Billy Chapman: West Norfolk contractor and farmer awarded Korean Peace Medal

Agricultural contractor and west Norfolk farmer Billy Chapman, who has died aged 79, built up an extensive business after leaving school without a single qualification.

He went into business in 1972 at Eastmoor, near Oxborough, with a �275 second-hand Whitlock digger, hired for �50 per week for the first two years.

Mr Chapman, and his late wife, Daisy, rapidly won a reputation for quality work at a competitive price. But paying the bills was a struggle in the early days as he often sheared sheep for the late Dudley Bowes at Didlington, when work was not available.

However, within six months, he was able to take his son, Bernie, into the business, which at one stage was employing 50 staff across west Norfolk.

After winning a contract from British Sugar to pile beet at the King's Lynn factory, since closed, he later expanded to cover the factories at Newark, Wissington, near Downham Market and Cantley.


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Born in Northwold, William Roy Chapman left the village school aged 14 and worked for several local employers, including agricultural plant hire firm, L R Brown & Son.

Called up for National Service as a private with the Durham Light Infantry, he saw action in the front line of the Korean War in 1954. In 1999, he returned to Korea after 45 years with a party of more than 125 construction equipment customers from Britain and Europe. During this visit, he was presented with his Korean Peace Medal.

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He was a good supporter of the Royal British Legion and especially his local branch at Downham Market.

The lessons learned from his two years' Army service, were invaluable to the growth of the business, which went on to specialise in earthmoving and also reservoir construction.

He also built up an arable farming business and was a former member of Barton Bendish parish council.

His wife Daisy, who was brought up and lived at Eastmoor, died just 12 weeks ago and shared her husband's love of dancing.

He leaves a son, Bernie, and grandsons, William and Ben. His youngest grandson will drive one of the firm's low loaders to Mintlyn Crematorium for the funeral.

A funeral service will be held at Mintlyn Crematorium on Friday, June 8 at 3.15pm.

Michael Pollitt

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