THE funeral of a war hero who later became a respected businessman – working at the heart of Burton’s brewing history for more than 60 years – is to be held later this month.
As reported in the Mail, Keith Hornby Priestnall died on February 16 at the age of 87.
As well as numerous tales from his time working with many of the town’s brewers and as an after-dinner speaker later in life, friends have also lifted the lid on an eventful naval career during the Second World War in the years before he entered into the business world.
Keen to join the war effort as soon as possible, Mr Priestnall, the son of the former vicar of Stapenhill Rev Thomas Hornby Priestnall, joined the Royal Navy in 1943 at the age of 17 after leaving Burton Grammar School.
After singing up for ‘hazardous duties’ aboard HMS Dauntless, it was clear that Mr Priestnall wasn’t one to shy from dangerous tasks, even if, as long-time friend Martin Astle explained, he found himself in the role without knowing too much about it.
Mr Astle said: “Although he didn’t know exactly what he was volunteering for when he took on hazardous duties, he subsequently trained as a submariner in X-Craft submarines.
“These midget submarines were designed to be towed to their intended area of operation by a larger submarine and would then, with their crew of three or four, lay two-ton explosive charges underneath the hull of a moored enemy warship and escape.
“Needless to say these were very dangerous operations and demanded the highest bravery and supreme professional skills.
“It is a testimony to the bravery of these men that 68 awards were gained on active service, including four Victoria Crosses.”
It was after leaving the Navy following the end of the war that Mr Priestnall turned his attention to business, setting up his first company to produce beer mats.
But his love of the open water never diminished, with most of his time spent away from his business devoted to the Burton Sea Cadets, of which he was the president.
Remembering his former friend and colleague, Tony Cooke, a lieutenant commander at the sea cadets, based in Stapenhill, said: “He changed my life in 1957 when he welcomed me into the cadets – that’s how long he had been doing good. He gave us a chance.
“I could never understand why people like Keith were never recognised publicly.
“He kept the place going and people like me would probably be somewhere else now if it wasn’t for him.
“It’s probably 300 kids he’s helped to put on the straight and narrow by taking them on here.”
Mr Priestnall’s funeral will be held 12.30pm on Wednesday, March 27, at St Modwen’s Parish Church, Market Place, Burton.