We came to Ottershaw in 1967 when David had just retired from the Army, and he lived here for forty years. He was involved with several aspects of local life, as Churchwarden, Treasurer of the Royal British Legion and a trustee of the Social Club, besides taking a great interest in the history of the area and helping to preserve the character of the village.
He was born and grew up in South Wales, and his chosen career was the regular Army. The training for this started at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, and then the army sent him to King’s College Cambridge, where he studied mathematics and engineering, as well as drawing pleasure and inspiration from hearing the famous choir at close range.
Eighteen months before the outbreak of World War II, at the age of 22, he joined an Engineer Corps of the Indian Army and was closely involved with Muslim, Hindu and Sikh soldiers. As well as military and engineer training there were opportunities for sport – he enjoyed playing hockey on the very fast pitches of baked mud – and for trekking in the Himalayas. In 1939 he did a two-month walk through the remote province of Ladokh, and after the War he had a trip to the Hindu Kush, glimpsing the River Oxus and the high Pamirs.
His work was combat engineering, such as clearing obstacles, supplying water, and building roads through mountainous jungle. War service took him to the Western Desert, to East Africa including the Battle of Keren where he was wounded, and later to the Arakan in Burma. Here he was awarded the Military Cross for organizing the transport of an infantry brigade across a river over two successive nights, driving one ferry himself under artillery and machine-gun fire. He saw many casualties on both sides, and learned at first hand the suffering caused by war and the need to do all we can to abolish it. On the partition of India in 1947 he opted to serve in Pakistan, was involved with the foundation of the School of Military Engineering at Sialkot, and acted as Chief Instructor there. Among later appointments he was a Field Engineer with the Indian Army force in Iraq, finding in Basra buildings constructed by the Royal Engineers in the First World War thirty years before. He also commanded the Fortress Engineer Regiment in Gibraltar, was Chief Engineer of the British Army in Malaya, and commanded all Royal Engineer units in Singapore. During that posting, we saw Somerset Maugham at the Raffles Hotel, and our son Tom was born in the Military Hospital. We come home on one of the last troop-ships. There were also desk jobs, including being secretary of a War Office committee looking into modern management techniques and their military application.
After he retired from the Army, he had a second career for twenty years employed by engineering consultants on industrial planning studies, mainly in developing countries. In the course of that he filled in some bits of his personal world map that had been left blank by the Army, travelling in Ethiopia, Algeria, West Africa and Argentina.
During the time between trips abroad and after his second retirement he was churchwarden, with Jock Brotherwood, for eight years, with some years before and afterwards on the Parochial Church Council. He saw many changes in the parish and had a hand in several projects which have come to fruition. He was the first archivist of Christ Church, and compiled a detailed account of its history. This was published on the Church’s l25th birthday in 1989, and was revised and updated by Pam Brush in 2004, and given a fine epilogue. In 1989 and 1996 there were plans to build on parts of the Recreation Ground (which was given as a war memorial). With others and after considerable research, he helped to resist these.
He always enjoyed a good party, and some people may remember evidence of his sense of fun at one Harvest Festival Supper: David and Jack, in furs and woad, gave a stirring performance of the Ancient British scout song ‘What’s the use of wearing braces,’ to the tune of Men of Harlech.
As one of his colleagues in the Bengal Sappers and Miners wrote, ‘We shall greatly miss the modesty, kindness and courtesy of this remarkable man whom so many both admired and respected.’
Article written by Sheena David