Date added: 21 Feb 2009
Flight Lieutenant Rex Hayman Chapple, RAF (Ret’d)
22 February 1923 – 8 August 2008
Rex joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve and was accepted for Pilot training at the beginning of the war awaiting full call-up (due to his age). In 1941 he became an Under/Training (U/T) Cadet Pilot being sworn in at Viceroy Court, London. He carried out his basic and technical training at Brighton and Scarborough before going to RAF Brough for flying aptitude testing. Following this Rex travelled to Canada, on the Queen Elizabeth, for his initial pilot training stopping off at RCAF Moncton and then on to RCAF Neepawa, Manitoba for his Elementary Flying Training School (Tiger Moths and Magisters). The final stage was off to RCAF Swift Current, Saskatchewan (39 FTS) flying Airspeed Oxfords and graduating with his coveted ‘wings’.
He returned to the UK in the regular RAF as a Sergeant Pilot going to the Central Flying School (RAF Hullavington), 6(P)AFU (RAF Little Rissington as an instructor), on to RAF Cark (AoC) and then to flying Avro Ansons in Maritime Air Defence Northern Approaches and Atlantic on anti-submarine duties protecting British shipping. He was then posted to staff pilot training (using Tiger Moths 82A/C), became a Warrant Officer and was later posted to 271 Squadron (DC3 Dakotas) flying the Dakota YS-A as captain (Skipper), carrying out amongst other tasks mercy flights (medical supplies in/casualties back home) to and from Malta during the final stages of its siege.
During the latter part of the war, still in 271 Squadron and alongside such noteable names as Flt Lt David Lord VC (posthumous award) and Jimmy Edwards (later to become a well known comedy actor), he was involved in Operation Market Garden towing gliders and paratroops/supply drops at Arnhem (memorised in the epic film ‘A Bridge Too Far’) and carried out more missions during and after the invasion of Europe. After the war, his silver painted Dakota carried troops plus senior officers (including Montgomery) to foreign bases. He also flew lawyers to the Nuremberg war crimes trials and participated in the Berlin airlift blockade relief in 1948. The RAF then loaned him (and other pilots) to assist the civil airlines including BEA, BOAC and Laker Airways until these airlines were again stable.
Many years later, he took one of his sons to enrol in an Air Training Corps Squadron (not surprisingly located on the local airport!) and was once again smitten with and drawn his love of the RAF. This prompted him to join as an instructor and he eventually went on to put back on his RAF uniform and command a very successful ATC squadron. He organised many prestigious Squadron events locally and far afield (including marching the Squadron with it’s band down the Kingsway in London for a re-dedication service in the RAF Church of St Clement Dane) drawing in many areas of the community including local dignitaries and personnel from far afield. He inspired many cadets through his example and enthusiasm to go on and accomplish great things in their own lives, some to become successful RAF officers and airmen.
Whilst in this RAFVR role Rex managed to continue his love of flying and continually managed to use his inevitable persuasion (and sometimes charm!) to secure opportunities to fly many other RAF/civil aircraft including such types as the Viking, DC8, Comet, VC10, Dominie, BAC1-11, Wessex, Canberra, Jetstream, Jet Provost and as a finale to his RAF service in his retirement year flying his best loved Dakota aircraft (the last remaining Dakota in RAF colours) at RAE Farnborough (KG661) in 1978 (to the Abingdon International Air Show on 14/15 September). This aircraft is now part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and with irony was repainted in the 271 Squadron colours YS-DM.
Following his retirement from the RAFVR in 1978 he worked tirelessly to organise air-shows for Southend-on-Sea and charity work/events for the Cannon Cinemas Charities, RAF Association and RAF Benevolent Fund including setting up fund raising stands at many airshows, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for the latter over the past 20 plus years (as well as visiting and supporting many RAF veterans) making many contacts and friends along the way.
Throughout his life his strength was in his Faith and the underlying love and commitment to his family and friends, in good and bad times, always being there for support, advice and guidance whilst never losing his great sense of humour and comic wit. His two sons and their families are thankful that they were fortunate enough to have had the privilege of having such a wonderful, caring person in their lives who selflessly dedicated so much of his own life to the benefit, service and support of others.