Sunday, 19 September 2021

Peter Coxell — 1923-2016

PETER COXELL, who has died after a period of gradually deteriorating health, was a widely admired

PETER COXELL, who has died after a period of gradually deteriorating health, was a widely admired and respected local figure, well-known for his nine years as police inspector in Henley.

Born in Peterborough in 1923, he attended Old Fletton Elementary School with his brother Douglas.

Choosing not to go on to secondary school, he first worked as an assistant in the London Brick Company’s drawing office in Peterborough before joining the Royal Air Force as soon as he could, at the age of 17.

His basic training took place in what was then Rhodesia and he then joined 250 (South African) Squadron in North Africa, flying Tomahawks and later Kittyhawks.

Progressing from North Africa to Sicily and later Italy, he was shot down behind enemy lines near Ancona in 1943. Helped by local people, he evaded capture for seven months before eventually re-establishing contact with allied troops as they advanced down Italy.

On his return to the UK, Peter flew Spitfires with 127 Squadron as part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force in the Netherlands and Belgium advancing towards Germany.

After the war he married his first wife Evelyn.

This was also the beginning of a successful and distinguished career in the police service and he joined the then Oxfordshire Constabulary.

He was based at Banbury, constabulary headquarters in Oxford and as the “village bobby” at Churchill. He once admitted setting snares on his rounds in an unsuccessful attempt to catch rabbits for the pot.

During this time he and Evelyn had two sons, Chris, who was born in 1947 and David, who arrived in 1952.

Peter was promoted to sergeant in 1954 and the family moved to Bicester.

Here he was an active member of the bowls club, an interest that was to endure for many years.

He was promoted to inspector in 1963 and the family moved to Henley. After being in charge here for nine years, promotion took him away from the town but he continued to live here. Promotion to chief inspector took him to Woodley from 1972 to 1974 and he served as superintendent at Didcot until his retirement in 1976.

Peter was widely respected, not only by his colleagues, but also by those with whom he dealt in a professional capacity. Above all, he was regarded as being fair and just in enforcing the law.

After retirement, he remained active and took a couple of part-time jobs.

One involved delivering high- performance cars for local luxury car specialists Maltin Car Concessionaires, who were agents for Porsche and Ferrari.

He also worked for former Henley laundry and workwear suppliers Spring Grove Services.

Peter and Evelyn were both keen members of Henley Bowls Club.

He played an active role on and off the green, being club chairman from 1977 to 1979 as well as secretary for many years.

He was especially encouraging to new members and to beginners and made many friends in other bowls clubs in Oxfordshire and Berkshire.

He was also very successful on the green, winning both the novices and singles competitions in 1965, a very rare achievement.

He also reached the OBA Triples final in 1989 and won many other club competitions.

Between 1970 and 1998 he won the club singles competition 10 times, including five consecutive victories from 1987 to 1991. With his wife, he also won the married pairs competition eight times.

Peter was also an active and well-respected Freemason, being initiated into Temple Island Lodge in 1966.

He was Master of the Lodge in 1974 and about 10 years later became secretary, a position he held for many years.

He was also Chaplain of the Lodge from 2003 to 2007, a member of the Royal Arch and was exulted into Thames Chapter in 1975. He was also made a Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden in 1992.

Peter continued to enjoy a long and happy retirement until Evelyn died in 2003. Three years later he remarried and he and Phyl had 10 very happy years together as he was warmly welcomed as a new member of her family.

Indeed, family was very important to him and he took great pride in his grandchildren, Stephen, James, Andy and Ellie. This year he was able to celebrate the arrival of his first great-granddaughter, Adeline.

In his later years, sadly, ill-health began to take its toll, limiting his ability to get out and enjoy the activities he loved so much.

However, almost to the end, he and Phyl enjoyed a weekly pub lunch and also regularly attended coffee mornings at Christ Church, where they both had many friends.

Admired and respected by all who knew him, Peter will be sadly missed.

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