The Obituary of William Desmond (Bill) Holden

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(August 1922-November 2017)

Bill was born on 1st August 1922, to Walter and Georgina Holden.  He was an only child.  He lived initially on Wigan Road in Westhoughton, then on Manchester Road, before the family moved to St John’s Road in Chew Moor in 1929.  Bill went to St Thomas’ School in Lostock, until he took the entrance exams for Bolton School in 1932.  He started there in September 1933, aged 11.  He left Bolton School in 1940, when he was 18, and went to work at the Chemical Defence Research Establishment in St Helens, synthesising mustard gas and other poisonous gases.

He worked there until 1941, when he decided to volunteer to join the RAF.  He was accepted, having astonished the RAF assessor by returning perfect 100% marks in all the entrance exams (The first time that this had ever been achieved), with the remark along the lines of…“Tha’s made of some pretty good stuff, lad !”

Bill went off to train, firstly in London, then Babbacombe, Devon, and then off to Canada and America. He got his ‘wings’ on 16th May 1942.  Bill spent most of his time in the RAF in, and around Africa, including Sierra Leone, Cairo and Aden, and then in the Middle East.  Later on, Bill was also stationed in Normandy, Ghent in Belgium, and Hamburg.

Bill married Annie on 12th May, 1945.  He was demobbed in June 1946, and started as a student at Manchester University in 1946.  He studied there until 1949, when he graduated and began his career at W & J Leigh & Co, rising to the position of Chief Chemist – a position that he held with distinction until he took early retirement in 1984 to look after Annie, who was not in the best of health at the time.  As with everything, he did a good job – they were married for 67 years by the time she passed in July 2012.

Bill (Often affectionately referred to as ‘BDH’ in general conversation amongst Leigh’s staff, but always a respectful ‘Mr Holden’ in his presence) was renowned for his encyclopaedic knowledge of anything connected with paint technology, and his approachability and willingness to share this knowledge with any of his staff, from laboratory managers right down to the most junior technician.

Bill was an avid reader of all the technical journals and had an incredible photographic retention of the information, right down to the date and issue number of any given paper…  Forget Google – Mr Holden was way ahead of the game in terms of a reference source for any information that you needed!  He was an active supporter of the Institute of Corrosion and for two years was Chairman of the North-West Branch. In addition, he was a 50-year life-member of the Oil & Colour Chemists Association.

Bill also read and absorbed every single report produced by his R&D team, and would frequently summon a nervous young lab technician into his office to discuss a project, which usually concluded with the dreaded question…”So what do you think we should do next ?”… After listening intently to the junior’s fumbling attempt at an answer for Plan ‘B’, he would typically reply…”Yes, very good, try that; and while you’re at it you might also want to try… “ (Plans ‘C’, ‘D’ and ‘E’). Of course, Bill’s ideas were always the ones which worked best, but he would never discourage his staff from trying anything (within reason!) and to learn from their experimental failures as well as successes.

Outside of work Bill enjoyed many things including gardening, tennis, badminton, painting, photography, yoga, family history, music, dancing, walking and travel.  He enjoyed doing many of those things with his family, including his two daughters, son-in-law, three grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Even in retirement, right up until the last few years – having suffered a stroke in 2013 – Bill would visit the laboratory for a guided tour prior to the annual Christmas party held for retired Leigh’s staff – Joe Nugent, Harold Twyford and Roy Lindley amongst them, who also were staunch ICorr supporters; and he always showed a keen interest and understanding of whatever he was shown, although the news that the lab samples were no longer made by ball mill did not go down at all well.

With typical Bill Holden thoughtfulness and thoroughness, he’d left a recorded message that was played at his funeral, and very typically it was supportive of everyone else rather than concern for his own situation.

Bill Holden will be fondly remembered as a great leader, mentor and most importantly an absolute gentleman.


Compiled by Malcolm Morris and Bill Cox

London Branch 8th February 2018 Meeting

The Use of EIS as a Predictive Tool for Coating Lifetime


Dustin Traylor – Axalta Global Product Manager

Dr Stephen Drew – Axalta EMEA Coatings Leader

This presentation will evaluate the use of Electro Chemical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIC) to assess the adhesive strength of FBE to the steel of transmission pipe and its use as a predictive tool to determine the lifetime of FBE coating systems

The technique has now been adopted by Aramco and Chevron and gaining credibility as a useful tool in the pipeline market.


 Venue:         Imperial College, Skempton Building, London SW7 2BB

18.00  Doors Open – Networking

18:30  Presentation

21.00  Close


For further information please contact or

ICorr – London Meeting – 8th February 2018[5539]

The 29th Institute of Corrosion Lunch at The Royal Overseas League

The 29th Institute of Corrosion Lunch at The Royal Overseas League, was another huge success with 177 people attending the event in Mayfair London.

 Guests started to arrive at 11.30 for a pre-dinner drink and were seated by 12.30 for the first of two acts by The Sirens a singing quartet. It was really well received and set the scene for the afternoon. The meal was excellent and congratulations to the ROSL who never disappoint. After lunch the Chair of London Branch thanked everyone for their continued support of The Institute and in particular London Branch, the organising committee and the Branch Committee who continue to drive the Institute in London forward.

The 2 new initiatives were mentioned; Young Engineer Training Program and Route to Chartered Status which start in January 2018, along with the two new training programs; Fundamentals of Corrosion and the CP Training Program.

The President addressed the guests to a rapturous applause once again thanking everyone for their support and explaining the Institute has exciting plans that will start in Q1 2018.

After the raffle two guests were honoured with a small gift following their highly acclaimed Tallow Chandler award for their work in Materials and Corrosion, a tremendous achievement by Charlotte Vie in 2016 and Simon Bowcock in 2017.

The timing for the event this year was slightly different allowing guests to socialise and network at the ROSL until 7.00pm which appeared to be extremely popular; lots of notes being taken and exchanging of business cards.

Thanks again to all those that assisted in the organisation of the event and we look forward to another exciting event in December 2018

To see the complete newsletter please click link below;

ICorr – London Branch Annual Christmas Lunch 2017

Influence of H2S on the Pit to Crack Transition in Sour Testing of Corrosion Resistant Alloys

James Hesketh – National Physical Laboratory

Stable pitting is a precursor to sulphide stress corrosion cracking (SSCC), which is one of the main causes of failure of stainless steel pipelines used in sour Oil and Gas production. Despite this, the underlying mechanism governing the growth of such pits is poorly understood, and hence materials selection for sour service is dependent upon costly and time consuming environmental exposure and SSCC test programmes.

In this study we investigate the role of hydrogen sulphide (H2S) in pit propagation as a first step towards the development of accelerated test methods for SSCC resistance. Novel electrochemical techniques are employed to determine the relationship between bulk solution chemistry and the critical pit chemistry required to induce stable pitting in sour environments.

Electrochemical measurements are correlated with results obtained from standard SSCC tests and are rationalised in terms of the balance between H2S diffusion through the pit mouth, H2S consumption within the pit and the role of the external cathode.

The implications for more informed and cost-effective materials selection are discussed.

For copy of the newsletter please click the link

London Branch News – NOV17 – James Hesketh[5479]