British Exploring Society Obituaries
If you are aware of a Member or contributor to British Exploring Society who has passed away, or you would like to write an obituary for this page, please get in touch.
Remembering the lives of the Members and other significant British Exploring Society contributors who have sadly passed away. Our condolences to the families of these remarkable people.
Commander Chris Furse, RN
By Soo Redshaw, British Exploring Society Trustee and Chief Leader
My abiding memory of Chris Furse is unzipping the tent door one morning to discover a large green bivvi bag nearby, which hadn’t been there when I had gone to sleep. It was Chris. As Chief Leader of Svalbard 1987 he relished paying impromptu visits to each Fire to see all was well.
Chris had an enviable track record of expeditioning to his name, not least leading the Joint Services Expedition to Brabant Island, Antarctica 1984/5. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a serving Royal Naval officer and he certainly didn’t conform to my stereotypical view of one. He was clearly so at home in a polar environment, relishing the freedom to roam and being able to let his hair and beard grow long. His leadership style appeared to be relaxed, almost casual, but it was only because he had put the background work in that he was able to do that. He trusted his Leader team to get on with their responsibilities and acknowledged their work. I recall a particularly bad spell of weather and during the evening radio comms Chris complimenting the Mountain Training team for still being able to keep to the training schedule.
He made sure he knew everyone on the expedition and encouraged all of us to make the most of the opportunity and privilege of being in the Arctic.
He continued to be a staunch advocate for British Exploring Society, believing in the power of the experience to enable young people to develop through challenge. He was a character who with his energy, enthusiasm and humour will be remembered by all those that had the good fortune to meet him. Read more about Chris in his obituary from the Telegraph.
Major David Goddard
Founder the Exeter Maritime Museum and leader of BSES 150 mile ‘Long March’ across Arctic Norway in 1965. Described as a ‘testing experience in the cold and he was remembered for his colourful use of English’. Died 30 June 2015 aged 88. Favourite expression: ‘It’s a hard school’.
George Downie, was a long-time and much respected member of the Geology Department at Aberdeen University, a frequent leader of geological fieldwork expeditions in Scotland, led on fifteen BSES expeditions, making him the second most frequent leader in BSES history. Only his good friend Ian Ashwell, deceased in 2015, beat him, with sixteen expeditions, and it was Ian who taught George the BSES ropes (well, this is what Ian claimed) when they met on George’s first, but Ian’s sixth, BSES expedition, to Iceland in 1970 when Ian was Chief Leader and George ran the Geology Fire; since then they remained steadfast friends, both imbued with the BSES ethos and quest for excellence. For three decades George was at the heart of all that was best about BSES.
By George’s own admission, his association with BSES began a little late in life – goodness me, he was 40! – and he wishes he had become involved when younger (especially as a boy); then he would have beaten Ian’s record! But George was never after records; what he wanted was helping young people to explore the wild, preferably if they were doing some geology as well. His field activity impinged upon the lives and experience of almost 1000 young explorers, spanning three decades (1970-2000), and a good few leaders as well. One who proposed him (and Ian) for the Murray Levick Award remembers well his two hour lecture, on the march, in 1977 as we struggled hard to keep up with his walking pace while he taught us the entire geology of Iceland as we yomped across the volcanic debris of Myvatyn; and he was doing precisely the same to the same poor innocent victim four decades later on the Aberdeen coastland, only this time it was the entire geological history of Scotland in a Sunday morning session on, round, through, and up the Stonehaven cliffs. The enthusiasm for geology was, and remained, utterly infectious. This was, that “youngster” realised, an experience enjoyed by countless Aberdeen students – what lucky students they were!
Read his full obituary.
Dr Ian Y Ashwell
Ian Ashwell’s name first appears in British Schools Exploring Society literature when he was a leader on the 1956 expedition to Iceland, running – as he was to do on many occasions – the Meteorology Fire. Incidentally, the cost of that expedition for the boys (and only boys, of course) was £195 including travel, plus an additional £2.5s for the Annual Dinner Dance! Ian was back again in 1957, then in 1959, once more in 1960, and finally in 1962, twice to Iceland, twice to Sweden and once to Finland. On four of those five occasions he led the meteorology fieldwork, naturally; but in 1962 he was Chief Leader of the expedition to Swedish Lapland. Then, almost unaccountably (were it not for the known fact that he was furthering his professional career as a university lecturer in Canada) he disappears from the expedition scene until the next decade, to 1970 when once again he was Chief Leader on the Iceland expedition. This was followed by participation in 1971, 1975, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985 (when he announced his retirement from active duties), 1992, 1997, and 2000, which was finally his last British Schools Exploring Society expedition.
Tom Shipp DCL
By Soo Redshaw, British Exploring Society Trustee and Chief Leader
Geologist, teacher, expeditioner, mountain rescue team member and open university tutor, just some of the roles Tom Shipp fulfilled throughout his life of contribution to the various communities he was involved in.
I first met Tom when he interviewed me as a potential leader to Svalbard 1987. He had a quiet, gentle manner with an equally quiet but sharp and often self-effacing sense of humour. He was generous with his time, knowledge and experience. An efficient man and good organiser, he diligently applied himself to tasks in hand and recorded his expeditions with characteristic thoroughness. (Though he hadn’t quite mastered being able to keep his pipe lit in all weathers!)
He ended the Svalbard expedition with great sadness and nostalgia as he watched his old mountaineering boots burn on the campfire. These boots had seen him through some great mountaineering days in different parts of the world, but even Tom couldn’t justify trying to get another step out of them as the soles were finally falling off. He obviously bought another pair as this was not to be his last British Exploring Society expedition.
His quiet encouragement, interest in a wide range of subjects and his belief in the power of the outdoors for young people are a testament to a life well-lived.