John Besford, railwayman

John Besford, who has died at 95, was a navigator on wartime Lancaster bombers and later the general manager of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

John Besford
John Besford

Born on St Swithin’s Day in 1923, he had applied for air crew training with the RAF. He was accepted and told to go to Lord’s cricket ground in London, then to report for training.

He flew Tiger Moths solo after eight hours of instruction, then trained as a navigator with the Commonwealth Air Training Scheme.

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From there, he was sent for training with the Royal Canadian Air Force Central School of Navigation, near Winnipeg.

While he was away, his family’s former rented home in Saltburn was demolished by German fire. Good fortune had seen to it that his mother had already moved to a different property up the road.

After demob, he joined the North Eastern Railway at Redcar and was a relief stationmaster for nine years.

After accepting redundancy, he became operations manager for the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, based at Grosmont.

When his contract ended, he changed direction and became an administrator for the National Association of Care and Resettlement of Offenders at Middlesbrough, under the auspices of the Probation Service.