Obituary: 'Sporty' father who served in both the Navy and RAF, dies aged 87

David Silver received his Meritorious Service Medal, with wife, Jan

David Silver received his Meritorious Service Medal, with wife, Jan - Credit: Supplied by family

While David Silver may not have been born in Norfolk, it was the county where he lived the longest – and became the place that stole his heart. 

And long before embracing the region as his own, he enjoyed holidays to the Norfolk Broads and visited many Royal Air Force stations for senior officer inspections during the 1960s and 70s. 

Now, along with his late wife, Mr Silver remains a permanent fixture at “home” after being interred at Colney Wood, Norwich. 

David Anthony Silver was born in Haslemere, Surrey, on May 1, 1935, growing up in the village of Fernhust, Sussex. He lived with his parents, Tom and Lucy, brother Brian and sister Janet in the family home built by his father, spending a lot of his childhood between home and his grandparents’ farm.  

Sporty from a young age, he played for the village football and cricket teams, following in his dad’s footsteps.   

On his 15th birthday, he joined the Royal Navy as a cadet and after completing his training he joined his first ship, HMS Indefatigable. Over the next 12 years, he served on five different ships and voyaged in the Mediterranean, Caribbean and South Atlantic, becoming a gunnery expert and training others at the Gunnery School. 

While on leave, he met wife-to-be, Janet Singleton, from Haslemere. They first met on a blind date, going to the local cinema. It was an eventful evening as Mr Silver managed to lose his shoes during the film, setting the tone for a habit of losing things over the years.

Dave and Jan Silver on their wedding day

Dave and Jan Silver on their wedding day - Credit: Supplied by family

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Despite mutual suspicion from each family as county rivals, the couple - fondly known as “Dave and Jan” - married on June 10, 1957. The couple had daughter Wendy in June 1958, while Mr Silver was away on HMS Agincourt, followed by son Andrew in May 1960. 

He left the Navy in 1962 to be at home with Jan and the children. Unsure what to do next, Jan’s uncle Reg suggested he try the Royal Air Force (RAF). Not one to rest on his laurels, just three weeks after leaving the Navy he joined the RAF on May 22. 

He was first posted to RAF Odiham in Hampshire, where his younger daughter, Mandi, was born in October 1963. The couple had their final child, son Neil, nine years later in August 1972, by which time Mr Silver was at RAF Bicester. 

Through the years, the couple travelled a lot, as son Neil explained.  

He said: “Their travels took them far and wide. Everywhere they went they made friends and they immersed themselves in the local community, often helping others. One thing Dad was not shy about was talking to people. 

“They raised us with firmness and fairness. Whenever we needed help, they were there. They did not judge but listened, advised and helped where they could. 

“They were a true partnership. Mum was often the heart and dad was often the head but they were both practical and organised.”  

During his 29-year career in the RAF, where he became a personal assistant to senior officers, he had 16 different postings, including Hampshire, France, Belgium, Wales, Peru and Germany. He was involved in sensitive and secretive work, including actively monitoring the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, and worked as the defence secretary’s attaché in Lima, Peru where he organised the rescue of a young serviceman on a jungle expedition who had appendicitis. 

Once back in the UK at RAF Northwood, Mr Silver completed a training course and, on his return, declared that in the event of a nuclear conflict he would be allocated a place in the bunker, next to the former PM Margaret Thatcher. Understandably Jan was rather put out to find there was no place allocated for her. 

His longest posting – six years from 1983 to 1989 – was to Gütersloh, Germany, where he was promoted to the most senior rank possible for a non-commissioned officer, warrant officer. 

David Silver unveiled the Brundall Village Hall memorial bench in 2018

David Silver unveiled the Brundall Village Hall memorial bench in 2018. He was an active member of the Brundall Hall Committee - Credit: Supplied by family

He was awarded two medals in his service career; the Long Service Good Conduct Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal. These were the culmination of almost 40 years of service in the armed forces without a single charge or disciplinary. Further recognition came when he was invited to a Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace and met Her Royal Highness. 

Following his retirement in May 1991, the couple moved back to Haslemere to help look after Jan’s parents. Here he worked as an administrator and spent time with grandchildren Charles, Andrew, Tracie and Shona in the US and Canada, and Owen and Zak in Norfolk. He would also become great grandfather to Declan, Jacob and Ella Jan. 

By 2003, following the passing of Jan’s parents, they moved to Norfolk, settling in a bungalow in Brundall.  

Here, they continued to go 10-pin bowling and enjoyed coach trips to Norway and France. Mr Silver also enjoyed sports and played both deck and field hockey in the Navy. Aged 40, he took up running, completing six half marathons, continuing into his early seventies.  

After Jan’s death in 2015, he continued to play bowls, and had a social circle that revolved around the bowls club. During his wife’s illness, he also became involved with a Big C support group. His family also surprised him with a young budgie for company, named Buddy. 

In 2020, he moved to Leeds to a care home nearby to family.  

Mr Silver died in hospital on May 22, aged 87. His funeral took place on June 15 at Colney Park, Norwich. Donations were raised in his memory for armed services charity SSAFA and the Royal British Legion.