TV great John Challis, perhaps most famous for his role as Boycie in Only Fools and Horses, was a great friend to the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust.
The actor, who has died aged 79, was one of several stars who supported last year’s successful Crowdfunder appeal for donations to help the Trust survive the funding challenge posed by the Covid-19 lockdown.
He will be sadly missed by Trustees, volunteers and staff at the Memorial after proving to be a loyal supporter of the site and sharing its commitment to honouring the memory of the Few.
John and his equally supportive wife Carol first attended the Trust’s annual Memorial Day in 2013 after he was contacted by the Trust’s events organiser Janet Tootal, who wrote to him as one of a number of celebrities that the charity felt would be interested in supporting its work.
He was on the list because he and Janet’s husband Patrick, honorary secretary of the Trust, had both attended Ottershaw School near Chertsey in Surrey, with John one year senior to Patrick.
Patrick explained: “Since we had been at school together, we thought we would send John an invitation. I was delighted when we received a note back from him saying: ‘OT371 here – is that Pat Tootal, OT383?’. We got back in touch and he has been a great supporter ever since, most recently backing the Crowdfunder appeal with a heartfelt plea on our behalf.
“What made things even more special was that John brought his screen wife Sue Holderness with him to see the site. Not only did she become an equally good friend to the Trust, but she also discovered that her uncle, John Browning Holderness, was listed on the Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall as one of the Few, having flown with No 1 Squadron in the Battle of Britain.”
As well as attending Memorial Day in 2013 and 2015, ‘Boycie’ was at the site in March 2011 for the visit of the replica of K5054, the first flying Spitfire prototype, and was photographed sitting in the cockpit.
“John will be greatly missed by all of us at the Trust,” said Patrick. “Not only was he an old school friend of mine but the support he provided to the charity over the years was remarkable. He truly was a real gentleman.”