|14 Aug 2019|
|Deaths & Obituaries|
|FREEMAN, John |
Died in August 2019, aged 90. The following obitiuary was written by Malcolm MacNicol (PS 41-44):
After his time in Parkside at Tonbridge, John was called up for National Service and was commissioned into the Royal Engineers where his unit was in support of 4th Royal Tank Regiment. Having been an enthusiast of all things mechanical from an early age, and of motor cars in particular, he thus found his time as an immediate post-war solider enjoyable. Back in civilian life, he joined the family firm running a wholesale butchery specialising in game and poultry in Smithfield Market in London. His parent also owned a farm and hop garden in Headcorn in Kent, part of which was requisitioned during the war as an emergency landing strip for RAF aircraft damaged in combat. John, together with his brother Christopher who managed the farm, was given permission to retain the airstrip after it was released from the Air Ministry. It already had a small aircraft hangar and, with a range of hop garden buildings, made an ideal base for civilian aircraft owners and clubs. After his father died, John continued to run the Smithfield business until he retired.
Meanwhile, the airfield had been expanded to host all kinds of air related activities. A club for aeroplane owners was established, with a bar and accommodation facilities, a museum featuring RAF wartime relics, a parachuting and sky-diving club, a gliding club, flying instruction and a wing-walking group all came in, as well as aircraft maintenance facilities. John and his wife, Joey were both pilots and, with John a member of the RE Flying Club, he was able to hire the club aircraft in which they flew all over Europe until they were able to buy their own aeroplane. An early addition to the museum exhibits was a ‘duck’ (sic). No, not a quacking bird, nor yet a cricket score, but a DUKW, a wartime amphibious landing craft used during the Normandy landings and forever referred to as a ‘duck.’ John and his younger brother would drive a car/boat load of friends at high speed around the streets of London before heading down a slipway and taking off down the Thames to the great amusement of watching citizens. But using this vehicle the brothers played a major part in rescuing people in danger of drowning during the disastrous storm and tidal surge of 1953.
John had always been a car enthusiast and in the early years after the war, he had bought a well-known Aston Martin road-going racing car which had been owned by Jock Horsfall. With John himself driving, the car competed successfully for many years, before he handed over the driving to his son. Only a few weeks before he died, the car was entered for the 2019 Mille Miglia in Italy, which it completed faultlessly. The ‘duck’ enjoyed a second life too, acting as nanny to the Aston on competition days, and giving rides to visitors to the airfield.
John’s father was a sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis, a misfortune which was passed down to John, who began to show the symptoms in his early thirties and continuing its crippling progress throughout the rest of his life. Despite the handicaps of the disease, John still drove powerful cars fast and competently, and with Joey, took pleasure in many holidays to far away, exotic destinations with climates somewhat warmer than Kent, thanks to the assistance available nowadays to disabled travellers.