Tributes to Suffolk airman

A FAMILY has paid tribute to a former squadron leader decorated with the Air Force Cross, who has died aged 79.Bill Watford, from Lockington Crescent in Stowmarket, served with the RAF for 43 years and saw action as a pilot throughout World War Two.

A FAMILY has paid tribute to a former squadron leader decorated with the Air Force Cross, who has died aged 79.

Bill Watford, from Lockington Crescent in Stowmarket, served with the RAF for 43 years and saw action as a pilot throughout World War Two.

Mr Watford had served across the country and abroad, including after his flying days as a senior air traffic controller and bases including RAF Marham, Norfolk and at Wattisham Airfield, and finished his career as a community relations officer at Honington.

During his long career he had flown everything from spitfires and hurricanes to meteors, where he had a training role, and vulcans.


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During World War Two he served as a pilot in regions and countries including Italy and the Middle East.

His plane was downed in the Middle East and his family were informed he was missing in action, presumed dead.

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In fact he had been found by some locals, slung over a donkey and taken to an RAF hospital where the locals demanded money to hand him over to the British.

During his career in the RAF he was made up to squadron leader during the early 1970s and was decorated with the Air Force Cross, an honour he received at Buckingham Palace, before retiring during the 1980s.

The Rev Robin Jack, priest-in-charge at Old Newton where his funeral service was held yesterday, said: "Bill loved the RAF and didn't want to retire, but when it came in Stowmarket retirement was a time of great contentment.

"He was a quiet, easy-going man who was the master of the understatement. A hurricane was a stiff breeze. But Bill had discovered the real secret of happiness in that he was happy with what he had.''

Mr Watford, who was born in Aldershot in to an Army family, leaves a wife Zeta, and three daughters, Wendy Smith from Old Newton, Anne Tribe from Beck Row near Mildenhall and Carol Crowder, from Leamington Spa.

His family describe him as private, self-effacing man who was always content with life and never complained, a devoted husband, wonderful father, truly an officer and a gentleman.

Mr Watford's funeral was held on Thursday, September 4, at St Mary's church in Old Newton, near Stowmarket.

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