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Bill Bradfield: Norfolk engineer helped fight Third World poverty

11:23 17 August 2012

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An engineering background helped Bill Bradfield, who has died aged 58 at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital after a long illness, fight poverty and promote rural development in the Third World.

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He worked in more than 20 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, but was always glad to return to his north Norfolk home at Overstrand.

A regular worshipper at St Martin’s parish church, he was a former governor of the local school. He encouraged policies to help wildlife conservation in the churchyard and prevent cliff erosion.

William John Bradfield, known as Bill, was born in Nyasaland, now Malawi. His father was a medical officer in a rural hospital in southern Africa. An only child, he was 10 years old when he came to England for schooling, to Surrey and then Beeston Hall School, West Runton, until he was 13. Sent to Pangbourne Naval College, in Berkshire, he didn’t enjoy the underlying military ethos.

Returning to Norfolk, he studied at Norwich City College. He worked on several farms and for the Sands family near Stalham before going to Shuttleworth agricultural college, Bedfordshire.

After a VSO assignment to Kenya, he went to Silsoe College, Cranfield University, and qualified as a chartered environmental engineer. He worked in the Solomon Islands and Algeria and also in Somalia, where his house was blown up in the middle of a civil war.

His expertise as a soil and water engineer with the Freedom from Hunger Campaign saw him work for two years in Ethiopia on large and small projects, some saving women walks of 10-12km to collect water.

He also worked in the aftermath of the famines in 1984 and for government development agencies as part of practical efforts to reduce poverty in rural communities by improving water supplies, irrigation schemes or rural infrastructure. In his last mission to Kenya in 2011 he worked as a rural roads specialist.

He was a keen sportsman, especially rugby, playing for Holt RFC, and took a keen interest in local history and archaeology. He leaves a widow, Yeshi, son Andrew and daughter, Alice.

A funeral has taken place.

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