Obituary for WO2 B R Willoughby

It is with great regret that we report the sad loss of Brian Willoughby who passed away suddenly on 23 August 2004, aged 57.

Brian followed in his father’s footsteps and enlisted into the Army as a junior soldier at the age of 15. He was encouraged to be a clerk while on ‘Boy’ service and upon reaching ‘Man service’ attended a short period of training at the Depot before joining the 2nd Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment in Cyprus in early 1965. Brian served with the Poachers until the mid 70s when he was posted to the Orderly Room at the Divisional Depot at Bassingbourn as Orderly Room Sergeant.

He was an accomplished sportsman in his day and was never slow in entertaining listeners with tales of his ‘glory days’ as a sprinter and I know he took particular pride in having had the honour of representing his Battalion. He was above all a team player. In later life he will probably be better remembered by many for his enthusiastic efforts to get into the Sergeants’ Mess volleyball team in Belize. It seemed you only had to bounce the ball on the court and he appeared, unfortunately for Brian the entertainment of his efforts to be selected had an adverse effect on his selection.

After his stint at the Depot Brian was posted to the 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment who were at that time stationed in Tidworth and well into the AML(F) role. It’s very difficult to catch up in the Arctic when others have had a couple of years’ start advantage however, Brian settled into life with the Vikings with the enthusiasm and drive that was to become his trademark. He took a genuine interest in what was going on outside of his own domain, and I well remember him creating some extremely important reason for the Orderly Room Sergeant to visit C Company at the ‘sharp end’, so he could find out just exactly what it was that we did, and his interest was genuine. If it was possible to assist anybody in anyway without jeopardising the integrity of his position he would go out of his way to do so.

Brian as a soldier was unique; in the late 70s having been posted to the Queen’s Regiment as chief clerk, the ethos of the Royal Anglians kept calling and he decided to make a crucial career change. He opted out of the clerical world and returned to the 1st Battalion as a colour sergeant. He adapted to his new environment with enthusiasm and a professional approach second to none. In the words of one former CQMS…‘I’ve done many, many handovers and takeovers in my career and Brian Willoughby’s was the best by far’. Again, this transition at this stage of his service is a mark and indication of his ability and potential. Who knows what he would have achieved had he not changed stream in mid flow?

In the early 80s Brian was posted to the Ulster Defence Regiment as their Intelligence Warrant Officer for two years before rejoining the 1st Battalion in Gibraltar for his final tour, before he retired in 1986.

Upon leaving the Army Brian eventually moved to Spalding in 1989 and took up employment with Springfields Gardens as their commercial manager. He was credited with being the driving force behind the Springfields Exhibition Centre. Brian used his positive and energetic approach to life to his best ability and was dedicated to ensuring that everyone who visited Springfields enjoyed themselves. In the words of his former general manager…‘Brian met thousands of people through his work and most of his customers were his friends.’ A fitting tribute.

Brian organised a vast variety of events while at Springfields including the highly successful Spalding ‘Poacher’ Reunions and, if there is any doubt in anybody’s mind about the importance and value of Old Comrade Organisations or functions, they should have been in Spalding for the funeral on 3 September 2004. Even Brian would have been deeply impressed, the church was packed with family, friends and comrades from every era. Maj Gen REJ Gerrard-Wright read the lesson and when the service was over an excellent Guard of Honour was produced by his former Poacher comrades. In the last edition of Castle there was an article on the Regimental Ethos, well it would be fair to say that there was enough Regimental ethos in Spalding that day to sink a battleship.

It seems that whenever an ‘Old Comrade’ passes away we all have regrets about not seeing them or keeping in contact. Well, I had the pleasure of spending some time with Brian at Duxford for the Regimental Day in September 2003 and again on Minden Day at Bury St Edmunds at the beginning of August this year. When Brian died I thought that this would make it easier, but in actual fact it has made it worse. I think that is because whenever you met him, it was important to him and he always made you feel the better for that meeting. His permanent smile and wicked sense of humour warmed up any occasion and he somehow always managed to resurrect all of the good memories from the past.

It is a measure of Brian’s personality that he was very quickly accepted wherever he went; and he shared his love of the Poachers and Vikings equally during his service and his ‘Old Comrade’ years.

I was privileged to serve with Brian and have him as a comrade and friend for 30 years; he was an outstanding member of the Regiment and always a team player. The legacy of memories that Brian leaves behind will be with us forever and our lives are the richer for having known him.

We extend our sympathy to his wife Sally, son Adam and daughters Julie and Helen.