As I stand here today, I realize how fortunate I was to know him not only by marriage but also as a friend. A sentiment I expect we all share.
Everybody knew Bob in a different way, as a husband, a father, a brother, a sailor, an engineer, a diver, a caver, a windsurfer but most of all as a good friend.
He was warm and kind, but this is not to say that he was always a complete delight, as in the words of one of his oldest friends, 'He was a lovely man...........of course he could be a bit of a bugger as well'
Bob was always a man of action but with an intellect to match, in the Navy he was ever busy, his technical knowledge and his ability to get the job done were appreciated by all, even if he was 'sometimes expressive when reaching agreement'.
He served on HMS Hermes during the Falkland’s conflict, earning the Blue Fox Trophy for improving Sea Harrier Radar performance, and the respect he earned during his Naval career exists to this day.
He did not talk about the Falklands much, and I remember the only time I saw his medal was when we would go on our trips to the Yeovilton museum. On reaching the kiosk to pay, he would wave his medal, declare “I am a war veteran” and disappear into the first exhibit hall before anyone could stop him.
As I previously said – a bit of a bugger.
Bob was into extreme sports before anyone knew what that meant, the more dangerous the better. At school he was in to boxing, once he joined the Navy he got into free fall parachuting, he started caving, then decided he wanted to explore the caves more fully, so learned to dive and started cave diving, and then became a Navy diver, but all of this started when he was younger sailing with his brother, which was apparently an even more dangerous activity than anything else he did subsequently.
He became a very well respected diver, and was a diving instructor for the Navy for many years, and it is testimony to his particular set of skills, but more importantly to his completely unselfish attitude, that at any time he was called upon to assist in a water based rescue, cave rescue, or underground water based rescue – he went without question. He was often asked to do things that others would have found difficult, distasteful, or dangerous – he was a brave man who always gave help when help was asked.
The only thing that stopped him diving was contracting TB Meningitis, but it didn’t slow him down for long.
Once he couldn’t dive, he windsurfed every moment he could - even on Boxing day. He would have holidays on the Isle of Wight and if he couldn't windsurf he would paddle the board out, take the crabbing line and a bin bag, and go fishing. He is the only man I know of who whilst in Bermuda, was disappointed that no-one – on the eve of a hurricane - would allow him to rent a windsurfer. The conversation went something like ‘but it’s a Hurricane Sir’, ‘Well yes, but it’s not here yet and it’s nice and windy!’.......although there was probably more swearing involved
Bob was known to like the odd pint or two but also he never liked anyone else to go without, the Lions will tell you Father Christmas was always a bit merrier, his Sleigh was always a little bit more fluid, and his helpers always a little warmer for their stop at the Bunyards on Christmas Eve.
Once Bob left the Navy, he went to British Aerospace in Dunsfold for a while, and then came back to Westlands in Yeovil, where he became the Radar Guru gaining huge respect for his technical knowledge, skills and support for anyone who worked with him.
He was a stalwart of the Stalbridge British Legion, holding the position of Treasurer for many years, followed by a stint as President, but more than anything he liked to share a drink with his friends, and swap stories.
Most of those stories revolved around his daughters, Vicky and Abby, but also me and Steve, and even the pets - he was so proud of all of us - but what people don't realize is that for every story he told all of you about us, he was telling just as many stories to us about all of his friends, colleagues, family, and legion buddies - he was so proud to have known all of you, who made his life all the richer for being part of it.
Vicky and Abby remember him as a devoted father, for whom nothing was too much or too difficult, from driving through the night to reach wherever they needed to be, to tramping through the rain chasing horses and whatever other mad schemes they cooked up together.
Towards the end of his life, he knew what was coming and endeavoured to sort out everything for Jill. The house was made right, and he took them both off on one final holiday together, a cruise to Norway, one last sea voyage, and he passed away the day they returned.
He died a peaceful death after a life lived to the absolute fullest.
Bob was warm, kind, funny, jovial, fiercely loyal, and it is his depth of humanity and strength of character that will stay with us all.
He was a liver of life, squeezing every drop out of every day, despite all the things that should have dragged him down, he represented all that is fine and honourable about the Navy, showing strength, courage, and love right up until his last days with us.
He would think it smashing the number of people who have made such an effort to support him and his family today - he would not ask you to mourn his death, but rather to celebrate his life.
He was one of the very few good men,
Cheers Bob, Have a rum on all of us.