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Obituaries

Sadly we have two, which are in memory of Ted Mason who joined the BEC in 1947 and Bob Davies who joined in 1950.

Edmund J. Mason

It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Ted Mason.

A chartered surveyor by profession Ted devoted himself to archaeology and speleology in the Bristol, Somerset and South Wales areas.  He was archaeological advisor to the Bristol Folk House Archaeological Society and for a long time president of the M.N.R.C.  He was always full of kindly encouragement and I am glad I served on the M.N.R.C. committee under his leadership.

His cave excavations include Ogof yr Esgyrn in Wales where he worked with W.F. Grimes of the National Museum of Wales and Minchen Hole, Gower, on behalf of the Royal Institution of South Wales and the South Wales Caving Club.  He also took a leading part in the formation of the Steep Holm Trust.

Caving well into his seventies, Ted was forced to give up after a stroke a few years ago, but he never lost his enthusiasm for caves and cavers.

He was always ready to listen to even the youngest and most inexperienced cave explorer and I owe much of my own prolonged love of caving to his understanding.

Robin Gray.

Robert Ernest Davies.

August 17. 1919 - March 7 1993.

Members of the caving, diving, mountaineering and scientific communities and their friends will be saddened to hear that the well-known caver and cave diver Bob Davies died from a heart attack while taking an after-dinner walk in Golspie in Scotland on Sunday, March 7, 1993.

This was during the spring break of the University of Pennsylvania where he was an Emeritus Professor.  He had planned to climb in the Cairngorn Mountains on the following day.  His wife Helen Davies tells us that he used his hand-held video camera an hour before he died and that there was no shake or any detectable shortcoming in the images whatsoever - which shows that he was living in his usual active and energetic manner right up until the last moment.

Bob's last visit to Mendip was to attend the 50th Anniversary Reunion at Wookey Hole Caves in October 1985.  He also gave a rousing presentation at the Annual Dinner of the Bristol Exploration Club a few days later.

Concerning his contributions to cave diving, Graham Balcombe, Dan Hasell, Luke Devenish and John Buxton can give much better accounts than I.  In Cave Diving Group Newsletter number 11 (June 1948) Graham Balcombe writes: "Welcome to R.E. Davies, member of the DS" (Derbyshire Section).

In the 1940's cave divers quite simply could not afford to buy equipment and rent cars to the extent that is sometimes the case today.  Graham Balcombe, Jack Sheppard, Penelope Powell, Wyndham Harris and their friends had set the process in motion in 1935 at Wookey Hole Caves supported by Sir Robert Davis of Siebe Gorman and Co. (who provided the equipment and an instructor free of charge) and Gerard Hodgkinson (later Wing Commander Hodgkinson) who was then the owner and manager of Wookey Hole Caves.  Starting in the mid-1940's Graham Balcombe obtained vast quantities of Government surplus oxygen re-breathers, diving dresses and similar equipment at a very low cost.  Bob Davies played a leading role (along with Don Coase and others) in applying this in caves.

I first met Bob Davies to help carry his diving equipment in Swildons Hole on June 26, 1954 when he dived with Graham Balcombe in Sump Two.  This is the cave where Jack Sheppard (in Sump One) and Graham Balcombe (in Sump Two) had set successive cave diving records 18 years before. Oliver Lloyd was the overall organiser and this was the beginning of his own very significant career in cave diving. Bob Davies had earlier trained John Buxton as a cave diver.  John now has the longest active cave diving record which proves once again the value of Bob's many contributions.

I had been interested in cave diving for some time.  In those days there were only four or five active cave divers in England and no scuba shops anywhere - you had to latch on to an active cave diver and try all sorts of diplomatic procedures to obtain the required equipment and training.

Bob persuaded Jack Thompson to train me as a cave diver.

I rode on my motorcycle for many hours from Cambridge to Sheffield several times to become acquainted with the mysteries of the art.

The only time that I dived with Bob in a cave was on the celebrated occasion when he vanished in a cloud of bubbles in the totally submerged eleventh chamber at Wookey Hole, was given up for lost and then caused universal astonishment when he reappeared looking very much alive several hours later (December 10/11, 1955). I had finished my basic training with the help of John Buxton (who had encouraged me to jump from what had seemed to be a great height into muddy water in the River Avon) and Graham Balcombe (who had taken me on the mandatory training trips to Wookey Seven).  I was the junior employee during that event (John Buxton was the other diver).  I could so easily have saved Bob from getting lost in the (by then) muddy water by holding on to his elbow while he worked away on his line reel just in front of me on the edge of Eleven, but I did not have the intelligence to do so.

After Bob left England for America in 1956 he continued to help things along - for example, he sent us information on mixed gas diving from the public domain in America at a time when the identical information was still classified in England.  I shall always remember Bob Davies as an energetic, helpful and cheerful person. His custom of ending letters with the words “All the best” says it all.

I have been greatly helped in writing these notes by a newspaper cutting sent to me by Professor Lee Peachey, one of Bob7s colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania ("The Daily Pennsylvanian, The Independent Student Newspaper of the University of Pennsylvania, Tuesday March 16, 1993, pp. lA and 4A).  This describes his work in biochemistry, in student affairs and on the mountains.  It tells us that Bob climbed the Matterhorn in Switzerland, the Grand Teton in Wyoming, Fujiyama in Japan and the flagpole at the University of Pennsylvania.  The final paragraph:

Biochemistry Professor Bernard Shapiro proposed an appropriate epitaph for Professor Emeritus Robert Davies at a reception honouring him in 1991: “Here lies Robert E. Davies, under the only stone he ever left unturned.”

 (Oliver Wells. April 8, 1993.)