SOUE News Issue 11

Brigadier DV Henchley OBE, 1911-2010

Douglas Henchley, who died in October 2010, just short of his 99th birthday, must have been one of our longest-living alumni. He had an enormously varied and interesting life. He was born in Coolgardie in Western Australia, and one of his very early memories was of watching a ship leaving Fremantle carrying Australian troops to the disastrous Gallipoli expedition. Shortly afterwards the family returned to England, where Douglas attended Battersea Grammar School and then read Engineering Science at Keble, from 1930-1933. On one summer vacation he took up a practical-experience option available, to some students at least, of a trip to New York on a Transatlantic liner, working in the engine room.

While at Oxford he met his future wife, Persis Davies, an undergraduate at Lady Margaret Hall. They married in 1934, and had three sons. After graduation he worked first with the English Steel Corporation in Sheffield, and then at the Austin Motor Company. But in 1937 he joined the Army, commissioned as an Ordnance Mechanical Engineer, i.e. looking after the artillery. In 1940 he went to France with the British Expeditionary Force, and with them was evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk. He was one of the founder members of REME, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, when they were created in the early 1940s. By 1944 he was a Colonel, and on Montgomery's staff involved in the detailed planning for D-Day. He was awarded the OBE in November 1944.

His post-war service included two spells in the Far East, first 1951-2, and then 1958-61 as Director of REME in the Far East. In between there were various UK postings, at the REME training Centre at Arborfield, at the MOD and elsewhere.

He retired from the Army, after 26 years, in 1963, and became the first Warden of the Hall of Residence of what eventually became London's City University. Three years later he became the Bursar of the Civil Service Staff College at Henley (now the Henley Management Centre). On final "retirement" in 1973 he moved to Boar's Hill, South-West of Oxford, and became the Executive Secretary of the Keble College Centenary Appeal. Subsequently he was active in support of the Oxford Union, and the restoration of its library. In his later years he was much involved in the Boar's Hill Association, ultimately as its Life President.

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