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19 March, 2013

by David Young

The Guardian, UK, in its online edition, published the following obituary of IofC volunteer David Howell, written by David Young, on 27 February:

David on his 97th birthday on 23 March 2012
David on his 97th birthday on 23 March 2012
My friend David Howell, who has died aged 97, devoted himself to reconciliation between former enemies following the second world war. A navigator in Bomber Command himself during the war, he was on his 24th mission over Germany when his plane began to ice up. The crew baled out and were captured.

The German officer who interrogated David admitted that the war would soon be over. 'What do you think will happen to my country?' he asked David, who replied: 'I feel our countries need a new spirit based on doing what is right, running things the way God shows.' 'That is the first time I have heard that answer,' said the interrogator.

David told the German officer how he had made a new start in life on the basis of absolute moral standards. 'They are like a beam you can always fly along,' David said.

Overnight he wrote out what he saw for a new Germany and gave it to his interrogator. 'Thank you,' the man said, 'My name is Eitel Von Schilling.'

Nine years later, David was visiting Mannheim in Germany and discovered that Von Schilling was the editor of the city's Mannheimer Morgen newspaper. They met and the editor told David that he had never forgotten their conversation. He had even presented some of David's ideas in his paper. David said that, for him, 'it was a dramatic and moving moment, marking the beginning of a warm friendship which lasted through the years'.

David was born in Kincardine, Perthshire, the third of four children, and brought up in Paisley, where his father was moderator of Paisley Abbey. After Glasgow University, where he encountered the Moral Re-Armament (MRA) movement, David worked with a firm of market gardeners in Dundee until joining the RAF. After the war, Howell focused his time on MRA's reconciliation work, helping to build the peace in Europe.

In 1957, he married Suzanne, daughter of Rear Admiral Sir Edward Cochrane, whose family had long connections with South American countries. David and Suzanne worked in South America with MRA's work building bridges between communities and countries. They did not have children, but many young Latin Americans looked on them as mentors.

Following the Falklands war in 1982, David became a member of the South Atlantic Council, promoting understanding between Britain, Argentina and the islanders.

Suzanne died in 2011; David was diagnosed with liver cancer 10 days before he died. He had the best of Scottish characteristics: a steady character and wide vision combined with humanity, humour and dignity.


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