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News > In Memory > Remembering the late John Draper Adshead MBE, MA Cantab, FRICS, FRGS (OS 1946)

Remembering the late John Draper Adshead MBE, MA Cantab, FRICS, FRGS (OS 1946)

Tributes shared following the sad news of John's passing in 2017.
28 Nov 2023
In Memory


24th August 1928 – 31st March 2017

John grew up in The Crescent, Davenport. He enjoyed his 9 years at Stockport Grammar School between 1937-1946, especially in the schools Air Training Corps Squadron where he learned to glide. He was a keen member of the Davenport Scouts, leading expeditions into the Peak District. He became a Rover Scout and attended the 1946 World Rover Moot in Norway. This and a hitch-hiking to Rome with a school pal, Dave Robins, gave him a yern to travel.  He was called into the R.A.F in September 1946 under D of P.E. and became a radar mechanic. In October 1948 he went up to St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge, to read Geography, specialising in Land Surveying. In his 4th year he took a diploma in Education which lead to the post of Senior Geography Master and House Master at Southwell Minister Grammar School. He enjoyed the teaching but a more adventurous life called him. In 1953 he joined Her Majesty’s Colonial Service, spent 6 months on the Royal Engineers Survey Course, married Barbara (also a Surveyor) and in April 1954 sailed for Nigeria.

John and Barbara spent 12 glorious years in Northern Nigeria falling under the spell of Africa and introducing their children, Sally and David, to a wonderful life. John became Deputy Surveyor General in charge of Cadastral Survey and Town Planning for the Northern Nigerian Government Survey Department for which he was honoured with an MBE.

After a Planning degree at Nottingham University John joined Her Majesty’s Planning Inspectorate. Eventually he became in charge of Motorway inquiries which were being disrupted by very vocal protestors. With a firm but friendly hand he restored order. Later he was in charge of the Lord Cancellors Panel of Independent Inspectors. He became Deputy Chief Inspector. To escape a desk bound life he took early retirement.

Then the dream job came his way. He was asked to be the Chairman of the London City Airport’s Consultative Committee before the Airport was built. The East Enders were up in arms against it.  Here John’s skill in dealing with protestors in a firm but friendly way came into play. They became his friends and now value the Airport especially as it has created jobs for themselves and their families. John served in this part time post for 27 years and reluctantly gave it up because of illness.

Barbara Adshead.


ADSHEAD, John Draper MBE MA(Cantab) FRICS FRGS on 31st March 2017, aged 88. Best friend for 66 years and beloved husband for 63 years of Barbara, wonderful father to Sally and David, valued father-in-law of Nigel, proud grandfather of Adam, Miranda and Lydia who adored him. Assistant Surveyor General in Charge of Cadastral Survey and Town Planning Northern Nigeria Survey Department, Deputy Chief Inspector of Her Majesty’s Planning Inspectorate, Chairman of London City Airport Consultative Committee for 27 years. Died peacefully at home with Sally at his side after a long cruel illness, borne with great fortitude and grace. Funeral to be held at Grantham Crematorium, on Monday 8th May, at 1pm. Donations, if desired, to Scredington Defibrillator Fund, cheques payable to “Scredington Parish Council”.

Published in The Times on May 3, 2017


The following article was written by Mr Adshead in 2015, and recalls one of his favourite memories of his time at Stockport Grammar School.

A Very Happy Schoolboy (Seventy Years Ago!)

On 25th May 1945, seventeen days after VE Day, as a sixteen year old schoolboy, I found myself sitting in the pupil’s seat behind the pilot instructor in a Martinet. This was a dual-control, single engine monoplane used for the initial training of potential pilots. I was not there, in fact, as a trainee pilot but merely as a cadet in the Stockport Grammar School’s Air Training Corps Squadron (No 550) about to experience a familiarisation flight. My instructor was Sergeant Pilot Lawru Kiewikz, a wartime veteran from Poland. To say that I was excited would be rather an understatement! Lawru checked that I was OK then swung the aircraft into wind, revved the engine for a few seconds and off we went, roaring down the runway and up into the air.

The airfield was on Walney Island off the Lancashire Coast near Barrow-in-Furness which was aRoyal Navy submarine base during the war. We flew out over the sea and in a very short while Lawru banked the aircraft with the starboard wing down and there ahead, down below, I saw five long thin boats heading in a rough formation towards Barrow. The intervom crackled into fire and Lawru told me that the boats were German U-Boats heading towards Barrow to surrender. He told me that on Germany’s capitulation, all U-Boats still at see were instructed to surface and head for the nearest Allied naval base flying a black flag. Lawru put the plane into a steep dive and we zoomed down past the U-Boats low enough and close enough to see very clearly three or four crew members on each of the conning towers beneath the fluttering black flags. Lawru said that he had waited a long time for this day; he then made one or two very uncharitable remarks about the people below and said that they would have had a very different reception from him had he seen them a few days earlier!

As you can imagine, I could hardly believe what I was seeing nor contain my excitement at what was happening to me. Lawru circled the U-Boats for another close-up view then zoomed up into the sky giving vent to his feelings which sounded remarkably like the kind of crys someone associates with American cowboy films when cattle are being rounded up! We turned back towards land and after a little while I suddenly realised we were heading straight for Blackpool Tower which got closer and closer until at the very last minute we did a quick flip and zoomed past its northern side seemingly only inches away. Lawru swung the plane around in a wide circle and then zoomed past the tower once more before heading back to Walney Island. After landing, Lawru was still on a high and one can only imagine how he felt seeing some of the despoilers of his country defeated at last. With his face aglow, he signed my log book (which I still have), shook me by the hand, wished me well and disappeared from my life. He is someone I shall never forget, however, nor shall I ever forget that wonderful flight we had together when I must have been the happiest schoolboy in the country.

John D Adshead (OS 1946)

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