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OBITUARY: POP YARROW, 1938-2017
Pop was born in North Tyneside near Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1938. Shortly afterwards the family moved to Portsmouth where his father worked as a coppersmith in Portsmouth Dockyard, although they had regular trips back up north. This included a stay during WW2, which left Pop with the everlasting feeling that the north-east was ‘home’.
At 14, he left school and went to work in Portsmouth Dockyard as a shipwright apprentice and after serving his time there, he applied to be a diver. Although he was not selected it did not dampen his interest in diving.
In 1964 his career took a different turn – he joined the Dock Police and moved to London where he joined the Metropolitan Police Force. What followed was 34 years of hard work. Pop enjoyed every minute, from walking the beat as a probationer to the Special Patrol Group, a brief stint of peacekeeping on the Caribbean island of Anguilla and many years in traffic and surveillance. Pop always did all jobs to the best of his ability, whilst having a great time.
He was a loving husband to Pat, who sadly died in 1991, leaving Pop in charge of bringing up his 8 year old daughter Kate. Pop was a fantastic dad and stepped up to the challenge in a way his daughter feels, no one else could. When he retired, where most people would take up relaxing, easy-going hobbies like golf or bowls, Pop completed his PADI Open Water qualification on the day of his 60th birthday and went on to finally fulfil a lifetime ambition of diving in the standard gear with the HDS.
Pop joined the HDS in June 1999 and turned up at his first Working Equipment group (WEG) rally in Brighton in September of that year, where he work very hard as he was so keen to help out. So much so that when we had all packed up and left the site Pop decided he was a bit tired, stopped his car in a lay-by and took a short nap, waking up again at 2am to continue his journey. From the day he joined he was one of the most reliable members of the WEG and was always available for an event no matter where, in this country or abroad. He also attended all the HDS Conference Dinners (although the next day he was not always in the best condition for the AGM meetings the following day). He was a long term member of the WEG, who will be sorely missed.
Pop had a short and difficult battle with cancer, which brought an end to his life quicker than it should. Strong and modest, he was also a very considerate man who, when he was first diagnosed, not only told the consultant that he had been a lucky man and had a good life but then went on to worry about everyone else and not “being a burden” to anyone. Inspirational to the last, Pop’s very presence with his happy smile will be missed by us all.
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OBITUARY: Eric John Walker MBE, 1934-2017
Born on 14th January 1934, Eric John Walker grew up in Portsmouth. During WW2 he was evacuated to Bosham in West Sussex with his younger brothers Peter and Ronald. After the war, Eric and his brothers returned to Portsmouth to continue their schooling and Eric developed his interest in carpentry.
In his early twenties, he carried out his National Service with 10 Transport Squadron Royal Engineers which included an exotic posting to Singapore (probably one of the better drafts for National Service). Eric spent 2 years in Singapore being instructed in engineering and wooden boat building which would stand him in good stead for his future career in RNB Portsmouth Dockyard.
In 1958 Eric joined the dockyard as a shipwright apprentice and after a few years of watching the divers he decided that this was the career for him. In 1963 it was off to Scotland for 8 weeks of training at RNB Rosyth Dockyard diving school learning how to become a standard diver including underwater welding and minor ship repairs.
Back in Portsmouth Eric continue his training undertaking the daily routine of diving including hull inspections, minor welding on items that had come adrift from the bottom of hulls and checking the dry docks prior to docking and undocking of shipping. Eric stated that, “If you had two to three feet visibility around the harbour then this was quite good. Working underwater on ship’s propellers or any other part of the ship hull you only need about two-foot visibility (similar to sitting at a desk looking at a bit of paper). It’s as much as you want to see and because the water magnifies the object, you can see what you are doing quite well”. When Eric was not diving he still put his shipwright skills to good use undertaking some of the restoration work on HMS Victory.
During the Cod Wars of the 1970’s the diving section was called upon on a number of times to undertake running repairs under the waterline on RN warships that were in direct contact with the Icelandic Fleet. This work prevented the shipping spending time in dry dock much to the disappointment of the crews. Some of this work was undertaken with some secrecy, with several covert night dives carried out when the dockyard was not quite ready to repair collision damage.
With the advance of diving technology and the cost of keeping the diving equipment serviceable, it was inevitable that standard diving was going to be replaced with more modern diving equipment. On the 21st January, as the Diving Supervisor, Eric donned a helmet for the last underwater dive by a dockyard diver. Using standard diving dress in the waters of No.10 Dry Dock he supervised the undocking of the submarine HMS Onyx. This claim to fame is logged on the dockyard historical web site pages and gets a paragraph in the book Home of the Fleet. It was reported in the dockyard internal newspaper as “An end of an Era,” and required retraining for the standard divers to the new equipment. So, at the age of 55 Eric became a student once more undertaking diving training in the clear blue waters of the Solent (– or would that be cold and murky waters?) for those who have dived the Solent off Portsmouth Harbour.
Diving medicals and retirement age meant that at the age of 60, after 31 years as a diver in the RNB Portsmouth Dockyard, Eric retired and for his service to the dockyard he was awarded the MBE which he was extremely proud of.
Eric saw his links with the HDS as a way of passing on his considerable knowledge getting the standard diving equipment on again for the odd dip. Eric gave several talks about standard diving including use of equipment and dive safety at a Stoney Cove weekend. This passing of knowledge gave Eric great pleasure but it was the ability to have a dive again which he really enjoyed – showing off some tricks like lying on the surface or bottom and coming out of the water upside-down feet first. Eric and his wife Carole regally attended the annual HDS conference and dinner, which was a highlight of the year meeting fellow divers with the same enthusiasm for historical diving and life.
It may seem surprising but Eric did not own one piece of sport diving equipment bar a mask and fins and did not dive outside his work. He saw diving as his job and not akin to his hobbies of bee keeping or lawn bowls.
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OBITUARY: John Stewart Buxton 1931-2016
Sadly we have to record the passing of John Buxton, a long-time member of the Society and enthusiastic supporter of the Working Equipment Group.
Thanks to John’s wife, Audrey, and their family we now know a lot more about his life, including that he obtained a degree in horticulture and spent many years researching the use of pesticides and the spraying and irrigation of crops.
Both he and Audrey were members of the Mountaineering Society (it was where they first met) and later the Cave Diving Group, which was his passion.
Frustrated with his work in horticulture, John studied mechanical engineering at night school and changed careers, working on vehicle dynamos and starter motors.
He trained for the ambulance service, at one time hoping to transfer to Scotland and live nearer the sea, though this was not to happen.
He and Audrey were enthusiastic advocates of self-sufficiency, growing their own food, keeping bees and shooting game, as well as gathering road kill.
In the 1990s John’s enthusiasm for cave diving was rekindled. He supported and dived with many of the leading cave divers in the world not only in Britain, but also on expeditions to Egypt, Mexico, Florida and the Bahamas .
Following retirement, John devoted many hours to volunteering: strimming footpaths, working as a Healthy Walk leader and as a volunteer for the Greensand Trust, for which he won several awards.
For his 80th birthday John decided to dive Wookey Hole once more, with Audrey and the family acting as Sherpas and photographers.