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'Selfless, honourable, remarkable' Shrewsbury Flower Show stalwart dies aged 96

By Toby Neal | Shrewsbury | News | Published:

Dr Malcolm Booth, who gave more than 30 years' service to Shrewsbury Flower Show including as chairman, has died at the age of 96.

Malcolm Booth at last year's Battle of Britain service at St Chad's Church, Shrewsbury.

After retirement Dr Booth, who was the young pilot of a Lancaster bomber during the war and survived hazardous missions over enemy territory, threw himself into charity work and voluntary work in the county.

His services to the community were recognised in 2007 when he was awarded the MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

He was a teacher at several Shropshire schools, finally as head at St Mary's Primary School in Westbury.

A widower, Malcolm Booth is survived by sons Damian and Guy.

Guy said: "He was a selfless, honourable, remarkable, unassuming, inspirational and committed individual who went through life putting other people first, while quietly investing and believing in the younger generation throughout his working career."

There will be a family service of cremation at Emstrey Crematorium on July 29 at 11.30am, and a memorial and celebration service open to everyone once circumstances allow at St Chad's Church in Shrewsbury.

With wife Marylyn on the day of his investiture at Buckingham Palace.

His charity work included for the WRVS – the only male member in Shropshire – flower show organisers Shropshire Horticultural Society where he began as a steward and went on to hold various posts, Royal Shrewsbury Hospital League of Friends where he was a past chairman and a volunteer for 32 years up to the age of 93, and St Chad's Church as churchwarden and longstanding chorister.

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A lifelong Mason, he was a member of Salopian Royal Arch Chapter, Shrewsbury, and Longmynd Lodge, Church Stretton, receiving his 60-year-certificate in 2018.

Mr Booth, from Shrewsbury, loved music and he and his late wife were members of the Shrewsbury Choral and Operatic Society for many years, with Malcolm taking lead roles in many Gilbert and Sullivan productions.

A keen sportsman, he and his wife Marylyn (nee Lloyd) met at a badminton club in Shrewsbury and married in August 1963. He played golf to a high amateur standard, and thrived as a rower and cox, being a member of the Pengwern Boat Club for many years, winning a great many regattas. He was also a member of Alberbury Cricket Club.

His early childhood was in the Stalybridge area, but the family came to Shrewsbury during the Depression. With the outbreak of war in 1939 he became an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) messenger, as did most of his scout troop, the 27th Shrewsbury.

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During his pilot training in South Africa at the age of 18 in 1942.

In handwritten memoirs for his children, he said: "The worst day of the war was when the telegram arrived saying Stanley (his older brother in the RAF) was missing. The effect it had on mum was catastrophic...

"From that day I was determined we would be avenged. So I volunteered for the RAF."

He told how he did his initial flying training at Wolverhampton in a Tiger Moth, and completed his training in South Africa, before beginning operations flying a Lancaster bomber.

"I can't say I really enjoyed ops. I don't think anybody did, except perhaps fighter pilots who only had themselves to think about, whereas as a bomber pilot you had six other people depending on your judgment and being the youngest in the crew didn't help.

"I was scared, who wasn't, but you hadn't to show it even if the plane resembled a colander, as it did at times, but you made lasting friendships and the esprit de corps among the crew was terrific," he recalled.

"Some of the trips were comparatively easy and trouble-free but others were horrific. To sit there trying to keep the plane on an even keel and obeying the bomb aimer's instructions when everything was being thrown at you wasn't easy. It was a case of concentrating like mad. The thought of Stanley helped.

Flight Sergeant Malcolm Booth with his parents.

"I was lucky because 50 per cent of bomber crews were lost, some squadrons even more. Someone, something, was protecting me."

Guy said his father, a Flight Sergeant, did a full tour of 30 operations, including raids on Dresden and the Ruhr Valley industrial area.

"He very rarely spoke about his service time because he had lost his brother and at least two first cousins, so what was there to talk about that was actually good, so he preferred to look forward to what he could influence, which is why I think he became a teacher for all those years."

After finishing operations he became an instructor on Link trainers, giving instrument flying training, and as he enjoyed instructing he decided to go into teaching after being demobbed in 1947, teaching in Wem and then Bayston Hill.

In 1961 he became Organiser for Education at Hollesley Bay Colony, an open Borstal, a role he found particularly rewarding. He was awarded a Doctorate in Philosophy in December 1963.

Damian recalled: “A memory dad spoke about was hating Marmite, because he remembered his mother helping on the soup kitchens during the depression in Stalybridge. They served a slice of bread and a mug of Bovril, and from then on, whenever he smelt Marmite, it transported him back to the soup kitchens.

“Dad talked fondly of his pilot training in South Africa and of his instructor training role post war, but never spoke to me about his actual operational service in between. It clearly wasn’t a part of his life he wished to revisit.”

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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