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In Memoriam – Wendy Karen Cunningham (née Eyre)

25 May 1958 – 13 May 2023

‘Pull up a bollard and I’ll spin you a dit…’

Allow me to whisk you back to November 9th, 1976, when Rod Stewart was Number 1 in the charts and I met Wendy Karen Eyre at HMS Dauntless, Burghfield.

We hit it off straightaway, and became ‘Bezzy Oppos’.

She was a kindred spirit, funny, talented and she shone like a star. From that day on, our lives were inextricably intertwined. We completed our Basic Training as Meteorological Observers at RNAS Culdrose, were drafted as Baby Met. Wrens together to Yeovilton and by sheer good fortune, were despatched again, as a pair, to Northwood.

Time there was spent studying for our Killicks’ exams and honing the ‘work hard, play hard’ ethic. Wend was a woman of many talents; one example was her prowess as a keen oarswoman, having the edge on me as she used to row whalers across the Bay in her youth when growing up in Babbacombe, Torquay.

So many good times…here’s just a snapshot;

  • Night watches spent perfecting our dance moves (in between the hourly Observations and chart plotting) to ‘Boogie Nights’ by Heatwave, before ‘wowing them’ at the NAAFI Sunday night discos at Yeovilton.
  • Borrowing a couple of Royal Marines’ greatcoats one snowy winter’s night before taking a walk after a run ashore, only to be picked up by the ‘Mod Plod’ in the dead of night – we’d fallen asleep on a bench in the posh part of Northwood !
  • Manhandling me into a doorway in the underground bunker during a Naval exercise where we were on opposite sides; demanding I tell her all our side’s secrets…
  • Completing ejection seat training together – there was only one seat on the Canberra flight to Gibraltar; she won the place, and I was glad for her.
  • Telling Brian Johnston of ‘Down Your Way’ fame, that eight – eighths cloud, wall-to-wall sheeting rain and a Force 8 gale equated to ‘pretty grotty weather, actually!’ Collapse of stout party at the Met. Office; why use any Meteorological terminology we’d spent years learning ?

Her enthusiasm and sunny disposition ensured she ‘sparkled’ at every opportunity; her potential was recognised and she was encouraged to spread her wings and use her considerable people management skills in Recruitment.

At this point our lives went off in different directions, and she left the Service after marriage, embracing the role of Navy Wife with her usual warmth and charm. Her winning smile and wicked sense of humour earned her many friends. She was a true ‘people person’; caring and gregarious.

Weddings, the births of our children, christenings and family celebrations kept us close, despite the Treebys living in Northamptonshire and the Cunninghams residing on the South coast. Only Wend could be preparing a chilli con carne for 17 hungry matelots and dispensing ante-natal advice to me down the ‘phone at the same time…

Wend has been an important part of my life for the past 47 years; in my thoughts continually; especially after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1993. She was a true fighter; willing to try anything (medical or not), that might help ease the march of the cruel disease that has taken her from us. Positivity should have been her second name; she was a true inspiration and helped me put so much into perspective.

In short, heaven has ‘proffed’ an angel, a dear, much-loved Bezzy ‘Oppo and a shining beacon of hope. Her faith kept her strong and her love of her family gave her the courage to face difficult times more recently. Stoic to the end, she was a true force of nature.

We are all richer for having known Wendy; with love, mate; Kit xxx

Rest in Peace.

l-r Wendy Cunningham enjoying a joke with with Andrea Treeby

Basic Meteorology Course at the School of Meteorology and Oceanography, taken at RNAS Culdrose in Feburary 1977. Wendy is seated front row, first on left.