"We've lost our leader"
Russ Mallace, our Branch Chairman since 2009 and previously our PAO, was an inspiration. A much respected member of the Royal British Legion for many years, in the autumn of 2019 Russ died after a short illness and sadly we said goodbye to him; we laid him to rest alongside his wife Margaret. He will be a hard act to follow.
Russ was used to command. He joined the Royal Navy in 1948 and learned to fly Seafires, soon converting to Sea Furies. As a fighter pilot he saw combat in the Korean War from H.M.S. Ocean in 1952, and dog fought his piston engine machine with enemy MiG 15 pure-jet fighters. He loved flying and was acknowledged by his Commander (Air), as being adept at carrier landings in all weathers. On returning home, at Lee on Solent early in 1953 both his squadron 802, and 825 squadrons were awarded the Boyd Trophy and the accolade “for the finest feats in aviation in 1952” for their operations in Korea.
Russ flew his Sea Fury in formation over Spithead during the Review of the Fleet by our new Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 but as had been found in Korea, piston engine aircraft’s days were numbered. The Sea Venom jet fighter had been introduced into the Navy by then and Russ converted to those, including our Navy’s first jet night fighter variant.
On leaving the service Russ found himself flying the “Whispering Giant”, the four engine turboprop passenger aeroplane Bristol “Britannia” for BOAC, and eventually the mighty “Jumbo”. He had the opportunity to fly Concorde but preferred “long haul” with many interesting places to visit rather than a few. He was a British Airways Boeing 747 Captain for the remainder of his flying career.
On retiring he became a major contributor to our village life here in Byfield, in middle England. Already having the task of treasurer of the Parochial Church Council, he was elected Chairman of the Parish Council, before becoming a Branch officer in The Royal British Legion. He with his wife Margaret were avid (and successful) fund raisers and Russ was instrumental in expanding the village recreation area, building two sports pavilions, one for the cricket and football and one for the bowls and tennis clubs, both inside four years.
As our RBL Branch Chairman, and then President, he provided an excellent example of how a Royal British Legion Branch should be run, making his Branch one of the most dynamic in the County, always seeming to be proportionally one of the most successful Branches in Northamptonshire.
Russ will be sorely missed but he had a good supporting team and the mantle will be taken-up; he will be long remembered as an example to be emulated.