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Bury St Edmund: Tributes are paid to Air Marshal Sir Reginald Harland

PUBLISHED: 19:19 31 July 2013 | UPDATED: 19:19 31 July 2013

Air Marshal Sir Reginald Harland in Bury St Edmunds.

Air Marshal Sir Reginald Harland in Bury St Edmunds.

A well-known figure in Bury St Edmunds who has been described as a “remarkable man” has passed away aged 93.

Air Marshal Sir Reginald Harland, who was president of local preservation group the Bury Society, died yesterday morning at Risby Park Nursing Home.

Sir Reginald, known as Reggie, was a former senior RAF commander and had played an active role in community life in the town.

His son Michael, 66, from Berkshire, said his father had been ill in hospital and had only recently been discharged into the nursing home.

He said: “My father was a remarkable man in so many ways. From carving a distinguished career to raising five children, he (with my mother firmly behind him) was a guiding light and role model. A tough act to follow.

“For myself, he taught me to question everything, to try and understand as much as possible, never to take things for granted nor to make assumptions and, last but not least, to listen to other people’s points of view. He had a fine eye for detail and was exceptionally good at explaining things.”

He said life had been “exciting” too with postings overseas to California and Singapore, where they would soak up local culture and sights. “In Singapore I had his undivided attention for most weekends as we shared a love of sailing dinghy racing.”

He said his father would be much missed by himself, son David, daughter Sarah and his nine grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

Sir Reginald’s wife Lady Doreen Harland died in November 2011 aged 88. They also had a daughter Diana and son Patrick, but they are deceased.

Alan Jary, chairman of the Bury Society, said Sir Reginald was “quite incredible,” “just a lovely man and very much a part of Bury St Edmunds”.

He said Sir Reginald, who had been involved with the Bury Society for 30 years and was also a member of the local Probus club, was also “very humble”.

Mr Jary said: “He was passionately interested in his family history. He was passionately interested in local government and national government.

“He had such a broad base of knowledge and could spare so much energy to fight for the causes he really believed in and the things he believed in.

“Most of his local letters [to the newspapers] were to do with the development of car parking in the town, the development of the Cattle Market.”

Sir Reginald, who had formerly lived in Northgate Street and Crown Street in Bury, had been working on two books at the time of his death: one on his family member shipbuilder Sir Edward Harland and the other was his own autobiography.

He had also worked on published books on the Thailand Burma railway and on the well-known surgeon W H C Romanis who was his father-in-law.

John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “He was a fantastically energetic, active and interested man and always cheerful and will be very much missed and fondly remembered by very many people in this area.”

A funeral service for family only is taking place at West Suffolk Crematorium on August 9 and there will be a memorial service at St Mary’s Church in Bury St Edmunds at 2pm the same day which anyone can attend.

Donations if desired can be made to the RAF Benevolent Fund care of Armstrongs Independent Funeral Service at 43 St Andrew’s Street North in Bury St Edmunds.

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