Eric Bird (Obs Cdr, S Ops O, HQROC) died on Wednesday 13dec06.
The following was spoken by the vicar at the burial service,
and written by Janet Bird
Eric was born in Durham on 15dec32. The son of William and Hilda and older brother to Cyril (deceased) he attended the Durham Johnstone School, where both he and his brother played the violin in the school orchestra. On leaving school Eric joined the family printing firm in Darlington whereas Cyril went on to become the lead violinist with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company.
The family had moved to Darlington when Eric was in his teens but his heart was in Durham where he spent a great deal of time with his grandparents and until his early 30s he sang in the choir at St Margarets.
When he was working in the printing firm his father decided he would pay for Eric to be a member of the local golf course, as a means of making business contacts. This was the beginning of a life long passion, one that he had to reluctantly suspend at the end of 2005 but has passed on to Alastair.
Eric had 5 passions family, golf, the Royal Observer Corps, real ale and single malt, not necessarily in that order.
He joined the ROC, in Durham Group, as a spare-time observer in 1952 and rapidly rose through the NCO ranks until he became a spare-time officer in 1960 in charge of a training flight designed to recruit and train new members. In 1962 he joined full-time as an Observer Lieutenant and served as the Group Training Officer under Alex Luke, famous throughout the Corps. He arrived on his first day to find that Alex had gone on holiday leaving absolutely no instructions as to his duties or role, did Eric panic? I don't think that was a word he knew.
In 1966 he was posted to Preston Group as a Mobile Training Officer this involved travelling throughout Western Area acting as a locum for GTO's who were sick or on holiday. After approx. 2 years in Preston he was posted to N. Ireland Group where he acquired a taste for draught Guinness, the real sort.
After several years in N. Ireland he was posted back to Preston and from there, on promotion to Lieutenant Commander, he was posted to Coventry Group as Deputy Group Commandant, this was in 1974 and was where I first met him.
Something I have never quite forgiven him for was in the early hours of the morning, on one 24 hour exercise in the underground headquarters I was acting as the Assistant Duty Controller and couldn't understand why my personnel were getting a bit thin on the ground. I subsequently found out that Eric was using the filter room, which had a nice constant temperature, to brew his home-made wine and was inviting all those on duty, with one notable exception, to sample his efforts.
Our first "date" was on a Wednesday afternoon at RAF Cosford when Eric invited me to caddy for him around Lilleshall golf course. This course includes a bell hole where the tee is at the bottom of a steep hill and the green is out of sight at the top, I gave up halfway up. At least I got a dinner out of it.
After Coventry Eric was posted to Bristol Group where he was in seventh heaven as the Group Headquarters was situated on the edge of Lansdown Golf Course. Here he had the habit, when things were quiet, of nipping on to the golf course for a few holes. If he was required urgently, by any of the senior officers, his staff had strict instructions to lower the flag to half-mast so that he could gallop across the course and through the fence.
When Eric was posted to Horsham Group, in early 1979, I joined him there and later that year Alastair was born. Eric was over the moon as he had always wanted children and when our little girl, Phillippa, was born he was as proud as punch, a pigeon pair to make our family complete.
Eric was extremely laid back and had the great capacity to sleep anywhere. On one long exercise at Horsham where he was in his usual position sitting in his chair with his feet on another, fast asleep, some bright spark put a plate on his lap with a notice saying "Wife and 2 children to support". I think he even got a few coppers.
In 1984 he was posted to ROC HQ at RAF Bentley Priory in Stanmore as Senior Operations 1. The Officer's Mess there is the most beautiful building and Eric and I enjoyed many, pretty boozy, functions at this time. In December 1988 he was promoted to Observer Commander and although we were hoping to be posted to Dundee, for the good golf courses, he was posted to the next office as Senior Operations Officer.
In September 1991 the Royal Observer Corps stood down and Eric took early retirement, he played golf nearly every day for a year and then decided to get a job delivering cars all over England. By this time I was working for the Navy and in 1993 I was posted to HMS Dolphin in Gosport. When looking for a house in this area, while Eric and the children were still living in Bushey, I had strict instructions that it must be within easy reach of a golf club, Cams Hall, for Eric and Alastair, riding stables for Phillippa and of more minor importance easy access to work.
When we moved down here Eric got a job with Securicor and ultimately with Eagle Holbourne where he continued to work until early August when he became really ill.
His love of real ale was satisfied by finding the Wheatsheaf at Shedfield, that has local ales straight from the barrel. Tim you owe me a pint for the advertisement.
On the evening before Eric died in hospital, while I was visiting, he spent his whole time chatting up the nurses with the old gleam in his eye. When one of the nurses brought his pain killers he told her to put them on the cupboard, she told him she had to see him take them but he insisted that she put them down whereupon he took hold of her hand and kissed it.
That was my Eric, a great flirt, charming, never flustered, very sociable, always had time for everyone and very approachable. He had a love of good food, good wine, real ale and good malt whisky of which we have imbibed a great deal with Norman and Anne.
To sum up: Eric worked hard, played hard and played the game.
Janet wishes to thank everyone for the cards and letters of sympathy sent by so many people and especially to Baz, Jean, Vic, Pam & Geoff who made it to the funeral despite atrocious weather.