Love reignited after Spitfire exploits screened

C130628-1 Chi Joe Roddis
C130628-1 Chi Joe Roddis

A NEW book about the war-time exploits of a Selsey resident has revealed a touching love story entwined around his association with the Spitfire.

Written by Mark Hiller and Greg Percival, In Support of the Few tells Joe Roddis’ remarkable story of serving in the RAF and a rekindled romance which first ignited 70 years ago.

Joe Roddis - nostalgia

Joe Roddis - nostalgia

Joe worked as an engine fitter on Spitfires during the second world war, serving from 1939 to 1965 in the RAF. He was with 234 squadron during the Battle of Britain and the 485 New Zealand Squadron after that, serving at Goodwood, Funtington, Merston and Selsey.

“The war was exciting,” said Joe. “We were in Selsey during D Day.

“We were champing at the bit to go with the pilots, but we were back in Selsey.”

Alongside Joe’s memories of working with some of the best fighter ‘aces’ are his memories of meeting Betty Wood – a romance which started in 1943 when he was just 22 and ended with a reunion 61 years later.

“She was an RAF MT driver. They stayed with us and they were part of the squadron.

“Betty was engaged to be married, but we became dance partners at RAF Biggin Hill in 1943. She was a fantastic dancer.

“I said I would honour the fact that she was engaged, and I made a promise never to interfere with her marriage. We went our separate ways.”

Both Joe and Betty got married and did not see each other again until 2004, when Betty recognised show from Spitfire Ace, a television programme he appeared in.

As both Betty and Joe’s spouses had died, Joe sold his house in Derby and moved to Selsey to join Betty.

“I immediately sold up, I even threw my car in the deal for good measure.

“We spent a wonderful nine years together before Betty passed away in 2012,” he said.

Joe’s work led him to feature in a number of programmes about Britain’s flying past, including one series with David Jason and another with John Sergeant.

“The tale of ground crew is not often told and these stalwarts of the RAF squadrons were often subjected to strafing by German aircraft and poor living conditions as well as long working hours,” said Alan Nicholl, Betty’s son-in-law and trustee at the Apuldram Centre.

Joe and the authors signed copies of In Support of the Few at its launch at Goodwood last month.

“There was a flypast by the Boultbee Spitfire in honour of Joe,” said Alan. “The event culminated in Joe taking a taxi ride in the back of the Spitfire he had looked after in 1944 which brought a lump to everyone’s throat.”

Speaking about the book, Joe remained modest: “Well it is quite exciting. Like I told Mark, I don’t think it was worth writing.

“But what he has put in the book is perfectly true. I kept a diary and I’ve got a very good memory.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to who has read the book has said it is very good.”

Author Mark Hillier, said: “Joe is quite a character.

“He has done a lot of charity work, and even did a parachute jump on his 90th birthday to raise money for the Apuldram Centre. He’s got a great story.”

The book will be on sale for £12 from Kim’s Bookshop and Tangmere Aviation Museum. All the proceeds will be going to the Apuldram Centre and to keep the Grace Spitfire flying.