Family Group Sheet
Family Group Sheet
NameSir Charles Williams WILLINK
Birth1929
Death2009
EducationEton and Trinity College Cambridge.
SpouseElizabeth “Eliza” ANDREWES
Children
Notes for Sir Charles Williams WILLINK
2nd Baronet. Of Dingle Bank. Master at Eton 1954-77.

Obituary From The Times

March 19, 2009

Sir Charles Willink: classical scholar and teacher

Sir Charles Willink, 2nd Bt, who died in London on March 10 aged 79, was a classical scholar and one of those involved in the idea to reconstruct, in the 1980s, the trireme, the Greek warship which brought about the conquest of the Mediterranean by the Athenians.

The galley, which carried 170 oarsmen on three levels and a fearsome bronze battering arm at her prow, was the ship that won the battle of Salamis in 480BC, when a small Athenian fleet drove the great Persian navy from the Mediterranean, the Persian commander Xerxes losing a fifth of the ships in his 1,000-strong fleet. The trireme (properly, the trieres) was extremely fast and manoeuvrable, and used its speed to incapacitate larger vessels and break their oars.
How it was constructed, however, was one of the great unsolved riddles of classical times, since no wreckage existed; and many thought it unlikely that such a ship could have achieved the speed necessary to ram larger vessels.

In April 1982 Charles Willink, a Classics master at Eton, was at a dinner party in Westmorland when one of the guests, a banker called Frank Welsh, suggested trying to reconstruct the trireme from the clues in literature and a few fragments of pottery.

Willink persuaded Welsh that he should get in touch with John Morrison, the classical scholar and first president of Wolfson College, Cambridge, who had been Willink's tutor at Cambridge and had been fascinated by triremes since boyhood.

Later that year Welsh, Morrison and the naval architect John Coates established the Trireme Trust. After six years of trial builds they succeeded in securing £400,000 from the Greek government to construct a full-scale trireme, which they demonstrated in the Aegean with a crew drawn mostly from English university boat clubs.

The design posed a considerable problem, since much of the reconstruction was based on a tiny painted fragment of a broken cup held at Vienna University. Of the three other fragmentary illustrations on pottery or sculpture, all were too crude to show the nature of the joints and the strengthening required for a narrow hull that was being used as a battering ram; and despite copious and colourful descriptions, by Aristophanes and others, of the conditions in which the oarsmen worked and the bustling trireme ports, technical information was absent.

The ship was around 120ft long and only 18ft wide, and with the oarsmen on three levels, the length and steep angles of the upper oars posed difficult questions for the maritime experts advising on construction. The biggest question was how such a large number of oarsmen could row in unison when their blades were a mere 30cm apart, let alone perform with such finesse through metre-high waves. It was feared that the trireme could never justify the stories of her speed and agility.

The launch in Piraeus harbour in 1987, however, of the reconstructed trireme Olympias – attended with great fanfare by the Greek government's minister of culture, Melina Mercouri – demonstrated that, even with an inexperienced modern crew, the vessel could achieve more than nine knots, and that her speed depended on the vertical synchronisation of her oarsmen rather than the horizontal. The ship was so manoeuvrable that she could turn 360 degrees in under two boat lengths and within two minutes.
In 1993 the trireme was taken to London, where Charles Willink watched as she raced up and down the Thames past the Houses of Parliament.

Eleven years later she featured in the progress of the Olympic torch before the Athens Games. The vessel is now exhibited at the Faliron Ship Museum in Athens.

Charles William Willink was born in London on September 10 1929, the elder son of Henry Willink, who would become MP for Croydon North and then Churchill's minister of health (1943-45) and was created a baronet in 1957.

At Eton, Charles was a contemporary and close friend of Douglas Hurd, later Foreign Secretary, who wrote in his memoirs: "In a carefree manner, without any signs of exceptional study, Charles swept the board in every classical examination continuously through his five years in College. It was impossible to catch him – or to be maddened by his superiority. He was not ambitious in other spheres, never boasted, never sought fame, was always good-tempered. He was totally attuned to the curriculum of our time, and to playing bridge."

Charles Willink read Classics at Trinity College, Cambridge, then taught at Marlborough before becoming Eton's Classics master in 1954. Over the next 31 years he specialised in the study of Greek tragedy and metre and was acknowledged as a world expert at construing meaning in passages of obscure text. His edition of Euripides's Orestes, published by Oxford University Press, became a standard, and he also published important commentaries on The Bacchae and Aeschylus's Agamemnon, and several key papers on Greek tragedy and metre.

He became a housemaster at Eton and, on retirement, an expert botanist who took a particular interest in the flora of Hampstead Heath. He was also chairman of Highgate cemetery.

He succeeded in the baronetcy in 1973 on the death of his father.

Charles Willink married, in 1954, the painter Elizabeth Andrewes. She survives him with their son Edward, who succeeds in the baronetcy, and their daughter Penelope.



 
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Willink at Eton, where he was a housemaster
The galley, which carried 170 oarsmen on three levels and a fearsome bronze battering arm at her prow, was the ship that won the battle of Salamis in 480BC, when a small Athenian fleet drove the great Persian navy from the Mediterranean, the Persian commander Xerxes losing a fifth of the ships in his 1,000-strong fleet. The trireme (properly, the trieres) was extremely fast and manoeuvrable, and used its speed to incapacitate larger vessels and break their oars.
How it was constructed, however, was one of the great unsolved riddles of classical times, since no wreckage existed; and many thought it unlikely that such a ship could have achieved the speed necessary to ram larger vessels.
 
In April 1982 Charles Willink, a Classics master at Eton, was at a dinner party in Westmorland when one of the guests, a banker called Frank Welsh, suggested trying to reconstruct the trireme from the clues in literature and a few fragments of pottery.

Willink persuaded Welsh that he should get in touch with John Morrison, the classical scholar and first president of Wolfson College, Cambridge, who had been Willink's tutor at Cambridge and had been fascinated by triremes since boyhood.

Later that year Welsh, Morrison and the naval architect John Coates established the Trireme Trust. After six years of trial builds they succeeded in securing £400,000 from the Greek government to construct a full-scale trireme, which they demonstrated in the Aegean with a crew drawn mostly from English university boat clubs.

The design posed a considerable problem, since much of the reconstruction was based on a tiny painted fragment of a broken cup held at Vienna University. Of the three other fragmentary illustrations on pottery or sculpture, all were too crude to show the nature of the joints and the strengthening required for a narrow hull that was being used as a battering ram; and despite copious and colourful descriptions, by Aristophanes and others, of the conditions in which the oarsmen worked and the bustling trireme ports, technical information was absent.

The ship was around 120ft long and only 18ft wide, and with the oarsmen on three levels, the length and steep angles of the upper oars posed difficult questions for the maritime experts advising on construction. The biggest question was how such a large number of oarsmen could row in unison when their blades were a mere 30cm apart, let alone perform with such finesse through metre-high waves. It was feared that the trireme could never justify the stories of her speed and agility.
The launch in Piraeus harbour in 1987, however, of the reconstructed trireme Olympias – attended with great fanfare by the Greek government's minister of culture, Melina Mercouri – demonstrated that, even with an inexperienced modern crew, the vessel could achieve more than nine knots, and that her speed depended on the vertical synchronisation of her oarsmen rather than the horizontal. The ship was so manoeuvrable that she could turn 360 degrees in under two boat lengths and within two minutes.
In 1993 the trireme was taken to London, where Charles Willink watched as she raced up and down the Thames past the Houses of Parliament.

Eleven years later she featured in the progress of the Olympic torch before the Athens Games. The vessel is now exhibited at the Faliron Ship Museum in Athens.

Charles William Willink was born in London on September 10 1929, the elder son of Henry Willink, who would become MP for Croydon North and then Churchill's minister of health (1943-45) and was created a baronet in 1957.

At Eton, Charles was a contemporary and close friend of Douglas Hurd, later Foreign Secretary, who wrote in his memoirs: "In a carefree manner, without any signs of exceptional study, Charles swept the board in every classical examination continuously through his five years in College. It was impossible to catch him – or to be maddened by his superiority. He was not ambitious in other spheres, never boasted, never sought fame, was always good-tempered. He was totally attuned to the curriculum of our time, and to playing bridge."

Charles Willink read Classics at Trinity College, Cambridge, then taught at Marlborough before becoming Eton's Classics master in 1954. Over the next 31 years he specialised in the study of Greek tragedy and metre and was acknowledged as a world expert at construing meaning in passages of obscure text. His edition of Euripides's Orestes, published by Oxford University Press, became a standard, and he also published important commentaries on The Bacchae and Aeschylus's Agamemnon, and several key papers on Greek tragedy and metre.

He became a housemaster at Eton and, on retirement, an expert botanist who took a particular interest in the flora of Hampstead Heath. He was also chairman of Highgate cemetery.

He succeeded in the baronetcy in 1973 on the death of his father.

Charles Willink married, in 1954, the painter Elizabeth Andrewes. She survives him with their son Edward, who succeeds in the baronetcy, and their daughter Penelope.
Notes for Elizabeth “Eliza” ANDREWES
Artist
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