Maybird Classic Sailing

Howson Charles Devitt OBE

1909 – 1996
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Howson Devitt OBE

H C Devitt was the grandson of Sir Thomas Lane Devitt, a senior partner in the shipping firm of Devitt and Moore, Chairman of Lloyd’s Register of Shipping (1911 – 1922) and founder of the Nautical College at Pangbourne. He was educated at Sherborne and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Whilst at University he joined the University Air Squadron (UAS) and trained as a pilot. Not surprisingly in 1939, he joined the RAF. He was in the second batch of graduates to be trained on ground radar at the famous Bawdsey Manor on the Suffolk coast. Having been trained as a radar controller, he followed that speciality throughout the war and rose to the rank of Wing Commander. He received the OBE in 1941 for his work as a radar controller during the period of the Battle of Britain. He was a member of RAFO and because he trained as a pilot with the UAS he did not have to wear the ‘V’ as in RAFVR. His son Richard recalls that this made his father chuckle as he was treated as a ‘regular’. Following 1945, he continued in the family business of shipping and insurance and was also a governor of Pangbourne College.

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Given his shipping background, it is not surprising that Howson Devitt learnt to sail at a very early age. On his application form to join the prestigious Royal Cruising Club he states that “…since 1932 I have sailed to Cherbourg, St Malo, Benodet, Rotterdam and Amsterdam and have taken part in numerous ocean races including the 1939 Fastnet Race in Lara.” In addition to the RCC, he was also a member of the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC). the Royal Thames Yacht Club and the Royal Southern Yacht Club. Similar to Maya Martin, Howson Devitt had his own unique owners flag which looks like a derivative of his family’s shipping company flag – Devitt and Moore.

Radar and Bawdsey Manor

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During the 1930’s, the British government was conducting research into what we now know as radar. A small group of scientists were based at Orfordness in Suffolk and in 1936 moved into Bawdsey Manor which was located nearby. The famous scientist, Watson Watt was the first supervisor of Bawdsey and he and his team developed radar technology.

By 1939, Britain was protected by a chain of coastal stations – designated CH – stretching from Scotland in the north to Ventnor on the Isle of Wight in the south. As the Air Ministry ran Bawdsey, the RAF took an active interest and opened a training and operational school at the Manor. Its graduates – like Howson Devitt – took over the chain’s operations. One of the many books detailing the pioneering work done at Bawdsey is titled ‘The Invention That Changed the World’ and it is fascinating that Howson Devitt played his part at Bawdsey.

Devitt & Maybird

He bought Maybird in 1947 from Mrs Maya Martin and, as he lived in Essex, Maybird was based on the East Coast during this phase of her life. Howson Devitt’s son, Richard, was 6 years of age when he first saw Maybird in a yard in Hayling Island. She was gaff rigged at that time. Richard spent his school holidays aboard her in 1947 and 1948 when she cruised from the East Coast to Salcombe. He also lived aboard her for the summer months of 1949. Apparently, Howson Devitt gave up sailing around this period to concentrate on restoring his house and garden together with business interests and his continued involvement with Pangbourne College. He died in 1996.

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