David Hicken obituary

Other lives: Sailor who served on the royal yacht then helped to preserve it as a tourist attraction

My friend David Hicken, who has died aged 76, was for many years a crew member of the royal yacht Britannia, which was in service from 1954 until 1997 and travelled more than a million nautical miles around the globe. After the yacht retired from royal service it was renovated, with David’s help and expertise, and is now permanently moored as a tourist attraction in Leith, Edinburgh.

David was born in Stourbridge in the West Midlands to Douglas, a landscape gardener, and his wife, Violet (nee Peggy), a midwife. After attending grammar schools in Rotherham, south Yorkshire, and Nantwich, Cheshire, he joined the Royal Navy at 16, training initially at HMS Ganges on the River Orwell in Suffolk. He served on the aircraft carrier HMS Bulwark before postings to land-based overseas stations in Singapore, Borneo, Hong Kong and Mauritius. From the early 1960s onwards, he also served as a volunteer telegraphist on Britannia, being seconded from the navy as necessary.

On demob from the navy in his 40s, David retrained as a chartered accountant, then worked as a manager at Lewis’s department store in Birmingham. In retirement he spent summers crewing around Scotland on Bloodhound, a former royal racing yacht. David also had his own Nauticat 33 yacht, Neridos, on which from a base in Preveza in Greece he, his family and friends would cruise the Greek islands. Those aboard would be entertained by David’s expert seamanship, guitar playing and never-ending stream of bad jokes.

David also became an enthusiastic member of the Association of Royal Yachtsmen and from 2007 to 2012 served on the Britannia Working Party, a group of ex-crewmen who volunteered to restore the old royal yacht. In rest periods during that work, David’s sociability and musical talents were displayed as a member of an impromptu skiffle group called Gerry and the Atrix, in which he played the tea chest. In 2012 he was selected to pilot an escort craft for the royal barge down the Thames during the Queen’s jubilee pageant.

David married Christine Horton in 1965; she died in 2008. He is survived by their children, Mark and Nicola, by four grandchildren and by his partner, Diana Moore.

Adrian Hamlyn

The GuardianTramp

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