Overstrand village stalwart dies aged 73

An Overstrand man who was a stalwart of village life has died aged 73.

An Overstrand man who was a stalwart of village life has died aged 73.

Joe Aylward died on September 4 after a battle with cancer.

The father-of-one was born in Yorkshire, the youngest of a family of five, two girls and three boys, with all his other siblings born in what is now Pakistan, as their father, John, was serving in the Indian army.

Mr Aylward himself followed in his father's footsteps working with the Royal Artillery in later life, he also proved himself to be at the centre of village life after retiring, serving on the parish council as chairman, and organising numerous events in Overstrand including a Christmas street market and a scarecrow competition.

He also produced a quarterly newsletter for the village and was one of the village firework working party team.

He was active as chairman of the shoreline management commitment and fought for the protection of the shoreline at Overstrand to be maintained.

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His son, John, 35, said: 'Joe's somewhat dour facial expression put many people off, until one got to know him better. Hidden beneath the fa�ade was a very knowledgeable, trustworthy, fun, loving man with a great sense of humour who deeply treasured his family and his home, He will be greatly missed by many.'

Mr Aylward grew up near to Church Fenton in Yorkshire, after his father was posted there with the RAF and went to boarding school in Sheffield,

For much of his life, Mr Aylward was raised by his elder sister Maureen, who took responsibility for Joe, with help from friends of the family in Scotland, after their father died suddenly when Mr Aylward was just 10-years-old, and their mother died just six months later.

After attending boarding school, he went to Sandhurst and in 1956 was commissioned into the Royal Artillery, in which both his father and brothers had all served for a short time.

Having been stationed in Malaya, Colchester and Germany, he applied to learn to fly and trained to become a helicopter pilot.

He was posted to the United Nation Force in Cyprus during the Cypriot troubles as a helicopter pilot and was shot at on more than one occasion.

He met his wife, Sonia, who was a senior nursing sister, when he was posted to El Adem in April 1969, 15 miles from the Libyan Desert.

The pair got engaged in August 1972, when Mr Aylward was serving on the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and Sonia was at the RAF Hospital, Ely. They married in December 1972 at St Etheldreda's Roman Catholic Church in the town.

The couple went on to have their first son, John, and moved to Germany was he was one-month- old.

They moved back to England in 1977 when Mr Aylward was posted to RAF Coltishall as ground liaison to 54 Squadron.

The couple decided to settle in the county and brought Beckhythe Cottage in Overstrand.

After another stint in Germany, the family moved back to Beckhythe again in 1987, and Mr Aylward began his final tour of duty with the Dam Buster squadron at RAF Marham.

His retirement was deferred so he could accompany the squadron to the Gulf War.