Tributes for former RAF man Rowland Hall

Warm tributes have been paid to a former RAF man who devoted countless hours of his spare time to helping everyone from young people with ambitions to old soldiers with problems to solve.

Rowland Hall, who was 76, was renowned for his welfare work with ex-forces organisations such as the Royal British Legion and Royal Air Forces Association and for his years of involvement with the air cadets, especially 1249 (Dereham) Squadron when it was based at the then RAF station in his home village of Swanton Morley.

He was known too as a great organiser, being closely involved with parades and civic occasions as varied as Remembrance Sunday and Armed Forces Day and the Lord Mayor's Procession in Norwich, as well as charitable occasions; among these were major garden parties for people with multiple sclerosis organised at Saham Toney, and later Sandringham, by Lady Joan Pound.

Mr Hall was president of Dereham and District RBL branch for 18 years, and his successor, David Fairweather, said he had been a tough act to follow, and 'a true legend in his own right'.

Flight Lt Tracey Burlingham, present commanding officer of 1249 Squadron, said Mr Hall had maintained a keen interest in the cadets' activities since his years in command between 1985-93 and had played a key part in organising the squadron's 70th anniversary celebrations. She added: 'We are so very grateful for the work he has done not just for us but for the community as a whole. He will be sorely missed by so many.'

Mr Hall was admitted to hospital in September, only days after he had been honoured by Dereham Town Council as recipient of one of its special Jubilee Awards, to mark the Queen's 60-year reign, celebrating the unstinting service of volunteers.

Rowland Hall was originally from Scunthorpe. He dallied with a job in the town's steel industry but in his youth was an enthusiastic air cadet and at 16 joined the RAF in 1952 to become an airframe fitter. Postings took him to Cyprus, Singapore and Malta, RAF Finningley, Yorkshire, and, in due course, twice to Swanton Morley. While serving at Nicosia he had a penfriend in Smethwick, near Birmingham, called Janette: they eventually wed and were married for 53 years.

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In Singapore, he helped to establish the air cadets, and when he arrived at Swanton he joined the Dereham squadron, convinced of the character-building qualities of the ATC regardless of whether its young members wanted a military career.

Mr Hall was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1977 for his high-quality work and contribution to 1249 Squadron ATC. He ended his full RAF career as a warrant officer but then took a commission in the RAF Volunteer Reserve, becoming a flight lieutenant and taking command of 1249 Squadron. He was proud that his son followed him into the ATC: Darren Hall led the Old Buckenham squadron while his dad was in charge of the Dereham one.

Mr Hall worked for Norwich Chamber of Commerce and as a civil servant working at RAF Marham. He was asked to set up an NVQ centre at Marham to help service people gain the qualifications they needed for their return to civvy street.

Outside work, he continued his service to military people and their families through years of welfare work within the Royal British Legion, RAFA and other organisations. Mrs Hall said he would help everyone from those suffering bereavement, ill health or housing problems to old soldiers who had lost their medals.

As well as his widow and son, Mr Hall leaves a daughter-in-law, Gillian, and grandchildren Aaron and Gavin. A private cremation will be held, and a memorial service will be held in January at All Saints', Swanton Morley.Michael Pollitt