HE was an ex RAF pilot who worked for Ordnance Survey for nearly four decades and was a well-known and popular face around his Hampshire village.

North Baddesley's best dressed walker, Bill Neilson was a generous man who always had time for everyone. He passed away last month following a short illness, aged 97.

Born in Fife in 1923, Bill was a proud Scotsman. At the tender age of 18, he enlisted in the RAF and his lifelong love of planes and flying began.

Training took place in America and Bill travelled there on the Queen Mary. He gained his wings in Ponca City, Oklahoma in the spring of 1943, aged 19, and returned there many times over the years.

On returning to the UK he flew bombers, Blenheims, Wellingtons, and later, the iconic Avro Lancaster. 

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During a posting to Abingdon in 1945 he met Betty. Bill proposed after ten weeks and the couple married after 14 weeks. Their happy marriage, which produced sons Simon and Peter, lasted 67 years, until Betty's passing in 2013.

Bill enjoyed 39 years as a draughtsman at the Ordnance Survey, retiring in 1986.

The Neilson family lived in Midanbury, Nursling, Hedge End and then North Baddesley. Bill and Betty then lived in Poole, Southampton and returned to Baddesley in 1999.

He loved to chat to people and tell his stories and jokes.

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A contented man, Bill considered himself fortunate. He was certainly lucky to survive two close shaves at air shows - part of a jet fighter crash landing close to him at Farnborough in 1952 and, 63 years later, a former military aircraft crashing onto the road 100 yards behind the car he was driving to Shoreham.

He attended an annual reunion for ex World War II air crew and took the controls of planes into his 90s.

Bill was an avid reader of crime novels, and did the Times crossword until a few weeks ago.

He leaves his two sons, six grandchildren and a great grandson.