Commander David Webb - Royal Navy (retired)

On Friday 4th April a service of thanksgiving was held for the life of Commander David Webb (retired) in St. Andrew's church. Presided over by The Reverend Canon Harry Edwards the service was attended by a huge congregartion, many wearing flowers in their buttonholes as suggested by David's family. People spilled out into the porch and gardens of the church and the service was followed by a celebration at The Anchor pub. The following words were delivered at the service and the family have kindly allowed us to publish them for those who could not attend and those who could not hear the sound from the speakers outside.

From the order of service:

Good deeds that are done silently and for a good motive are the dead that live in the grave; they are the flowers that withstand the storm, they are the stars that know no setting.

Matthias Claudius (1740 - 18150

 

From the family:

David was born in Walberswick, he sailed all of the seven seas, but all the while his heart was in Walberswick and upon retiring he realised his ambition to return to the village he loved. David worked in some of the most dangerous environments in the world; the Arctic, the North Atlantic, the Southern Ocean and Walberswick Parish Council.

 

David Webb on the common

Born in the west side of the stone cottages on the common (now Gorse View) on Feb 3rd 1943 to Winnie and Charlie Webb. David has always loved Walberswick with a passion. He was the eldest of 4, followed by Keith (Wally), Penny and Leslie. Winnie and Charlie moved to Tows Cabin and then to 3 Church Lane, finally ending up at no 9, where Winnie remained for the rest of her life growing glorious flowers. David attended Walberswick Primary and then having passed the 11 plus onto Sir John Leman. He was hardworking and studious, going up to no 3 Church lane every day to do his homework.

 

David Webb as a cub scout

He was always busy with a strong work ethic, starting in his teenage years doing a milk round every day for Ginger Winyard. In the summer Ginger had an ice cream box made up (like a Cinema usher) and David would fill it up with ice creams at the tuck shop and sell them on the beach on a Sunday afternoon. His great childhood friends James Chambers and John Winyard were away at school but in the holidays were always a threesome roaring about. David and John got the bus from Lowestoft up to Skegness for a lad’s holiday at Butlins and there is a wonderful photo of them sitting in their suits with a jug of beer. John remembers they were there to meet girls and there were dances every night so a great place to be. David’s friend Ed Richardson was at Dartmouth which inspired David to try for the Navy and he won a scholarship to Dartmouth College, which was a great achievement. Wally told a story of how proud he was of David, and how there was uproar from some parts of the village that a council house boy from Church Lane was going to be an officer in the Navy.

When David was first in command of a ship, he brought it into Lowestoft harbour and invited John and James onboard, they tucked into the gin and tonics in the ward room and left with cartons of Navy cigarettes and remember it being a thrilling experience to have a mate in charge of a ship! He loved the Navy life and was at one time the youngest Commander afloat. He rose up the ranks and was Commander in rank but Captain of ships at the end of his career. He was firstly keen to be a helicopter pilot, but Winnie was worried and told him it was far too dangerous and in the end he went into hydrography. David had a long and distinguished career in the Navy and when he retired struggled a bit to find his land legs.

David first met Mary on a blind date in Portsmouth. A friend had a flat tyre so said to David, "if you drive - I’ll get my girl to bring along another nurse" and she was Mary McMaking. They married in Otford, Kent in December 1966, having Andrew in 1969, Robert in 1972 and Emma in 1976. In 1970 David and Mary moved to Australia and spent two happy years there. David worked for the Australian Navy, mapping previously uncharted waters in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.  A reef in the Solomon Islands bears his name. They then returned to the UK and lived in Cornwall and then Kent, settling in the village of Bredhurst. David was at sea for long periods of time and did not see his son Robert until he was 11 months old. When he did come home from sea, he tried to instil the same discipline in his children as he did in his sailors. This was not always successful.

David retired from the Navy in 1996. He then worked for the environment agency and was responsible for the management of the non tidal reaches of the River Medway. He found the adjustment from naval to civilian life quite challenging. Although his opinions may have changed, the fact that he was right did not. David and Mary moved to Walberswick in 2000. David was back in the village he loved and forged many dear and lasting friendships. He was a regular at the Bell and then the Anchor. He was a fixture at the locals table in the Anchor and had many happy times there.

David expressed his love for the community in a very practical way. He became a tireless servant for the village, helping to establish the car parks for the Common Lands Trust, chaired the Parish council for many years, took on the role of master of tides for the British Open Crabbing Championship for all of its 30 years. He also sat on a number of bodies such as the Blyth Estuary Group, the Walberswick Sea Defence Group and the Southwold Harbour Lands Trust. David helped to organise the Easter egg hunt and Bonfire night. He was passionate that Walberswick should remain a real community.  

Very sadly Mary died in 2002, she was greatly missed by David and the children. David was helped through his grief by their gentle puppy Ben. The two were left to forge the future together. He once remarked that he did his grieving, alone with Ben on the beach. David later found happiness with Catherine Wiltshire and they were together for 10 years. David enjoyed many happy times with Catherine and her daughters Harriet and Imogen. They were no longer together at the time of David's death but remained good friends and companions, meeting up regularly.

David’s allotment was a big part of his life, he spent several hours a day tending it. Flowers were a particular passion; he won the Walberswick flower show cup 11 times. He did this for the sheer pleasure of making things grow. He invariably gave away the flowers, although as the recipients were usually ladies from across the village and the Anchor he may have had other motives.

Many people have written that David was often one of the first people they saw in the morning, enjoying his daily stroll of his much loved village, for many years with his faithful labrador Ben and Cousin Dick. Dick and David’s morning parade continuing after Ben’s death early this year. He was very proud and relieved when his children finally started to get married and was utterly enchanted by his grandson Oscar.

We have received an overwhelming number of tributes to David, from the village and further afield. He has been described as a rock, village elder, backbone of the village and simply, my friend. He was a son, brother, husband, father, uncle and grandfather and will be in all our hearts.

 

David Webb with his family

 

From The Reverend Canon Harry Edwards's Farewell:

I feel very privileged to be conducting this service of farewell to a dear friend, father, brother, late husband of Mary, grandfather, uncle… yes, a service of farewell, but I sense he has long sailed away to be with his loved ones in another place, and with dear Wally, who I am sure is showing David around paradise like an old hand, with a glass of whisky in Wally’s hand, and a glass of gin and something in David’s.

David and Wally Webb with Ben the Lab

When I was a newly ordained priest in the Portsmouth Diocese I well remember David inviting me on board his ship, indeed I was piped aboard and saluted, and then dinner with David in the ward room, and how impressed I was that there was a helicopter as standard parked on the deck.

I have always been nervous of the sea, and when I foolishly shared a fishing boat in Southwold with friends who knew as little about seamanship as myself, I regarded David with his maritime skills, as a football player in say the Leiston league might have regarded David Beckham and his prowess on the ball.

I had lunch with David in the Anchor the day before he died. He was, to all intents and purposes just David. The manner and unexpected timing of his death, though shocking to all who knew and loved him, was for David a wonderful way to set off on his last voyage, and thinking of the vast expanses of the sea he must have witnessed in his naval career, how fitting it was that he finally came to lay anchor in his beloved Walberswick.

Having surveyed the oceans and the limitless horizons of the seas it was doubly fortuitous that he poured all his energies into serving and protecting a small village that he grew up in and loved.  

He loved his family, and rejoiced in contact via Skype with his grandson Oscar, in Hong Kong.

So David, you are close to all our hearts. Bon Voyage, and greet us when we ourselves cross that last horizon and you welcome us home. Amen.

By News Ed. on April 6th, 2014

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