On 1 May, the family, friends and former colleagues attended the funeral at St Agatha’s church of Brightwell resident Tony Johnson. Married to Jean, Tony, who lived in Church Lane, served on the Queen’s Flight at RAF Benson for 19 years. His log books detail more than 3,000 hours flying as crew chief on the Andover aircraft which used to be a familiar sight in the local skies.
Tony travelled extensively with members of the royal family; HM the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen Mother among others, taking in many trips across the USA, Caribbean, Africa, India and Australia. Even as far afield as Tonga for the coronation of King Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV in 1967. Journeys closer to home in the UK and Europe also included carrying VIP passengers ranging from senior politicians – Castle, Carrington and Healey to King Hussein of Jordan and Shah of Persia. As a member of this very special RAF unit, Tony and his colleagues – all hand-picked engineers, were responsible for keeping the Queen’s Flight aircraft maintained and serviced to the highest levels, at home and abroad, even on remote airstrips where resourcefulness and ingenuity was par for the course. Unquestionably, Tony was very proud to do his duty to the full whatever it took.
After leaving the RAF in 1973, he followed up with a successful career in the motor caravan industry. This was quite a change from looking after the Queen’s Flight’s Andovers, but his commitment, loyalty and can-do approach still applied. Away from work, Tony put his time and energies into a range of community activities. He served as a churchwarden in Wallingford, chairman of Brightwell-cum-Sotwell scouts and Wallingford School association. He was involved with the Wallingford Regatta for many years and the first bar manager at the Corn Exchange theatre when it opened in 1979.
To mark Tony’s RAF career, his funeral included a coffin drape of an RAF Ensign kindly loaned by RAF Benson, with a Royal Air Forces Association standard bearer also in attendance. For a final touch, Tony would have been especially pleased that a Merlin helicopter from Benson was specially authorised to fly low over St Agatha’s on its return from a training flight. Timed to perfection, everyone agreed that this was a perfect tribute from his former station.
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