy”.

        In 1943 he was sent to America to test-fly Brewster SB2A Buccaneer bombers. While there he was questioned by the FBI over a telegram he had sent home that read: “Ill in New York. No medicine.” He explained that it was indeed a coded message, but that it was intended to tell his wife that he missed sleeping with her. On his return to Britain he rejoined the RAF as a long-distance transport pilot with No 511 Squadron. On one assignment, to recently liberated Brussels, he was astounded to discover his wife billeted in his hotel as part of an Ensa party. Hughesdon was awarded an AFC for his war service.

        At the end of the war he rejoined Stewart Smith, negotiating new policies for Scandinavian Airlines System and, using his new contacts in the United States, with various American airlines, including Trans-Canada, United and Braniff. Meanwhile marriage to a film star — Florence Desmond starred alongside George Formby and Douglas Fairbanks Jnr in the 1930s and 1940s — brought house guests such as David Niven, Ava Gardner, Marlene Dietrich and Elizabeth Taylor.

        Their marriage, however, was informed by a flexible attitude to fidelity: extramarital liaisons were considered “medicinal”. Hughesdon had flings with both the first and second wife of his friend Tyrone Power. In 1955 he was introduced to Shirley Bassey, then in her late teens, who was at the time lighting up the West End. The pair conducted an affair for several years, meeting up in Britain, America and Australia. The singer even joined Hughesdon and his family for a Boxing Day party at which she and Florence Desmond duetted. “It was riotous,” recalled Hughesdon. “Finally after much laughter and Shirley dancing barefoot on the billiards table a few of us finished in the sauna bath.”

        A longer relationship evolved out of a lunch with Margot Fonteyn at Hughesdon’s house in Surrey during the early 1960s — at the end of the meal he followed his guest upstairs and kissed her. “She didn’t resist,” he recalled, “but neither did she exactly melt.” From this inauspicious start they engaged in an affair which continued sporadically for the next 10 years. “As time went on she came to depend on me in many ways,” claimed Hughesdon. “For sex, certainly, but also for companionship, advice, and strength.”

        In the early 1960s Hughesdon oversaw the indemnity policy for a troubled, and eventually abandoned, British shoot of Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor caught flu and the English fog drew a veil over any Egyptian atmosphere).

        Stewart Smith merged with Bray Gibb Wrightson in 1972 to become Stewart Wrightson, with which Hughesdon remained until his retirement, as chairman, in 1976. The 1970s also saw him become the owner of his own airline, Tradewinds Airways, a cargo company with lucrative British American Tobacco and Grand Prix contracts. He sold the company in 1977 to Tiny Rowland.

        Hughesdon was honorary treasurer of the Royal Aeronautical Society (1969-1971). He counted shooting, horse racing and dressage among his recreations, and in later life wrote his spectacularly indiscreet memoirs, Flying Made it Happen .

        Florence Desmond died in 1993. Later that year Hughesdon married Carol Elizabeth, the widow of the former Attorney General Lord Havers. She survives him with a son, Michael, from his first marriage, and two stepsons, the actor Nigel Havers and Philip Havers, QC .

        Obituary courtesy of the Daily Telegraph


        • #5
          Melvin 'Gene' Windsor

          24th July 1940 - ​24th August 2014

          ~ ~ ~

          Melvin 'Gene' Windsor, a former crewman with the United States Park Police has died aged 74 in South Carolina.

          Windsor gained recognition for his involvement in the Air Florida crash on the Potomac River when together with pilot Donald Usher, he assisted in rescuing crash victims from the river's freezing waters.

          Gene Windsor made headlines when he served as the crewman aboard 'Eagle 1' the US Park Police LongRanger which saved survivors from the Air Florida crash in the Potomac River

          On 13th January 1982 Air Florida Flight 90 departed Washington National Airport during a snowstorm, lost altitude and crashed into the 14th Street Bridge before plunging into the icy Potomac River. With roads clogged due to the snowstorm, emergency crews had trouble reaching the crash site, and those that did were ill-equipped to rescue the survivors from the water. This was when the US Park Police made the decision to launch 'Eagle 1' a Bell 206L LongRanger, N22PP, which had to navigate its way to the crash site by following the roads at low altitude because of the poor visibility.

          Gene Windsor assists a crash survivor from Air Florida Flight 90 aboard US Park Police LongRanger N22PP on 13th January 1982

          Gene Windsor was crewman about Eagle 1 with Donald Usher piloting the craft. Less than 20 minutes after the crash Windsor and Usher began plucking survivors from the river and bringing them to shore. At times the LongRanger's skids entered the water while Windsor and Usher did their utmost to assist the crash victims. Usher and Windsor’s efforts were daring and ultimately pivotal in saving the lives of five survivors.

          Gene Windsor (crewman) together with pilot Donald Usher with N22PP, the US Park Police LongRanger which assisted in recovering survivors from the Air Florida crash in the Potomac River on 13th January 1982

          For their efforts the pair a valor award from the Interior Department as well as the Carnegie Hero Fund medal.

          Officer Melvin E. 'Gene' Windsor received the US Coast Guard’s Silver Lifesaving Medal, the Carnegie Hero Medal and the US Department of the Interior Valor Award for his efforts on 13th January 1982

          Melvin Eugene Windsor was born July 24, 1940 in Washington and grew up in Rockville. He was a 1958 graduate of Wheaton High School. He was a carpet store manager, among other occupations, before joining the Park Police in 1971. He retired in 1993 and moved to South Carolina, where he served as a police officer for a number of years. Windsor, a Rockville native, most recently lived at Surfside Beach.

          He leaves behind his wife Maureen of 42 years, two sons, four daughters, sixteen grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.


          • #6
            Vernon E. Albert

            31 March 1942 - 11 September 2014

            ~ ~ ~

            Vernon E. Albert was born in Lebanon, Pennsylvania on March 31, 1942 to the late Sarah P. and Carl H. Albert. The son of an Army officer, Vernon lived in Germany for six years starting in the late 1940's before his family settled in San Antonio, Texas.

            Shortly after graduating from Douglas MacArthur High School and attending San Antonio Jr. College for two years, he went to work for the Army and Air Force Exchange Services, which eventually took him to Fort Polk, Louisiana where he met his future wife in August 1962.

            In 1963, Vernon decided to enlist in the United States Army. When Vernon went to New Orleans to take the Army recruitment test, the helicopter flight school program first opened up and he decided to stay a couple of extra days to take the test. He was sworn into the Army on Good Friday 1963 by his father who was also the recruiting sergeant. Vernon was the first pilot to join the Army to go directly to helicopter flight school and then into combat.

            While home on Christmas leave from flight school in 1963, Vernon and Reatha were married.

            Vernon Albert

            Upon completion of flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama, Vernon was assigned to Vietnam as a combat helicopter pilot. While serving in Vietnam, he accumulated over 1000 combat flight hours and 2408 combat sortie hours. His service in Vietnam earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross for volunteering for a middle of the night mission to rescue Army advisors who were trapped in hostile territory with no means of escape. He was also awarded several Air Medals and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry for valor. He completed his Army career as a combat flight instructor at Fort Rucker, Alabama and was honorably discharged in 1967.

            In 1967 Vernon joined Petroleum Helicopters, Inc. (PHI) as a helicopter line pilot. Earning his way to upper management, he served in management for 19 years and held the position of Vice President/Chief Pilot for 10 of those years.

            Vernon took every opportunity to serve the helicopter industry, not the least of which was being invited by NASA to fly as a guest test pilot in their microwave landing system tests in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Also during this time, Vernon had the opportunity to fly as an invited guest test pilot with Allison Detroit Diesel Aviation Engine Division. This project involved numerous flight test hours on enhanced engine performance and during which time he established three helicopter world speed records which remain unchallenged to this day.

            Vernon was a long time member of Helicopter Association International (HAI). In the late 1980's, Vernon was elected by industry peers to six years of service to the HAI international board of directors, serving one of those years as chairman of the board. In 1995, the HAI awarded Vernon the its highest recognition for service to this industry, the Lawrence D. Bell Memorial Award.

            In 1994, Vernon retired from PHI and formed Albert & Associates, Inc., an aviation consulting firm servicing oil, insurance and aviation companies to enhance the safety of their programs. He was qualified in courts across the country as an aviation expert. However, one of the highlights of his career was the contract to work with the FAA in establishing the low altitude flight routes and the heliport system throughout the Atlanta area for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Vernon's career took him around the world, filling three passports along the way.

            Vernon spent his leisure time with his family and was dedicated to supporting his children and grandchildren in their endeavors. He coached girls soccer in Lafayette for 10 years, including 6 years with a select team that won five state championships and was first runner-up at the US Youth regional tournament in 1989. He assisted in coaching the Comeaux High School girls soccer team to the 1993 state championship.

            If Vernon were to choose to be remembered in any capacity, he said it would be that he was a man who loved the Lord, who believed in family, prayer, and divine guidance. He was faithful member of First Baptist Church, Lafayette for over forty years where he served as a deacon, was a member of the same Sunday School class since 1973 and volunteered in several ministries over the years.

            Vernon will be greatly missed by his wife of over 50 years, Reatha Albert; his two children, Jeff Albert and his wife, Dr. Jennifer Miles, and Andrea Albert and her husband, Chip Carriere; and his grandchildren, Jessica, Emily, Jordan, Blake and Austin, who affectionately called him "Pop." He is also survived by his sisters, Isabel Meloni and her husband, Louis, of San Antonio, TX and Joyce Rodgers of Enterprise, Al and his brother-in-law, Nolan Richardson and wife Bess of Lake Charles, LA, and sisters-in-law, Gloria Grogger and husband Dean of Overland Park, KS and Rhetta Johnston and husband Tom, of Prairie Village, KS along with numerous nieces and nephews, an uncle and several cousins.

            Vernon loved to spend time with his family and found it a privilege to take care of them. He and Reatha created a home where everyone was welcome. He was kind and humble and exemplified the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). His family and friends will miss his gentle spirit, his big heart, his willingness to serve others, and his homemade ice cream.

            Sav's Note:
            I met Vernon several times together with my godfather and the late Robert 'Bob' Suggs (founder of PHI). Vernon was a lovely, lovely man - sincere, kind and warm-hearted. He will be sorely missed. RIP friend.


            • #7
              Delford M. 'Del' Smith

              25th February 1930 - 7th November 2014

              ~ ~ ~

              Born in Seattle, Washington, in 1930, Delford 'Del' Smith was placed as an infant at Sacred Heart Orphanage. He was adopted when he was nearly two years old. Three months later, his adoptive father was killed in an accident, leaving Smith and his adoptive mother penniless. He lived with his mother in Centralia in a one-room house that had no running water and whose only source of heat was a wood stove. His mother worked in a glove factory and took in laundry. "We were really poor," says Smith, "but my mother had a positive spirit. She had a capacity for love that I've never seen duplicated. I believe one of the most powerful forces in life is the capacity of genuine love and because of that I had a happy childhood."

              Smith's mother was not in good health and he went to work at an early age to help her and provide for their well-being. Their home was near the railroad tracks, and he collected the coal that fell from the trains, then sold it for a nickel a bucket. He had three paper routes, set pins in a bowling alley, mowed lawns, delivered ice, and worked in a dog kennel. He also caddied on golf courses and worked on farms during the summer.

              At a very early age, Smith knew it would be up to him to improve their circumstances. At the age of seven, he took out a loan of $2.50 from the local bank to buy a lawn mower. His thriving lawn mowing business soon allowed him to pay back his loan. By the time he was 11, he had earned enough to make a down payment on a home for himself and his mother. Later, he was able to use the equity in that home to help pay his college tuition.

              ..Del Smith

              "I was ambitious about education," says Smith. "I was conscientious and a goal setter." He was also avidly interested in aviation. "I was an airport bum as a youngster," he says. "I'd hang around airports the way some guys hang around street corners." At the age of 16, he earned his pilot's license by trading work for lessons.

              He graduated from high school and enrolled at the University of Washington, where he joined the Air Force ROTC. He majored in business and psychology, and worked as a crop duster to pay his way through school. Deeply patriotic, Smith felt a sense of duty to serve in the military. In 1953, Smith graduated from college and was commissioned an officer in the Air Force. He learned to fly helicopters and began envisioning the use of helicopters as industrial workhorses and as angels of mercy.

              In 1956, Smith began flying helicopters commercially. He patented a system that reseeded harvested timberlands with the use of a helicopter. In 1957, his friend and partner, Dean Johnson, was killed in a crop dusting accident. Smith carried on by combining Johnson's company with Evergreen Helicopters. By 1960, Evergreen Aviation was the world's most diversified aviation services company. Evergreen's seven separate aviation companies provided service and support to agriculture, construction, forestry, government, health, law enforcement, rescue operations, petroleum, seismology, and utilities.

              When asked about his success, it never takes Smith long to mention his mother. "She taught me the basics," he says. "She gave me a solid work ethic and taught me honesty, integrity, and the importance of getting an education. She encouraged me to be a student of the Bible and to study and master Benjamin Franklin's 13 Virtues for Living: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility." He recalls his mother telling him, "God gave everyone the same 24 hours in a day; the one who manages his time best will do the best." Smith was also strongly influenced by Norman Vincent Peale's Power of Positive Thinking and Napoleon Hill's philosophy of "what the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve."

              From having started with a single helicopter, Del Smith grew Evergreen to the point where it had a fleet of 747s hauling freight to the far corners of the world.

              Smith went on to found the Evergreen Aviation Museum in 2001. Its centerpiece was, and remains, Howard Hughes' famous Spruce Goose. Smith purchased the wooden behemoth in 1992 and had it disassembled and moved to McMinnville piece by massive piece.

              The museum was officially named the Captain Michael Smith Evergreen Aviation Educational Institute, in honor of Smith's son, an Air National Guard pilot and auto racer who died in a car crash in 1995. The museum continued to expand over the next decade, adding a space museum, movie theater, water park, chapel and outdoor facilities.

              Smith's Evergreen International Aviation company also continued to expand diversifying into cargo and military flights, cargo handling and agriculture.

              In 1999, Smith received the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy at a ceremony in Washington D.C., hosted by the Aero Club of Washington and in 2002 he became the Horatio Alger Award Winner.

              In an interview after receiving the Horatio Alger Award Smith said: “I think fame and fortune are false values. I don’t think anybody should take credit for what they have accomplished. I think you’re a product of all the people who have helped you along the way and, above of all, of the mercy of God.”

              Sav's Note:
              Among the many associates of my late godfather whom I came to know was Del Smith. As with every one of the industry pioneers I met from the US, Del was a kind and affable type and someone for whom I had tremendous respect. Unlike many of my godfather's associates however, Del was someone I worked with on several occasions, mainly on projects in Africa, the last one being in the Sudan in 2009. RIP friend.


              • #8
                John Reeson

                ~ ~ ~

                A former RAF winchman who received a George Medal for a heroic rescue when an oil rig collapsed has passed away aged 81.

                John Reeson spent 37 years as a member of a search and rescue team based near Hull before retiring to Anstey with his wife Margaret.

                ​John Reeson

                In 1965 his helicopter crew was sent to the aid of workers on board the Sea Gem - Britain’s first North Sea oil rig. John was lowered into the icy water and rescued three men who had been working on the stricken rig, which collapsed into the sea on Boxing Day.

                John, who had recently been a resident at Park Manor Nursing Home in Coalville, passed away last week after a reaction to medication for a deep vein thrombosis. He leaves his wife, Margaret, two sons and eight grandchildren.

                His son Jamie, 53, who lives in Coalville, said: “I think it was a really fascinating story and it was big news at the time. My dad and his colleagues were scrambled and they rescued three people from the rig and were decorated with the George Medal. He was also invited to the Man of the Year dinner, which was held in London each year. He was at the top table in 1966 with Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and 10 other Men of the Year from sport, industry and the military.”

                The BBC report from the event included an interview with John. He told the BBC in 1965: “We went out through a snowstorm. It was clear weather around the oil rig but it was rough. There were waves 15ft to 20ft high. I went down the winch line to men I could see in the water. It was freezing cold. They had been in the water an hour or two before we got there. One man hanging on to a life raft clutched me with a grip of iron when I reached him. It was almost impossible to pick him up, but I managed it. He was desperate.”

                The BBC report also describes how the legs of the converted 5,600-ton steel barge had collapsed while the rig was being moved causing the entire structure to tilt sideways before sinking into the icy North Sea. The report added: “Men were seen jumping into the freezing cold sea - stained red with fuel - and clinging onto wreckage.”



                • #9

                  Trevor Egginton

                  ~ ~ ~

                  Trevor Egginton, who served as a test pilot with Westland Helicopters for 17 years, passed away peacefully at his home in Yeovil. He was 81.

                  In 1986, Trevor broke the world speed record flying a modified Lynx helicopter over a 15-kilometre course, achieving a speed of 249.17mph. It was the fastest a conventional helicopter had ever travelled and the record still stands 28 years later.

                  Trevor Egginton

                  Former Westland engineer Dave Gibbins was a close personal friend of Trevor’s and he remembers him with great fondness and respect. He said: “He was an exceptional pilot, and his flying skills were matched by an in-depth knowledge of engineering and aerodynamics.

                  “His speciality was helicopter handling and his ability to work with engineers and designers was unique in the industry. Trevor was also a good companion on the long overseas trials that occur during most flight test programmes. His disposition and wide range of interests made him a valued member of the team.

                  “Those of us who were privileged to have worked with him have lost a friend. His passing will be viewed with great sadness by those who had the good fortune to work with him.”

                  Trevor was born in Rednal, Birmingham in 1933 and went to George Dixon Grammar School. At 18, he joined the RAF as a cadet officer. He spent two years in the United States where he trained to be a pilot.

                  In 1963 he was promoted to Flight Commander and the following year he was awarded the Chevalier Order du Merite Maritime and the Air Force Cross by the French Government for helping to rescue stranded fishermen near Land’s End.

                  He retired from the RAF with the rank of Squadron Leader in 1973, receiving the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Services in the Air.

                  Later that year he joined Westland Helicopters as a test pilot and was promoted to Chief Test Pilot before retiring in 1990. He was then awarded an OBE for his services to aviation.

                  He is survived by his wife of 58 years Joan Mary and three children Jane, Michelle and Frazer. In a statement, the family said: “Trevor was a husband, father and grandfather who makes our chests swell with pride and love.

                  “We are proud to call him the mentor and role model of our family. He was a selfless gentleman who dedicated his life to helping others. To us and many others he is a hero. Although he may have left this life, he will forever be in our lives and continue to guide us.”



                  • #10
                    Ian Ashton Shuttleworth

                    11th March 1944 - 23rd May 2015

                    ~ ~ ~

                    Ian Shuttleworth, who has died of cancer aged 71, enriched many lives with his courage, good humour and determination, despite being confined to a wheelchair for 46 years, and brought the pleasure of sailing to disabled people.

                    Shuttleworth learnt to sail on the Solent as an 11-year-old, and when he was introduced in 1978 to the newly founded Jubilee Sailing Trust (JST), which aimed to facilitate sailing for the disabled, he threw his support into the organisation. He also lent his body and his wheelchair for the testing of new equipment for the sail training ships Lord Nelson and Tenacious.

                    Ian Shuttleworth (right) with brother Richard, at RNAS Culdrose c.1968

                    As importantly, as a fund-raiser for the JST over the next 35 years, Shuttleworth generated millions of pounds . He never rattled a bucket, but thought of lucrative fund-raising ideas, and he never accepted expenses for his ceaseless efforts. Instead he was rewarded by being made a trustee and later vice-chairman of the trust.

                    In 2010 Shuttleworth completed a sky-dive, raising thousands of pounds for the JST. “I am sure you will be thinking,” he wrote , “how can someone be stupid enough to jump out of an aeroplane especially if it is still in flying condition? Well, I was a naval helicopter pilot some years ago and was not issued with a parachute, so it was more than a little interesting. I have now done the jump from around 13,000 ft, but please keep your donations coming.”

                    Ian Ashton Shuttleworth was born at Bournemouth on March 11 1944 into a military family: his father was a lieutenant-commander in the Royal Navy and later Deputy Lieutenant and then High Sheriff of Derbyshire, and all five of his brothers became officers in the Army, the Royal Navy or the Royal Marines. He was educated with his twin, Richard, at Seacourt school in Southsea, Desmoor prep in Surrey, and at the Nautical College, Pangbourne, and they both won scholarships to the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, in 1962.

                    At school the cry “You, Shuttleworths!” was often heard and it seemed that the twins were in trouble more often than others. At Dartmouth, where in uniform they looked even more alike, they sometimes swapped places, generally so that one or other could accept a social engagement, and they were only caught once. Staff officers saw the funny side, but the twins were jointly punished for the impersonation.

                    They were not separated until the Navy appointed Richard to a ship in the Middle East, and Ian to the destroyer Daring in the Far East, where he was awarded the GSM for services during Konfrontasi (the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation). Nevertheless, they took the same course, as lieutenants, to become helicopter pilots and were awarded their wings on the same day in July 1969.

                    Everything changed that month: on July 5, their younger brother Ashton, a sub-lieutenant in the Navy, was killed in a car crash; three weeks later, Ian was a passenger in an MG Midget which crashed in Cornwall, and he was paralysed from the chest down. The £75,000 insurance pay-out was then the highest ever awarded for personal injuries.

                    Shuttleworth spent six months in hospital, before moving into a Chelsea flat where he lived independently. For many years he commuted around London with his wheelchair in the back of his Mini Clubman.

                    He began work for a public relations company before in 1974 becoming an articled clerk in a law firm, but he quickly regretted this decision, and instead bought Kontiki, a beach bar at Mojácar in southern Spain, which he ran with the help of girls from London. In 1976 he sold the bar to Gordon Goody, a mastermind of the Great Train Robbery, who had recently spent 12 years in prison. When the expatriate community expressed its disapproval, Shuttleworth returned to Mojácar to help Goody make the Kontiki a success.

                    Shuttleworth was an active liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights, an enthusiastic member of the Royal Yacht Squadron, and one of the 120 members of the Castaways club. He was also a member of the St Moritz Tobogganing Club, having gone down the three-quarter mile run as the rear passenger in a two-man bobsleigh. With Shuttleworth unable to assist the driver in braking manoeuvres, the result was a hair-raising ride in an exceptionally fast time.

                    He had many friends, rarely refused an invitation and was usually found in the most raucous knot at any party. If steps prevented his access either strong men would carry him up or the most interesting people would gather round him at the foot of the staircase.

                    Late in life, stimulated by his lifelong interest in marine watercolours and love of opera, he gained a degree from the Open University in Humanities with Art History.

                    Ian Shuttleworth was modest about his achievements, refused to feel sorry for himself and almost never complained. On one occasion, after a liquid session at the Coopers Arms in Flood Street, Chelsea, when asked what life was like in a wheelchair he confided to a friend: “Every day is a real bastard, but as there is nothing I can do about it, the only solution is to make the best of every day and try and smile.”



                    • #11
                      Keith Andre Leppard

                      29th July 1924 - 28th July 2016

                      ~ ~ ~

                      Captain Keith Leppard, who has died one day short of his 92nd birthday, was the commander of 807 Naval Air Squadron when in September 1959 he stunned the crowds at Farnborough with a spectacular display of aerial formation aerobatics.

                      Leppard had taken command of 807 NAS in October 1958 at Royal Naval Air Station Lossiemouth, when the newly formed squadron received the Navy’s latest jet fighter, the Supermarine Scimitar. He immediately began a hectic work-up period and, only two weeks after commissioning, took part in a major exercise.

                      Capt. Keith Leppard

                      Leppard was not deterred when on February 12 1959 his own Scimitar, on a practice strafing run, suffered an engine failure after a ricochet entered the jet intake. The squadron remained at Lossiemouth throughout 1959, taking part in exercises and trials, and Leppard heard of his own promotion to commander while at the top of a loop over Loch Ness practising for Farnborough.

                      The display began with six jets taking off in a stream to form a “four-finger” aircraft aerobatic team with two soloists. One of these flew down the runway at high speed and low level to pick up a banner using its deck arrestor hook, normally used for landing at sea.

                      Next, the four aircraft formation made a transonic pass at 700 mph followed by a short aerobatic display. For this Leppard had invented an original manoeuvre in which the four aircraft passed overhead in a box formation while each in sequence made a rapid individual roll. He called the manoeuvre the “Twinkle Roll” and it is now familiar at most air displays.

                      For a finale, the two singletons touched down from one direction, while a third Scimitar landed from the opposite direction head on between them. Then all three folded their wings and taxied up to the display stand.

                      Keith André Leppard was born at West Norwood on July 29 1924. His father was a banker and he was educated at Purley Grammar School.

                      He lived half an hour’s cycle ride from Croydon airport where he paid a penny for admission to the roof of a local hotel to watch the Hannibal-class four-engined biplanes returning from around the Empire, and the aviatrix Amy Johnson start several of her epic flights.

                      In 1935 an aunt and uncle took him to Portsmouth where he was entranced by the sight of aircraft ranged on the flight deck of the carrier Courageous.

                      He joined the Y-scheme, an Admiralty scheme which identified potential officers while they were still at school, and took temporary work as a clerk at Westminster Bank until he was old enough to join up.

                      After several months naval training at HMS Daedalus and St Vincent, he began his flying training at RAF Sealand, Flintshire, in Tiger Moths, a type which always remained his favourite.

                      Leppard crossed the Atlantic in Queen Mary for advanced flying training in Canada where he was awarded his wings in December 1943, and selected to specialise as a fighter pilot in the Grumman Wildcat, learning to dogfight and divebomb.

                      He suffered the first of several aircraft accidents when practising dummy decklandings at Yeovilton, Somerset. As he turned in to land, his engine failed and the only other landing area he could find was the tiny river Yeo. In July 1944 he made his first decklanding, which he enjoyed and excelled at, in the escort carrier Ravager in the Clyde.

                      In October 1944 Leppard joined 882 Naval Air Squadron, learning to fly the Grumman Wildcat fighter from Long Kesh, and in February 1945 the squadron embarked in the escort carrier Searcher.

                      For several months Leppard took part in operations off Norway against German targets, including Operation Judgement, a successful strike on the U-boat base at Kilbotn in May 1945. It was a crystal-clear day when several seaborne squadrons took off from a position 50 miles west of the Lofoten Islands and flew in at 50 ft in complete radio silence until they climbed to 9,000 ft over Kilbotn and caught the enemy by surprise.

                      882 squadron’s task was flak suppression and Leppard recalled that as he commenced his dive his flight leader’s aircraft was hit by flak and disintegrated in a moment. Unnerved, Leppard found his target, fired off his guns, and nursed himself through the mountains home to Searcher.

                      Searcher and 882 squadron were then deployed to the Indian Ocean, where Leppard celebrated his 21st birthday at Katukurunda, Ceylon, and VJ-day in Singapore.

                      With the war over, Searcher returned to Britain, dumping her brand-new aircraft, which had been supplied by the US under Lend-Lease, over the side.

                      In 1946 Leppard, still RNVR, signed on for four years, was promoted to lieutenant, and appointed to 847 Naval Air Squadron, flying Fairey Fireflies from the carrier Glory. The next two years in the Indian Ocean and Far East were the happiest of his life: “Life was good, sport, visits, parties and flying which was what we all loved.”

                      The Commander (Air) in Glory was Denis Campbell, and Leppard recalled him designing on a bar-chit his ideas for an angled flight deck, which subsequently became standard in aircraft carriers of the world’s navies.

                      Leppard’s career was characterised by good luck, and when in 1948 he was court-martialled for performing dangerous low-level aerobatics, he was fortunate that the president of the court, though a Group Captain RAF by rank, had been a naval midshipman in the First World War and was secretly sympathetic to him. Though found guilty, his sentence was the lowest possible – an official reprimand.

                      In 1954, while at Culdrose, Leppard wooed and won his wife, Betty “Rachel” Smith, who was then, aged 22, the youngest Chief Petty Officer WRNS. When his squadron moved to Scotland, he would borrow an aircraft to fly down to meet her, and twice she returned to Lossiemouth with him in a twin-seat Vampire jet.

                      In Leppard’s subsequent appointments he held increasing responsibility for flying in the Royal Navy. When, for example, the Navy wanted to expand its helicopter pool, but the RAF could not expand its pilot training programme, Leppard struck a deal over cocktails in the back of Alan Bristow’s Rolls-Royce, for the commercial training of the necessary 32 pilots.

                      During a visit to Pensacola in 1963 he returned so enthused from a visit to the US Navy’s Museum of Aviation that he wrote a proposal which persuaded the Admiralty to create the Fleet Air Arm Museum, of which he became a staunch champion.

                      In 1963-65 he was Commander (Air) in the fleet carrier Victorious in the Far East; in 1965-66 he held an appointment planning the careers of Fleet Air Arm officers; in 1967-69 he was Chief Staff Officer responsible for operations and training in the Far East; and in 1972-74 he commanded the Royal Naval Air Station at Yeovilton.

                      In 1974 he became Director of Public Relations for the Royal Navy. In this capacity he was successful in persuading the Admiralty to agree to the making of Sailor, a fly-on-the-wall BBC series about life aboard the carrier Ark Royal on a five and a half month deployment to North America.

                      Despite misgivings at the highest level the series acquired cult status, and also propelled Rod Stewart’s theme song Sailing, with a choral backing from the ship’s company, to the No 1 spot in the charts.

                      Leppard retired from the Navy in 1977 when he was appointed CBE.

                      For the next 12 and a half years he was secretary of the Institute of Brewing, a 19th Century organisation which he helped to professionalise and, by creating branches in India and the Far East, to internationalise.

                      Leppard was a great sportsman with a particular love of rugby, playing for the aptly named “Grey Faces” into his 50's.



                      • #12
                        Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor

                        22nd December 1951 - 9th August 2016

                        ~ ~ ~

                        The 6th Duke of Westminster, who has died aged 64, was Britain’s richest aristocrat, with a fortune estimated at more than £8 billion, based on an inheritance of 300 acres of Mayfair and Belgravia.

                        The Duke owned the freehold of much of London’s most expensive real estate, including Grosvenor, Belgrave and Eaton Squares and such landmarks as the Connaught and Lanesborough hotels and the American embassy – which paid him a rent of one peppercorn a year.

                        Under his leadership the Grosvenor Estate imposed rigid rules on tenants to preserve the cream stucco uniformity of Belgravia and the Georgian brick terraces of Mayfair. It was also notably businesslike – verging on the ruthless, according to critics – when it came to setting rents. The Duke voiced strong opposition to the Major government’s 1993 leasehold reforms, which gave leaseholders (including those in the most valuable homes which had been excluded from earlier legislation) the right to buy their freeholds.

                        Gerald Grosvenor

                        The idea that he should be compelled to sell pieces of his estate on unfavourable terms was, he declared “utterly against the principles of a land-owning democracy”, noting that a large number of Tory MPs stood to benefit from the legislation as Grosvenor tenants. He resigned from the Conservative Party in protest.

                        Besides its London holdings, the Grosvenor empire included shopping centres throughout Britain – in recent years he transformed the centre of Liverpool (and the city’s fortunes) by pouring millions into developing the shopping complex known as Liverpool One. The development is said to attract 28 million shoppers annually.

                        There were also commercial properties in the United States, Canada and Australia, and a variety of other investments in Europe and the Far East. The empire’s total value was the subject of annual guesswork by the compilers of lists of Britain’s richest residents, among whom the Duke rarely dropped out of the top five.

                        It was not a calculation which much troubled him, however. “It would drive me bonkers if I thought too deeply about it – woke up during the night thinking, say, £100 million had been wiped off our value,” he told an interviewer in 1993. “I sleep well.”

                        But still it was a heavy burden. The chain-smoking Duke worked and travelled incessantly, and in later years suffered bouts of depression, a problem which was exacerbated by reports in newspapers that he had employed the services of prostitutes.

                        Though he undertook some 200 public engagements a year for charity, he preferred a quiet family life at Eaton Hall, his Cheshire seat.

                        His most satisfying escape from ducal responsibilities came as a long-serving Territorial Army officer. He spent at least one weekend a month on exercise among down-to-earth soldiers from the North of England who treated him, to his relief, as they would any other officer.

                        Fond of Churchill’s remark that “the only time the Grosvenors were any good was when they were at war”, he rose to command the Queen’s Own Yeomanry, and in 2000 he was promoted to brigadier.

                        In 2004 he was appointed to the new post of Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff (Reserves and Cadets), with promotion to major-general. He stepped down from this role in 2007 and in 2011 was appointed Deputy Commander Land Forces (Reserves) before retiring after 42 years’ service in 2012.

                        Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor was born on December 22 1951. He was the only son of Lt-Col Robert Grosvenor, Ulster Unionist MP for Fermanagh and County Tyrone (Britain’s westernmost constituency) and one-time parliamentary private secretary to Edward Heath. His mother was Viola Lyttleton, daughter of the 9th Viscount Cobham. The family home was a farm on the island of Ely on Lough Erne, near Enniskillen.

                        Gerald enjoyed what he once called a “Swallows and Amazons childhood” with his two sisters (who became in due course the Countess of Lichfield and the Duchess of Roxburghe, though both were divorced) and in later life lamented the fact that the accident of inheritance had taken him away from the placid life of an Ulster beef farmer like his father.

                        Having failed to gain a place at Eton he was despatched to Harrow, which he hated, leaving with only two O-levels. His talent was for sport, but a suggestion from George Cohen, manager of Fulham FC, that he should have a trial to join the club was vetoed by Col Grosvenor on the grounds of too much kissing on the pitch.

                        Gerald’s real ambition was to join the 9th/12th Lancers – the 4th Duke’s regiment – but he was already under pressure to take the reins of his inheritance. After a brief spell of freedom travelling in Canada and Australia, he assumed responsibility at the age of 19 for the management of the family’s vast estates and business interests.

                        The estates dated in origin from shortly after the Conquest, when William I granted lands in Cheshire to Hugh Lupus, “le gros veneur” or chief huntsman, with instructions to keep the troublesome Welsh borderers under control.

                        The duke’s direct line of descent traced from Robert le Grosvenor, who was granted the manor of Budworth in Cheshire in the 1170s. The Eaton estate was acquired by marriage in the mid-15th century, and Richard Grosvenor – the first MP in the family – was created a baronet in 1622.

                        It was in 1677 that Richard’s 21-year-old great-grandson Thomas married 12-year-old Mary Davies, sole heiress to the manor of Ebury, 430 acres of marshy farmland covering the area which now lies between Knightsbridge and the Thames and between Park Lane, Oxford Street and Bond Street.

                        The estate had been bequeathed by Hugh Audley, a City lawyer, to his nephew, Alexander Davies, a clerk who died in the plague of 1665; Davies’s widow set out to sell their child Mary’s hand in marriage to the highest bidder, gaining £5,000 for herself from Grosvenor.

                        Though the land was still largely open fields, its potential was apparent; once the building of Mayfair began in 1720 – Belgravia and Pimlico were 19th-century developments – the Grosvenor fortune began to multiply. By the 1890s, the annual rent roll of Mayfair alone amounted to £135,000, and the family was one of the richest in Europe.

                        As its wealth increased, so did its status: the barony of Grosvenor was created in 1761, the earldom in 1784 and the marquessate of Westminster in 1831. Finally, in 1874, the 3rd Marquess – a Knight of the Garter and former Liberal MP for Chester – was created the 1st Duke. It was the last non-royal dukedom to be created.

                        The 2nd Duke (grandson of the 1st) was the legendary “Bend Or”, an arrogant grandee, lover of Coco Chanel and tireless womaniser, four times married, who represented the apotheosis of flamboyant ducal style during the inter-war years.

                        But his only son died in childhood and in 1953 the dukedom passed to another grandson of the 1st Duke – William Grosvenor, a bachelor of diminished mind who lived in a bungalow at Whitstable and bred poultry.

                        This brought into the line as 4th Duke yet another grandson (by the 1st Duke’s second marriage), Colonel Gerald Hugh Grosvenor, who had no children, and as the 5th, in 1967, his brother Colonel Robert Grosvenor.

                        Provision had been made in the 2nd Duke’s will for the likelihood that young Gerald would eventually inherit. The Pimlico portion of the estate having been sold to pay death duties, the bulk of the remaining fortune was placed in trusts entailed to him, bypassing his three predecessors.

                        The weight of his future responsibilities did not sink in until he was 15, when his uncle the 4th Duke died and “everyone started to treat me differently”.

                        By 1970 his father had become ill, and it was apparent that Gerald would have to take complete control. The property crash of 1973 provided his first test, and instilled in him the need for tough management and long-term strategy.

                        When he inherited the dukedom in 1979, the estate was in debt and liable for another heavy tranche of death duties. But shrewd investment by the young duke and his advisers at home and overseas combined with lower tax rates and the property booms of the 1980s (and early 2000s) to turn it into a treasure chest.

                        Business was, however, always a lower priority for the Duke than his military and charitable duties and most of all, his family life. Fast cars (he had a notorious driving record) and a private aircraft enabled him to spend as much time as he could at home at Eaton Hall, set in 11,000 acres just outside Chester, where he sent his children to local day schools.

                        The landscape of the estate was meticulously managed (an entire golf course was removed by the duke for aesthetic reasons) but the house itself was a startling sight. The 1st Duke had commissioned a neo-Gothic palace by Alfred Waterhouse (architect of the Natural History Museum at South Kensington) which required a household staff of 300.

                        During the Second World War it had been used by the Army for officer training, and afterwards it was too dilapidated and impractical to maintain. The house was demolished, all except its clock tower, chapel and stable yard, and was replaced in 1973 by a modern, flat-roofed structure in concrete and marble – compared by critics to a county ambulance headquarters and dubbed the “Inn on the Park” by the Prince of Wales (who also observed that the Duke “employs more butlers than I do”).

                        Rather than rebuild Eaton Hall again, the Duke eventually added a pitched roof and sandstone cladding: “The overall effect,” noted Burke’s Peerage, “is curiously Germanic, as if a Schloss had been designed by Rennie Mackintosh.”

                        The Duke’s land holdings also included a 22,000-acre sporting estate at Abbeystead in Lancashire – where, in contrast to his unflamboyant way of life at Eaton Hall, he held shooting parties on the grandest Edwardian scale – and a vast tract of the Reay Forest in Sutherland. It was in Lancashire that he was taken ill.

                        His many charitable interests ranged from the NSPCC and the Drug and Alcohol Foundation to the Royal London Hospital, where he raised funds to build a new Children’s Unit, and the presidency of the Manchester 2000 Olympic Bid Committee.

                        Deeply concerned about land conservation and other rural issues, he rescued the Soil Association from financial difficulties and was a major backer of the Countryside Movement and the 1998 Countryside March.

                        In 2009 he began privately raising the funds for a £300 million purpose-built Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre for the treatment of injured members of the Armed Forces, at Stanford Hall, near Loughborough, to replace the facility at Headley Court in Surrey in 2018.

                        The Duke was appointed OBE (1995), KG (2003), CB (2008) and CVO (2012).

                        He married, in 1978, Natalia, daughter of Lt-Col Harold “Bunny” Phillips and a grand-daughter of Maj-Gen Sir Harold and Lady Zia Wernher, of Luton Hoo in Bedfordshire; Lady Zia was in turn the daughter of Grand Duke Michael of Russia.



                        • #13
                          Aviation, especially the rotary side is, by itself, a truly wonderful place to earn one's living. As a side product, we 'paid-for' pilots, occasionally come face to face with the so called 'celebs.' As a one-time sales person handling the distribution rights for the Enstrom range of helicopters and having just delivered Enstrom G-BBPN to another Lord ... this time Lord Compton. (his close friends referred to him as Spenny) ... which led me to an introduction to a man I knew as Lord Grosvenor .... also of course, The Duke of Westminster! Can a title get any better?

                          The date would have been mid 1983 ... the place was in fact the Duke's home at Eaton Hall in Cheshire. Mixing it, as one has to do when involved in the buying and selling business, I can only say, the Duke himself was the very essence of politeness as a gentleman. His Lordship put me totally at ease when negotiating the various sale and purchase terms. The helicopter in question being the well-known Bell Jetranger series three ... G-TALY. The deal was done and my newly formed company, Skyline Helicopters acquired its second turbine - (number one being Savoia's 'Dancer' the ex-Colin Chapman's G-AYTF) ... the first of very many Bell 206s to join the company. Kinkily, I re-registered all newly acquired helicopter stock 'something SKY' so G-TALY became G-CSKY. We went on to run through the entire alphabet, something that drove the local Air Traffic Officer's mad, since everything leaving the hangar started G-Something SKY! The solution was to use the call: ... "GOLF- Charlie SKY ... Golf Bravo SKY etc." After Skyline was sold, my new company was christened Starline Helicopters so once again I opened the alphabet with Enstrom G-SHAA running through the alphabet to close with Bell Jetranger, G-SHZZ ... sold to non other than a certain Mark Thatcher.

                          So here I go again, jumping from one set of 'personal' registrations to another. The numbers have continued through the years. My third company based at Redhill Aerodrome started the G-OSHA series. G-OSHB, G-OSHC & G-OSHD, (all 300s) the latter being fondly referred to as 'The Shed' I closed off the game in 2009 with G-DRKJ, a Schweizer/Hughes 300c The final J Junior for my dear son.

                          So close I must but I will want to continue to submit more than a few yarns of 'Nostalgia' for our Aviafora members. Please, please join in if you can add any subsequent histories to these personalized registrations. Safe flying to all from Dennis Kenyon.


                          • Savoia
                            Savoia commented
                            Editing a comment
                            All great memories Denissimo! What a career!

                        • #14
                          PS to the above ... I'll be posting several pictures of the above helicopters so to add to the 'Nostalgia' aspect of this thread. DRK