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News > Announcements > In Memoriam: Ian G. Tew (56-60)

In Memoriam: Ian G. Tew (56-60)

You are warmly welcomed to leave a message below, share your memories, and celebrate the life of Ian Tew (56-60), who we sadly lost in 2022.
5 Dec 2022
Written by Robin Knight

Ian Tew (56-60), a retired Captain MN, died peacefully at home in Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire on November 18th, 2022, aged 79, as the OP Society was informed by his brother Edward. The funeral is to be held at 2:30pm on December 12th at the New Forest Crematorium.

Robin Knight (56-61) writes: “Born into a sea-faring family, Ian had a varied and eventful career in the global merchant marine before retiring to open a bookshop in Hampshire, sailing around the world 1997-2001, and writing half a dozen books. A strong, self-sufficient character who stood up for himself from the day he arrived at the Nautical College in 1956, he was dogged by ill-health in his later years. A disability eventually confined him to a wheel chair and also deprived him of his lifelong passion for sailing and the sea.

At the NCP Ian was in Hesperus Division, Form MN and the successful Sailing teams of 1959 and 1960 where he was second only to Rodney Pattisson (57-61) in terms of skills and achievement. But he was never happy at the College, and often felt belittled. Leaving at the end of the summer term 1960, he joined the British India Steam Navigation Company (BI).

As a young officer cadet in BI, Tew was bullied and had to be transferred off his first ship, the Chindwara. This incident gave rise to a vivid example of his strength of character. Back at the NCP, word of this episode reached the somewhat hot-headed captain superintendent, Patrick Lewis, who at the time was trying to boost MN entrants from the College. Lewis publicly doubted Ian’s account of what had happened. So Tew turned up unannounced at the College one day and confronted Lewis who swatted him aside.

Shortly after, Ian was on board BI’s mv Dara off Dubai when this deck passenger ship exploded thanks to a terrorist bomb placed on board – the worst peacetime disaster to strike a British-flagged vessel since the sinking of the Titanic. Ian survived after a harrowing lifeboat ordeal. But 238 others on board did not.

Subsequently he progressed his MN career with BI rapidly until he acquired his Master’s ticket aged 25. Too young to be given command, his employer promptly sacked him. He then joined Ellerman Lines and others before moving into the risky, if lucrative, international salvage business in 1974. Here, aged 31, he found his true calling. Over the next 20 years, mostly working for a company called Selco out of Singapore, he became one of the world’s leading salvors commanding some of the biggest and fastest tugs around and accomplishing a number of hair-raising feats including the salvaging of four burning tankers from the Persian Gulf war zone during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

In 1991, partly to avert bankruptcy resulting from an ill-starred venture as a Lloyds Name, Ian came ashore and opened a shop selling nautical memorabilia on the quay at Lymington. Then, during his four-year circumnavigation of the globe, his yacht Independent Freedom was stuck for months with engine trouble in Tahiti. He decided to use the time to write a record of his life entirely from memory. Memoirs of a Seafarer was eventually self-published in 2018 – one of five books the story-telling Tew was able to complete in his lifetime including the most vivid Salvage: A Personal Odyssey which was published by Seafarers in 2007.

Latterly, Ian’s disability meant that he had to give up sailing. Yet he continued on the water for a few more years by sharing a narrow boat with a partner and cruising the English inland waters in summer. Ian’s life, truly, was a life afloat. He knew it himself. After describing how he sailed across the Solent alone aged 10, he ended his memoir with these words: ‘The sea, oh the sea! It has been the love of my life, giving me my living. And it (has) given me my greatest pleasures.’”

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