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RICHARD WEBSELL - 1953-2000

On 25th February this year Richard Websell committed suicide.  He was not a member of the BEC but he was well known to many of the members.

Richard was born and raised in Salisbury and started caving while at school.  Together with Andy Sparrow, Dave Walker and others he founded the Salisbury Caving Group whose members eventually joined mainstream Mendip Clubs. His academic years in London brought him into contact with SWETCC in the heyday of such characters as Aubrey Newport, Trevor Faulkner and the unforgettable Brian Quillam.  This as much as anything influenced his move into the Wessex.

I first met him in the late 70's.  Our views on caving and its ethics were identical and together with Paul Hadfield we formed a very active caving partnership during the exciting, and occasionally fraught days, of the development of SRT.  We both joined the CDG.  With Al Mills loaning equipment and giving advice ("Don't go below thirty feet those bottles are filled with welding oxygen") embarked on a series of "learning" trips - also quite fraught on occasion.  When I defected to the BEC we still carried on caving together on a regular basis.

His short stature and reserved manner tended to obscure the fact that he was a very hard caver. Although primarily a tourist caver both in Britain and Europe he did take part in original exploration - most notably in the pushing of Gough's cave in Cheddar and in Norway.  No underground hazard or problem seemed to bother him and his sense of humour never seemed to fail however grim the situation.  I remember one occasion in Mangle when it appeared that we would both be trapped by my inability to get back through the squeeze out of Aldermaston Chamber even after stripping off my wet-suit.  Eyeing my pink body apparently irrevocable wedged, Rich was heard to comment that it was like stuffing a marshmallow into a piggy bank.

In his youth he had been a bit "wild" and his life had not been without its problems. However we all thought that was behind him since he met Anne twelve years ago.  He seemed settled and thus the news of his death was a terrible shock. At his funeral the chapel was crowded and overflowing.  A testament to his popularity and not solely within the caving world.

On a personal note. He was my close friend; a kind, funny and totally dependable man who was always good company.  I still cannot believe that he has gone.

Rob Harper