Weapons Systems Tuning Group Reunion

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Michael Arthur Lawson ISO (1918-2007)

We were saddened to hear of the death of Mike Lawson on 4th November 2007 at the age of 89years. Michael or Mickey, as colleagues in W.S.T.G. knew him, had suffered health problems, including a heart attack and a stroke, but had, we understand,  “survived against all the odds”, and he continued to live at his home at The Retreat with help from his son and daughter in law.

Michael was at our first reunion at Alexandra Bowling Club in March 2004 and made it to our Christmas Party that year with Dorothy, his late wife. He was still the absolute gentleman we had known during his long career and really looked much the same as ever!  Michael was born on 19th October 1918 and, following secondary education in Oxford and London, started further technical education at Faraday House Electrical Engineering College within the Military College of Science. However during the war years he served with the Army and did not resume his studies until 1946, finally completing his training by gaining a Faraday House Diploma in Electrical Engineering.

In 1953 he joined the Admiralty at Bath and worked with the Outside Erection Party, one of the organisations that would eventually form W.S.T.G.. He also worked at Barrow with NWPO in 1959 and then at AUWE Portland from June 1960. Michael transferred to W.S.T.G. in late 1964 and was posted to Portsmouth in 1967 where he was head of Underwater Weapons, a post he retained on promotion to Grade 7 in October 1974. At the age of 60 years Michael continued under Pensioner Code 1 in a PTO1 coordinating post until he finally retired in 1982.

  In a tribute to Michael, written by Melanie, his daughter, and read by Canon Lewis, celebrant of the CE Funeral Mass, at the Church of the Holy Spirit, Southsea, we were left in no doubt that Mike was a caring family man who considered himself “lucky” throughout his long life. He had had a happy marriage and enjoyed a very happy family life. We learnt too that he was to some extent an indulgent father, particularly to his daughter

Michael also considered himself fortunate that he had survived his wife Dorothy so that she had not had to endure the pain of loss and loneliness. Such was Michael’s charitable attitude to life he worked tirelessly as a member of the Lions for many years and was throughout his life an active Christian.  Although during his career he was a manager and planner Mike remained very much “hands on”.  He could always be relied upon for support whether in a professional or social capacity. At Milldam House where many social evenings were held, Michael could be relied upon to provide some of the food, usually with help from the family; also music and a very potent bowl of punch to make any party go with a swing. (On reflection it could be said Mickey was the un-attributed inventor of bio-fuel.)

The Funeral Mass, was held on 15 November 2007. A large family group led by his son, daughter and grand-daughter were in attendance. Also present were the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Portsmouth, the Deputy Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress together with very many friends and colleagues.      

 W.S.T.G. was represented by Ted Arnold, Ivan Winter, Pat Cross and Ken Wingate.

 The Mass was followed by a short committal service at the Crematorium.

Ron Kimber Lt RN Retd (1931-2007)

We were saddened and shocked to hear that Ron, a keen supporter of the W.S.T.G. Reunion group, had died suddenly on Sunday 30th September several days short of his 76th Birthday. Ron was from Sheerness and began his career in the Royal Navy in 1947 as an Electrical Artificer Apprentice. Following training and service in the Portsmouth area he married Betty, a Gosport lass, and set down roots in this area, living in Fareham for well over forty years. Throughout his career and retirement years he was a keen swimmer and a qualified ASA official and water polo referee.

 Ron Kimber served on, and was associated with, so many ships that such a list would take sometime to compile; however it must be said that his links with W.S.T.G. started in the early 1960’s in HMS Devonshire where Ron was the Seaslug TSO. To our older members who worked on that missile system he was well known and a popular officer. At the end of his career he served within W.S.T.G. dealing with Part 4 Programmes for numerous ships. Cliff Grainger recalls this time in Ron’s career and their long chats at the Part 4 group reunions. Ron retired from W.S.T.G. in 1991.

 Ron’s interest in sport, as a keen supporter of the Kent cricket team and eventually Pompey FC, led to regular visits to Fratton Park with W.S.T.G.’s John Farmer and Collingwood’s Museum curator Bill Legg.

 Most of us will remember Ron as a most caring person who remained a good friend of our late colleague Derrick Middleton BEM. He would always give us (the committee) an assessment of Derrick’s health, and whether he would be capable of attending any forthcoming reunion. Ron’s company will be sorely missed at our future events.

At the Funeral Service of Thanksgiving for Ron’s life, where there was “standing room only” for many retired naval and civilian colleagues the Padre ensured it was not a sombre event, but one of individual remembrance.  W.S.T.G.  was represented by Tony Morriss, Rod Waldron, David Lockley, Geoffrey White and Ken Wingate.  Cliff Grainger was unavoidably on detached duty.

Our sympathy and thoughts are with Ron’s wife and family at this time.

Jim Stephens (died 2007)

We regrettably have to report the death of James Andrew Stephens on New Year’s Day 2007 at the age of 78 years. He had been ill for some years with respiratory difficulties.

Jim last made contact when he received our first W.S.T.G. Newsletter. He informed us that he very much regretted not being able to attend our reunions due to his health problems. Jim started his career as an RN electrical artificer and although we have few details of his naval service he was known to be a keen and skilled hockey player. He played in RN and inter-service games with another equally keen player: the Duke of Edinburgh.

After completing 12 years service Jim left the Navy to pursue a civilian career. He joined W.S.T.G. in 1960 and worked mainly on radar equipments, eventually becoming a PTO2 team leader in the Surveillance and Navigation Radar Section. Jim’s career with W.S.T.G. spanned many ship classes starting with the build of Leander class frigates, when there were many shipyards throughout the UK (including Samuel White on IOW) and ending before the completion of the Type 23 frigates. He also did much work on the smaller craft such as those involved in fishery protection and (RAF) target towing vessels.

As a team leader Jim was best known for his knowledge of radar links to other systems and his drawings relating to this aspect of weapons system engineering. Jim was also the designer of the W.S.T.G. emblem on the 21 years Honours Board, although the motto is attributable to a Latin teacher at the Portsmouth Grammar School. This emblem also appears on the first W.S.T.G. tie.

He retired in the late 1980’s.

Jim’s funeral was held at the Portchester Crematorium on 15 January where sadly Geoff’ White was the only W.S.T.G. representative.

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

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Derrick Middleton BEM (died 2006)

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of one of our oldest colleagues. Derrick Middleton, aged 86 years died peacefully on 2nd December 2006 following deterioration in his health over the previous month.


Derrick’s career in the Royal Navy and with W.S.T.G. is covered at length in an early W.S.T.G. Newsletter and in Derrick's Page on our website . It is suffice to say in this tribute that Derrick had an exemplary Service and Civilian career. He was a valued staff member in all posts in which he served.

It was no secret however among his working colleagues that Derrick had suffered from a serious depressive illness in later years that occasionally returned, albeit less seriously, to interrupt a retirement full of interest, humour and many new experiences.

He had many friends and acquaintances that spanned all age groups. The late Frank Moore was one of his closest friends and Linda Moore has continued that friendship. Ron Kimber also kept in touch with Derrick and regularly had a pint with him at their favourite Wetherspoons hostelry in Fareham.

When we were writing up Derrick’s career for the Newsletter, what became obvious was that his mind was still needle sharp and he was still, physically, very active for his advanced years. On our first visit to his basement flat at a Fareham rest home we were greeted by Derrick, broom in hand, having just swept up fallen leaves around his numerous pots of tomato plants. Inside the flat we were surprised at the number of pictures filling every available space and this soon led to a discussion on cameras and photography. We had soon forgotten he was an octogenarian plus some!

W.S.T.G. was well represented at Derrick’s funeral, held on 13 December 2006 at Portchester Crematorium. Pastor Richard from the Oasis Elim Church, Portsmouth, another of Derrick’s wide range of friends, led the service. He reminded us that Derrick was a great fan of Carol Vorderman, that he was really a much younger man "locked" in an ageing body and recounted a holiday in Turkey when Derrick photographed belly dancers as one memento of the holiday!

Derrick’s two eldest sons gave readings appropriate to the occasion, but following the Committal we could not help feeling Derrick’s wit and humour had influenced these final moments. We listened to a theatre organ (Reginald Dixon, perhaps) playing "I do like to be beside the seaside" and other equally cheerful numbers. We left the Chapel in almost buoyant mood.

Some of us from W.S.T.G. together with Derrick’s family members and friends then proceeded to Derrick’s favourite lunchtime venue, Wetherspoons, for a meal and to remember him over a pint or two in the usual manner.

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Liz McKenzie (died 2006)

It is with regret that we have to report the deaths of Liz McKenzie who provided such efficient logistic support at Glasgow.

Liz McKenzie joined the Group upon leaving the Wrens during the building of the Type 21’s at Yarrow’s. She provided a service second to none to W.S.T.G. staff and in the words of Dennis Collard, who passed on the sad new, she was " always very helpful, professional and a wonderfully friendly and honest human being".

David Lockley recalls how much Liz supported all of W.S.T.G. at Glasgow when he worked with her during his "Part 4 Programme days". He also remembers how Liz almost single handedly rescued the W.S.T.G. portacabin from floods one night, during a typical Scottish storm, saving all the test equipment held on site.

Liz was taken ill in March this year and lost the fight against bowel cancer after only a few months. Her funeral was on 11th October 2006 at her family home in the Highlands. Liz was 53years of age.

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David Blowers (died 2006)

David Blowers was Portsmouth born and started his MoD(N) career as a Dockyard Electrical Fitter Apprentice. He served some 4years in Hong Kong Dockyard in the mid 1950’s and was an Inspector of Electrical Fitters (PTO3) in Portsmouth Dockyard. His time as an Inspector included a period with the GWS1 refit team from where he joined W.S.T.G. in the early 1960’s. David became a gyro compass and stabiliser specialist and gave a first class service to many classes of new ships and submarines, including Polaris boats. David was a PTO2 team leader.

David retired from W.S.T.G. in March 1982 and spent his retirement years at East Meon where he had lived for some 37years. Although afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, David led a full and active life with regular visits to his son in Singapore. Many of us met up with David for the last time at our reunion in March 2004 which he attended with his wife Sheila. Although he had not managed to come to any of our further events he had kept in touch since that time by letter or telephone, usually after receiving one of our newsletters.

David’s death followed a fall that resulted in a hip fracture and contraction of one of those hospital infections which are so virulent. David was 85years of age.

A most uplifting and pleasant Thanksgiving Service was held at East Meon church on 18th October where David’s ashes were interred in the churchyard. Joyce Baker, Ivan Winter, Tony Morriss and Ken Wingate from W.S.T.G. attended the service.

Our sympathy is extended to Sheila and David’s two sons.

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