David Gwilym Morris Roberts

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Gwilym Roberts
Born July 1925 (age 92)
Harlech, Wales
Nationality British
Occupation Engineer
Engineering career
Discipline Civil
Institutions Institution of Civil Engineers (president)

David Gwilym Morris Roberts CBE, FREng[1] (born July 1925) is a British civil engineer. Born in Wales, he grew up in Merseyside before attending Cambridge University. After graduation, he served with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, including several cruises aboard HMS Sheffield, reaching the rank of lieutenant commander. Upon retirement from the Navy Roberts found employment with John Taylor & Sons, where he remained for the rest of his career. He became chairman of the successor Acer Consultants in 1987, holding the post for five years, during which the group's turnover quadrupled and employee numbers trebled.

Roberts worked extensively in the Middle East, largely upon wastewater and water-treatment schemes. He worked with many engineering organisations and became president of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1986. Roberts has written a number of academic papers on diverse subjects and has received awards for many of them. In retirement he remains active in a number of engineering and other organisations.

Early life and military service[edit]

Roberts was born in Harlech, Wales in July 1925.[2][3] His parents, who were both fluent in Welsh, moved to Merseyside where Roberts attended the Merchant Taylors' School, Crosby.[4] In 1943 Roberts went up to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he remained until 1945.[4][5]

Roberts served in the engineering branch of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR), the reserve officer force of the Royal Navy, and undertook his initial training at HMNB Devonport.[4] He served on the cruiser HMS Sheffield whilst she was flagship of the North America and West Indies Station, and made several cruises aboard her to show the flag in South America and the Caribbean, during which time he was transferred to the main Royal Navy with the rank of temporary sub-lieutenant.[4][6] He returned to the RNVR on 7 December 1948 with his rank confirmed as permanent, and seniority backdated to 24 July, and was promoted to lieutenant on 17 August of the next year with seniority again backdated to 24 July.[7] He was subsequently promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander on 25 September 1957 (with seniority again of 24 July) and retired in that rank on 23 April 1963, by which time the RNVR had become the Royal Naval Reserve.[8][9]

Engineering career[edit]

Upon leaving the Sheffield Roberts entered civilian employment as an Assistant Resident Engineer with John Taylor & Sons, a consultancy which specialised in water and wastewater engineering.[4] His first assignment was to a drainage project in Bootle, where he received a wage of £5 per week, before moving to the firm's London offices in 1949.[4] Roberts was sent to Kuwait in 1952 to design that country's first water-distribution system, and began a long-standing association with the Middle East.[4] He was appointed a partner in the firm in 1956 and subsequently provided design work for water-supply projects in Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia, and sewerage projects in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Iraq – including Baghdad's first sewage-treatment scheme.[4] During this time Roberts also worked in the UK, at John Taylor & Sons' Liverpool and Plymouth offices, on the design of marine outfall sewer pipes.[4]

In 1968 Roberts was elected president of the Institution of Public Health Engineers and in 1974 represented the institution on the code-drafting sub-committee of the British Standard for foundations of machinery.[10] Continuing his work with sewerage design at John Taylor & Sons he was part of the team that delivered the Cairo Wastewater Project in 1978, one of the largest public-health engineering projects ever constructed.[4] Roberts became a senior partner at the firm by 1984 and was elected president of the Institution of Civil Engineers for the 1986–87 session.[11][12] He was also a member of the Natural Environment Research Council from August 1987 to July 1993 and was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1987.[13] Roberts became co-chairman, and later chairman, of Acer Consultants, which was formed in 1987 following the merger of John Taylor & Sons with Freeman Fox & Partners. He retired as chairman in 1992, by which time he had overseen a quadrupling of the group's turnover and a trebling of staff numbers.[4]

During his career Roberts also served as chairman of the British Geological Survey, of the Football Stadia Advisory Design Council, the Second Severn Crossing Technical Adjudication Panel and as Visiting Professor at Loughborough University.[4] He was also the Royal Academy of Engineering[1]'s honorary secretary for civil engineering and Fellow,[1] a fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, an Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management and was named one of Britain's four major international engineers of the 20th century by The Sunday Times.[4] He was also a frequent academic author, collaborating with 114 co-authors on at least 19 articles in recognised journals.[14] These covered topics including marine engineering, sewage treatment, highways and engineering history, and were recognised by the award of the Institution of Civil Engineers' Stephenson Medal & Halcrow Premium, and the Institution of Public Health Engineers' gold and silver medals.[4][14] On 21 July 2015, at the age of 89, he delivered the Smeaton Lecture at the Institution of Civil Engineers.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Roberts married Rosemary Giles in 1960 and they had two children together. Rosemary died in 1973 and Roberts subsequently married Wendy Moore in 1978.[4] He remains involved with his alma mater, becoming president of the Merchant Taylors' School Old Boys' Association in 1998 and remains an honorary fellow of Sidney Sussex College, to which he had made charitable donations.[4] [16][17] He has also donated to the Royal Academy of Engineering[1] Development Appeal.[18] Roberts is currently a director of the Newcomen Society for the Study of History of Engineering and Technology, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Companies of Constructors, Engineers and Water Conservators and a member of his parish council.[3][4] He lives near Wivelsfield in East Sussex.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d "List of Fellows". 
  2. ^ Masterton, Gordon (2005), ICE Presidential Address, archived from the original on 3 January 2011, retrieved 24 October 2010 
  3. ^ a b "David Gwilym Morris Roberts". Director Check. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Roberts, Gwilym (2006). Chelsea to Cairo – 'Taylor-made' Water Through Eleven Reigns and in Six Continents A History of John Taylor & Sons and their predecessors. London: Thomas Telford. pp. 272–4. ISBN 0 7277 3411 3. 
  5. ^ "Thankyou to all who have supported Sidney Sussex in 2009 & 2010". Pheon magazine. Sidney Sussex College. Retrieved 5 August 2012. 
  6. ^ "No. 37872". The London Gazette. 4 February 1947. p. 616. 
  7. ^ "No. 38699". The London Gazette. 26 August 1949. p. 4131. 
  8. ^ "No. 41192". The London Gazette. 4 October 1957. p. 5764. 
  9. ^ "No. 43075". The London Gazette. 6 August 1963. p. 6641. 
  10. ^ "British Standard CP 2012-1 1974". scribd.com. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  11. ^ "Costs and Benefits of Estuarine and Coastal Pollution Control". IWA Publishing. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  12. ^ Institution of Civil Engineers. "Past Presidents". Archived from the original on 22 August 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2008. 
  13. ^ "Research Councils". Hansard. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  14. ^ a b "DGM ROBERTS". Journalogy.net. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  15. ^ "Smeaton Lecture 2015". ice. Retrieved 13 November 2015. 
  16. ^ "Presidents". Merchant Taylors' Old Boys' Association. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  17. ^ "New Donations to the College". Pheon magazine. Sidney Sussex College. Archived from the original on 6 March 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  18. ^ "Annual Report 2007/8" (PDF). Royal Academy of Engineering. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  19. ^ "Director Details – Mr David Gwilym Morris Roberts CBE FEng FICE FIMechE". UKData.com. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 

Professional and academic associations
Preceded by
Donald Reeve
President of the Institution of Civil Engineers
November 1986 – November 1987
Succeeded by
William Francis