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OBITUARY: Brian Davies a pioneer in work on radiation and long time Marlborough resident has died aged 88

Brian Davies - pioneer in work on radiation - died on 27 OctoberBrian Davies - pioneer in work on radiation - died on 27 OctoberBrian Davies, who lived for forty-seven years at Ballard's Piece, Forest Hill on the edge of Savernake Forest with his wife Joan, died at home on 27 October 2018.  He was 88. 

Brian Leonard Davies was born on 4October 1930 to Leonard and Elsie Davies (née Edwards). He was bought up in South London.  His only sibling, Robin, who had Downs Syndrome, was born seven years later and died in his forties.

During the early years of the war Brian was evacuated to Torquay for a while with his mother and brother.  He enjoyed his time in South Devon, but they were soon back in South London.

One of his memories of the war, was hugging a tree on his way back to school after lunch, as a doodlebug was coming down.  He said he never knew why he thought the tree would protect him, but it did. He took up model making and created a complete set of scale balsa models of a large imaginary Navy.

Brian won a London County Council scholarship as a day-boy to Dulwich College.  He enjoyed his time at the school, passing his Matriculation and his Intermediates.  His focus was on maths and science - specifically physics.  He also received a very good grounding in English grammar - and later was forever correcting the written work of the rest of the family. 

Having failed to get into Oxbridge - common enough in the early post-war years - Brian decided to do his National Service.  He joined the Royal Air Force and became an instructor providing training in radar mainly at Yatesbury, near Avebury.

After National Service, he found a job at the GEC Research Labs in North West London.  One of the areas he worked on was the development of Cathode Ray Tubes for televisions, and he perfected the new 14-inch black and white television tubes. He also took a University of London BSc Hons degree in Physics and Maths as an external student, studying on day release and in the evenings.

At the GEC labs, he met Joan Butcher who was working in an adjacent laboratory, and they married in 1954.  During this time Brian and Joan went treasure hunt rallying in an old Rolls, went to the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, other concerts including the memorable Flanders and Swann review At the Drop of a Hat.

Brian and Joan bought a house in North Cheam on the Surrey-London borders.  Between 1956 and 1960 they had three children, Roger, Helen and Christopher.

Brian was a keen cyclist, but in 1964 he passed his driving test and bought a 12-seater Land Rover which the family named Angelique.  This led to many days out visiting ancient monuments, woodlands, air shows and so on, and more particularly to camping holidays in Newton Ferrers in South Devon.

After he left GEC Brian had a number of different jobs before joining a unit of the Medical Research Council that later became the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB).  While the unit was still Surrey, Brian did research on Radon which was unfortunately stopped about 10 years before radon in houses became a matter of concern. 

In 1971 the NRPB moved to the Harwell site, so house hunting began.  Brian's main criteria seemed to be that their new home could not be within sight of Didcot Power Station.  On a visit to Marlborough, Joan and Helen were shown a photograph of a sunny house covered in wisteria.  This photograph led to Brian falling in love with Ballard's Piece.  And so the family moved to the edge of Savernake Forest.

At the NRPB Brian was closely involved in developing the Thermo Luminescent Dosimeter for recording exposure to radiation.  Much later he helped the team advising people worried by radiation falling in this country from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

After almost 30 years’ service with the NRPB, Brian retired at sixty.

He had many interests and was a voracious reader - relishing all sorts of fiction as well as non-fiction subjects from science to military subjects including radar, aircraft and railways.

He was a lifelong supporter of the Bluebell Railway in Sussex.  He was a volunteer Scientific Advisor, first for Surrey County Council Civil Defence, and then the Emergency Planning Department in Wiltshire. 

Brian had a great interest in electronicsand had a collection of ex-military radios.  He and the rest of the family became licenced radio amateurs - they probably achieved some sort of record as they had four consecutive call signs.  

Brian soon joined Raynet and in so doing, found another way of helping the Wiltshire Emergency Planning Department.  For a period, he was the Controller of the North Wiltshire Raynet Group and arranged communication support for organisations like St John’s Ambulance. 

He was keen on photography and had darkrooms at their Cheam and Marlborough homes  - processing both black and white and colour films and prints.  And though the digital world interested him less, he did help Joan with her digital photography.  (She took the photo of Brian at the head of this obituary.)

In 2014 Brian and Joan celebrated their Diamond Wedding and received a card from the Queen.

For most of his life Brian's health was good, though he was very short sighted.  Fortunately, in later life a cataract operation returned his vision to near normal.  This was not the case for his hearing which continued to deteriorate.  Nearly 10 years ago it was found he had an irregular heartbeat.  

His medical problems continued to increase and during his last few months he could barely walk.  Mentally he was fine and continued reading right up to the end.  

 

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