Farewell to the last ‘county engineer’, John Vallis

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A Thanksgiving Service was held in Lillington on Wednesday for the last man to hold the title of Warwickshire’s county engineer (highways and bridges).

John Vallis, who was 91 and lived in The Maltings, Leamington, died earlier this month. After he retired in 1984, the county’s planning and highways departments were merged.

During his career, Mr Vallis designed the standard bridge used over motorways in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and was much involved with planning the routes of the M1, M40 and M25.

Earlier engineering achievements came when he took part in the building of one of the first Bailey bridges over the Rhine while he was serving in World War Two as a lieutenant in the Royal Engineers.

He also volunteered to work at the famous Basra Camp, which later housed British soldiers following the second war with Iraq.

His survey work in Kuwait allowed the sheikh of the Gulf state to excavate a harbour and export the country’s first cargo of crude oil.

In retirement, he worked to develop the Friendship Project for Children in the county. He chaired the local Abbeyfield Home committee and belonged to Leamington Rotary Club, Kenilworth Golf Club and the local U3A (University of the Third Age).

He was also a churchwarden at Lillington Parish Church, where he masterminded the building of the adjacent hall, the Octagon, in the 1980s.

Remarkably, both his own father and that of his widow, Doreen, were also county engineers. He leaves two daughters.

The Thanksgiving Service took place at St Mary Magdalene’s Parish Church.