We have received the sad news of the recent passing of Jan Woodbridge. Jan had been a Fleet Superintendent in Fleet Management Division for OCL and P&O Containers. He was based in Beagle House in London, and frequently visited the ships that fell under his responsibility in port and in dry-dock.
Jan's funeral took place on Wednesday 1 March 2023. We would like to thank his son, Nigel for sharing the Order of Service with us. The Tribute to Jan read as follows:
We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of Jan Henry Woodbridge, born on the ninth of June 1934 to parents Winifred and Henry Woodbridge. His Christian name, chosen by his mother is an old Cornish name for John and is pronounced like the abbreviated month of January – Jan. Although this caused understandable confusion throughout his life as a man called Jan!
Born in Romford, Jan spent his early years in the East London area along with his younger brother Roger, spending some of the time during the war years with family in both Yorkshire and Cornwall. On leaving school Jan started his career working as an apprentice at the Woolwich Arsenal which carried out armaments manufacturing and research for the Ministry of Defence.
At the end of his apprenticeship, Jan was a skilled fitter with a wide engineering knowledge gained from working in numerous departments at the Woolwich Arsenal. Faced with 2 years National Service he chose to join the British Merchant Navy, which kept the United Kingdom supplied with raw materials, fuel and food at a time of great need. Jan spent an enjoyable 12 years as an engineer at sea, first on cargo ships and then moving on to cruise ships, sailing
all around the world.
Jan worked his way up through the ranks on various ships to become first engineer on a Shaw Savill cruise ship called the Southern Cross where he met Barbara, a purser on the ship. A friendship grew through several round the world cruises, leading to her becoming his wife in 1962 and the love of his life.
In 1964, living in a flat above his mother’s house in Leytonstone they had their first child, Nigel. They then bought their first house together, a new build in Wickford. Jan completed his qualifications to sail as Chief Engineer and five years after Nigel, came his daughter Caroline. Being at sea 6 months at a time with a young family was difficult and so he came ashore. Jan found work managing a ship repair yard in Tilbury. In 1970 the family moved to a house with a large garden for the children in a small village called Stock.
By the 1980s, traditional cargo shipping in London had declined to be replaced with container ships sailing from Southampton and Felixstowe. Jan moved to Overseas Containers Limited, changing roles from running a repair yard to managing the maintenance for a fleet of container ships. This company was taken over several times, becoming P&O, then Nedlloyd and finally Maersk. In this job Jan flew around the world to oversee the work and he often spoke fondly of times in Italy, Germany, Japan and New Zealand.
In May 1997 Jan retired having moved to Saffron Walden a few years earlier. From his engineering background he still maintained a keen interest in old Cars and Motorcycles. Jan and Barbara loved their garden throughout retirement and also went on several cruises a year, as a passengers this time rather than crew. Jan shared Barbara’s passion for cats and the family had many cats over the years ending with a ginger cat called Odin. Sadly his wife, Barbara passed away in 2021 leaving a huge gap in his life.
They will both be deeply missed by their family and friends.
We would also like to share some memories of Jan that have kindly been provided by two of his former Fleet Management Division colleagues, David Elves and John Duffy:
"Jan was an old school engineering superintendent. Prior to moving across to OCL he had served as a Chief Engineer with one of the founding companies. He kept very tight control of his ships, seeming to operate within budget most of the time! His ships typically ran better than others of the same class but he wasn't one for using computers in general and FMD's CMS system in particular, preferring to use the phone ('If I want to know anything I'll ask the Chief!')."
"Jan enjoyed life to the full, and there are many recollections of mammoth lunches with him. There were also some memorable visits to ships in Genoa with stays in the Hotel Savoia Majestic where he and his companions were literally treated as royalty, eating and drinking accordingly! Jan knew the manager well and always seemed to get a room overlooking the Piazza. One story often told was how one member of the team wasn't keen on the room he had been allocated, and when Jan passed this on immediate action was taken with a couple of hotel staff arriving to move him to a room more suitable to a companion of Mr Woodbridge! "
"Jan and his wife Barbara lived in Stock, a village in Essex near Chelmsford. There they hosted annual gatherings with friends and colleagues from FMD. "
"Jan was also a keen car enthusiast, and at various stages owned a Scimitar GTE, an MGB and a Porsche 944." (Jan was also at one point the owner of an Austin Frogeye Sprite)
Our deepest sympathies go to Jan's family and friends. Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.