John Woods

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THE Reverend John Woods, who has died at the age of 89, had a distinguished military career in the RAF during the Second World War before he went into the Church of England where he had a long ministry, nearly all of it in Yorkshire.

He volunteered for the RAF Reserve in 1940 when he was 18, but could not go into active service until two years later when he passed tests to become an air crew member.

Mr Woods, who lived in Norton, then become a commissioned pilot officer with Coastal Command and saw service in the United States where he was assessed and became a bomber command pilot on Liberator aircraft.

He took part in a number of operational trips, said Cyril Shreeve, President and Chairman of the Ryedale branch of the RAFA of which Mr Woods was to become a leading member.

By D-Day he was working at RAF bases in Cornwall, patrolling off the southern coast to prevent German U-boats attacking allied shipping, he added.

Mr Shreeve recalled how Mr Woods had been in a team of four Liberators involved in a sortie, two of which were shot down by a German flagship: “He quipped that he must learn to swim in case his aircraft was shot down over the sea.”

He ended his military career with the rank of Squadron Leader. After the war, he flew passenger aircraft for BOAC between Britain and Australia.

Mr Woods became a founder member of the local RAFA branch and eventually took on the role of chaplain and welfare officer as well as organising social programmes for the RAF veterans. “He gave wonderful service to the RAF and in later years, the RAFA,” said Mr Shreeve.

Meanwhile his life took on a new dimension when after receiving a BSc degree at the University of Reading, he became assistant manager of an 8,000-acre farm in Lincoln but then with his wife Sheila, decided to go to Kenya after seeing an advertisement which offered a bright future to aspiring farmers.

He went on to run an agricultural college before going into the ministry, initially as a curate at Kitze in Zambia.

When the couple returned to England, Mr Woods became a curate in Goole, then priest in charge at Firbeck, Letwell and Woodsetts in South Yorkshire, and became the Bishop of Sheffield’s rural adviser.

Ten years as Rector of Barnburgh with Melton on the Hill included six years as Rural Dean of Watch from where he retired in 1992.

But a year later his ministry was to take another turn when he became a non-stipendary minister at Birdsall with Langton, and later priest-in charge at Settrington, North Grimston, as well as Birdsall and Langton, near Malton, serving the village parishes until he finally stepped down in 1998.

As well as his wife, Mr Woods leaves three daughters, Christine, Barbara and Alison, and a son, William, as well as six grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Mr Woods’s funeral was held at St Peter’s Church, Norton with standard bearers of the Royal British Legion lining the pathway.