Keith Fitton

Keith Brian Fitton - 1936-2006

Keith Fitton spent much of the last 10 years of his life working for philately, trying to put back into it some of the value and interest he had enjoyed while working abroad earlier in his career. At the time of his death, he was a member of Council of the Association of British Philatelic Societies sitting also on the Executive Committee, a Vice-President of the Forces Postal History Society, Chairman of the British Aerophilatelic Federation, Honorary Secretary (and past Chairman) of the Indian Ocean Study Circle, a Fellow and the Curator of the Society of Postal Historians and a Fellow and the Honorary Secretary of the Royal Philatelic Society London (RPSL). It was during his time as an officer of the RPSL that it voted to permit professionals once again to be members while several other modernising influences were also introduced.

A prolific writer of articles for the journals of these societies, Fitton researched and published several handbooks on different aspects of Seychelles postal history and stamps, which remain the definitive works. He was the Commissioner General for The Stamp Show 2000 in London and had served as the UK National Commissioner at several world exhibitions abroad, winning medals for his own exhibits of Seychelles air mails on which he was an acknowledged authority. He was also a UK national judge.

Born in 1936, Keith spent most of the war years at a boarding school in Sussex entering the City of London School in 1944 where he remained until 1954 studying classical languages and representing the school at boxing and fencing. In 1954, he was runner-up in the Public Schools Fencing Championships at Sabre.

During National Service he was commissioned into the 1st Royal Tank Regiment seeing service as a Troop Leader in the Canal Zone in 1955-56 and was in the last armoured squadron to leave the zone before the Suez war. He had a narrow escape from an untimely death when, as a passenger in an AOP Auster about to take off, he was summoned to take over as Orderly Officer. A fellow officer took his place but the Auster crashed soon after take-off, sadly killing both on board.

Going up to St Johns College, Oxford, in 1956, he gained a 2nd class honours degree in Jurisprudence, was elected President of the OU Law Society and won a double blue for boxing before becoming Captain in 1958 -59, the year in which he also was awarded a half-blue for fencing.

He joined the Shell International Petroleum Company later that year on the oil marketing side and spent much of the next 30 years living and working in the Far East, Africa, South America and Europe before moving to the chemical side. There, he managed Shell's Additives business and in 1990, Shell Additives was the first business unit based in Shell Centre to earn the quality accreditation "ISO 9002". Later, he took charge of Public Affairs for the Shell International Chemical Company. He was a Fellow of the Energy Institute and a Member of the Chartered Institute of Management.

He retired from Shell in 1993 and was appointed, literally overnight, Director (CEO) of the Centre for International Briefing at Farnham Castle in Surrey where his wide international experience enabled him to help many company executives, diplomats and aid workers to learn to adapt before going abroad to live and work overseas.

Retiring again at the end of 1996, he was elected Chairman of the Board of ECHO, a not-for-profit registered charity, which provided hospital equipment, consumable supplies and medicines to hospitals in Africa and elsewhere at low cost. His ill health, and that of his wife, caused him to resign in 2001.

He first suffered from cancer, of the colon, in 1998 and, six months after being given the all-clear, was diagnosed in 2004 with cancer of the pancreas. After a very successful operation, secondary cancer set in and this led to his death on February 5th 2006. He married in 1968 Gabrielle (Gay) Frances Daily of New Zealand, who survives him, together with their son and daughter, Paul and Christine.

© Forces Postal History Society 2017