MCS was informed that Bill had passed away on 18 December 2010.
The following is Revd Lawrence Campbell MA RN’s Eulogy at the Service of Thanksgiving for Lieut Cdr William James Prickett RN at Oxford Crematorium on 10 January 2011.
All of you who knew Bill will have special memories of him, memories you will always treasure. In my address I can only give a sketch of his life – it is for you to fill in the details and the colour from your own memories.
Bill was born in Oxford on 3 May 1928. He had a younger sister, Sheila, who moved to South Africa several years ago. Bill was educated at Magdalen College School, Oxford. It was in 1943 that he met Mavis Wiggins while they were both at school.
In September 1944 he joined the Royal Navy as a boy telegraphist and trained at HMS St George on the Isle of Man. It was perhaps during training there that he heard a GI speak the words which Bill often repeated, ‘Keep your cap on boy – there’s woodpeckers about’. After training he joined HMS Belfast for a goodwill tour to the Far East. As Bill’s first ship the Belfast was very special to him. Meanwhile Mavis had joined the WRENs while he was away. She met him when the ship returned to Portsmouth. They became engaged at Christmas 1947 and were married on 9 April 1949. After leave Bill joined the Submarine Service spending time on various boats including Alderney, Taciturn and Aurigua. After several years in submarines he left HMS Truculent to go to HMS Mercury for his Petty Officer training. By this time Bill and Mavis had two daughters, Lindsay and Susan.
Bill was next sent in to HMS Phoenicia in Malta. The whole family went out and they spent two and a half happy years there. They grew to be fond of Malta and went back there several times for holiday. After that they spent six months at HMS Pitreavie in Rosyth, Scotland. It was at Pitreavie when Bill was giving a presentation to communicators from small ships at Rosyth that he illustrated one of his points by pretending to be sick into a bucket – everyone laughed – even the Admiral – but his point was remembered. Bill was then another six months at HMS Rooke in Gibraltar. They returned from there in 1960 for Bill to start his SD course and he was commissioned Sub Lieutenant in 1961.
Bill was next appointed to HMS Duncan in the Fishery Protection Squadron before moving to the Special Communications Unit at Tangmere where he learned Russian. He also spent time with X Section at HMS Mercury, on the staff of Flag Officer Carriers and Amphibious Ships and on board HMS Fearless. His final appointment was at GCHQ at Cheltenham and he retired from the Royal Navy in 1983 with the rank of Lt Commander. By this time his granddaughters Sarah and Laura had arrived. As they grew up Bill spent time doing the school run for them.
After Bill retired from the Navy he spent seven years working for the naval charity King George’s Fund for Sailors and raised a considerable sum of money for the charity. Then he moved back to his old school, Magdalen College School, as Commanding Officer of the Naval Cadet Force. He took a great interest in the boys and took them on several visits to ships at Portsmouth.
I first met Bill when I was appointed Chaplain of HMS Mercury. Our claim to fame was to found the ‘Escape from Dallas club’. In those days Dallas was the main feature on television on Saturday night. And both our wives were avid fans. We were not. So Bill and I took ourselves off to the Drum in Petersfield where the landlord’s wife left him alone at the bar while she watched the programme. We kept him company. We spent a pleasant time chatting together, and when the show was over she would make us sandwiches. This arrangement continued until Bill moved to Cheltenham.
Bill was a man with a great sense of humour who enjoyed a party. The Navy was his life and he continued to attend re-unions, especially of the communicators and HMS Belfast, for some time. He enjoyed Royal Marine Bands and attended their concerts when he could. In April last year Bill attended an X Section reunion at the Bat and Ball at Hambledon. This gave him an opportunity to catch up with many old friends and colleagues.
Bill’s other great love was for his garden. He was very proud of his vegetables and flowers, many of which he raised from seed. Mavis was often hard put to keep up with his supply of tomatoes for chutney. He was a very disciplined person. When he was diagnosed as a diabetic he kept strictly to his diet – this must have been difficult for him as Mavis produced such wonderful cakes and puddings. Bill was a great family man. He was proud not only of his own family but of the records of the Prickett family and he was in process of tracing his family tree. This took him from Binsey to Michigan. Bill and Mavis visited America twice to see Dot and Homer. Dot was the descendant of a Prickett who had emigrated in 1840. Their son Gerry was in charge of USS Intrepid, the museum ship moored in New York harbour and Bill and Mavis enjoyed a VIP visit on board. Bill and Mavis enjoyed travelling and as well as visiting Malta they had holidays in Guernsey and Italy.
One of the highlights towards the end of Bill’s naval career was to be invited to two garden parties at Buckingham Palace. At the first of these Bill and Mavis were presented to the Queen, they were extremely proud of this. After celebrating their Silver, Ruby and Golden Wedding Anniversaries, Mavis and Bill also celebrated their Diamond Wedding Anniversary in 2009 with family and close friends. This was a special time for them both and they felt very privileged to have had 60 years of married life together.
On the Saturday before Christmas Bill attended a lunch for Old Boys from Magdalen College School. It was a Christmas lunch held in the new dining hall of the school. Bill belonged to the branch of the Veteran Old Waynfletes – those who left over 40 years ago – he enjoyed attending and seeing many of the old boys he used to go to school with and the many friends he made when he was President of the Old Waynfletes’ Club.
Bill’s sudden death before Christmas came as a great shock to all who knew him, especially to his family. To them we offer our sympathy and our prayers.
It was a great privilege to know Bill and we are deeply thankful for it.