Weapons Systems Tuning Group Reunion

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Gavin Fyfe (Sept 1964 - Jan 2014)

It was with great sadness that the Committee has  learnt of the sudden and unexpected death of Gavin Fyfe on Tuesday 4th February.Gavin joined the MOD in 1989 initially as a casual employee taken on for the summer period but in September became a Trainee Technician Engineer. After training he became an Overseer at Swan Hunter ship yard before moving to Portsmouth and joining the Weapon System Tuning Group, where he became a specialist commissioning engineer working on communication systems across a number of different classes such as Type 23 Frigates, Single Role Mine Hunters, Upholders and Vanguard Class submarines.

Gavin was promoted in 2002 which entailed a move to MOD Abbey Wood.  Here he brought his practical experience to bear by enhancing the project management of ships systems first with the Frigate Team and then later via the Maritime Combat Systems team before finally joining the Aircraft Carrier Alliance last year.

Gavin's funeral will be held on Thursday 13th February at Elgin near Inverness Scotland.  He will be greatly missed by all who worked with him, and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.

Robert Gordon Bone (1941-2013)

It is with sadness that we report the death of our WSTG colleague, Gordon Bone, aged  71 years on 26th June 2013.

Gordon was born on 31 October 1941 in South Shields. Upon leaving school at the age of 15 years, he secured an apprenticeship with a local electrical engineering firm and joined the MOD not long after he completed his training. Gordon was posted to WSTG in 1970 where he worked in the communications section mainly on VHF and UHF equipment.

After some time based at Wallsend/Newcastle Gordon was transferred to the WSTG office at Plymouth. Gordon’s career with WSTG took him to some of the more interesting detached duty locations including Hongkong and Singapore. After some 14 years based at Plymouth he was transferred to Portsmouth from where he retired from MOD Service.

His final working years were spent with the Trials and Ranges group.

Several of his colleagues from WSTG and the Ranges group were present at his funeral service, held at Portchester crematorium, on Monday the 15th July 2013.

Gordon frequently attended our reunions, was always good company and took an interest in our newsletter reports. It was entirely due to Gordon that we were able to provide an obituary in some detail for the late John Brook, for whom he had worked in the Trials and Ranges Group.

Our sympathy is extended to Gordon’s family and friends.

Keith Parke (1945-2013)

Keith Rodney Parke grew up in Alverstoke Road Fratton and like so many Portsmouth Technical School Boys entered the Dockyard as an apprentice in September 1962. On completion of his apprenticeship he served sometime as an electrical fitter and then an acting draughtsman before joining WSTG in December 1968.

Keith spent the early years in the WSTG Radar Section where he became a valued member and settled into the regular detached duty trips to ship yards around the UK. He joined the computer section (ADAWS group) in the very early 1970’s and embarked on what seemed to be an interminably long training period with Ken Wingate who joined the section on completion of WSTG’s commitments on the Seaslug missile systems. At this time Keith was a rugby player and obviously trained hard in all aspects of the sport including ‘après rugby’. As a consequence, the regular journey to Ferranti’s site at Bracknell, where training was carried out on the computer hardware, passed quickly for Keith since he took the opportunity to catch up on some sleep. However his life-style was to change within a year or so when he was diagnosed with diabetes.

On completion of his training Keith worked on the ADAWS computer hardware and display system in the ships under construction at that time and also on DAE associated with the Ikara conversion in the Leander frigates Aurora and Arethusa. This work was carried out in Chatham and Portsmouth respectively. He spent a considerable time on detached duty, which included, in the early stages, work in Wallsend in HMS Bristol, visits to Ferranti’s Cairo Mill commissioning site at Oldham and in HMS Sheffield at Barrow in Furness.

Keith continued to work for the computer section until April 1983 when he resigned from MOD(N) and emigrated to Perth in Western Australia.

In the latter years of his working life Keith returned to the UK and worked at HMS Dryad in the maintenance section for the ADAWS user training system. For those of us who had commitments in HMS Dryad during the 1990’s (as did Rod Howes and Ken Wingate) it was the last time we met up with Keith who seemed happy enough with his work there, although his time with WSTG was the favourite topic of conversation.

We re-established contact with Keith when he discovered the WSTG website. He emailed to say that following his retirement from work at HMS Dryad in 2007 he had returned to Australia to be near his family and was living near the Snowy Mountains. (We reported this information in our November 2010 Newsletter).

It was announced in the Portsmouth local paper (The News) that Keith died on 26 February 2013. He was 67 years old.

Keith’s death prompted a number emails from colleagues including Roger Phillips, Rod Howes and Knocker White. Roger recounted a story from the first year of their apprenticeship and his part in ensuring Keith’s test jobs reached the appropriate standard! Rod provided much of the background information as an ‘aide memoir’ for this obituary, while Knocker recalled lunching with Keith on their hand-made cheese sandwiches at Vickers Barrow. He also recalled there evenings dining at Patrick’s Pantry, their favourite restaurant in Barrow in Furness. There was disappointment later, however, when they found it closed, as a health risk, by the local council! There were a lot of memorable times in WSTG, and Keith Parke featured in many of them.

Our sympathy is extended to Keith’s family and friends.

Maureen Broome (died 2013)

Sadly, the Committee  received news of the death of Maureen Broome.  Maureen retired early from MCTA due to ill health in 2008.  She will be remembered for her many years of dedicated service in WSTG and later in the MCTA/CG clerical office.

Her Funeral was held at Portchester Crematorium on 23rd April 2013.  Many of her ex-colleagues attended the funeral including five from WSTG.  It was a beautiful sunny Spring morning for all attending to pay their last respects to Maureen.

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Joe Cleall

Sheila Day

Gavin Fyfe

Gordon Bone

Keith Parke

Maureen Broome

Peter Joseph (Joe) Cleall (1925-2014)

We were saddened to hear of the passing of Joe on 28th June 2014.

Joe was a long-serving member of WSTG and a staunch supporter of the WSTG reunions since our regular meeting started in 2004.

Joe was born in March 1925 and left home, in Portsmouth, at just 15 years old to join the Royal Navy. As a boy seaman Joe saw the effects of the war almost at once when his training base, HMS Ganges at Ipswich, came under attack from the Luftwaffe!

Although Joe was a ‘reluctant raconteur’ we know that his first ship was HMS King George V and that he must have been involved in the Artic Convoys. He also served on HMS Stork, a Bittern Class AA Sloop, which gained a reputation as a U-boat hunter. Her involvement in the North African Invasion resulted in considerable damage when she was torpedoed. Joe never confirmed this was where he sustained his leg injury, but we believed it was due to the blast and his subsequent fall during this action that his leg was seriously damaged.

Following his time in HMS Stork Joe was sent on a radio and radar course. He expected to join the technical group of the Diplomatic Corps, but was retained to use his new found skills within the Royal Navy.

Joe was eventually discharged (medically) from the RN and worked for a small radio business in Portsmouth. Following an Admiralty ‘trawl’ of local radio businesses he joined other Radio Mechanics in Portsmouth Dockyard. Their base was adjacent No. 1 Electrical Shop and the chargeman was J.O.N. Burrows with whom Joe was to work for some years later when, in the rank of Tech. Grade B, J.O.N. was running the WSTG Seaslug Team.

In 1954 there was an amalgamation of sections in the new No. 2 Electrical Shop and Joe worked first as a ‘Special Mechanic’ and then as a Tech. Grade 3, becoming one of the first to be confirmed as a ‘TG 3 Diagnostician’.

It was in 1961 that Joe was recruited by WSTG to work in the Seaslug team on the batch 1 County Class Destroyers. He specialised in the Digital Data Recording Equipment,  the Missile Direction System (MDS1), other links and Operations Room equipment. In the batch 2 ships Joe was a member of the DAB computer team and then worked on the Computer Assisted Action Information System (CAAIS) on many classes of ships.

Joe retired from WSTG in March 1985.

At his funeral on 18th July Joe’s war medals were displayed; they included the Artic Star and the related Russian medal.

Joe who we shall all remember as a cheerful and resourceful colleague is sorely missed by both family and retired colleagues.  

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Sheila May Day (1922-2014)

I was saddened to read in our local paper of the death of Sheila Day who presided over the ‘Clerical-Office’ through the 1970s after WSTG moved into Milldam House. Although most of our younger members were in awe of the ‘mature ladies’ in the Clerical Office, it must be said that so too were some of the older ones—mainly because Shelia had also been on the staff of the EEMD Personnel Office, and was known to many of us long before WSTG was formed.

Sheila never married, and for some years looked after her parents with whom she still lived. However, before any of our readers start to get the wrong impression Sheila had a very full social life: she played piano in a dance band/quartet, was an   experienced ballroom dancer and liked a drink and cigarette.

At Milldam’ one could rely on Sheila to get involved in the booking and running of our social events; she was also an invaluable ally at any ‘technical gathering’.

The 1970s will be remembered for the 3-day week, power cuts and various other deprivations such as petrol and toilet rolls. Latterly, there was even a shortage of coffee! I well remember Sheila ‘hunting down’ a large tin of coffee for our visitors which included project staff, contractors and other MoD(N) staff who were at Milldam House for  our ‘UAA1 Teach-in’.

Sheila was missed very much (not least by the social committee) when transferred to ASWE Portsdown. She retired from there as an Executive Officer.

Out of the Office Sheila was a tireless worker for the local hospital’s League of Friends. Long after she retired from the MOD many colleagues, visiting Q.A. hospital would often see her on duty at the enquiry desk at the main entrance.

Sheila died two months  short of her 92nd birthday on 28th February 2014 having spent some time in the care. Ken Wingate attended her funeral at Portchester Crematorium.

Her birthday? Well, May Day of course!

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