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News > OP updates > Obituaries > David Glover (OP 1944) RIP

David Glover (OP 1944) RIP

28 Apr 2022
Obituaries

David Wilson Glover (OP 1944)
14 November 1926-28 March 2022

David Glover lived the life of an adventurer who, as a test engineer at the forefront of 20th century exploration logistics, traversed much of the world. After early schooling in Egypt, at Victoria College, Alexandria, David began at The Portsmouth Grammar School with his brothers, Bill and Jack in the 1930s. Their father, with Geoffrey de Havilland, was a founding member of the RAF and in World War I, based at Amiens, biplanes were re-designed, modified and developed to fly over German lines. So, in the 1930s when Airspeed opened the Technical School, integral to Sir Geoffrey’s Mosquito design and development at its Portsmouth plant, Flt.Lt. Jack Glover, was invited to serve as Principal and build capacity to rival the Luftwaffe in World War II.

Jack’s sons inherited his love of all things to do with flying and David also acquired his father’s cricketing (and design engineering) talents, though it was sport that preoccupied David’s life at PGS. Although he spoke little about his education at the school, David, nicknamed ‘Titch’, told of many a (mis) adventure tagging behind his ‘God -Like’ big brothers and their PGS school friends, James Clavell and Alan Bristow.

War brought particularly risky escapades – Portsmouth skies were closely watched, planes identified, ordnance (UXO) collected and stored at the Glover House until one day a ‘bomb defusing experiment’ led to fire in the kitchen and subsequent discovery of David’s hand grenade collection. His pleas that he’d defused a grenade found in his boot, whilst indicating early promise as an experimental engineer, did little to pacify his mother. James and Alan were banished from the Glover House and, shortly after the ‘narrow miss of a dive-bombing pilot, whilst watching a dog-fight’, the Glover boys were banished to Christchurch, evacuated like many PGS boys, as Portsmouth (and the school) was bombed.

The safety of Christchurch did not hold them long; Bill applied for RAF ground crew, Jack trained as a pilot and, concealing the (polio) disability that barred him from the RAF, David joined the army and followed his brothers into war, training as a tank engineer. Jack went to Burma flying Dakotas behind enemy lines and, 2 years later, David, endeavoring to join his big brother, was shipped out to Burma in 1945. His troop ship brought him back to Egypt arriving at Suez on Victory in Japan Day, David’s war seemingly over before it had begun. Nevertheless, he served in Egypt for two years and then, with communist uprisings in Southeast Asia, David finally went East and served in the Malayan Police during the Emergency where he refined his skills and the technique of engineering adaptations, tailoring armored cars to the particular challenges of warfare in tropical forests.

Briefly back in the UK, in the early 1950s David landed the dream job as a Test Engineer at Brands Hatch; it paid little so he also travelled the country selling engineering expertise and new developments in pneumatic tyres. Whilst on the road Titch, having blossomed, met his future wife, the artist and Crosby Heir, Beatrice Jane, before departing for a new adventure, taking a boat through the Suez again. This time David got to sail all the way down to Africa for exciting times of emerging independence. In charge of BP East Africa’s Exploration Logistics, David built a ‘dirt road and jungle suited’ transport fleet as well as constructing Tanganyika coastal roads and bridge network. Joined by Jane, they lived quite literally ‘on the road’ in construction camps of tents and mud & cow dung huts with their son Paul, born in Dar es Salaam, as well as Fred, an Iguana and Kismet, their Leopard, embracing African (rather than ex-pat) life. David, already Arabic and Malay speaking, learnt Kiswahili and gained rare reputation of consulting African co-workers for opinions and problem-solving requirements. Jane painted the village head men’s portraits; in return their wives plastered her hut with fresh cow dung and helped protect Paul from the crocodiles that raided their villages.

In 1959 David was asked to survey the largest sand sea in the Sahara Desert, an adventure not to be missed that moved the family to Libya where David’s expertise in exploration logistics included mobilizing fleets of helicopters suited to fly in sand storms and navigating desert land craft, moving rigs through impossible environments into inaccessible places, the grave yard of many, including those of the Lady be Good. The USA Liberator disappeared on a World War II mission due to navigator error. Despite numerous search parties the Lady Be Good remained unfound until David and his team located remains of the plane and ill-fated flight crew. After the highly publicized repatriation of the crew’s bodies to the USA, the Flight of the Phoenix, a film about a group of men stranded in the Libyan desert after a plane crash with survival dependant on rebuilding the craft, loosely echoed the innovative feats of engineers adapting machines to navigate across Libya’s vast sand seas.

In Libya, David also built go-karts and taught his son and eldest daughter the rudiments of racing on salt flats that edged parts of the desert. Three daughters were born in Tripoli and Benghazi just before the coup that brought Ghaddafi to power, but Paul’s death ended the Saharan adventure.

 In the late 1960s the family moved to Kenya where David adapted boats, trucks and helicopters for explorations of East African environments. They enjoyed Kenya’s early independence and Mombasa life, scuba diving and elephant safaris before David was called to the Arctic. In 1969 David managed Arctic Circle shipping whilst the family adapted to life in Alaska, exploring mountains and glaciers, learning how to make moccasins, ski and drive snowmobiles. The early 1970s brought David back to Kenya, where he taught his young daughters how to fly light aircraft, land 60lb game fish on 10lb line, avoid snakes and scorpions, swim with sharks as well as designing swamp buggies (and other engineering experiments) until the oil boom hit Scotland.

The family moved to Dundee in the mid-1970s when David was asked to manage infrastructure development for a burgeoning oil industry. Ports and airports were developed, mini-subs, hovercraft and helicopters sourced, boats designed, built and often launched by Jane. Purchasing a fleet of helicopters, David met Alan Bristow again and shared a chuckle over the memory of Elsie Glover, her pantry on fire, admonishing ‘you naughty, naughty, boys. Keep on like this and you’ll never amount to anything!’

David worked in Dundee and Aberdeen for over 10 years before his urge for independence and adventure set him out across the world again. In the 1980s he continued to travel the globe to shipping projects in Singapore, port building in Yemen, roads through Azerbaijan, behind the iron curtain-Russia and China, then back to Malaysia and onto Indonesian for oil and gas exploration, to name a few. David was well into his 70s when a friend asked his daughter when her father would stop travelling- “when his legs no longer get him up the stairs to a plane” she replied. As well as continuing to explore the world in ‘retirement’ in his 80s, with his eldest daughter, David also revisited Libya, his school in Egypt as well as PGS.  David’s last adventure was to the Northern Lights in Norway’s Arctic circle-he was 91.

Sadly, David’s free-spirited adventuring is now ended. He is survived by his daughters Katherine, Rosemarie, Jacqueline and Michelle, by 7 Grandchildren - Dominic, Toby, Romilly, Tigony, George, Louis and Arthur and by his Great Granddaughter Ophelia and second wife Margaret. On a walk on Mombasa beach one evening, pointing at their prints in the white sand, David said to Katherine, “wherever you go, always leave a good footprint.” Perhaps leaving a good footprint was what David learned at The Portsmouth Grammar School, for evidently, he is also missed by many friends across the globe. On one of his last missions, whilst winding through a crowd in Southeast Asia, David heard a cry ‘Titch, Titch’.  Over 50 years on, the two PGS school friends had firm camaraderie to recall and positive lifetime adventures to share-Good (PGS) Footprints, indeed!

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