Owen ‘Tom’ Hanbury: Norfolk plumber was international sea angler

A successful Norfolk plumber, Owen 'Tom' Hanbury, who became an international sea angler, has died aged 92.

He took up sea angling after being advised by his doctor to take up a hobby as relaxation. A long-serving chairman of Potter Heigham Sea Angling Club, he went to represent his country three times.

Born Owen Edward Hanbury in Pontypool, Monmouthshire, on April 27, 1919, he was always known as Tom. He had a brother, who was also adopted, and was sent to Australia but sadly, they never met again. He became head choirboy at his local church, where the local gasworks gave the head and deputy choirboy the opportunity to train as plumbers.

During the second world war, he was posted to Hemsby, where his platoon of the Royal Engineers was responsible for most of the pillboxes and tank defences along this stretch of the coast. As he needed to borrow tools from a local carpenter, Sidney Knott, he met and later married his daughter Florrie.

He landed with the 49th Division in Normandy on Gold Beach, Arromanches, on D-Day +3. Promoted to sergeant and given a motorcycle, he jumped off when he sensed that he was about to be strafed by a German fighter. When he picked up his bike, there was a neat row of bullet holes through the seat.


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Later, when his platoon was caught behind enemy lines, they commandeered a German lorry. As they drove through what was actually an enemy minefield near Le Havre, all but two in the lorry were killed. He was blown up and survived severe injuries – by some strange quirk his wife knew the exact time when it happened – confirmed by delivery of a telegram several days later.

He was later discharged and after recovering returned to Hemsby, where started a plumbing business. He built his own house at the corner of Beach Road and was always willing to tackle every challenge from woodwork to bricklaying as well as training his many apprentices as plumbers. His first transport was a cycle and later, he bought a Singer van – without a reverse gear. His business prospered and one stage was employing a dozen staff.

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Advised by his doctor in 1954 to avoid overworking, on medical advice, he took up fishing. He became chairman of Potter Heigham & District Sea Angling Club and also represented England on at least three occasions competing in Ireland and Norway.

Another highlight was captaining the English ski-boat team in an international tournament, organised by the European Federation of Sea Anglers in a match at Durban, South Africa, in February 1971. His skill at landing barracuda was a major factor in helping the England A team to finish runners-up. 'Things weren't made any easier by sharks,' he told the EDP, which were feeding on our catches.

A member of the auxiliary coastguard at Hemsby for many years, he was often seen towing his fishing boat down the gap behind his bright orange Allis Chalmers tractor.

He leaves two children, Owen and Jane, five grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

His wife, Florrie, predeceased about five years ago.

A funeral service has been held.

Michael Pollitt

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