Sam Small, DFC: Norwich man’s pride in RAF

A career Royal Air Force officer, Sam Small, who has died aged 87, was decorated for gallantry in the second world war.

After joining the RAF and training as a wireless operator and gunner, he was posted to Bomber Command.

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and invited to Bucking-ham Palace to receive his medal. But in a personal letter, King George VI wrote to apologise that he was unable to present the decoration in person, so the medal was sent to him.

This letter had pride of place, alongside his medal, at Philadelphia House, Norwich, where he spent the last nine months of his life.

Wilfrid Joseph Small, born on March 18, 1923 in Manchester, was always know as 'Sam' after the famous character created by Stanley Holloway of monologue fame and the catchphrase, 'Pick Oop tha' Musket.'

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He served mostly with 166 Squadron, which was flying Lancasters out of RAF Kirmington in north Lincolnshire, now Humberside Airport. He completed a total of three tours, each of 30 missions, with the squadron – one more than many of his other colleagues. There, he met Ceridwen or Cred, who was a WAAF, and they married in June 1945.

After the war, he worked for the family building firm in Manchester but then decided to return to the RAF, where he spent many years as a fighter controller.

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He was commissioned Flight Officer in November 1955 and his postings in his 22-year service over the years took him around the world including Germany, Bawdsey in Suffolk, Hong Kong, Singapore, Neatishead and Lincolnshire.

After his final posting to Aberdeen, he retired, and settled in Hethersett. He worked in the Middle East, inclu-ding Saudi Arabia and Oman. As squadron leader for the Sultan of Oman's Air Force, he set up radar defence systems almost from scratch.

A family man, they had six boys before their only daughter, Patricia, was born in 1961 – to his great delight. Although they later moved to Lincolnshire, they returned to Norfolk and lived in Adams Road, Sprowston, for many years.

They were married for 53 years and he had nursed his wife for about nine years before she died in March 2009. He had not enjoyed the best of health for some years.

He leaves six sons, Peter, Kenneth, Ralph, Dennis, Keith and Norman, daughter Patricia, seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at St Faith's Crematorium on Thursday, March 17 at 12.30pm.

Michael Pollitt

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