In the early hours of Wednesday last week the Wiltshire Community, and particularly the Lockeridge and Marlborough areas lost a great servant, Mike Smith. Mike leaves his wife Trish, four children and nine grandchildren as well as Trish’s extended family
Although Mike had retired many years ago no-one could ever say that his retirement was spent at leisure. Since leaving Thatcham Research (the world renowned auto security centre, where he’d been CEO for ten years), and retiring from his subsequent role as Secretary General of RCAR (Research Council for Automobile Repairs – an international association of similar research centres to Thatcham), he had a spell heading up Berkshire Crimestoppers and more recently time as chair of the Devizes Constituency Conservative Association.
Born in Portsmouth, the second of four children, his father was in the Royal Navy, military but in a different branch.
Mike’s core strength was an Engineer. He worked as an apprentice at De Havilland aircraft while studying to become a Mechanical Engineer.
He was in the last ever call up of National Servicemen, (much to his annoyance!) and as he was already a qualified Mechanical Engineer was soon offered a Commission and went to Mons OfficerCadet School Aldershot and became a regular Army Officer.
Retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel after 21 years in the British Army with REME (Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers) and having served in many areas of the world including Borneo, Singapore, Brunei, and Germany, he moved into insurance joining a Lloyds broker as their Engineering Director.
Next was Thatcham, which is now a world renowned centre in the auto repair and security industry.
Apart from politics, engineering and the military Mike’s main interests were his family (most important) and then sailing and rugby. In Rugby, in his earlier days(!) he played for Wasps 2nds and 3rds, the Army and he also captained Berkshire, whilst on the water he qualified as a Yacht Master , competing in the Fastnet, Tall Ships, Cowes and other ocean races. His passion for sailing rubbed off on his family and his son, Adam became a professional sailor.
He also loved poetry and music and the countryside, especially trees. Last October on a trip to Devon to see his son, Adam, he planted five oak saplings on Adam’s farm as a memorial.
There have been many tributes to Mike, and below are some. From Claire O’Neill (formerly Claire Perry, our local Devizes constituency MP before the December 2019 election), from Local West Selkley Wiltshire Councillor Jane Davies, and from Mary Spender, Chairwoman of the Kennet Valley Conservative Branch.
I worked with Mike for many years as he was a long-standing member of our local Conservative association and served as our Chairman early in my first elected term. Mike was one of life’s true gentlemen and combined calmness, thoughtfulness, hard work and commitment with a lightness of spirit. One of my fondest memories is campaigning hard in the Pewsey Vale with Mike and a big team in the May 2010 election and having Mike look up from our leafleting and say “look at the sunshine on that avenue of trees just coming in to leaf – just beautiful!” – a memory that occurs to me every time I pass the spot. Mike also shared his passion for canals with all of us and I loved hearing of his various trips on our waterways. He was a good friend and will be missed very much by so many of us – my deepest condolences go out to Trish and his family.
‘Mike Smith was a tall man with a deep voice, a beady eyed perceptive intelligence, and a huge laugh. This gave him both gravitas and a warm presence which drew people into his orbit. The phrase I have heard people use most to describe Mike is ‘a gentleman’ and this is true; he had a sense of fair play, tremendous integrity and deep loyalty to his family, friends and colleagues.’
‘Mike was an enthusiastic rugby player and then supporter of his beloved Wasps, and was always happy to talk rugby as well as high politics. He was a thoroughly successful man – straight as a dye, efficient, and a good team leader (his army background, no doubt) – but was also a lovely human person, thoughtful, kind and ready to laugh. Always joined in village life – helping to organise Jubilee Celebrations, fetes, fundraising parties, etc etc. Ready to chair any committee in his relaxed but capable manner.