Bury mourns the remarkable Sir Reggie

Sir Reginald Harland with his penultimate book, the memoirs he  edited of Lt Col Alfred Knights who was a prisoner on the Burma-Thialand railway.
Sir Reginald Harland with his penultimate book, the memoirs he edited of Lt Col Alfred Knights who was a prisoner on the Burma-Thialand railway.
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Air Marshal Sir Reginald Harland, president of the Bury Society, died yesterday after several weeks of poor health.

Sir Reginald, 93, took an active part in Bury St Edmunds life from the time he moved to the town more than 30 years ago after a long career in the RAF. He stood as a Social Democratic Party candidate for Bury in the 1983 and 1987 elections

Alan Jary, chairman of the Bury Society, said: “He was a remarkable man. Reggie was an incisive, clear thinker and he was a passionate man who would fight his case long after others would have said ‘that’s it’.

“He would have been the first to say he had had a good innings.”

He was commissioned as a pilot officer in the RAF Volunteer Reserve in October 1939.

Though he qualified as a pilot his engineering qualifications were so high, he was pushed in that direction.

He worked at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough and saw service in engineering capacities in Algeria, Tunisia, Italy, Corsica and the South of France.

His postwar roles included Chief Engineering Instructor at RAF Cadet College Cranwell and Ballistic Missile Liaison Officer, British Joint Services Mission in Los Angeles.

He was proud that as Harrier Project Director at the Ministry of Technology in the late 1960s he saw the jump-jet into service.

He finished his RAF career in 1977 as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Support Command and became a technical director with engineers W S Atkins.

He married Doreen Romanis in 1942 and they had three sons and two daughters. Lady Doreen died, aged 88, in 2011. A son and daughter pre-deceased them.

His son Michael said: “My father was a remarkable man in so many ways. From carving a distinguished career to raising five children, he (with my mother firmly behind him) was a guiding light and role model. A tough act to follow.

“He taught me to question everything, to try and understand as much as possible, never to take things for granted nor to make assumptions and last but not least, to listen to other peoples’ points of view.”

“Life was exiting, too, with postings to California and Singapore. We were taken for regular trips to soak up local culture and sights. In Singapore I had his undivided attention for most weekends as we shared a love of sailing dinghy racing. I am looking at a cabinet full of trophies that we won together.

“He will be much missed by myself, my brother, my sister, his grandchildren and his great grandchildren.”

Sir Reginald wrote several books and his last, The Complete Surgeon, about his father-in-law W H C Romanis was published by Arena Books about two months ago soon after he entered hospital.

His friend and publisher Robert Corfe said: “He insisted I took some books in to him. He certainly didn’t enjoy his time in hospital because he was so active. He said he wanted to get home and keep writing.”

He planned his own biography and one on his great uncle Sir Edward Harland, co-founder of Harland and Wolff shipbuilders.

There will be a memorial service for Sir Reginald at Bury’s St Mary’s Church at 2pm on Friday August 9. His funeral will be a private service.