A man who enjoyed working with figures

Friday 22nd January 2010 12:00 am

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A THANKSGIVING service for the life of a former chairman of the local Macmillan Cancer Support Group and Crediton Probus Club was held at St Mary's Church, Down St Mary on December 1.

Leslie Vaughan Martin worked for many years at the Citizens' Advice Bureau in Crediton and served as deanery treasurer for Cadbury and Chulmleigh Deaneries and as treasurer of the Morchard Bishop parochial church council.

Leslie was born on March 20, 1919 in the Hampshire village of Swanmore.

During his youth his parents, Hubert and Rose Martin, kept the village general store.

His early education was at the local school, from which he won a scholarship to Price's School, Fareham, in 1929. There he had a distinguished academic career, winning many prizes. In 1934 he won a Royal Geographic Society prize for getting the highest marks nationally for geography in the school certificate exams.

Leslie was head of the school when he left in 1936. He passed the civil service clerical exam and went to live in London, where he took up a post with Customs and Excise, in the Docklands.

When he subsequently sat for the civil service executive exam, he came fourth out of more than 2,000 candidates.

Because of his good marks in mathematics, he was told that he was eligible for a post in the government actuary's department, though at that stage he did not actually know what an actuary was.

Leslie was making good progress in the actuarial examinations when war broke out. For the first few months he was usefully employed in the Ministry of Shipping, but he was called up in January 1940. He was posted to the Royal Army Medical Corps and shortly after his 21st birthday was sent to France.

When the British retreated, all was in chaos and Leslie managed to get separated from the rest of his unit. He had to make his own way back to Dunkirk where he was rescued and brought back to England in a fishing-boat. He said that this was the only time that his sergeant major was pleased to see him!

Back in England, he joined the newly-formed Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) and was trained in working with radios and radar. He served at a series of anti-aircraft battery sites in various parts of England, where his work at the radar screen helped to aim the guns at incoming aircraft.

With the war over, Leslie returned to the Government Actuary's Department (GAD) where he completed the professional examinations in record time, becoming a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries in 1947. He was to remain in GAD until his retirement in 1979 with the rank of directing actuary responsible for superannuation and research.

In 1948, he came on holiday to Devon and met his wife-to-be, Wynne while walking in the Valley of the Rocks near Lynton. They were married in June 1949. Their honeymoon brought them back to Devon, travelling up the Tarka Line in the old "Devon Belle", little knowing that they would eventually live nearby in Down St Mary for more than 30 years. They had two children, Anthony and Hilary, and two grandchildren Simon and Laura.

After 60 years together, they celebrated their diamond wedding last summer and received a special message from the Queen.

Leslie was a regular church-goer. He served two terms as churchwarden of St. Barnabas' Church, Dulwich in London. When he retired to Devon, he continued with church activity, serving as a parish treasurer as well as deanery treasurer for both Cadbury and Chulmleigh deaneries. He sat for a while on the Diocesan Board of Finance.

In his retirement, he helped out at the Citizens' Advice Bureau in Crediton for 15 years, where his knowledge of pensions and benefits made him invaluable.

He served for nearly 30 years on the Crediton fund-raising committee for Macmillan Cancer Support and was awarded the chairman's medal.

He was often seen sitting at the door of charity functions collecting the gate money. Many groups found his consummate skill with numbers useful when he audited their accounts.

He was, for some time, a volunteer driver taking old people to St Lawrence's home in Crediton for day care until well after he found that some of the "old people" were younger than he was!

For some years he was an honorary research fellow at Exeter University. He enjoyed lecturing to students and his talk "Probability without tears" can still be found on the Institute of Actuaries' website.

Sometimes he gave talks to local groups about another of his interests - the work of the National Trust.

His main recreation was doing crosswords and he solved the Daily Telegraph cryptic in his head almost every day for 60 years. He competed in the quiz programmes Criss Cross Quiz and Countdown, in both of which he won more than one match.

He also took part in Brain of Britain and Fifteen to One contests where he reached a grand final - only to be opposed and beaten by his own son! He also enjoyed playing chess and scrabble.

Leslie died peacefully in hospital in Exeter after a short illness on November 11, aged 90 years.

At the thanksgiving service, donations were accepted in Leslie's memory, for Macmillan Cancer Support.

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