Jeff Rounce, DFC: Leading Norfolk beekeeper and inspirational teacher

Former wartime bomber pilot Jeffrey Rounce (right) with Henry Labouchere and the deHaviland Fox Moth

Former wartime bomber pilot Jeffrey Rounce (right) with Henry Labouchere and the deHaviland Fox Moth after the surprise 80th birthday flight.1of6 Jane Newark copy 16 12 00. edp 18/12/2000 - Credit: Eastern Counties Newspapers

One of the Norfolk's leading beekeepers, Jeff Rounce, who has died aged 92, also won the Distinguished Flying Cross for an action in the North Sea.

He kept bees for more than 60 years and inspired generations of youngsters and also adults, initially as a teacher at schools in North Norfolk, and then later though the county's beekeeping associations.

He was president of the West Norfolk and King's Lynn Beekeepers' Association and a long-standing vice-president and also twice chairman of Norfolk Beekeepers' Association.

Born on December 12, 1920, his parents were tenants on Norfolk County Council's newly-acquired estate at Field House Farm, Binham, from where his father also delivered milk by pony and trap to local villages.

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At the age of 12, Jeffrey Noel Bartram Rounce won a scholarship to what became Fakenham Grammar School. It took an hour each day, leaving Walsingham station and then walking a mile to school. His season ticket cost £2. Later, when he got a bike, he rode the seven and a half miles each way.

In 1940, he volunteered and joined the RAF, training in Canada, and served for the duration in Coastal Command, where postings included Gibraltar. In south-west England and south Wales, he also flew aircraft for anti-aircraft firing practice. In the closing stages of the war in 1944, he was posted to 612 Squadron in Norfolk, just a few miles away from his home at Langham. There Flt Lieutenant Rounce successfully attacked four German E-Boats in January 1945, and several days later, he engaged another force of four enemy craft.

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He was awarded the DFC, Distinguished Flying Cross and the citation in the London Gazette on March 13, 1945 noted his 'high powers of leadership' and 'keenness and efficiency.'

Demobbed in 1946, he became a biology teacher and taught at Stiffkey and Wells Secondary Modern School before spending 30 years at Fakenham Secondary School, where as part of his science lessons taught beekeeping to his pupils. After he retired in 1988, he started a degree course with the Open University and graduated as a BSc.

He had started keeping bees after the war with three hives from a local gamekeeper. Gradually, he built up numbers and at the peak was keeping 110, which would involve taking hives to pollinate orchards in Suffolk or even to Yorkshire on the heath moors. Even into his eighties, assisted by his daughter Pat Marshall, he still had 100 hives. A regular prize winner for many years at the Royal Norfolk Show, he was presented with a commemorative silver salver on his 80th birthday, which is now awarded annually to a beekeeper for outstanding achievement.

A member of Walsingham parish council for 40 years until 1996, where he was also chairman. Earlier, he had been a member and chairman of the local authority, Walsingham Rural District Council.

To mark his 80th birthday in 2000, his family arranged for a special flight to mark his 80th birthday in a deHavilland Fox Moth. He had learned to fly in a similar craft, a Tiger Moth, during the second world war.

Married in 1948, they celebrated their diamond anniversary with a blessing at St Peter's Church.

He leaves a widow, Verna, four children, Diana, Carol, Pat and Simon, eight grandchildren, and a great grandson.

A funeral service will be held at St Peter's Church, Great Walsingham on Friday, February 8 at 2.30pm followed by burial at Binham.

Michael Pollitt

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