December 12 2013 Latest news:
Friday, October 4, 2013
A tide of tributes has been launched for a lifeboat stalwart and daring RAF paratrooper whose gallant service to country and community won him the respect of everyone he knew.
The death of former headteacher and decorated serviceman Harry Pascoe, aged 99, on Tuesday has deeply saddened seaside Caister where he made a heroic contribution to local life over more than 50 years.
He is credited with rescuing the celebrated Caister lifeboat station after the RNLI pulled out – chiming with its “never turn back” motto – and hailed for his incredible wartime exploits. The flag at Caister Lifeboat Station was this week flying at half mast in his honour.
Caister lifeboat chairman Paul Garrod described him as “a true gentleman,” adding: “He was a stalwart figure and a lovely man who will be greatly missed by everyone at the lifeboat who remembers him.
“He was there when we started the boat off as an independent and has been involved ever since. It is a great shame.”
Coxswain Paul Williams, 53, who was among the early lifeboat fundraisers rallied by Mr Pascoe at Caister High School, said he was inspired to volunteer for the service at 16: “He wasn’t a figure you could ignore. He was a tough character. When I was in school he was involved with the lifeboat and he used to fly out of school when the maroons went off. When your headmaster says he is proud of you that sticks.”
Friend and former crew member Percy Griffen, 82, now a volunteer at the heritage centre, described him as a “commanding presence” who got things done.
Having worked together in the RNLI era, Mr Pascoe initially turned his back on the service when the charity pulled the plug, but was drawn back in following a “shout” during a school fete.
“After that he did everything for us,” Mr Griffen said, adding that Mr Pascoe as well as being a crew member, worked hard behind the scenes in back-room roles too, growing the “friends” membership from 25 to 1,100 people.
“He was a lovely man,” he said. “Very community minded, very jovial too. But he also had a commanding presence. The lifeboatmen now are all young and they don’t know much about him, but he was really the driving force. He was a real character. It is the end of an era.”
Caister rector Tim Thompson said Mr Pascoe had been described as “fearless to the point of foolhardy,” apparently during the Second World War diving out of a plane to “catch” someone whose chute had failed to open, and later as a lifeboatman plunging into the waves in his oilskins when the waters were at their worst.
Caister headteacher George Denby described him as a “tremendous character” adding that his name still reverberated around the school, almost 40 years since his retirement in 1976, although he continued as a governor.
Having taken the helm in 1964 as the new school opened he went on to rally his students to fundraise for a new lifeboat – enabling the service to buy its first independent inshore boat – with enough left over for three guide dogs.
His last entry in the school yearbook on December 22, 1976, just after the school disco, said: “My teaching career ends. My wishes and prayers are that the school will go from strength to strength. I am sure that it will.”
During the Second World War Mr Pascoe trained parachutists of all nationalities, dropping them behind enemy lines and aiding the work of the French Resistance. In one escapade he was shot down in France, evaded capture and made it back to England, a feat for which he was awarded the Croix de Guerre.
Over the years he has also helped a range of organisations including Probus, the local church, meals on wheels and National Children’s Homes.
Born in Buxton, Derbyshire, his father was killed in the First World War. His family then moved to Norfolk where as a child he rubbed shoulders with the lifeboatmen of Cromer, among them the legendary Henry Blogg.
A pupil at Paston School, he set his sights on a teaching career and after training in London began working at a school in Croydon. Desperate to sign up at the outbreak of war he was turned down because he was too old (over 25) and because teaching was a reserved profession.
But when some of his pupils were killed in a bombing raid he redoubled his efforts, this time telling the authorities he was a bus conductor and enlisted that way. When the truth about his teaching skills emerged the RAF decided to use him as a parachute instructor. In all he made 142 top-secret jumps.
Mr Pascoe married Dot in 1940 and they stayed together for almost 70 years until her death aged 98 in 2006. They had three children, Jill, Margaret and her twin brother John who died in infancy.
He spent the last few years of his life in Claremont Nursing Home in Caister where he was visited every day by his eldest daughter Jill Simmons, of West Caister.
Mrs Simmons said: “He was a real people person. What amazes me is that if ever there was a phone call or someone came to the door he never said ‘sorry I’m having my tea’. He was very much concerned for others.
“He was strict but fair and could not tolerate nonsense. He was very much a family man, a brilliant dad and a great teacher. If I could achieve a miniscule amount of what he has I would be very pleased.”
He died peacefully on Tuesday night. He also leaves three grandsons and one great granddaughter.