Captain Edward "Eddie" Roocroft
It is with sadness that we learn about the passing Eddie aged 91 on 5th September 2015, our sincere condolences go out to his family, friends and former colleagues. Eddie's service was held on 22nd September at the Surrey & Sussex Crematorium.
Eddie had a long career and a snapshot of that is remembered here.
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Eddie in later years and also as a young airman flying Lancasters in World War II
Eddie's flying career spanned 45 years and it all started when, as a young man aged 20, he qualified as an Anvro Lancaster pilot with the Royal Air Force.
Eddie flew 11 bombing missions over Germany and Czechoslovakia towards the end of the war. One of those missions over Czechoslovakia was on his 21st birthday recalls his nephew; David Roocroft.
David continued "He [Eddie] never really understood the fascination many people had with this period of his life. Indeed when the Ministry of Defence announced a few years ago that at long last there was to be a pin for Bomber Command personnel, he wasn't interested and I had to persuade him to let me apply for him."
At the end of the war Eddie was an RAF ferry pilot, tasked with collecting different war planes, and until his death he still kept the letter allowing him to pilot 14 different RAF aircraft including Spitfires, Mosquitos and Lancasters.
His career took him into civil aviation where he was a pilot for a variety of companies including British United Air Ferries, British United and East African Safari, with Gatwick Airport one of his many bases.
But first Eddie would return to Berlin with Air Charter, this time as a pilot flying humanitarian missions as part of the Berlin Airlift.
Eddie was also involved in supply flights to Biafra during the Nigerian civil war. Eddie flew the two DC-6s G-APNO & G-APNP that we had as BUA, but by then they had both been sold to Balair and registered HB-IBS & HB-IBT and in turn chartered to the Red Cross for food aid flights from Cotonou to the Uli road strip in Biafra recalls Peter Clark.
(There are a number of references to Eddie and also Keith Sissions (another Air Charter Pilot at Southend) in a book written about the Biafran war called Shadows 1967-1970 by Michael I Draper).
During his time as a BUA Africargo pilot, Eddie had a hand in the making of the classic film, Born Free. The lions in Africa were too wild, so tame / trained lions were flown in from the USA. Eddie commanded the flight from London to Africa with those lions on board.
Eddie retired from flying aged 65 and was an avid golfer, he was the veterans captain at Copthorne Golf Club in 1995. He also took up painting and was the only male member of the local painting circle, The Painted Ladies. At 88, Eddie's work was exhibited at the Greenstede Gallery at the Chequer Mead theatre.
Nephew David paid tribute;
"I was somewhat in awe of my Uncle Eddie," he said, "largely because he had led the most wonderful and interesting life of any person I have ever met. He had a marvellous and infectious sense of humour, sometimes bursting into fits of uncontrollable giggles if he had done something ridiculous. I shall always remember him with a smile on my face. The lives of everyone that knew him are a lot less interesting and a lot less fun with his passing."
From Eunice Musgrave
Very sorry to hear the news of the passing of Eddie Roocroft. I remember him well from the flying days. A very lovely man and skilled pilot.
From Mike Harvey
I worked at Southend for Channel Air Bridge / BUAF from 1963, Eddie (Captain Roocroft) was someone who has remained in my memory ever since. I would see him in Ops collecting the weather for for his flight, or checking his flight plan. He knew his own mind and didn't tolerate anyone who couldn't give him instant answers. A wonderful man and an honour to have known him.