Interested in the life of ‘a mere Norfolk man’ aged 88? Of course we are!

PUBLISHED: 16:53 20 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:53 20 January 2020

David Hastings MBE

David Hastings MBE


Encouraged by his friends, David Hastings MBE wrote to us to ask what were the criteria for being featured in our regular ‘My East Anglian heaven and hell’ feature and whether an ‘old Norfolkman’ would do. We replied that anyone from East Anglia can be in it - you just need to have had an interesting life! Frankly, that applies to all of us, but we thought David, 88, was particularly special. Here, he shares his East Anglian heaven and hell with Gina Long MBE

David meeting Prince Philip in 2002David meeting Prince Philip in 2002

David Hastings MBE, a retired businessman and pilot, wrote to us: "As a very old Norfolkman and pilot, I always enjoy my East Anglian Heaven and I noticed you asking for people to be considered. I realise you are possibly only interested in famous people and as just a mere Norfolk man I may not have want you want. However at 88 years old, I realise I have been extremely lucky. I was born in Norwich in 1932 so I lived through the War and its frightening times including the Norwich Blitz. In 1950, I was called up for my National Service and was lucky enough to serve in the Royal Air Force in Germany at the height of the Cold War. This confirmed my love of flying and also gave me some great sailing and ocean racing, as well as rugby.' (David sailed with the RAF's Ocean Racing Team and as a First Officer on a millionaire's yacht. Sailing locally, he has been Commodore of the Horning Sailing Club and invented the famous Three Rivers race now in its 60th year.)

'Back home to learn my trade as a shoeman with Dougill & Hastings Ltd (Norwich was a shoe city in those days), I returned to scouting as a Scoutmaster with the 8th Norwich. (David was awarded the Scout Medal of Merit in 1970.) Later I would be responsible for all the Air Experience flying for the Scouts and Girls Venture Corps in Norfolk as Assistant County Commissioner (Air) for Norfolk. 
I learnt to fly (in 1964) at the Norfolk & Norwich Aero Club at RAF Swanton Morley. I was a trial pilot for Wing Commander Ken Wallis on his unique autogyros and joined the 1000mph club flying in a Lightning from RAF Coltishall where we formed the Norfolk Vintage Pilots Association. I was also lucky in 1992 to be one of the pilots who flew the famous B-24 Liberator bomber "Diamond Lil" from Texas across the Atlantic to Norwich Airport as a tribute to the American airman of the 2nd Air Division USAAF and I served for 28 years as a Governor of the Trust that looks after their unique Memorial Library in the Forum. My best gift as a pilot was to fly over 29,000 miles in the USA as a Captain of a six seat twin engined business executive aircraft.

In the 1970s, Dr Lincoln Ralphs as head of education in Norfolk suggested that we in business (David was a partner with his wife, Jean, in DJ Associates, a management consultancy, design and print company) should devote more time to local government which led me to 17 enjoyable years on Broadland District Council including being Leader and Chairman. The defense of the country loomed large as I served in the Norwich Royal Observer Corps operations room for 33 years. Finally as steam railway enthusiast I learnt to drive on the Wells & Walsingham Light Railway before helping to build the Bure Valley Railway."
David also served as a Governor at Wymondham College for over 12 years. 
He was awarded the MBE for services to the community in 2003.

David and his wife Jean on ConcordeDavid and his wife Jean on Concorde

Your connection to East Anglia?

I was born in Norwich in 1932 and have lived here all my life with my wife Jean, our two children and two grandchildren. I am proud to be a Norfolk man. My father was a shoeman and my mother was a teacher as well as Deputy Commandant of the Norwich Red Cross during the war. My parents introduced me at a very early age to sailing, flying and steam trains for which I am eternally grateful. All my business life and flying career was in Norfolk and I was blessed to do voluntary work which took me all over the county.

What is your East Anglian Heaven?

David learned to fly in 1964 at RAF Swanton MorleyDavid learned to fly in 1964 at RAF Swanton Morley

The wonderful skies and clouds and the Norfolk Broads as well as the friendly people.

What is your East Anglian Hell?

I must be lucky as I can think of nothing bad in East Anglia.

David learnt to drive a train at Wells & Walsingham Light RailwayDavid learnt to drive a train at Wells & Walsingham Light Railway

Your favourite restaurant here?

Sadly, in old age, we rarely go out but it would have been the Petersfield Hotel at Horning and the Blackhorse Inn run by John and Jean Lacey. However, we do still enjoy the superb Old Rectory at Crostwick.

Favourite East Anglian evening?

To have all our family round for supper and a good chat.

Favourite landmark?

Norwich Cathedral and the Cathedral Close brings back happy memories of schooldays at Norwich 

Best thing in East Anglia?

The start of the sailing season and

the Thursford Christmas Special

with our friends John and Barbara Cushing.

Your Mastermind subject?

Anything to do with aviation.

What is always in your fridge?

Good fresh food.

Your simple philosophy of life?

Obeying the Scout Promise: "I will do my duty to God and the Queen, help other people at all times and obey the Scout Law". (Trusty, loyal and helpful, brotherly, courteous, kind, obedient, smiling and thrifty, pure in body and mind). This was the poem we used as scouts to help us remember the Scout Law.

What's your favourite film?

"The Battle of Britain" as it reminds us of the huge debt we owe to "The Few".

What was your first job?

A £3 a week trainee shoe warehouseman.

Most treasured possession?

The silver US Dollar quarter given to me by the first American airman I met in 1943.

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Who do you admire?

Admiral Nelson for his courage, Winston Churchill for his war leadership and wisdom and my parents for their devotion, guidance and love during my childhood.

Your biggest indulgence?

Taking my wife on Concorde and the Orient Express!

What do you like about yourself?

Being able to keep a cool head in an emergency when flying.

Your worst character trait?

Wanting to complete things I have started too quickly.

Favourite holiday destination?

Skiing at the very pretty village of Brand in Austria; superb ski runs and a great family run hotel.

Best day of your life?

When I married my wife Jean Edrich at Ranworth Church in June 1956, closely followed by my flight in the Grace Spitfire.

Your favourite breakfast?

Tea, cornflakes and toast. In the winter, tea, porridge and toast.

What's your favourite tipple?

A small Southern Comfort on ice.

What's your hidden talent?

Making model railways.

When were you most embarrassed?

When showing a girl student pilot aerobatics in a Tiger Moth when it all went wrong.

What's your earliest memory?

Being taken by my mother to the Annual Air Display at Mousehold Aerodrome in Norwich.

Song at your funeral?

The Airman's Hymn.

Something people don't know?

In 1951 in the RAF in Germany I was nearly captured by the Russians when we strayed into the Russian Zone by mistake.

What's the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

After a bad accident when the surgeon turned to me and said, "David I am sorry to tell you, but you have broken your back".

Why do you live here and nowhere else?

Because Norfolk and the Broads are the finest place in the world which we are always glad to come home to.

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

The benefits of leading a full and varied life and helping others.

To be featured in My East Anglian heaven and hell contact

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