26 April 2012

Vale Phil Davenport

An email from Stevie Davenport, publisher of her father's Hurrah For The Next Man, is always a good thing to receive and this one started off with a congratulations on the birth of our daughter so the standard was maintained. However, as I read on, I detected all was not right and when Stevie said she'd been travelling to northern New South Wales recently a feeling of dread immediately preceded the next sentence. Phil Davenport, accomplished sailor, pilot and father - the last of the three flying Davenport brothers - had passed away on March 12.

He was a remarkable man. His extraordinary 'weather eye' was brought to bear literally in the case of his sailing and Coastal Command work and figuratively as he surveyed the ways of the world and despaired at our continuing ability to wage war. Repeating what I said in the review, he was not one to suffer fools lightly and had an acute disdain for selfishness that caused harm to others. In later life, and I suspect throughout his many adventures, he was outspoken and prepared to protest against what he saw as great wrongs being passed down by governments. If there was anyone who should have been listened to it was Phil Davenport. 

His book Hurrah For The Next Man pulls no punches and his attitude to things is, at times, a little confronting and might perhaps even make the reader uncomfortable. He writes from the heart - admittedly through 60-plus years of hindsight - and gets to the point. That said, his experiences as a Sunderland pilot in particular are well-conveyed and make a valuable addition to our understanding of the role.

A man of strong character whose deft touch at the controls over and on the ocean belied a steely determination to get the job done. Rest in peace, Phil Davenport.