Dennis Shearing was a surveyor in Fairey Surveys in the 1970s, an Australian from Adelaide, and he died in Australia in March this year at the age of 74. For much of his life as a surveyor he slept on friends’ sofas or floors, in his old Land Rover (“Camel”), or in some remote spot where he was working. But he ended his life in an amazing house in Kangaroo Island (off the coast of Adelaide), which he built himself.
He regularly timed his visits to the UK to coincide with the FSL annual reunions, so he was well known to most of us.
Ken Edwards attended Dennis’s memorial in Kangaroo Island, and Ken and Derek Minter jointly wrote the attached eulogy, which was read out at the service. The photograph of Dennis in his trademark hat was taken in 2010 at the wedding of Ken’s daughter Rebekah.
Ken Edwards passed on the following notes from the memorial, and the photographs below (the Jenni mentioned is Dennis’s half sister).
Dennis’ farewell went very well. Jenni had arranged for a smaller group to be present at the gypsum (salt) lake where Dennis’ ashes were to be scattered. We all took a small handful and found a qiuet spot to remember him in our own way and scatter our small part of him.
An older friend from the island played harmonica and recited a poem “my old black billy” which was very poignant and appropriate for Dennis.
Back at the “Shed” at American River there was a much larger crowd (approx. 60 to 70) and quite a few wanted to speak about Dennis and the impact he made on their lives. I don’t think you would have known anyone there Derek but there were a couple of old surveyors and geophysicists who remembered Dennis from his time in the Lands Department and GeoSurveys. I have attached a phone photo I took of another photo which shows Dennis having an apple apparently being shot off his head by a colleague on a survey/geophysics expedition in the desert area of outback Qld. or SA. People at the gathering assured me the rifle was not loaded but we are talking Australia in the sixties here!
I’ve also sent a close up of a younger man and his paradise home on KI.
It was a great send off and I’m sure he would have approved.
News has come from Walter Smith’s daughter, Barbara Johnson, that he died on 11th December, and that a memorial service is being organised, probably late January or early February.
Walter Smith joined what was then the Air Survey Company (a subsidiary of Fairey Aviation) as Chief Surveyor in 1950, and left as Managing Director in 1977 to take up a post with the United Nations for two years. He was then appointed the first civilian Director General of the Ordnance Survey, a post he held until he retired in 1985.
Lawrence Scott remembers him with gratitude, as WP (as he was generally known in the company) recruited Lawrence in 1952 in Southern Rhodesia, when WP was Manager of the Air Survey Company of Rhodesia for three years, the subsidiary he set up in 1951.
A fairly detailed history of his life and career is on Wikipedia:
Attached are a number of photographs taken at the Fairey Surveys reunion held at White Waltham Cricket Club on 27th July 2018. This year it was at lunchtime, which seemed to work very well. Click on the photographs to see the full size version.
Derek Minter has passed on the information that Surjeet Singh Bansil died suddenly a few days ago at his home in Maidenhead:
Bansil (as he was known) was a Photogrammetic Instrument Operator at Faireys for many years He was a senior operator by the time I trained to work in that department in 1973. He remained on the staff until Christmas 1983 when the company, by then owned by Halcrow, made around half of the operators redundant. Some years later, and after the ESL takeover, he returned to work at the office in Reform Road but eventually was made redundant again and spent the remainder of his working life at a mapping company based in Worcester.
Bansil was a skilled and careful worker who was well respected by his colleagues.
I am sure our thoughts will be with his family at this difficult time.
Bansil is in the group photograph taken outside the Reform Road office in about 1979. He is number 85, in the top row – clip below, with Peter Timbrell, Tony Dady, R. Pandia, Fari Limoiee and Ken Pinkney, among others. The full group photograph is in the History section of the website.
We have had a report from Geoff Milsom that Ken O’Dell passed away last Sunday, 19th November. Ken had been suffering from dementia for some time. Condolences to his wife Beryl.
There are many gaps in the material we have on the website, and unfortunately we don’t have a photograph of Ken “Red” O’Dell – or at least not one where he has been identified. However, a quick look through the old newsletters shows Ken O’Dell out in Malta and Bechuanaland in 1957. In 1959 he was in Aden, then Rhodesia and Nyasaland on a Federal Surveys contract with Geoff Milsom, Paul Heimes, Brian Corbin, Adrian Workman and others with the Dakota ‘Charlie Tango’. The Company News in September 1973 reports him in Saudi Arabia. By 1978 Ken was Chief Engineer, and the February 1978 internal newsletter reports him out in Zanzibar, Nigeria and Liberia as ‘Travelling trouble shooter”. Was he ever at home?
The funeral will be at Easthampstead Park Crematorium, South Road, Wokingham RG49 3DW, on 6th December at 10:30.
Apologies to anyone who couldn’t access the FSL website today.
We have had to move the website to a new website hosting company. The old company was absorbed into a new one, but the users had to move their own data over. Not something we chose to do!
It all seems to be working now, although it is a bit slow at the moment. If it is still slow in a couple of days time, or you see any problems or missing bits, please reply to this post (below) or send an email to email@example.com.
The Historic Flight Foundation near Seattle, WA, have just acquired G-AHXW, a De Havilland DH.98A Dragon Rapide, that was owned for some years in the 1950s and 1960s by Fairey Aviation and then Fairey Surveys. They would like to hear about what sort of work it was doing, or any really interesting projects it may have been part of.
The museum has sent a couple of photographs of when the aeroplane arrived there on 31st March 2017, which are shown below. A trawl through the internet also found a photograph of G-AHXW in Fairey Surveys livery at White Waltham in 1965 on the website Air Photographic International (https://www.airphotographicinternational.com), which has hundreds of great photographs of old aircraft for sale, all identified with type, registration, location and date. Chris Knott, the owner of the website, has very generously allowed us to publish the photograph here.
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