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Page last updated at 11:58 GMT, Monday, 1 December 2008

Veterans pass on the baton

By Nick Serpell
BBC Obituary Unit

Sydney Lucas
Lucas became a plumber after World War II
Our regular column covering the passing of significant - but lesser-reported - people of the past month.

Syd Lucas was, at 108, one of the last surviving British servicemen from World War I. Born in Leicester he was conscripted into the army in August 1918 and underwent training in Yorkshire but the Armistice was signed before he could be sent to the Western Front. He emigrated to Australia in 1928 and volunteered for the Australian army in 1940. His unit was sent to Greece in 1941 but a severe bout of appendicitis meant Lucas was left behind to guard Italian prisoners of war. His health got worse and he was invalided out of the army later that year and returned to his old calling as a plumber.

Someone even older than Syd Lucas was Edna Parker who at the time of her death was 115 and recognised, by the Guinness Book of World Records, as the world's oldest human being. Born in Indiana in 1893 she taught at a local school before marrying her next door neighbour Earl Parker. He died in 1938 and she lived alone in their farmhouse until she was 100. She witnessed no fewer than 20 US presidents during her lifetime.

Without Stella Hillier it's possible that Dylan Thomas's masterpiece, Under Milk Wood, might never have seen the light of day. Hillier was a BBC producer who worked on Radio Newsreel during the war, and joined the newly created Radio Features department in 1945. She was given the task of controlling some of the more wayward characters who were then writing for the BBC, including Rene Cutforth, Louis MacNeice and Dylan Thomas. The latter, who was notorious for missing his deadlines, had to be hauled out of a local pub by Hillier and he finished the script in her office. The production, featuring Richard Burton as First Voice, was broadcast on the Third Programme and won the Italia Prize for radio fiction in 1954.

Dudley Savage in hospital
Savage visited patients as part of his requests show
The BBC faced one of its biggest ever protests after axing a hospital request radio show presented by Dudley Savage. The programme, As Prescribed, was launched in 1948 on the West of England Home Service, and featured the Cornish-born Savage live from the ABC cinema in Plymouth. He both presented the show and played requests on the organ for listeners who were in hospital. When the BBC stopped the broadcasts in 1968 it received a petition with more than 40,000 signatures which was delivered to the Corporation by protestors carrying banners. The BBC finally relented and the programme was reinstated and, later, transferred to Radio 2, although the much-loved organ pieces were replaced by records.

Records by rapper MC Breed would probably not have made it on to As Prescribed. He was born Eric Breed in Flint, Michigan, "a city where pity runs low", according to one of his early lyrics. His first big hit was Ain't No Future in Yo' Frontin' in 1991, blended New York hop hop with the sound of synthesisers. . He went on to release 13 albums including MC Breed and DFC and 20 Below. His later records showed a more funky sound with the influence of West Coast gangster rap. He worked with a number of top rap artists including Ice Cube and Dr Dre.

Slinky (picture courtesy of rknickme)
Slinkies captivated a generation of children (picture courtesy of rknickme)
The coil-shaped springy toy, known as the Slinky, was named by Betty James, the co-founder of the company that made it. The Slinky was designed by her husband, a naval engineer, who asked his wife to come up with a name for the product. The toy was launched in 1945 since when, millions of children, and many adults, have watched it tumble down staircases across the world. When asked to explain the success of such a simple toy Betty James pointed out that it did not need batteries and never had to be wound up.

Sydney Opera House
The opera house has become a symbol of Australia
The man responsible for one of the world's most famous landmarks never visited it after it was completed. Thirty-three years after the Sydney Opera House opened, Danish architect Jorn Utzon designed a new wing in 2006. But a dispute over costs led to a strained relationship with his Australian client and he turned down invitations to visit. he won many awards for his portfolio, which included the National Assembly of Kuwait and several prominent buildings in Denmark.

Among others who died in November were the creator of Jurassic Park and ER, Michael Crichton, former Northern Ireland Chief Constable, Sir John Hermon, former BBC weatherman, Jack Scott, Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer, Mitch Mitchell and comedy actor Reg Varney.

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