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News > Announcements > Obituaries > Barry Thompson (42-45)

Barry Thompson (42-45)

12 Oct 2020

Captain Barry Thompson (42-45) “crossed the bar peacefully on September 24, 2020, aged 92, as the OP Society was informed soon after by his family. At the time of his death he was living Meadowbank, a suburb of Auckland, New Zealand.

His daughter Sarah writes: “Born in London on 4 July 1928, Barry arrived in Hesperus Division at The Nautical College, Pangbourne in 1942. By his own admission, he was far from an exemplary student, but excelled in English, Navigation and Seamanship.  He was often in trouble with his teachers - his nickname was Bolsh - so he found it amusing when he visited the school years later to be offered the job of Training Officer, a new post after the then Captain Superintendent, Captain Lewis, decided to do away with the uniformed post of Executive Officer.

Barry’s school years coincided with the Second World War. He recalled the drone of the Harvard training aircraft, the whine of doodlebugs, and conversations with friendly Italian prisoners of war who lived in a nearby camp. After their home was destroyed during the Blitz, Barry’s family lived on their boat, Seamist, moored at the bottom of the garden on the River Thames. Another family boat, Thark, had been to Dunkirk as one of the Dunkirk Little Ships in 1940, saving more than 100 men.

In 1945, after a stint at Outward Bound, Barry joined Port Line as a cadet. He was a person of deep faith as a Christian Scientist, and grateful to the end for the strength his religion gave him. It may have been his faith that kept him alive when he fell overboard in the mid-Pacific in 1947 while painting the side of a ship. In 1948, after obtaining his 2nd Mate’s Certificate, he moved to P & O as 4th Officer, and eventually served as Chief Officer, Staff Captain and Captain. He was Troop Officer on the Empire Fowey, which was also his first command.

Barry was serving as Chief Officer on the passenger liner Iberia when his eye was caught by an attractive young brunette travelling in tourist class. When it was his turn to represent the officers in the tourist class dining room, Barry asked to be seated next to the young nurse from Te Aroha, New Zealand. He and Diana married in 1962. It was a happy marriage which lasted for 36 years until Diana’s early death.

In 1961 he had left P&O and emigrated to New Zealand where he went on to have a highly successful career as a Marine Surveyor. He set up a company called Thompson Marine, which was well regarded in the industry and always busy. Meanwhile a group of entrepreneur loss adjusters were gathering selected businesses in New Zealand and Australia to form a collective known as MBS Loss Adjusters. Barry resisted their invitation for a while but then relented, and joined forces in what later became MBS Marine. Over the next few years, the company expanded and was very successful.

At MBS Marine Barry read and studied widely. He corresponded with leading marine insurers, surveyors, and average adjusters. He travelled and picked their brains, and identified the best practices of Lloyds and the industry. MBS acquired branches around New Zealand and Barry set out to write a procedure manual to assist them with marine claims work.  His manual developed into a book (one of four he wrote) called Surveying Marine Damage published by Witherby, now in its third edition and recognised as the main authority on the subject throughout Australasia.

Barry was the inaugural Regional Director of the International Institute of Marine Surveyors and was made an Honorary Fellow of the Institute in 2016. He was also a Liveryman of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners, a Fellow of the Nautical Institute and for a time he was the Deputy Chairman of the NZ Committee of Lloyd’s Register of Shipping.

Barry was also one of the founding Trustees appointed in 1973 of the Spirit of Adventure Trust, an organisation dedicated to youth through sail training. He was instrumental in setting up the Trust and was involved with both ships, Spirit of Adventure and Spirit of New Zealand.  During his 47 years he held the post as Deputy Chair in 1992 and was awarded the Topgallant Award in 1999. He was also the relief Master of the Spirit of New Zealand and, in recent years, he was Vice Patron. In paying tribute, a colleague said, “His door was always open. He was utterly generous with his knowledge and experience. His teachings became our practice and are carried on proudly and successfully by successors who never knew him”.

Barry is survived by his daughters Kate and Sarah, and Sarah’s sons, Christopher and Jeremy.”

Robin Knight adds: “Barry Thompson remained a loyal and active member of the OP Society to the end of his life, attending most of the annual reunion lunches of the Society held in New Zealand. In 2008 he wrote and published a book All Hands and the Cook. This was reviewed in Issue 39 (2009) of The OP Magazine by fellow ship’s captain Ted Daubeny (53-57), once of the New Zealand Shipping Company. Describing the book as “a wide-ranging explanation of the terminology appertaining to Merchant Shipping and of everyday expressions frequently used onboard merchant ships of the period,” Daubeny concluded that it was unlikely to appeal to the wider public “but it is a very worthwhile effort at preservation and I enjoyed it.” Thompson himself hoped that the book would help preserve something of the seaman’s past.

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