Organ builder put his skills to good use

Ernest Dexter

Ernest Dexter

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A CENTURY ago Tony Dexter’s grandfather was at the centre of a revolution in war in the air.

Sheffield-born Ernest Dexter was an organ builder by trade and his skills with wood were put to use in the Royal Flying Corps where he was a mechanic on wooden warplanes before the birth of the Royal Air Force.

“He was a backroom boy with a vital role to play,” says his grandson, 67, who is semi-retired and lives in Addingham, near Ilkley.

Ernest Dexter was a skilled photographer and left behind 150 glass negatives, some depicting wartime images of aircraft, which his grandson has digitised.

Today his thoughts will turn to his grandfather, who survived the war, and the other engineers who kept those early flying machines in the air.

“I have thought a lot about him and his skills. He served his country in a different way to those who were in the trenches. I knew him when he was in his 80s but he didn’t talk about the war.

“I did meet him often - he was a Sheffield United fan and so we went to games on a regular basis.

“I assume his carpentry skills were much in demand bearing in mind planes were made of wood, canvas and wire.”

Mr Dexter cherishes the black and white photographs he left behind, along with his original camera and a box of old carpentry tools, each stamped with his name.

“On August the 4th I’ll be thinking about how my grandfather’s contribution to the war maintained our right to democracy and our right to vote. It is perhaps a sad reflection of our time that people do not, in my view, relate their right to vote – or generally perhaps not vote – to a group of people, many of who sacrificed their lives over 100 years ago.”

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