Lieutenant Commander Leslie Edward Ayling RN (Retd)


Leslie Edward Ayling was born in 1928 at Gillingham, Kent and was very proud to be a Man of Kent. In the winter of 1943/44, at the tender age of 15, he followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Royal Navy at Rosyth as an artificer. He quickly showed his mettle and passed out well ahead of his contemporaries. By his early twenties, his potential was fully appreciated by his superiors and he was commissioned as an electronics and weapons engineer.

A keen sea-going man, he served on many ships including HMS Carysfort as WEO from 1966-68.  His final sea going appointment was in HMS Phoebe, the fictional HMS Hero of the famous 1970’s television series 'Warship'.

On a visit to Gibraltar in the summer of 73, during the filming of ‘Warship’, Leslie was introduced at the United Services Officers’ to Gladys Margaret Buttigieg, a teacher. By all accounts Margaret, whom Leslie described as a ‘beautiful gazelle’, caught Leslie's eye and their romance began. Thereafter, Leslie took every opportunity to visit Margaret in Gibraltar and in March 1974, on Margaret’s birthday, they were engaged.

In mid 1974, Leslie managed to get his appointers to post him to Gibraltar as the Senior Systems Engineer. In December 1974, on Leslie's birthday, he married Margaret. Over the next three years Leslie thoroughly enjoyed his tour on the Rock. He was responsible for all naval communication and weapon control systems and helped set up the troposcatter communication system. In 1977 Leslie decided he wanted to remain in Gibraltar and he left his beloved Royal Navy to manage the United Services Officers’ Club, a job offered to him by his former Commanding Officer.

The next few years were not easy. In accepting the modestly-paid Club Manager’s job, he’d placed himself, unwittingly, in a pension-trough and he could no longer count on the comforting cushion of service life and married quarters. He had outside commitments and he had to find some form of additional income. 

At this time he had the vision to realize that there was a future in estate agency work in Gibraltar and Spain. This was a bold move for one of limited means and it was not easy to get going. For a start, the border had been closed for over 8 years. This meant long trips by boat to Estepona and a lot of hard bargaining in what was then a very basic, under-developed market. Leslie found himself a pioneer in estate agency work, a process that was certainly not made easier by a frontier that remained obstinately shut. For the first couple of years, the business made very little money. But, in spite of all the warning signs, he persevered, keeping faith in what he considered bright prospects for property on the Costa del Sol and his belief that the border would once again be opened.

Using part of his naval gratuity, they scraped together enough to buy a small flat in Estepona and their visits to Spain became more frequent. Margaret, by then, had managed to get herself a teaching job with shorter hours and in 1979, Leslie persuaded her to leave teaching altogether and join the business full-time. This was a brave move as profits were hard to come by.

Little by little they managed to get on their feet and by 1983 they were ready to build a villa in the well-known development of Hacienda Guadalupe, closer to Gibraltar. By this time they had succeeded in taking over the development of Punta Almina, by Sabinillas, and later, Aldea Beach. These were important projects numbering 200 and 500 properties respectively and they firmly established Leslie's reputation as a major force in the estate agency business. In 1985 they turned their attention to the prestigious resort of Sotogrande and felt brave enough to build themselves a villa at the centre of the urbanization. By now they had gathered enough momentum to run offices in various locations up and down the Costa del Sol and they were selling properties from Algeciras to Malaga.

Almost single-handedly, he persuaded expatriates to buy property in the very Spanish town of Pueblo Nuevo, adjacent to Sotogrande - hitherto the home exclusively of local Spaniards. Leslie was highly regarded everywhere, not just for his estate agency work but for his keen business sense and unswerving integrity. And at his side, he had the one person he could rely on without reservation, through thick and thin -  his beloved wife and business partner, Margaret.   

However, it was not all wine and roses. In the mid eighties Leslie developed cancer and from then on had to undergo regular treatment to keep the dreaded disease at bay. Nevertheless, not one to be deflected by such a trifling matter, he continued to develop his business and to participate fully in the social life of Sotogrande.

He was a keen golfer and member of Real Sotogrande Golf Club. His easy manner and attractive personality made him many friends and he loved to take the odd break from his gruelling schedule to enjoy the occasional game or two.

Leslie was an attractive man, not just because of his good looks but because of his charm and friendliness. Upon meeting him one was anxious to continue in his company and he, in turn, was generous with his attention.

There were some, however, who thought his calm and easy manner indicated a soft touch. Those who tried to take him for a ride were soon disabused of this notion when they realized they were up against a steely and determined naval officer, ready to provide a robust response to any form of chicanery.  

In his last year, Leslie became progressively more ill and Margaret put aside her work in the office to devote herself exclusively to caring for him. Those who were close to them could not help but he hugely impressed by the loving care and attention she lavished on him.  But there was to be no magic outcome and, on the 28th September, Leslie, the perfect uncomplaining patient, succumbed to his illness and passed away.

Lieutenant Commander Leslie Edward Ayling RN (Retd) was born on 17 December 1928 and died on 28 September 2005, aged 76.