Remembered by: Jennifer Bell
Date added: 15 Feb 2012
Air Commodore W H Pope OBE, known to all as Bill, was born in Swansea on 27th July 1921. After matriculation from Dynevor Grammar School, he became a civil servant in London, enjoying a wonderful view of The Mall from his office in Admiralty Arch.
He joined the RAF in 1941 and travelled to Pensacola, Florida for his pilot training with the US Navy. He spent the next six exciting years flying Wellingtons, Dakotas, Catalina flying boats and Halifaxes in the Middle East, India and the Far East as well as the UK. He was a Flight Commander on 96, 110 and 297 Squadrons.
It was when he was based in Hong Kong that he met and fell in love with a young WRAF called Joan Nottage. They became engaged, but she was demobbed and sent home by ship. She waited many months for him to fly his plane home to England, and they were eventually married on 4th June 1947.
Having burst an eardrum, Bill found he could no longer continue as a military pilot. Unwilling to leave his beloved RAF, he undertook Air Traffic Control training in 1948 and embarked on the second stage of his military career.
There followed 10 years’ service in Fighter Control, including a period as Chief Instructor at the School of Fighter Control, RAF Middle Wallop and two years in Germany as Senior Operations Officer at RAF Brockzetel (1957–59).
He was appointed Commanding Officer at RAF Bishops Court in Northern Ireland in 1959, and then returned to England after two years to continue building a career which included appointments as Deputy Director, National Air Traffic services (1967-71) and then Southern Regional Commander, Military Air Traffic Operations.
His RAF career culminated in his promotion to Air Commodore and his appointment as Air Officer Commanding, Military Air Traffic Operations in 1973. He had three happy and productive years in that post before finally retiring after 35 years’ service.
Bill continued his connections with the RAF as a supporter of the Benevolent Fund and as a Livery member of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators.
After his retirement, inspired by Joan’s experience in the book trade, he set up and ran the Gainsborough Bookshop in Sudbury, Suffolk for 10 years. He and Joan then moved to Yorkshire to be near one of their three daughters. Bill loved spending time with his grandchildren, playing lots of golf and tending his allotment there. Unfortunately, Joan’s health soon started to deteriorate. Bill cared selflessly for her during her long illness, but sadly she died on 17th December 2004.
He missed her greatly, but was still able to enjoy seeing the rest of his family. He spent the last three years of his life happily at Devonshire Court, a Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution home in Leicester. It was there, just a few weeks before his death on 22nd August 2011, that he celebrated his 90th birthday surrounded by children, grandchildren and nearly all his 11 great grandchildren.