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I will be away all next week in England. As you might guess from the subtitle above, I'm attending my father's funeral. He passed away recently at the age of 93. Normally, when I'm away, Breakfast Bytes goes dark, but this time, some of my colleagues will be guest-blogging, so Breakfast Bytes will appear every day (except Friday, which is a Cadence global recharge day).
On the last day before a break, I almost always write an off-topic post, so today, I thought I'd write a brief biography of my father. It's not as off-topic as it sounds since he was an electrical engineer. Yes, the apple did not fall very far from the tree in my case.
My Dad was born in 1928. Since he spent most of his career in the Royal Navy, this turned out to be very good timing for keeping out of harm's way. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
My Dad's mother died when he was 14, which was 1942, so right in the middle of the war. His elder sister was a nurse, and so he ended up taking over doing all the cooking for a couple of years. I forget when I found that out, but it seemed very odd since he never cooked while I was growing up. Not even the sort of cooking I do where I cook and barbecue at weekends, but almost never cook during the week (at least pre-WFH). When my mother was dying in 1999, he immediately went back into his teenage mode and took over all the cooking, and after my mother's death, he cooked for himself until the last few months when he became too frail to look after himself.
At 16, he joined the Royal Navy. He went to Dartmouth, the Navy's training school in Plymouth (yes, the same Plymouth that the Mayflower sailed from). That took a year, and so he completed his training when he was 17 in 1945, just as the war ended, so he never saw active service. Getting ahead of myself again, he retired from the Navy in about 1979 when he was just over 50. The Falklands War was in 1982, so he managed to miss that one too. In between, the Navy wasn't really involved in any wars that I can think of.
After the war, the Navy decided that it should train its engineers to a higher standard than it had previously by sending officers to University for the first time ever. So my Dad ended up at Cambridge University and studied engineering. Later, I would actually work for the Engineering department for six months and then go to Cambridge myself. Apples and trees again. During his three years at Cambridge, his future wife (aka my mother) was studying to be a PE Teacher at Bedford College of Physical Education, about 30 miles away. Undergraduates were not allowed cars, which I think was still the rule in my day, but somehow my Dad had one anyway, an Austin Cowley he apparently called Wilhemina because of its number plate. Also, my mother was very fit studying PE, so she would sometimes cycle the 30 miles. There are basically no hills between Bedford and Cambridge, so this wasn't as strenuous as it sounds.
My parents got married in 1951, and my Dad's job was in Wales. After a short time there, my Dad went to sea for the first time, I think on HMS Resource. I was born while he was away, and at about the age of 1 my mother flew out to Malta with me, and my Dad got to see me for the first time.
People joke that IBM stands for "I've been moved," but being what in the US is called a Navy Brat is definitely like that. We moved to Gillingham near Chatham dockyard, where my younger brother was born, then to just outside Bath. The Navy's R&D labs are in Bath. At first, that seems a bit odd since Bath is a long way from the coast, but Navies like to site the facilities that don't require ships and dockyards inland...so other Navies cannot get to them. Of course, Air Forces can, but the world over each service seems to act as if other services don't exist. You might think that the planes flown off aircraft carriers in the Royal Navy were run by the Royal Air Force, but no, by the Fleet Air Arm, part of the Navy (the US Navy is the same—for example, the display team the Blue Angels are part of the US Navy, not the USAF). We moved closer to the outskirts of Bath, and my parents bought their first house.
There were many other moves, including moving to Gosport, near Portsmouth dockyard. In 1962, the US and UK signed an agreement to transfer the technology for the submarine-launched Polaris missiles to Britain. My Dad had received a 24-hour notice to report to his new job back outside Bath. He was one of the people in charge of transferring the missile technology and getting it built. Although the US supplied the missiles and the launch systems, the submarines and the warheads were provided by the UK. Also, in 1962, the first James Bond movie, Dr. No, came out. Decades later, my Dad told me that he was nicknamed Dr. No in this era since he insisted that no changes would be made to the US designs at all; they would build them exactly as on the drawings. Otherwise, he knew that the whole program would go off the rails. I'm sure it was one of the things that contributed to the program being completed ahead of schedule and under budget.
My Dad's next tour of duty on a ship was on the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle. He was away for two years while I was in my mid-teens. When eventually the ship returned to the UK it was to Plymouth to be decommissioned. The family got to go out to the ship on a launch, and since my Dad was "commander L," he had to be on the bridge (L is for eLectrical since E is for Engineering), and we got to be there too. It was definitely an experience coming into the dockyard on the bridge!
The Navy had a policy of "up or out." By then, my Dad was a Captain, although back to what he called "sailing a desk," that desk being...surprise...just outside Bath. But he never got promoted to an Admiral, so he was laid off (with a lump-sum payment and an inflation-adjusted pension). He and my mother moved to Cornwall and purchased a cottage with a lot of land and a stream running through it. My Dad constructed and ran a trout farm there for a decade before they sold that property, and he finally retired completely.
My mother died in 1999, and so my father lived on his own for 23 years until just a few months ago, still in Cornwall. The picture below was his eightieth birthday (with my brother, and my two kids, his only grandchildren...my kids have no cousins).
So next week I will be in Cornwall too, perhaps for the last time in my life.
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