Tributes paid to Sidbury man Tom King MBE

Tom King. Picture: The King Family

Tom King. Picture: The King Family - Credit: Archant

Tributes have been paid to well-known Sidbury man Tom King.

Tom King and his wife Madeleine. Picture: The King Family

Tom King and his wife Madeleine. Picture: The King Family - Credit: Archant

Mr King died peacefully at home on February 2, age 95, surrounded by his wife and two daughters, who cared for him during his illness.

The funeral service will be held in St. Giles Church, in Sidbury, on Friday, February 21 at 11am.

The great-great-grandfather was born in Sidbury in 1924 and from an early age he had a big interest in gardening as his father was the head gardener for the Cave family at Sidbury Manor.

After the evacuation of Dunkirk in May 1940, Tom, aged 16, was not old enough to join the armed forces so instead joined the Local Defence Volunteers, which became the Home Guard.

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In November 1941, cheating a little about his age, he joined the RAF where he served in a unit tasked with repairing and building runways.

His unit continued to do this in France after D-Day, which enabled Fighter Command to land, refuel and return to combat.

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Mr King moved up the coast with the British troops and met his wife Madeleine at a celebratory party the day after her village of Coxyde in Belgium was liberated.

He was stationed near the village and at the end of the war in Europe was posted to the Far East.

While waiting to be demobilised from the RAF in 1946, Tom returned to Belgium and married Madeleine. At the same time, he applied to join the Imperial War Graves Commission as a junior gardener.

His talents were soon recognised and he was sent to Kew Gardens for training and served in what became the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) for more than 40 years, retiring in 1986 as a Senior Horticultural Officer after being awarded an MBE in 1984.

He eventually returned to the headquarters of the CWGC in Maidenhead where he became responsible for material procurement.

On retirement, Tom returned to the Sid Valley and became actively involved in the Royal British Legion (RBL), in the Sidbury and Sidford branch.

He helped numerous ex-service personnel and their spouses and travelled around the country relating his experiences to RBL branches, which included encounters with the Mafia in Sicily, and problems and difficulties behind the Iron Curtain and in North Africa.

Tom was presented with the Légion d'Honneur by the French Ambassador, who paid him a special tribute.

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