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Obituary: Derek Harvey – equestrian, pilot and sailor

EQUESTRIAN, sailor and former RAF Wing Commander Derek Harvey has died at the age of 101.

Born into a naval family, Derek trained first as a shipwright in Portsmouth dockyard before deciding he wanted to fly.

Within two weeks of joining Hamble Air Training School, and after only nine hours flying dual, he flew solo in a Cadet bi-plane.

Derek Harvey rode a horse on his 98th birthday
Derek Harvey rode a horse on his 98th birthday

In the 20 years that followed he took to the skies in 30 different aircraft including Wellingtons, Beaufighters, Spitfires, the “wooden wonder” Mosquito, and the RAF’s first three frontline jets, Meteors, Vampires and Javelins.

During a posting to Canada, he had the opportunity to fly two of the USAF’s Cold War fighters, the T33 Starfighter and the Sabre jet.

Derek's death on Christmas Day came more than three decades after undergoing a triple heart bypass operation. He had his first heart surgery in 1986 which, combined with the next two, enabled him to continue sailing until he was 80 and ride horses well into his 90s.

Hugely family focused, he was devoted to his wife Peggy and extremely close to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

His son Tom said: “Finding out details of my father’s past was not always the easiest task because he was always focused on looking forward – he was only interested in the future not looking back at the past.”

Derek met the love of his life Peggy in 1946, when she was a Met Officer in the WAAF and he had not long returned from flying combat missions over Burma. He remained completely devoted to her for the rest of his life.

He left the RAF in 1966 and began a role at Airwork Services at Hurn Airport, where he was involved in running a training scheme of Saudi Arabian pilots who travelled to Bournemouth to attend flight school and learn English.

Many were from extremely wealthy backgrounds so the move to Bournemouth was often a culture shock, which tested Derek’s great diplomatic skills.

Derek's first solo flight in 1939
Derek's first solo flight in 1939

He later worked for the French wool company Phildar as the regional sales representative for the south and south-west.

The family home was at Ibsley, Ringwood, close to the former Second World War RAF base, and there Derek and Peggy brought up their two children, Margaret and Tom.

Keen riders and sailors, they later lived in Crowe and Lymington before moving to Ogdens, near Fordingbridge.

In retirement Derek and Peggy refurbished three homes and four yachts, and acted as a support boat for the dingy sailors of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club where they were members.

Although Derek had sold his last boat by the time he reached 80, he was still riding on his 98th birthday.

Daughter Margaret said: “So much has been written about this generation – their extraordinary mix of duty, modesty and determination. They just got on with it, looking forwards, ignoring their age and enjoying their growing family of four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

"Two years ago we gathered all the family together for father’s 99th, fearing he might not make it to 100. As usual, he exceeded our expectations.”

Derek is survived by Peggy. Anyone wishing to donate in his memory can give to Barnardo’s or the Salvation Army.

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