Howard Aldridge

Howard Aldridge (OT 136; West)

On 4 December 2013 Howard Aldridge passed away.  His funeral was held at St Mary’s Church, West Chiltington, West Sussex, on 16 December 203.  The eulogy, delivered by Dennis Mountstephen (not an Ottershaw Old Boy), should have been carried in the current (Autumn 2014) issue of The Gazette.  It is reproduced below and will also be included in the next edition of The Gazette (Spring 2015).

I feel very privileged to have been asked by Liz to say a few words about dear Howard.

Born in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, he had his early schooling there.  However, during the war he moved to stay with his grandmother in Bournemouth to escape the bombing, returning to attend Ottershaw School in Chertsey, where he was known to his school friends as Number 136.  He was a natural ball player and played for the school in rugby, cricket and squash.  

In 1956 he joined the Royal Air Force with whom he trained in Canada, eventually flying Valiant bombers and Canberras.  There he met Aidan Moore, a fellow pilot who is here today and has remained a life-long close friend.

Howard left the RAF in the early Sixties and, having got his civilian licences, he joined BEA, which eventually became British Airways.

He married Liz in 1965 and lived in Weybridge, then Walton on Thames, where Jamie and Annaliza were born.  The family moved to West Chiltington in 1981 and Howard continued his career flying Argosies, 737s and 747 Jumbos until his retirement.

Howard was a bit of an enigma: articulate and interesting, he loved a good argument, and I think it fair to say that his views on many things were to the extreme right of Genghis Khan!!  He was, however, a very kind man and particularly in his concern for and care of seriously ill or terminal friends, as I know from personal experience.  You may be aware of his community activities.  He drove the local Community Bus and The Mary How Trust double-decker screening bus.  I suspect that piloting a Jumbo was a cinch for him compared with the latter, which was both very temperamental and a pig to drive!  From time to time he gave the bus a thorough external clean by hand – akin to washing an elephant with a nail brush!!

I knew Howard and Liz ahead of 1990, but not awfully well.  I rather suspect that he viewed me with some little suspicion as I was a banker (before they were brought into disrepute!!) and not even able to fly an aeroplane, whilst I, perhaps, was a little in awe of this Porsche-owning, sartorially elegant man with his always immaculately combed hair!            

All that changed in 1990 when Ann, my first wife, and I gave Howard a lift to attend Aidan and Jenneth’s son and Howard’s god-son Warwick’s Passing Out Parade at the Academy.  The journey was rather like the road to Damascus, after which and a good lunch together we became firm friends.  This was cemented by an incident at Sandhurst which left us both highly amused.  Princess Diana was taking the salute on a very cold November day.  The saluting base was surrounded by glass except, of course, at the front.  She was wearing an extremely short skirt and was heard to exclaim to her military escort and in range of the PA system: “God, it’s bloody cold in here!!”

Howard took great delight in his grandchildren, Oscar and Pandora, and was so kind to some of my grandchildren, especially six-year-old Kitty, who on one occasion was allowed to travel in that precious and tenderly cared-for Porsche to West Wittering beach, complete with large vanilla ice-cream – the latter being hardly compatible with the Porsche upholstery!  Howard was very understanding!!

He dearly loved his dogs, Teddy and Macintosh, even though the former had developed a penchant for eating £20 notes – and, on one occasion, a picture I had painted and which Howard was to frame.  He also loved motor racing, especially Formula One.  Having once had Nigel Mansell on board one of his flights, he then experienced a high spot when Nigel entertained him right royally at Silverstone.

Liz encouraged Howard in a whole series of hobbies and sports but he was a bit of a Mister Toad.  He did make a great success of cookery classes followed by picture framing (another success), fly-fishing and hilarious attempts at pottery when Kitty and I were at their lovely South African house.  He had the greatest difficulty in extracting the air from the clay, nearly becoming apoplectic in the process.  Although he never actually fired one of his creations, it would assuredly have qualified as an entry for the Turner Prize.  In sport, although a natural ball player, he never seemed to match the ability shown in his youth.

We both had a weight problem and decided to join Weightwatchers.  That was both hilarious and sad.  We were the only men attending and one would have thought we had arrived from outer space.  Both staff and punters refused to take us seriously – so we gave up.  Any resulting good achieved would have been negated by our convivial weekly evening meetings at the “Riser” in Nutbourne!!

Howard loved a good subtle joke: he almost died laughing at my oft-repeated story of the Abergavenny Gorilla.  He was a really lovely man, helpful and affectionate, and I very much valued his friendship.  I mentioned the beautiful house in South Africa – his Shangri-La.  He absolutely adored the sun and it seems apposite for me to finish with the last lines of the Rev Eli Jenkins Sunset Poem from Under Milk Wood: “AND TO THE SUN WE ALL WILL BOW, AND SAY GOODBYE – BUT JUST FOR NOW.”