Jim Welcomme: RAF officer served in Norfolk and was a community leader in Hingham

Official ceremony and blessing of the two new benches of the Hingham Royal British Legion next to th

Official ceremony and blessing of the two new benches of the Hingham Royal British Legion next to the war memorial adjacent to St Andrews Church. Hingham RBL president Jim Welcomme. Photo: Steve Adams

A career Royal Air Force officer, Wg Cdr Jim Welcomme, who has died aged 91 at his Hingham home, was at the centre of a Mid-Norfolk village for almost 40 years.

He was a leader of a community effort to create an enduring legacy at Hingham by building a sport halls hall and buying land for playing fields. His support of the Hingham Playing Fields Association was total and he once pledged his house as collateral for a loan. A decade later on February 1990, the Hingham sports hall and playing field on Watton Road was officially opened.

He was president of the Hingham (Preservation) Society and also helped to acquire and equip the play space on Hardingham Street.

Raymond George Welcomme, who was always known as Jim, joined the Royal Air Force as an apprentice instrument maker aged 17 and a year later was promoted sergeant, where he worked on automatic pilots and bomb sights. Later he moved to Liberators and Flying Fortresses when these American planes came into service with the RAF. At London's Regent Street Polytechnic, he completed his electrical engineering qualification in just one year.

He was posted to Beccles to join the new 618 Mosquito squadron equipped with the Highball device, which was intended to bounce across the sea to sink enemy ships. However, before it could be used against the Tirpitz, the squadron was sent to Australia. Commissioned in 1944, then only 22, he was involved in converting Mosquitoes for use on aircraft carriers. On VJ day, when he arrived in Perth, the city had been drunk dry.

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After leaving the RAF in 1946, he rejoined the following year as a flight lieutenant, serving in the Air Ministry, Germany and Cyprus. In Germany, his role had been concerned in improving flight safety and as a crash investigator. He was promoted squadron leader on January 1, 1956 as further postings, with a young family, followed to Scotland, Farnborough, Surrey and then Mildenhall.

He served at RAF Scampton and North Luffenham, where he was promoted to acting wing commander which was made substantive when posted to Bushy Heath in 1965.

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At Wattisham, where he was responsible for 800 personnel, his Lightning Squadron reached the highest operational status ever achieved. His final posting was to RAF Swanton Morley in 1973, where he ran the maintenance programme and led 90 service and civilian staff.

He had met and then married a month later Winefriede Mary Tidy, on October 25, 1947 and they were together for 61 years until her death in April 2008.

They bought a cottage in the Market Place, Hingham, part dating from 1705, and restored it and then also converted an adjoining property, which had been once been a public house.

After leaving the RAF after 38 years, he joined Marconi as a senior quality engineer until declining health seven years later forced him to retire in 1984.

In retirement, they became keen Scottish country dancers. He was also a good painter in oils despite colour blindness and was invited to become president of the local branch of the British Legion.

His support for the playing fields even saw him making an interest-free loan to fit solar panels and he asked for donations, instead of flowers, to be sent to the association.

He leaves five children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. A funeral has taken place.

Michael Pollitt

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