Brian Titchener (1931 -2010)
Brian Titchener sadly passed away on August 13th 2010 after a short illness. Over 200 people attended a moving funeral service in the church, followed by a reception at the Half Moon & Spread Eagle. Sybil Tilbury had made a floral tribute of pale blue carnations to signify the sky, with clouds of white flowers, and a model of Concorde, originally made by Brian, rising through the clouds. A Guard of Honour was provided by members of the Aircrew Association, and there were many of Brian’s Concorde colleagues in attendance, along with representatives from the many village organisations in which Brian was involved.
Brian was born in Caversham near Reading in 1931, and won a scholarship and attended Reading Grammar School from 1941 to 1946. In a medical examination given in 1943 his report read: “nervous child, said to cry easily, He suffers from fatigue and his after school activities should be restricted”. Those who knew Brian know how wrong this was.
Brian rowed for Reading Rowing Club and played for Old Boys Rugby Club for several years. On leaving school, he went to Miles Aeronautical Technical School before leaving to join Lloyds Bank, where he stayed until he was called up for National service in the RAF from 1949-1951.
During his National Service he trained on the Prentice Harvard and Gloster Meteor. At the end of National Service he returned to the bank before leaving to study for his Commercial Pilot’s Licence. He joined BOAC in 1956 as navigator on Argonauts and Britannias, before converting to co-pilot on Britannias in 1957.
During this time he first met Marion in a bar in Beirut – why am I not surprised! Marion was a Stewardess on Aquila flying boats out of Southampton until the 1957 crash, when she then started work as a stewardess on Comet 4’s. They were married in March 1962, in Southampton, and their children, Geoffrey and Helen, were born a few years later.
He transferred onto the VC10 in 1964, becoming a Captain in 1971. He later applied for conversion to Concorde, becoming operational on 22 September 1977 after which he spent, in his own words, “9 very happy years as Concorde Captain”. There have been more US astronauts than BA Concorde pilots !
Brian was on the inaugural scheduled flight from Singapore to Bahrain, and took part in flying displays including Bournemouth, Brands Hatch and Duxford, and the most satisfying one was Fairford in 1985, when he flew the aircraft in formation with the Red Arrows. He has a photo looking from the cockpit at the Red Arrows in front and, in his own words, “they looked a b***** sight closer than that!”
Apart from the scheduled Concorde flights to New York and Washington, he also flew Cunard charters to link with the QE2 to Colorado, Houston, Rio de Janeiro and many other exotic destinations. In 1985 he flew the second leg of a charter, which established a speed record of 8 hours and 8 minutes from London to Cape Town, including a refuelling stop in Monrovia.
He officially retired from British Airways on his 55th birthday, when he continued to be an active member of the local community. He first moved to Micheldever in 1974, becoming involved in the Parish Council, the Variety Group (many of us have had hammers falling round our ears when Brian has been building a set), and the Wine Circle. He was involved in the whisky tasting evenings which he ran like an Operations Room – Scotland mapped out by distilleries! Everything he did, he did enthusiastically. With others he helped build the stage lighting setup in the Northbrook Hall, and was a founder member of the Investment Club. For many years he collated, stapled and distributed the Dever magazine each month, and helped out with the Poppy Appeal.
After leaving BA he got involved with Goodwood Travel, working as a commentator on the Concorde charter flights, before he finally decided to withdraw on his 65th birthday and settle into retired life.
But that still wasn’t Brian to just retire quietly. More recently he was involved with the setting up and running of the Concorde Experience at Brooklands Museum, being part of the group of former Concorde pilots who would entertain and educate the public in flying the Concorde simulator, remaining active until the simulator closed for its summer break, and he was looking forward to getting involved when it reopened in the autumn. In fact, when he collapsed (and his driving licence was withdrawn) he was quite excited that he had found a way he could still get there by train so he could keep on going.
He had been planning to take part in ‘Operation Propeller’ in July 2010 – flying in a light aircraft from Popham to East Kirby. Not one to take his illness lying down, as soon as he was discharged from hospital he arranged for someone to drop him at Popham and flew to East Kirby and back – flying to the very end.
Following the memorial service, the family joined his friends and colleagues at Brian’s regular Sunday lunchtime haunt, the Half Moon and Spread Eagle, for a reception where, amongst the many memories being shared around the room, a wonderful and amusing tribute that was truly in the spirit of his life was given on behalf of his friends and colleagues on the Concorde fleet by Jan Knott and Colin Mitchell of Goodwood Travel and the Brooklands Museum.
During the reception Geoff accepted, on behalf of his father, a Presidential Commendation from the Aircrew Association, given as “a mark of esteem and appreciation for the outstanding contribution made in promoting comradeship amongst military aircrew and the development of the Aircrew Association” – skills he clearly applied to every aspect of his life.
Brian was a real character and is very much missed around the community. He added colour to this sometimes grey world.
Marion passed away a year later - in fact 1 year, 1 month and 1 day later. She had suffered with increasingly severe dementia for many years. Her last words were, "I must go, he's at the door waiting for me......"
Geoff Titchener and Graham Pursey