Mike Bennett obituary

Other lives: Civil engineer who built roads, power stations and dams around the world, including the Thames barrier

My father, Mike Bennett, who has died aged 91, was a civil engineer who built dams, power stations and roads all over the world and was involved in the construction of the Thames Barrier.

He was born in Burnage, Manchester, to Edna (nee Gilpin), a homemaker and keen golfer, and Brian Bennett, a banker. The family moved to London when Mike was a baby, where his father joined the Midland Bank, and then to Yorkshire to escape the Blitz.

In 1943 Mike started at Sidcot, a Quaker boarding school in Somerset, chosen by his parents as it was one a few mixed boarding schools that would take Mike, his brother, Anthony, and two cousins. He was known to all at school as “Bingley”, having developed a strong Yorkshire accent. The school motto is “Live Adventurously”, which may have influenced him in life.

Mike studied civil engineering at Westminster Technical College, qualifying in 1957. Keen to see the world, in 1958 he took a posting as a district engineer, working for the Crown, in what was then British Guiana (now Guyana), where he met Audrey Roth. They married in 1959.

In 1964 he went to Pakistan to build the Mangla dam – then the seventh largest in the world – creating a reservoir for crop irrigation. From the early 70s, he worked for Rendal, Palmer and Tritton (now part of KPMG). For them, he worked on a power station in Iran (Ahwaz) and a harbour on the Caspian. This was interrupted by the 1978 revolution in Iran and the evacuation by the RAF of Mike and Audrey (who travelled with him always). He kept the £200 bill sent by the British government as a memento.

He later built a power station at Khartoum and roads in Tanzania and Turkey.

In the UK he worked on the Fawley refinery, Hampshire, the Ironbridge power station, Shropshire, on Hunterston Iron Ore terminal in Ayrshire and the Thames barrier – the last of these earning the engineers the Queen’s award for technological achievement.

Mike and Audrey had three children, the family based at Tunbridge Wells, Kent. We all saw our father as a great adventurer. As well as travelling for his work, he once took all of us on a holiday trip in his Riley car to the Khyber Pass – then, as now, one of the most dangerous places on earth.

After retiring in 1993, Mike turned his attention to studying his family history and published the diaries of his father-in-law, Vincent Roth, an anthropologist. He also found out fascinating details about his own ancestors, one of whom was lord mayor of Derby.

Mike is survived by Audrey and their children, Dinah, Fiona and me, and grandchildren, Natalie, Tavi, Milo and Adelaide.

Tim Bennett

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Bryan Skipp obituary
Other lives: Engineer, soil scientist and bon vivant

Peter Skipp

10, Sep, 2021 @4:07 PM

Article image
Barry Rydz obituary
Other Lives: Civil engineer who focused his efforts on improving water infrastructure

John Finney

04, Nov, 2020 @12:53 PM

Article image
Tom Barker obituary
Other lives: Engineer who worked with architects on a vast array of projects, including the Pompidou Centre and Lloyd’s building

Phoebe Barker

05, Jul, 2021 @2:29 PM

Article image
Michael Parsons obituary
Structural engineer who had a big hand in the creation of the Severn, Forth and Humber road bridges

Tony Burton

02, Jun, 2021 @11:13 AM

Article image
Letter: Michael Parsons obituary
Alasdair Beal writes: Michael Parsons was the best boss a young engineer could have

Alasdair Beal

24, Jun, 2021 @3:38 PM

Article image
Roger Ainsworth obituary
Other lives: Distinguished engineer who became master of St Catherine’s College, Oxford

Jane Wadkin

13, Mar, 2019 @3:20 PM

Article image
Bill Fearns obituary
Other lives: Marine engineer who designed U-boat hunting vessels in the second world war

Les Fearns

25, Oct, 2020 @4:36 PM

Article image
John Whittle obituary
Other lives: Scientist for Shell who later developed an interest in history, writing books about Cheshire

Debbie Sargent

14, May, 2021 @5:44 PM

Article image
Denis Jackson obituary
Other lives: Prize-winning translator of the work of the 19th-century German writer Theodor Storm

Antony Wood

28, Feb, 2020 @3:31 PM

Article image
Vijay Sawant obituary
Other lives: Scientist who put his expertise into the technology used to design ice-creams

Alex Lawler

17, Aug, 2020 @11:10 AM