Mike Bennett obituary
My father, Mike Bennett, who has died aged 91, was a civil engineer who built dams, power stations and roads all over the world and was involved in the construction of the Thames Barrier.
He was born in Burnage, Manchester, to Edna (nee Gilpin), a homemaker and keen golfer, and Brian Bennett, a banker. The family moved to London when Mike was a baby, where his father joined the Midland Bank, and then to Yorkshire to escape the Blitz.
In 1943 Mike started at Sidcot, a Quaker boarding school in Somerset, chosen by his parents as it was one a few mixed boarding schools that would take Mike, his brother, Anthony, and two cousins. He was known to all at school as “Bingley”, having developed a strong Yorkshire accent. The school motto is “Live Adventurously”, which may have influenced him in life.
Mike studied civil engineering at Westminster Technical College, qualifying in 1957. Keen to see the world, in 1958 he took a posting as a district engineer, working for the Crown, in what was then British Guiana (now Guyana), where he met Audrey Roth. They married in 1959.
In 1964 he went to Pakistan to build the Mangla dam – then the seventh largest in the world – creating a reservoir for crop irrigation. From the early 70s, he worked for Rendal, Palmer and Tritton (now part of KPMG). For them, he worked on a power station in Iran (Ahwaz) and a harbour on the Caspian. This was interrupted by the 1978 revolution in Iran and the evacuation by the RAF of Mike and Audrey (who travelled with him always). He kept the £200 bill sent by the British government as a memento.
He later built a power station at Khartoum and roads in Tanzania and Turkey.
In the UK he worked on the Fawley refinery, Hampshire, the Ironbridge power station, Shropshire, on Hunterston Iron Ore terminal in Ayrshire and the Thames barrier – the last of these earning the engineers the Queen’s award for technological achievement.
Mike and Audrey had three children, the family based at Tunbridge Wells, Kent. We all saw our father as a great adventurer. As well as getting into scrapes for his work, he once took all of us on a holiday trip in his Riley car to the Khyber Pass – then, as now, one of the most dangerous places on earth.
After retiring in 1993, Mike turned his attention to studying his family history and published the diaries of his father-in-law, Vincent Roth, an anthropologist. He also found out fascinating details about his own ancestors, one of whom was lord mayor of Derby.
Mike is survived by Audrey and their children, Dinah, Fiona and me, and grandchildren, Natalie, Tavi, Milo and Adelaide.