Veteran reconnaissance pilot with 'great sense of humour' dies aged 101
- Credit: Sent in by Pat French
A stoic Second World War pilot who has been described as having a great sense humour, has died at the age of 101.
Kenneth Booth, who first moved to Norwich from Derbyshire during the sixties, found exceptional happiness during his final working days at the city’s Rowntree-MacIntosh factory.
Much to the delight of his younger family, he was often given the misshapen leftover stock which could not be sold.
And while there would be cheers of delight, Mr Booth could not resist telling them that they were really scraps swept from the floor – one of the many jokes he would amuse his family with.
Kenneth Robert Booth was born on May 6, 1920, near the city of Derby, where he spent his youth.
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His daughter, Pat French, 73, of Cawston, said he described his childhood as very different from the experiences of children today.
“It was quite a disciplined upbringing he had, as most children did back then, but that did him no harm, he always said.
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“He was also lucky enough to have holidays at a time when not many working-class people did.”
His father worked as a chauffeur for the then lord mayor of Derby, who allowed the family use of the car for holidays to Devon and Cornwall.
Mrs French added: “He had really good memories from those vacations.”
Mr Booth attended Normanton Village Street Infant School before winning a scholarship at the age of 12 to attend Bemrose School, then a boys' grammar school.
Upon leaving at aged 15, he began working at Morledge open market collecting rent in his satchel from stallholders. He moved on to work as a clerk, firstly for Derby County Council then Trent Barton bus company where he played football for the company’s team.
As a young boy, he developed an interest in aircraft and visited the former Burnaston airfield for lessons. In 1938, he joined the Air Voluntary Rescue elementary flying school, before being called up for the Second World War in 1939 aged 18.
That same year, he completed his intermediate training in Scotland before heading to Blackpool for advanced training. He passed out as a qualified pilot and went out as a Royal Air Force Volunteer Reservist with 203 Squadron to Egypt. He then flew with 680 Squadron across north Africa.
He would fly low in order to take pictures of enemy locations, during which time he was shot down into the Mediterranean Sea in 1941. For his efforts, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1942.
He spent four years as a reconnaissance pilot, flying Mosquitoes on photo-reconnaissance missions over many places in Europe including Italy, Malta and Greece, distributing vital information to the Allied Advance.
“He had these adventures of being shoot down but in reality, I think he had nine lives because he came home again. He was only 21 at the time and had the skin-of-his-teeth experiences.”
From 1945-47, he continued his service with the RAF and helped to close airfields around Britain.
By this time, he had married his wife Ivy on July 14, 1945, who he met before the war at a dance in Derby. Soon after they got engaged but did not see each other for four years during the war, keeping in touch as much as they could.
Back home, Ivy planned everything for the wedding. An accomplished seamstress, she even made her own wedding dress with lace bought from the market - an item you did not need ration coupons for.
The couple celebrated their platinum wedding anniversary in 2015 before Mrs Booth died in 2017 aged 95.
As well as their daughter, born in 1948, they also had a son, Stephen, in 1952. And before the family moved to Norwich, near Mousehold Heath, in 1963, Mr Booth worked as a transport manager at Rolls Royce in Derby.
Once in the city, Mrs Booth worked at the old Norfolk and Norwich Hospital while Mr Booth was on the production line in the Rowntree-Mackintosh Factory. Following their retirement, they enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Fiji.
“The move was a big change for the family but those were some of the happiest years for him. He said it was relaxing work and he made good friends there.”
Describing her father, she added: “He was generous and private, but kind and a very good husband and dad. He was a very giving chap and was also very interesting to talk to due to his wonderful memory and fantastic vocabulary. I would always have to ask him about my crosswords. He also had a great sense of humour.”
Mr Booth died in hospital on July 23. He leaves behind his two children, six grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.
The funeral will be held at the Norfolk Bluebell Wood, Hainford, on September 6 at 3pm. All welcome. To watch the service online or to donate to the East Anglian Air Ambulance in memory of Mr Booth, visit www.ivanfisher.co.uk