Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Obituary: Ralph Anthony Freeman

29 March 1946 - 15 July 1998.

Anthony was educated at Tonbridge School and at Worcester College Oxford where he obtained a first class honours degree in engineering science.

He was a Fellow of the Institutions of both Civil and the Structural Engineers, and the Welding Institute. Professional recognition culminated in the accolade of Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering before he was 50 years old. These all reflect a full career and a talented engineer.

Anthony lived and breathed engineering and was in his element dealing with large bridge construction, working on site and leading from the front.

He had a very close relationship with his father, Sir Ralph Freeman, who would recount at length what 'Ant' was currently up to. A fax was installed at Sir Ralph's home primarily so that they could communicate more easily - especially useful for drawings and sketches.

Anthony started his career with Maunsell & Partners, working on the elevated section of the Western Avenue in London. He then moved to Fairfield Mabey to work on construction of the mile long Avonmouth Bridge. This is where he gained his lifelong interest in the construction techniques for large steel bridges.

I first met Anthony after his assignment at Avonmouth when he came to work for Freeman Fox &Partners. It was 1974 and he had recently married Julia. Reinforcement of box girders to meet the Merrison criteria was in progress and this work awakened his innovative and inventive skills. The practical experience from Avonmouth enabled him to shine in the office.

But the office was not his natural environment; he preferred the construction site. The family moved to Hong Kong in 1976 where Anthony worked in the Freeman Fox office on the MTR.

But after three years he took a job with MAN in Germany to see first hand the German approach to steel bridge design and construction and to gain proficiency in the German language. The tour lasted three years.

By now Anthony was sure of the direction he wanted to follow - construction of steel bridges. He returned to England and to Fairfield and became site agent on the 4,500t road deck steelwork on the Britannia Rail Bridge in North Wales.

Another job of which he was especially proud was the construction of two steel head frames for NCB at Thorne Colliery. As project manager Anthony was responsible for the construction of these large structures on time and to budget.

In 1982 he moved to the Mabey headquarters office at Wargrave as chief engineer.

Anthony set up as an independent consultant in 1984 which rapidly led to a long spell in Thailand. He had a major involve- ment with the Rama IX bridge in Bangkok, a large cable stayed bridge with a 450m main span. As resident engineer for Hellmut Homburg & Partners, Anthony rediscovered his love of working at the leading edge. He co-authored an inspiring and colourful book about the bridge and its construction that demonstrates his dedication to this successful project.

Subsequently the 3F Consulting Engineering office opened in Bangkok and it prospered under Anthony's direction. He worked on many different types of structures; for example, the cable stayed bridge across the Hooghley river in Calcutta. Arrangement of the cable anchorages required a magician to anchor the cables. Anthony was that magician.

There were many other projects which demonstrated his flair and determination. He was always prepared 'to go beyond the call of duty', to quote just one commendation received by 3F after completion of a project.

The last project was as an adviser to Lusoponte on the Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon. We talked on the telephone the day before the accident. He was enjoying the job but also wondering what the next challenge might be.

Anthony's enthusiasm was infectious - always on the look out for new engineering challenges. He made many friends throughout the world because he was such a good friend and an ingenious engineer. I for one will miss his distinctive and urgent voice on the other end of the telephone line relating the latest adventure.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.