WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2006-02 > 1140450149
From: "Peter_McCrae" <>
Subject: PAGE: John Joseph Joffre Page--d.5/2/2006>UK
Date: Mon, 20 Feb 2006 15:42:29 -0000
Sir John Page
The Daily Telegraph and the telegraph.co.uk
Sir John Page, who died on February 5 aged 91, enjoyed four successive
careers: as an RAF officer; as an oil executive; as head of the Mersey Docks
and the National Ports Council; and as a health authority chairman.
In the first two of those callings, Page played a significant part in
Britain's military and commercial interests in Iraq. Having served in the
RAF mission which maintained British control there in the 1930s, he returned
after the Second World War as a manager of the Iraq Petroleum Co - a joint
venture originally formed in 1912 by British investors and the Armenian
entrepreneur Calouste Gulbenkian to explore for oil in the Ottoman
territories later delineated as Iraq.
In 1946 Page was posted to Haifa, then still in Palestine, where the
company's pipeline from Iraq reached the Mediterranean; when the state of
Israel was formed two years later, the pipeline was closed and the terminal
moved to Syria. Page went on to work in Amman, Baghdad and Qatar before
becoming general manager in Basra in 1955. In the early 1960s in Bahrain he
was responsible for developing new oil finds in Abu Dhabi, then still a
small fishing port.
Finally he was chief representative in Syria from 1965 to 1970, a period of
successive bloody coups and countercoups as well as tensions between Syria
and Israel. During the Six-Day War, Page and his staff were evacuated from
Damascus to Beirut; on another occasion, when Anglo-Syrian relations were
ruptured, he acted as British representative under Swiss protection, flying
a large Swiss flag on his house. When the former air force officer Hafez El
Assad seized power in 1970, Page's last task before departing was to
persuade the new president to keep IPC's pipeline open.
Full of energy, integrity and good humour, John Page was a seasoned
corporate diplomat and project manager, and, in his later career, a
fair-minded and supportive chairman. The skills he acquired to keep the oil
flowing across the most turbulent parts of the Middle East were reapplied,
on his return to England, to dealing with recalcitrant dockers and health
Page was recruited in 1972 to become chairman of the newly-formed Mersey
Docks and Harbour Company, which took over from the bankrupt harbour board.
Under his leadership the port went through huge physical changes, including
the closure of historic dockyards in the city centre and the commissioning,
further down the Mersey, of the Seaforth container port and grain terminal.
Liverpool had been the scene of extreme militancy during the national docks
strike - provoked by the shift to containerisation - early in 1972, but Page
won the respect of his workforce and succeeded in negotiating a shift from
daily hire to wage-based employment. Having made heavy losses in its early
years, the company was robustly profitable by the time he retired in 1984.
John Joseph Joffre Page was born at Putney on January 7 1915; his middle
names commemorated Marshal Joffre, the victor of the Marne in September
1914. The second of four sons of a soldier who worked after the war as a
milkman and insurance agent, John was the first pupil of St Mary's primary
school, Putney, to win a scholarship to Emanuel School in Wandsworth.
In 1933 he joined the RAF and was posted to an armoured car company at
Habbaniyah in Iraq. Under the doctrine of "air control" developed by Sir
Hugh Trenchard as Chief of the Air Staff, British military control over the
fractious and unreconciled Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish populations which had
been forced together to form the kingdom of Iraq was exercised under RAF
command, using bombing raids supported by ground forces equipped with First
World War vintage Rolls-Royce armoured vehicles. Page's unit was also
dispatched across the desert to Palestine to separate warring factions.
Page's administrative skills and ability to get on with Iraqis marked him
out for the post of ADC to the Air Officer Commanding. This also involved
riding a horse on ceremonial occasions, and he found a riding teacher in
Cynthia Swan, whose father Lionel was a financial adviser to the Iraqi
Treasury; he married Cynthia in Baghdad in 1939.
In that year he left the RAF to join Iraq Petroleum, but rejoined at the
outbreak of war and served throughout the war in Iraq, Palestine and North
Africa - where he played a liaison role with Montgomery's staff. He was
mentioned in dispatches in 1943, and rose to the rank of group captain,
commanding the RAF training station at Halton in Buckinghamshire before
being demobilised in 1946 and returning to the oil business.
At the Mersey Docks Page was chief executive as well as chairman of Mersey
docks from 1975 to 1977, when he became chairman of the National Ports
Authority. He returned for a second term as chairman of Mersey Docks from
1980 to 1984.
He was also chairman of Chester district health authority in 1981, of the
North-West Regional Health Authority from 1982 to 1988, and of Christie
Hospital, the cancer treatment centre in Manchester, in 1991-92. He was
appointed OBE in 1959 and knighted in 1979.
John Page was a fisherman on the Spey and elsewhere, a cricket lover and a
keen traveller. His last trip, in 2003, took him back to Abu Dhabi, where he
was warmly saluted by the sons and grandsons of the men with whom he had
Lady Page died in 2003; they had two sons.
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2006.
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