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Obituary

David Cornish Floyer

1922 - 1996


Major David Floyer David Floyer

MC for perilous midnight action against Indonesian rebels

(Telegraph, Sept 11, 1996)

MAJOR DAVID FLOYER, who has died aged 74, was awarded an MC when fighting against Nationalist rebels in Indonesia in 1946.

After the capitulation of Japan in August 1945, Achmed Sukarno, the collaborationist leader of the Nationalist puppet government, had launched his 12,000-strong army into a campaign of murder and intimidation against the Dutch and other civilians. Many of these were still in the camps where they had been interned by the Japanese.

British and Indian troops were flown in and restored order after much bloody fighting. Floyer witnessed the murder of his brigade commander, Brigadier A W Mallaby, during "peace" negotiations with the treacherous rebel leader - a fate Floyer himself then narrowly escaped by diving through a window into a canal and swimming to safety.

Soon afterwards, Floyer's company was pinned down by superior numbers and was in danger of being overrun and massacred. During the night Floyer crept to within 100 yards of the enemy position to guide his gunners to put mortar shells directly on target. While doing so he was in great danger, both from the enemy and his own mortars. But the manoeuvre was successful, and by morning the enemy had been forced to withdraw.

David Cornish Floyer, of an ancient Exeter family which traced its pedigree back to the Domesday survey of 1086, was born on July 18, 1922 in British Columbia, and educated at Bedford School. He joined the Army the day after leaving school in 1940 and was commissioned into the Royal Corps of Signals, but then transferred to the Royal Engineers.

In 1942 he was posted to Lahore and joined the Bengal Sappers and Miners. He served in Waziristan, where there was always potential trouble, and which was being supplied with German and Italian money and weapons. Floyer made several incursions into tribal territory in Chitral on the North West Frontier.

In 1945 Floyer joined 71 Forward Company, 23rd Division, ready to take part in Operation Zipper, the invasion of Malaya, but the Japanese surrender on Aug 15 made the operation unnecessary.

After taking part in the reoccupation of Malaya, Floyer was posted to Java. When he took over as OC 71 Forward Company in Bandung, he was believed to be the youngest major in the Indian army. He returned to Britain in 1946, served for a further year with Central Mediterranean Forces in Padua and was demobilised in 1947.

After leaving the Army Floyer took a degree in Civil Engineering at McGill University, Montreal, and then returned to England for legal studies. He was called to the Bar by Lincoln's Inn.

In 1954 he joined the Burmah Oil Company. He became Burmah's chief representative in Pakistan and Australia, where he was instrumental in securing Burmah's control of the Cooper Basin and gas fields on the North West Shelf.

In 1976 Floyer returned to England to practise at the Bar, before retiring to Devon, where for 10 years he was governor of school for blind and partially-sighted children.

A keen sportsman, he played rugby for Bedford School and Rosslyn Park, and when at McGill re-introduced the game to Canada. He organised an annual match between McGill and Harvard which is still played. He also boxed for the Army at welterweight and was an accomplished oarsman.

Floyer's main passion, though, was sailing, and he helmed dinghies and yachts all over the world. Widely read, he took delight in debate and was fascinated by conceptual developments in the field of Chaos Theory.

David Floyer was twice married and leaves three children.

FACES BEHIND THE FIGURES

Canadian-born oil man well equipped for Australian role

DON KIRKWOOD "The Australian" Sept. 19th , 1971

David Cornish Floyer was appointed chief of the UK-based Burmah Oil group's Australian operations in November last year, on the eve of the company's greatest expansion here to date. Burmah's immediate task is to prove up 3 trillion (million million) cubic feet of natural gas in South Australia's Cooper Basin, and then to develop the field and build a pipeline over about 700 miles to supply the vast Sydney - Newcastle - Wollongong market. There are nine members of the consortium which is to provide the gas and develop the field. But Burmah, through a series of strategic holdings in other consortium members, now occupies a dominant role. Its latest move has been a takeover bid for Sydney-based Reef Oil NL - if successful, it will obtain through Reef a 30 per cent interest in Basin Oil NL, another consortium member.

Floyer is uniquely equipped for the task at hand. Until his appointment to Australia, he had spent 16 years in Pakistan in the Burmah organisation, rising eventually to its leadership. Most of that time was spent in development work. He joined the Burmah organisation in 1954 to go to Pakistan and assist in developing recent gas discoveries there. By the time he left, nine gas fields had been discovered in the Indian sub-continent, and Floyer was concerned in the development of most of them. Today natural gas is of such importance to the western sector of Pakistan that it would not be too much to say that it underpins the local economy.

The problems to be solved there - laying hundreds of miles of pipeline, bringing fields into production - are similar to those the South Australian consortium will have to overcome. Floyer recalls that the geography and the climate resembles that or western New South Wales.

It is development that interests him most of all. "I haven't really ever been a commercial man by instinct," he says. "It's been one sort of developmental project after another."

CONCERN ABOUT INVOLVEMENT

Floyer is also concerned that Burmah's involvement in any one country should be to the benefit of that country - and that brings one to the question of a local public share issue. That is a subject the Burmah group is not saying much about, but it would not be surprising if the group ultimately floats. At this stage Burmah has invested over $35 million in Australia, in a range of interests from lubricating oil to engineering. Profitability ranges around the $2 million a year mark.

Yet that is not the chief Burmah interest here - and, from an exploratory point or view, neither is the Cooper Basin. The North West Shelf, off the West Australian coast, is regarded by Burmah and most other major overseas oil groups as one of the most interesting prospects in the world. So the consortium headed by Burmah is spending $15 million a year in the area, for if oil is found there, the find might rank with the Middle East oilfields as one of the largest in the world. "The sort of structures we're looking at are several times larger than anything in Bass Strait," Floyer says.

Burmah has spent around $25 million there since 1967, and is not discouraged by results so far. In fact, Floyer says, very much more drilling has to be done before the group can really start to get pessimistic about exploration over such a vast area.

Floyer is now 48. His involvement with Burmah followed a long education, and six years in the army in World War II. Floyer was born in Canada, the son of English parents who migrated there after World War I, and despite a long absence from his hometown, Vancouver, he still thinks of Canada as home. He was educated in England, and was about to go to Cambridge University when the war broke out. During the war, he spent some time in India, as it then was; in 1946 he went back to Canada, to university in Montreal. There he took an engineering degree, but decided that he would prefer to be a lawyer. This took him back to Britain at the end of the decade, and he duly went to the Bar.

He had not been in practice for more than a year before Burmah began advertising for engineers to go to Pakistan. "I thought I would like to go back there for a year to have a look around the place," he said, "and I ended up staying there for 16 years."

His sojourn in Australia is not likely to be a long one. He expects that in two years time he will be moving on again. But by that time Burmah, which is generally taking an expansive attitude towards its Australian involvements, should be even more firmly established as a major force in the business community.

And Floyer? He expects to go back to London, to Burmah's headquarters - and then perhaps another stint on a development project in another part of the far-flung Burmah empire.

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