Dennis Shearing RIP

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.

Dennis Shearing eulogy

Dennis was a long term volunteer for WWOOF in Australia (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), and their tribute to him can be read here: .

Click on each photograph for a larger image.



Photogrammetric Record obituaries

The Photogrammetric Record contacted us recently to offer their obituaries of former FSL employees to publish on the website.  We very much appreciate their offer, and attach below their obituaries of Bill Cheffins, Victor Laws, Col Rogers, W P Smith and Freddie Worton.

The obituary of Victor Laws also has additional notes from Col Rogers, who succeeded him as Managing Director of FSL.

Bill Cheffins obituary

Victor Laws obituary

Col Rogers obituary

W P Smith obituary

Freddie Worton obituary

All obituaries are copyright of The Photogrammetric Record, which is published by the Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry  Society and Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.

Walter Smith: Service of Thanksgiving

This message came from Barbara Johnson, Walter Smith’s daughter:

Dear Family, Friends and former Colleagues

Thank you for your expressions of sympathy at Dad’s passing.

The funeral took place quietly on 9 January and there will be a service of thanksgiving for his life on 26 February – details are below.

All are welcome.  An RSVP* would be helpful but is not essential.

With best wishes

Geoff and Barbara

Walter Purvis Smith Esq, CB, OBE, MA (Oxon), FRICS

8 March 1920 – 11 December 2018

A Service of Thanksgiving for his life will be held on

Tuesday 26 February 2019 at 12 noon

St Michael and All Angels Church, Lyndhurst, Hampshire


Nearest parking (3 mins walk, chargeable) is in

Lyndhurst Community Centre, Central Car Park, High Street, Lyndhurst SO43 7NY

The family hope you will be able to join them for refreshments after the service

* Emails to will be forwarded to the family

Walter Smith (WP) RIP

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:

Walter Smith (land surveyor)

If we hear about the memorial date, it will be posted on the website, and we can pass on any messages to the family.


Bill (Bix) Clark RIP

Ken Fostekew has passed on news from Bill Clark’s son Andrew that Bill died on Sunday 9th December.  His funeral was on 7th January in Edinburgh.  He was 92.

Bill Clark set up the Livingston office of Fairey Surveys; a brief description of his career with Fairey Surveys was put on the website just before his 90th birthday in 2016:

Happy Birthday Bix


Surjeet Singh Bansil RIP

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.

Land Surveying: an article from Ross Dallas

Ross was a Land Surveyor at Fairey Surveys from 1968 to 1970, and on coming across our website, has contributed an article about the Land Survey team during his time there, along with a few images.  The surveyors didn’t spend much time in the office, but we still have contacts with a number of the team who were around then.  We can pass on messages!

The whole text of the article is below, but it’s also attached as a Word document, so it can be downloaded and printed.

Ross Dallas: Surveying at Faireys



My name is Ross Dallas. I was fascinated to come across this marvellous site dedicated to Fairey Surveys Ltd. I worked for the Company as a Land Surveyor for two years from 1968 to 1970 (see photo below).

I’m writing this piece now, as going through the site, I can’t find any mention of us terribly important surveying guys!  In those days, the Chief Land Surveyor was Rodney Pringle. A fine chap, who I believe was related to the Pringle family of tweed manufacturers from south Scotland.

I think we had about ten land surveyors in total.  Peter Green, John Cripwell and Roy MacDonald I recall were three of the senior land surveyors at the time. Some of the young lads were myself, Ian Jarvies, Graham Jarvis and Tim Bale.

Our main business was photo control work. In those days, the Company had many contracts around the UK, much of it for road building programmes. Once the aerial photography had been procured, it had to be ‘controlled’ to provide coordinates for the plotting work. We traversed up and down the land, tying into OS trig points and Bench Marks. I think there was a secondary stage of field verification, but personally I was not involved with that work.

The mapping was mostly 1:500 scale from photography at 1:2,500 to 1:3,000, taken by the Company aeroplanes of course. There was OS mapping of all the UK, but it was at too small a scale, probably needed revising and was not accurate enough for road building. As well, we put in lots of semi-permanent survey markers along our traverses for subsequent setting out.

Even in my fairly short time with the Company, I worked all over – the Luton/Dunstable Bypass, the M6 in Cumbria, the Tranent Bypass in Scotland, just down the road on the M4 three-lane widening etc. Fine in the summer, but your hands froze to your Wild T2 theodolite in the winter! Mind you, that wasn’t as bad as on occasion having to travel in Peter Green’s Mark I Land Rover – heater, what heater??

We made use of the Geodimeter Mark VI for ‘distance’ readings. It took about fifteen minutes to take a reading as you repeatedly ‘nulled’ the dial. Then, back in your lodgings that evening another fifteen minutes each to compute the distances – assuming that you didn’t make a mistake!

Then, the traverses had to be computed before you left site, just to be on the safe side. We had a special large form for traverse computations, devised I think by Rodney. All the sums were done on mechanical calculators, of the ‘Brunsviga’ type. Peter Green was very proud of his ‘Curta’ calculator – a beautiful, tiny precision calculator that sat in the palm of your hand.

I have to say that I don’t think we young surveyors in particular were very popular at Reform Road! We swanned in and out the ‘office’ between jobs – and of course when in the office didn’t seem to have much to do!

We did in fairness have to provide our own transport, and got some ‘mileage’ money. Did I mention that we all seems to have, err, sports cars? Ian Jarvies specialised in bending Triumph TR3’s. Did I mention that I had a Lotus Cortina, Mark 1A? Well, I needed the boot space for all the tripods . . .

We did do some work in the office, you know! In the field, we had 9” x 9” ‘contact’ prints of the aerial photos, which we had to incredibly carefully prick with the location of the control points. I’ve still got my ‘Casella’ hand stereoscope, with ‘R Dallas  Fairey Surveys Ltd’ scratched on the underside (photo attached!) Company property, hope they don’t want it back.

Anyway, inevitably, from time to time there would be problems of identification, and we would be called into the plotting room to sort it out. I remember well the remarkable sight of a dozen or more photogrammetric plotting machines filling the room, operators glued to the eyepieces, whirring away with that distinctive co-ordinatograph whine, as they moved from point to point.

From looking through the website, I recognised quite a few names of the operators and staff of the time, but the one for some reason that I had most dealings with was Bill Cheffins. A lovely man, who always seemed to have time to talk to you and discuss problems without giving you a hard time!

I think I talked to him most, as I had carried out an architectural photogrammetry project at college and he had carried out the remarkable survey of the north face of Edinburgh Castle (see Ref below). He used one of the Company aerial survey cameras on its side, photographing from Princes Street Gardens. An ingenious solution, but perhaps not too practical for everyday architectural work! Also, we had a (very) slight personal connection, as I recall Bill was a mad Scottish Country dancer and had quite separately met my sister at dances in London. A tragic loss when he died quite young.

And then there was overseas work . . . Even in my short time, I was very privileged to be sent on a couple of ‘overseas’ jobs. The big one was to Saudi Arabia, for three months to the Ta’if region, where Faireys had a big contract to carry out photo control and mapping for a large block of aerial photography. I think this was the first contract for topographic mapping in Saudi after the major triangulation programme across the whole peninsula?

We had a team of four surveyors – John Cripwell was the lead surveyor, then Roy McDonald, then a Polish origin lad whose name I’m sorry I have forgotten. Roy McDonald was the real joker in the pack – he loved telling jokes, and ended them with one of those infectious laughs so you couldn’t stop laughing yourself.

John was a South African, and he ran the programme in what, shall we say, was rather a ‘colonial’ manner. I got a real bollocking from him one day. Our Toyota trucks were really tough vehicles – they looked like something left over from WW2. They had one odd fault in the heat, the brakes quite rapidly became ‘spongy’ and mine needed attention. One day, John had to borrow my truck for some reason. Unfortunately, his style of driving was to drive on his brakes. Don’t think he believed in stopping for the locals. Well, you can imagine the rest, but fortunately that day he never actually hit anything!

Anyway, we sortied forth in our Toyota trucks, covering many kilometres of dirt roads. These dirt roads developed corrugations and you quite literally bounced along. It didn’t seem to matter whether you were going fast or slow. We usually had to do observations very early in the morning before the haze and ‘shimmer’ got too bad.

We were working to the triangulation scheme which as above had been put in a few years previously. But there was a problem. Most of the concrete block triangulation points had been stolen by the local Bedouin! Luckily, they didn’t know about the witness marks, so we got by! I remember John organised a big pow-wow with some of the local Bedouin chiefs to try to stop them removing the trig points. We sat on the floor cross-legged in their tent, eating dates and sipping ‘chai’.

I was also sent to Malta. Sorry, Rodney, but that was really a holiday! How I spun it out to a week I do not know! We were doing a survey for a proposed Marina just north of Valletta. It wasn’t even triangulation work – just some measured distances plus level points for two pairs of stereo photos. The Architect guys in charge also seemed to be on holiday. They had a lovely sailing dinghy . . .

I left Faireys in 1970 to take up a post first with the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (RCHME) and went on to pioneer the adoption and methodology of architectural photogrammetry in the UK (see Ref).  As a result, working in such a different field I lost contact with my fellow land surveyors and others that I knew at Faireys. A number of Companies got into close range and architectural photogrammetric work, such as Huntings and BKS, but I don’t think Faireys ever really did much in that direction?

To be honest, I don’t think I was a natural fit at Faireys. In the first place, for those days I was one of those unusual beasts – a Graduate from Glasgow University. I guess also I had quite a strong Glasgow accent, rather different from the ‘Thames Twang’ of most staff! Then, folk seemed to think I had a lot of opinions!

Can’t think why. Well, I can. Fairey staff were fantastically experienced, skilful, hard working and fast. But I think it’s true to say that in those days many staff had a ‘military’ background of some sort – ‘Ours not to reason why!’ So asking a simple question like why do you do it like that, could be misinterpreted . . .

But I hugely valued my time at Fairey Surveys and gained much practical experience. I hope this short ‘snapshot’ of a brief period will be of interest – and I hope it might trigger some other of the land surveyors to offer their reminiscences over a longer time. Even better, they might disagree with me!

Regretfully, I don’t seem to have any photos of survey work in progress, either of UK work or from the Saudi trip. Perhaps some others can contribute some photos of surveying operations?



O. W. Cheffins and J. E. M. Rushton


The Photogrammetric Record  Volume 6, Issue 35,  April 1970 (pages 417–433)


R.W. A. Dallas


The Photogrammetric Record  Volume 11, Issue 61, April 1983 (pages 5–27)



DALLAS  ‘Pass’ signed by Rodney Pringle

DALLAS  ‘Cassela’ hand stereo viewer

DALLAS   Saudi Arabian driving licence

Fred Loake RIP

News has come via Lawrence Scott that Fred Loake, who worked for Fairey Surveys in the 1950s, died on 18th December. The news came from Fred’s daughter Jennifer.

Fred was a surveyor, and worked with Lawrence in the Zambesi Valley, and other projects in Rhodesia and Malawi.  Later he worked in the Plotting Section, and the Christmas 1957 edition of the internal newsletter ‘Air Surveyor’ has a note welcoming him to the Plotting Section along with Peter Cripps, Leo Lewis and Mike Neighbour “all Graduates of the ‘Bunny’ Burrows’ Academy”.  Hopefully someone out there can fill us in on this!

He lived in Walsall, and his funeral is to take place on 18th December, which is all the information we have at the moment.

Ken O’Dell: RIP

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.



Eddie Holmes memorial service

John Tompkins was at the memorial service for Eddie Holmes on Monday 20th November, and has sent in these pictures.

Eddie Homes Memorial service
Eddie Holmes in RAF uniform