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Wilfred Pafford

by Margaret Hodgson January 2011

Wilfred Pafford or Paff as he preferred to be called has led life to the full throughout his 102 and a half years. His life spanned a very interesting period of time and he saw technical and engineering developments, from cars and motor cycles through to the age of the mobile phone and amazing computer technology in this fast growing field that we all take for granted in our busy everyday lives.

He was born in Southsea, Portsmouth in the summer of 1908 and grew up there with his parents and older brother Mont, and the many cousins in the family, in and around Portsmouth, some of whom are now still only in their nineties and enjoying life. In Portsmouth he attended the Royal Dockyard School where he won a Royal Scholarship to Imperial College of Technology at the University of London. In 1931 he gained his degree with honours and then joined the BBC where he went on to be a leading light in the development of that familiar box in the corner. He was present at the birth of TV whilst working at Alexandra Palace London, affectionately known as Ally Pally. He also spent some years in Daventry at the BBC World Services transmitters where he became chief engineer.

He married Helen in Alverstoke, Gosport in 1933 and they celebrated 70 years of marriage until Helen died in 2002. We two children came along in due course and I have recently come across letters of congratulations in honour of those two important events in their lives. In 1939 at the outbreak of the second World War he was recalled to Ally Pally to lead a team of RAF technicians in an operation named by Churchill, " The Battle of the Beams" which involved jamming the German aircraft navigational technology. This was certainly one of the most important roles in helping to protect our country and our freedom that we have today. He has told his story of his wartime experiences in his "Collected works of Reminiscences " which many of you will already know. He witnessed the bombing of Coventry during the war and many years later was asked to design lighting for part of the newly rebuilt Cathedral which he considered to be an honour and privilege. After the War, the BBC resumed normal services and he continued at Ally Pally as Head Lighting Engineer for the newly found TV, which would later, come to be a part of all our lives. We were reminded too of the Christmas parties for BBC staff children, when going through all those old photos recently, and recall Annette Mills and Muffin the Mule also being at those parties along with our Mum and Dad. Lovely memories.

In 1955 Paff was asked to join the newly formed Independent Television (ITV). Again exciting times ahead as he was now in charge of lighting for Outside Broadcasts, which included most of the London theatres and their current production and of course, Sunday Night at the London Palladium, that I'm sure most of us will remember. Sue and I also remember, with great excitement as two small girls, going to see the ballet at Covent Garden for the first time, which was being televised live, no recordings in those days! He had a lifelong interest in politics and his beliefs and passions were very much a part of him. In his University days he joined the Jarrow Miners march to support their cause of poverty and unemployment during the great depression of the 30s. This led him on to have strong radical views and to fight for those rights of the workers and for peace in the world that he firmly believed in to make this world a better place.

In 1973 Paff retired from the busy 'show biz' world of television in London and moved to Ferring. Here they settled into a more peaceful life and their lifelong love of gardening soon got into full swing in the wonderful garden, which soon became a showpiece. There, roses and flowers of every kind, colour and hue bloomed profusely and the kitchen garden became a very important place with its constant supply of freshly picked runner beans, rhubarb and potatoes soon to be followed by apples which were always in abundant supply. His neighbours will recall being well stocked up with apples. With retirement, the grandchildren and later great grandchildren came along and I know Chris and Steve both have many happy memories of school holidays spent in Ferring. So many things to explore and do, a game of bowls or croquet in the garden with Grandpa was a great favourite with hours of fun, long sunny days and Grandma's apple pies. A wealth of stories from the past that only grandparents know how to tell, and being introduced to hobbies such as painting and drawing which continue into their lives today.

Paff had many talents and his love of art shone through in many forms and his cartoons for every occasion were very much a part of him, where his charming sense of humour shone through every day till the last. He was a talented watercolour artist and in recent years he wrote poems, which were published from time to time. He never ceased to amaze us with his never-ending quest for knowledge and being able to master the computer at the age of 95 and quickly followed by his culinary skills with the microwave and cake decorating to name but a few. We do recall perhaps a few anxious moments on our part when seeing smoke from the microwave drifting through the front door from time to time. But all was well and normally under control! During the last three years Paff enjoyed the best care we could have wished for at Kensington Lodge Residential Home in Rustington. He celebrated his 100th birthday there as you know and I'm sure they will miss his hearty rendering of " old time songs" on Monday afternoons. A true gentleman in every sense, he will be sadly missed but he leaves us with many happy memories and tales to tell. A remarkable man. A very special Dad and Grandad. We will all miss him but he will remain in our hearts forever.