Sad death of Gerard Lupton Turner
Obituary written by his son Roger
Gerard Lupton Turner was born on 10th April 1920 in Walsall, son of Harold Lupton (& Ruth) Turner, co-founder of Bridge Foundry Co. Ltd., Wednesbury. The middle of three children, he was educated at Queen Mary’s, Walsall, then Taunton School, Somerset between 1928 and 1938. His Headmaster thought he ought to go to Oxbridge, but Gerard thought the Metallurgical Dept. of The University of Birmingham best served his needs. He was at the University from 1938-1939 when his studies were interrupted by the war.
In March 1940 he joined up and entered the Fleet Air Arm (part of the Royal Navy)and spent most of 1940 doing his basic training, then in early 1941 he was sent to Scapa Flow in the Orkneys to join his ship HMS Victorious. He was a Sub-Lt., and trained as a navigator.
In July 1941 he went on a bombing raid to Kirkenes and Petsamo in the far north of Norway. He was acting as an observer on this occasion. Militarily, the raid was a complete failure, and Gerard’s Albercore aircraft was shot down and ditched in the sea, along with many others, several men lost their lives. When his crew reached the shore, he realised the pilot was not with them, and Gerard swam back out for him. The pilot had been temporarily paralysed by the blast. When they reached the shore for the second time, the Germans were waiting and he spent the next four years in Prisoner of War camps in Poland and Germany.
He was in Stalagluft 3, which the Great Escape took place from. He was also in the camp where the Wooden Horse escape took place. (This was the one where two prisoners tunnelled under a vaulting horse while the others jumped over it, leant against it, or generally messed around fooling their captors into thinking it was all innocent PE.) While a POW he sent for many text books (and received them via the Red Cross), and carried on with his university work. The greatest problem the POWs had was fighting boredom, and this helped somewhat. He also gave several lectures to his fellow captives on a wide variety of scientific subjects.
In January 1945, he had to take part in the forced March across Germany, and very nearly died of cold, starvation and exhaustion, many prisoners did die. He was repatriated in May 1945 and returned home in a very gaunt condition.
He married his fiancée Mary Gourd in July 1945. She was the daughter of the minister at the Mellish Road Church in Walsall which his parents attended. He then resumed his metallurgical degree, graduating in 1947.
In 1948 he became an Associate Member of the Institute of British Foundrymen, he retaining his association with the University of Birmingham via his friend and colleague, Dr. Voya Kondic, who was a senior lecturer there.
He went to work at The Bridge Foundry Co. Ltd. with his father. Later they were joined by Gerard’s younger brother, Donald Stillwell Turner. In 1957 Bridge Foundry was sold to Clayton Dewandre Ltd. and both Gerard and Donald stayed on. In 1961 Clayton decided to abandon the sand foundry side of the business, so Harold Turner set up D S Turner & Co. Ltd. to preserve the jobs etc. of the sand foundry workforce. Donald Turner was made MD whilst Gerard stayed at Bridge.
In 1962 he became a Fellow of the Institute of Metallurgists and in the 1970’s Gerard became a student of the Open University and acquired a BA in Maths.
In 1979 Donald Turner decided to emigrate to Canada and negotiated with Gerard to sell D S Turner & Co. to him. This was completed in April 1979 and Gerard left Bridge and started at D S Turner on his 59th birthday. This unfortunately coincided with the death of his cousin, Neville Burgess Turner, who had been a director of D S Turner & Co.
In the early 1980’s, Gerard acquired a Commodore Pet, an early personal computer, for which there was no convenient off the shelf software – so he taught himself the rudiments of Basic and wrote his own programmes. He was still writing his own software for later computers up until his retirement in 1999. He was interested in heat flow and die design in particular.
Peter Green of Bridge wrote to Donald a few weeks ago crediting Gerard as a pioneer of ‘lean manufacturing’.
D S Turner was sold to Alucast in 1999, and Gerard finally retired.
As a person, Gerard was highly principled and maintained that ‘his word was his bond’. Once a decision had been made he was extremely reluctant to change it. Duty came first, even before the family – he had warned his wife of this several years before he married her. He had a very strong sense of right and wrong, and an equally strong aversion to gossip.
His main interests (apart from those involving metallurgy) were playing rugby when he was younger. Several knee injuries sustained during matches eventually put paid to playing the game, but he remained a supporter of Walsall Rugby Club to the end of his life. He loved walking in Snowdonia – this was a passion. He and his sister Eileen had been members of the Midland Association of Mountaineers before the war. She went on to serious rock climbing in foreign parts, but Gerard was happiest on Snowdon. He was still wandering in the foothills on a regular basis until about 8 years ago, although he no longer went to the top. He also loved entertaining friends, and he basked in the reflected glory of his wife’s Cordon Bleu cuisine. After her death in 1994, he would take everyone out to restaurants instead.
He died on 25 January 2009. Survived by his brother Donald, son Roger and daughter Helen.