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Eulogy

The Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Dudley Vernon Steynor

Service conducted by  The Revd Canon Cavell Cavell-Northam

EULOGY

Dudley was born on 16 October 1909 in Malvern where he grew up with his two brothers and sister in a large family home enjoying the freedom of the Malvern Hills.  Kite flying, model aeroplanes, motor cycles and motor cars were just some of the hobbies pursued by the family.

His interest in music developed at an early age as the family were very close to Vernon Warner the young protégé pianist.

Dudley was in one of the first intakes at Stowe school and a contemporary of David Niven, Sir Nicholas Winton and Geoffrey de Haviland .  In later years he bumped into David Niven at Heathrow Airport. David recognised him immediately, which says a great deal about the Steynor profile.

On leaving Stowe he studied the piano in London at the Academy of Music   living in Kew with his brother Martyn.  Together they joined the Hounslow Flying club and learned to fly.

Following his studies at the London Academy of Music he was advised to continue studying in Europe and chose Berlin where he studied at the Edwin Fischer School, only returning due to the imminent possibility of War.

His wish to assist the war effort as a pilot was initially thwarted by poor eyesight.  Having spent some months on the ground as a Link Trainer Instructor, and following a weekend party at the house of Jumbo Edwards his Commanding Officer and pre war Olympic Gold Medal Rower, a further medical in London was arranged. This medical was with the Chief Medical officer of the RAF.  He proceeded to test his eyesight by initially requesting him to read the chart with his good eye and then, without changing the chart and while looking the other way, asked him to read it again!  Dudley passed.

Some months later Dudley bumped into the Chief Medical Officer, thanked him, and asked if he realised that in fact his eyesight in one eye was really quite poor.  He replied that he knew people who could see perfectly and were quite lethal in the air and some people, like  Dudley, who might not have perfect eyesight but were  excellent pilots. As one who spent his time on the ground he would prefer people like Dudley above him!

The outcome of this was a posting to Booker Airfield as an Instructor in charge of B Flight where he spent the rest of the war. Here he met Ann who was assisting the war effort by helping with the tea wagon along with two of the sisters of King Zog of Albania who was living in exile at Parmoor here in Frieth.  Dudley and Ann were married in 1943.

On being de-mobbed Dudley decided that a career as a concert pianist was no longer an option and proceeded to devote his energies to designing and developing various ideas.  The first of these was the Verdik Petrol Economiser which made significant improvements to the petrol consumption of the cars of the day, and was widely acclaimed by the motoring press.

There followed  a humane rat trap which he designed at the request of his uncle in Birmingham who owned a hardware shop and it was the mesh of this trap that led to his next significant development.

A famous burns’ surgeon was staying with the Hon Mrs James in Lane End and on seeing one of the traps announced this was just the mesh needed to make guards to protect children from the horrendous burns suffered as a result of accidents with electric fires.  Dudley came up with a suitable design and as a result was kept busy for a few years supplying the electricity companies and then gas companies with guards to fit to all their various models. It was not long however before the manufacturers started incorporating guards at the manufacturing stage bringing this market to a close.   Guards for open fires were a further development and these carried on selling for a number of years.

Dudley and Ann started their married life at The Cottage, Lane End next to the old Chapel on Moor Common.  William was born here in 1948.

In 1951 they moved to Colliers Corner on the day of the birth of their daughter Linden who Dudley delivered in the absence of the midwife who had not yet arrived.  Dudley always said he was not phased by this as he had been in the Boy Scouts!!!

The family was completed by the arrival of James in 1956.

Although continuing throughout his working life with his inventions he decided that with a growing family to support he needed a more stable income. This led to his ownership of Goodchild’s Garage in Lane End and then a Daf Dealership.  Soon Dafs could be seen wherever you looked!

Among his many and varied interests steam always held a fascination. The purchase of an Avelling & Porter Steamroller gave the local community a much loved landmark as he kept it next to the road outside his house.

In 1964 he was tempted back to flying when William started gliding at Booker, now Wycombe Air Park. Dudley was soon recognised as an excellent pilot and instructor and he continued enjoying his gliding in retirement up to the age of 84.

In early 1981 disaster struck. There were extensive power cuts across the area as a result of a heavy snow fall. Dudley had taken Ann out to get a hot meal when the power was restored. The resultant surge caused a fire in Colliers Corner and they returned to find five fire crews doing their best to get it under control. They had lost nearly everything they owned.

Undaunted, a mobile home was bought and placed at the bottom of the garden for them to live in. The initial clearing of the site was carried out by two young men who were keen to earn some money between their training sessions at Marlow Rowing Club. A number of local tradesmen were engaged to rebuild the house and by the spring of 1982 they were able to return. As a thank you for all the hard work Dudley took the two rowers gliding. In the years that followed he watched with great interest the developing career of one of those rowers, Sir Steve Redgrave.

Following the death of his wife Ann in 1996 he returned to his music and at the grand age of 87 produced two CDs of his favourite piano pieces.

Latterly he kept himself fit by doing at least 10 minutes a day on his exercise bike and completing fiendish Soduko puzzles until only a few months before his death.

His 100th birthday was a milestone he wanted to achieve. He thoroughly enjoyed his day which many here I am sure will remember as it brought Lane End to a standstill!

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Flying at Booker – landing out

The country between Princes Risborough and Aylesbury was our low flying area and when a pupil had soloed we would send him there to practise his flying and so prevent the circuit becoming over crowded. There was a useful landmark in this area – the Chinnor cement works with its smoking chimney – and pupils were told to fly south when they wanted to return to Booker. If they failed to spot the airfield in poor weather they would soon see the river Thames. Then all they had to do was find Marlow and follow the road to the airfield. I remember when two of our pupils on the same day didn’t make it home. One of them turned left when he saw the river and followed it for miles and miles, finally landing at Hornchurch. The other one turned right and flew on and on until, as he said “I ran out of river and landed in a field”. The barrage balloons were up and the first one had flown through the lot. When asked if he had seen them he replied “Oh yes, but I kept well below them”!

If a pupil lost his way and ‘landed out’ he was instructed to phone Booker with as much information as possible and we would send two instructors in a single Tiger Moth to retrieve him My flight Commander Michael Harraway and I formed a rescue team and we had some interesting moments. A pupil had landed in a field at Pinner and the police had put him in the local Goal. My sister-in-law Betty lived in Pinner and I phone her and we met at the field. She was thus able to see our rescue team in operation. On another occasion a pupil had landed in a field next to the local vicar’s house. The vicar insisted we had tea with him before we left. The vicar had an attractive daughter and Michael told me to take the pupil back in the pupil’s Tiger Moth and he would follow later. This worried me a bit because Michael was very susceptible to young ladies and it was already late in the day and we had a forty mile journey ahead of us. I was met on the airfield by the CFI, Jackie Hicks, with “What’s happened to Michael?”. He arrived half-an-hour later as our CFI was about to get the Chance-light going. Before coming to Booker Michael had been adjutant to Group Captain Malan at Biggin Hill. He suggested to me that we could use our compulsory blind-flying time by flying to Biggin Hill. We went there in a Magister and arrived as their Spitfires were returning from a successful strike over France. A moment for celebration followed, and Michael was quickly drawn into the Officers’ Mess. I went to the Sergeants’ Mess and had some difficulty refusing most of the drinks offered me. But I had the journey home and I had doubts about Michael’s ability to fly when the time came to go. My doubts were justified and his friends had to lift him into the Magister. I needed a little help too I regret to say and I have no memory of the actual take-off. The first thing I can remember was that we were at 2000ft and my brain was clearing. I think Michael was then asleep. I was now faced with the task of locating the half-mile gap over the river which marked the only safe crossing if we were to avoid being shot down by the Army anti-aircraft guns. In my present state I knew this would be impossible. The alternative was to fly South until clear of balloons. It was a longer flight, but I was becoming more sober every minute and made a good landing back at Booker. Looking back at this episode I remember feeling confident that I would be able to manage. I put this down to the competence one achieves from a thousand hours of instructing. As Cecil Lewis says in his last book, All My Yesterdays, “In the First World War I had been accounted a first-class fighter pilot, expert in aerobatics; but there is nothing like instructing to teach you accurate flying. By the time I had been at it three months, I was flying far more skilfully than I had ever flown before.”

After the war Michael Harraway became our solicitor. Ann and I were fond of him and he often stayed with us. He lost his life at a fireworks party given by Diana Dors when some fireworks exploded inside the house and set fire to it.