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Sqn Ldr Neville Duke DSO, OBE, DFC**, AFC

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Sqn Ldr Neville Duke DSO, OBE, DFC**, AFC

Old 12th Apr 2007, 17:40
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Neville Duke was my childhood hero. His record breaking exploits in the Hunter made me long to fly one one day. Eventually I did.
A couple of years ago I had the great privilege of sitting next to him at lunch. We had a (for me) fascinating discussion about the genesis of the Hunter. Afterwards, his wife came up and asked who I was. "Another satisfied customer", he said. Too bloody right!
A great man and a Gentleman.
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Old 12th Apr 2007, 19:05
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I never got a chance to meet him, but a friend of mine did a couple of months ago at bournemouth and got his log book signed, typical the one day I wasnt at the airfield!!!
One thing I think is good though is that he was devoted to flying and his wife Gwen and I understand he went flying at the weekend with his wife before being taken ill and passing away, at least he didnt have his passions taken away from him by a long illness. And thank god the wx was kind to him for his last flight.
R.I.P
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Old 12th Apr 2007, 20:31
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Sqn Ldr Neville Duke DSO DFC** AFC OBE RIP

Heard last night that Sqn Ldr Neville Duke DSO DFC** AFC OBE had died at the age of 85 having just landed with his wife at Popham.

He was one of the greats of aviation and a lovely man. To my generation he was the ideal boyhood hero and his runs across Farnborough in the red Hunter WB188 in the 1950's were never to be forgotten. As well as collecting gongs throughout the war he was also a Test Pilot at Hawkers and responsible for the Hunter holding the world's air speed record at 727mph.

One wit remarked that Neville had so many bars it looked as if he had riveted his medals to his chest. Perhaps a comment on the TV last night from someone who used to organise aviation events sums him up best. He described how he would invite Neville to an event and search frantically for him just before it opened. Instead of taking his place on the stage, he would be found sitting in the back row of the audience.
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Old 12th Apr 2007, 21:00
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FL, I suspect that the Times Newsdesk is staffed by people who have a recent MBA in Media Studies or some such neo-qualification, and for whom history extends no further back than the day they sprouted spots.

I first recall Neville Duke's name at the age of twelve in 1976, when a bright red WB188 formed the centre piece of a 25-ship 25th birthday Hunter line up at Greenham Common. Or at least, that's how I remember it.

Several years later I borrowed Test Pilot from the library; I have acquired my own copy today and shall settle down to enjoy it again in a little while.

A proper British Gentleman... here's to you sir.

Last edited by treadigraph; 12th Apr 2007 at 22:19.
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Old 12th Apr 2007, 21:14
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Sad News

Sad news to hear the great man has passed away, was in the air at the time approaching Popham, when the incident happened, he did a good job to get the plane down safely. Praise must go to the staff at Popham who handled the situation very well and contained the situation within the best of there abilities.
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Old 12th Apr 2007, 23:15
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I was privileged to have dinner with him and his wife once at my parents-in-law's house. Such an unassuming and charming man.

It is sad to say that they don't make them like that anymore. I wonder why not?
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Old 13th Apr 2007, 08:29
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I understand he went flying at the weekend
Info in the first post.
Sad that such a great aviator has passed away, but what a fitting way to go.



There's an obituary in today's Telegraph.


Daily Telegraph
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Old 13th Apr 2007, 08:31
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Woeful coverage on today's BBC Breakfast news. The presenters merely showed the Telegraph's picture, then giggled because Neville's age was given as 84 in one place and 85 in another.

But plenty of coverage of an 'obesity gene' and something about a popular beat combinations' music rights.....

One immediately sent a stiff e-mail to the BBC.

Well done for waking the Daily Telegraph up to publishing the obituary, Tudor. Why on earth The Times needed to 'consider it', is difficult to understand. Perhaps they were embarrassed at having missed the news?

Last edited by BEagle; 13th Apr 2007 at 08:51.
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Old 13th Apr 2007, 09:27
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Woeful coverage on today's BBC Breakfast news.....One immediately sent a stiff e-mail to the BBC.
If they felt it was significant enough to mention, then it was significant enough to get right...

I too loosed off an email...
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Old 13th Apr 2007, 09:38
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QDM says: It is sad to say that they don't make them like that anymore.

Neville was not made "like that". He chose to be "like that".

And we can be "like that" (meaning modest, polite, putting others first, helping others to achieve their aviation dreams, keeping British aviation alive - all things that have slipped out of sight in recent years) if we choose.
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Old 13th Apr 2007, 10:45
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Posted at John Beattie's request as he is away at present:

In 1988 I was at the Brize Norton display in Sea Fury TF956 during my first season on type. Prior to my 'on' time I pressed the starter button and got the cartridge to fire, but it didn't turn the engine and sounded 'soft'. The piston on the percussion starter had obviously stuck down the bore, usually due to a build up of carbon. The fix was to beat the starter body with something heavy to encourage it back up the barrel. Second cartridge did the same thing, so beating hadn't worked. I then phoned for help, which was hours away at Biggin Hill and agreed to speed the process by removing the starter ready to accept a fresh one. Having got it off I then got help taking the top off and sure enough it was carboned up good and proper. Scraping it out and softening up the deposits with copious quantities of WD40 soon had the piston riding freely, but me getting blacker and sweatier in the process. My 'sup' eventiually arrived to sign it all off and as he was doing the bookwork I put it back on the aeroplane and jumped in to call for a new slot, now a good time after the original had expired. The news was bad, I could only go after the display was over, in about 45 minutes, but still in time to display at Halton.
Good time to clean up, relax and pass the time of day with a chap sitting in an Edgely Optica thirty feet away who had been watching quietly throughout the whole charade but now wandered over. I did vaguely recognise him, but was quite taken aback when he said he had done a good deal of test flying on the Sea Fury and the penny finally dropped. What a lovely unassuming man, whom I subsequently met on many more occasions after that as a member of the Fleet Air Arm Officers Association. He was always delightful and despite deafness continued to fly, taking Gwen with him, through sheer enjoyment. He has to be one of Aviations greatest personalities, through his many achievements and the thoroughly nice man he was.

JOHN BEATTIE
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Old 13th Apr 2007, 10:45
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RIP Duke.

Terribly sad news but some consolation that he had a good innings, acheived so much and died doing what he loved, having safely returned Gwen to ground.

Neville Duke was a boyhood (and for evermore) hero of mine in an age where my friends' heroes were transient footballers or pop stars who added nothing of real value to the good of our nation. Reading my copy of Test Pilot as a kid was a great inspiration to pursue a career in aviation, and many passages still send a tingle down my spine when I read them.

I met both Neville and Gwen at Tangmere on a number of occassions and felt in absolute awe the man. My copy of Test Pilot now bears his autograph.

RIP. Thank you for doing so much for our country.
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Old 13th Apr 2007, 10:58
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Looks like PPRuNe has sparked the media into belated action.

In addition to the excellent obituary in the Telegraph today (link already posted), and the promised Times obituary, the BBC now has this on its website. BBC

Well done BEagle and Windriver for contacting the BBC.
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Old 13th Apr 2007, 11:01
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RIP Neville.

True Gentleman Aviator
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Old 13th Apr 2007, 17:09
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Never met him, but read "Testpilot" so often, that it is about to fall apart.

RIP
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Old 13th Apr 2007, 20:57
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Test Pilot - Neville Duke ISBN1-904010-40-7

One of the finest flying books I have ever read. (I may just one day give it back to the mate who lent it to me.)

A cracking good read from a very humble but extraordinary chap.
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Old 13th Apr 2007, 21:43
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One day a couple of summers ago I was lying in the shade under the wing of my Tiger Moth awaiting another punter.
I became aware that I had company in the form of a very elegant, elderly lady and her tall husband.
"My husband would like to have look at your aeroplane", she said. "I'm afraid he won't say much as he's a a little hard of hearing these days."
I think I nearly stood at attention when I shook his hand, realising that my hero from long past and I were actually talking.
Apparently he always made a point of flying into White Waltham every summer on the anniversary of his first solo in a Tiger.
He seemed genuinely pleased when I told him that, since grammar school (1951), his flying of the Hunter had resulted in my determination that one day I would fly them. Ten years later I too achieved that dream.
I met him on a few more occasions after that and I'm afraid I never lost the feeling of awe whenever we chatted. He will always be a true Boys Own hero.
Where are the like now ?
Every other day now we seem to lose yet another of the real contributors to our society. There appear to be few modern substitutes.
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Old 14th Apr 2007, 01:04
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I can distinctly remember being asked at school...aged about 10, who my favourite author was...

Well I'd just read Neville Duke's Test Pilot for the second time......and so said Neville Duke.

The teacher promptly wrote Neville Shute on the blackboard.....

When I could catch the teachers attention I pointed out that it wasn't Neville Shute (who at that time I had never heard of....as at 10...I only read serious books.....you know the type)..

Anyway...net result...a detention for arguing...canning etc....and all because I had to damn well insist that there really was a pilot called Neville Duke who wrote a book about Test Pilots...and it was a lot better than any fictional Neville Shute....


I became a Flight Test Engineer...... I got to fly a few times in fast jets...I've made a very good and interesting life in aviation...and have seen the world.

I never met Neville Duke.....

He was the most influential man in my life.....

Thank you Neville Duke. RIP
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Old 14th Apr 2007, 11:31
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Neville Duke

Manxcats4me,Please check your PMs
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Old 14th Apr 2007, 14:53
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Neville was for me, like so many others, a boyhood hero, and it was a great privilege to become acquainted with him and Gwen over the years. My thoughts are very much with Gwen as she has to cope with her devastating loss.
My personal feelings of great sadness are countered with many happy memories of time spent with an incredible man; humble, self effacing, polite and definitely heroic. Interestingly, he would always want to talk with me about P40s and Bf109s rather than Hunters. One very special event was when he and Gwen came to Boscombe Down for a little celebration that we had for the 40th anniversary of our Hunter FGA9 in 1996, and I am also glad that my children had the opportunity to meet him on that occassion.
Like so many others who have posted on this thread, I too was saddened by the initial lack of press coverage following Neville's death. However, I was uplifted by yesterday's Daily Telegraph. The obituary was very well written, and my faith in British journalism was restored by the dedication of the centre of the front page to Neville, a truly great Briton whose qualities are so rarely found in modern society; it was people such as Neville who made Britain great.
Neville, I salute and thank you. You are sadly missed.
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