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Air Cdre Joan Hopkins RIP

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Air Cdre Joan Hopkins RIP

Old 27th May 2010, 17:19
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Air Cdre Joan Hopkins RIP

I am informed via the secretary of the RAF FC Association that Joan Hopkins passed away from a heart attack on the evening of 24th May. Her family is making funeral arrangements and details will be provided.

I am in the process of moving, hopefully someone more informed will be able to update this thread when details become available.

I first met Joan as Wg Cdr Ops at Boulmer back in the late 1970s. She then went on to become the first female Gp Cpt Station Commander of a front line AD sector commander at Neatishead in the early 1980s.

She started her career as a Plt Off as the watch leader at the very last Chain Home station in Dover (RAF Swingate) in 1956.

RIP Ma'am, I hope you frighten the sky pilots up there as much as you did the ones down here.
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Old 27th May 2010, 17:48
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Sad

Air Cdre Hopkins was my first Stn Cdr and I am grateful to her that she pushed me to become aircrew. I owe her my career and had and have always had total respect for her. I was one of her Pilot Officers. RIP Maam.
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Old 27th May 2010, 18:08
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Truly sad that another real RAF character has slipped the surlies.

Tales of 'Auntie' Joan must be legendry. But she truly inspired all with whom she ever came into contact.

Some of us fighter folk were visiting Neatishead one day, not long after the heavy-handed 'no drinking at lunchtime' nanny-state edict had been crapped down upon us from on high. Whilst we were sipping Coca-Cola or something equally boring in the OM bar at lunchtime, Joan entered with a couple of 'suits' from 11Gp in tow. "Beer?" she asked them.... "Err, well, if it's OK, ma'am" came the response. "3 pints please" asked Joan, "Well, what do you think of it?". "Err, very nice, ma'am". "It is, isn't it! Of course it's non-alcoholic, but I tasked the bar officer to find the very best he could, now that we're not allowed real beer at lunchtime!" Point made in her own inimitable style!

I later saw her interviewed on Anglia TV. "Why didn't you ever get married?", simpered the interviewer. "Because I can't stand kids!" responded Joan.

RIP, ma'am - and enjoy your 'welcome beer' with Chris Moran and 'Jacko' Jackson up there in Saint Pete's pub!

Last edited by BEagle; 30th May 2010 at 16:08.
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Old 27th May 2010, 18:20
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I am very saddened by the death of Joan Hopkins. I was posted on promotion, as a fairly new re-entrant, as her OC Admin Sqn. We had already "met" on a station ground defence exercise before I was actually posted in (see Funny Things Happen in the Air Force). For the next year or so Joan showed herself to be one of the best bosses, Service or civilian, I had ever had. She led by example, could be stern and official when the occasion demanded, but most of the time had an impish sense of humour. One or two of my younger officers had an interesting sense of fun, and Joan always made sure that the mallet of officialdom never fell too hard, and then there was usually a smile behind the frown (GM will testify!). She was a great boss at Neatishead, and my very new wife (in fact and this is 1984 Joan agreed we could live in the allocated MQ 3 weeks before we actually tied the knot - as long as no one complained) was given lots of sound advice by Joan - most of it irreverant, and about not becoming a "stuffy" wife. Operationally she brought the station to a high state of readiness and efficiency. Of course, to have a female CO of an operational unit was pretty revolutionary in the 80s, and we had a lot of official visitors, all of whom were well hosted. However, she never did succeed in getting our German exchange officer to the official BoB cocktail party, but he always came to the bash afterwards. It was a great time with Joan at Neatishead, and personally I owe her a great deal. Thanks, Boss, you really did the business.

RIP

Last edited by Wander00; 27th May 2010 at 21:07.
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Old 27th May 2010, 20:35
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Very sad news. What an impressive lady. I remember meeting her at an official function at RAF Boulmer, for the first time, just after she had retired. She had been replaced as the only FC one star by a chap with little or no charisma in comparison to the good lady. He was also present. After chatting with great humour to two humble first tourists (I was one of them) for a while, Joan asked if we had met the 'new' one star. We replied that we had not. She promptly marched up to him, dragged him away from a clutch of more senior officers and plonked him in front of myself and an equally startled first tourist colleague. 'Come and talk to your junior officers,' she ordered him, turned on her heels and left us to it.
To this day I have never heard a bad word spoken of her. Pretty rare. Especially in my branch.
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Old 27th May 2010, 21:59
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First meet Auntie Joan as an SAC at Neat in the 80's. She would come around at night when on exercise and cadge a Cuppa. Was a pleasure to talk to her and a pleasure to serve such a fantastic boss. She inspired a great deal in a lot of people, I was just 1 who was encouraged by her.
Gone but never ever likely to be forgotten.

Last edited by trap one; 27th May 2010 at 22:11.
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Old 28th May 2010, 07:14
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I only met the lady once but she made an deep impression upon the young Mushroom. I subsequently heard many stories from the old and bold about just how well regarded she was both professionally and personally.

RIP Ma'am.
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Old 28th May 2010, 08:21
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Aunty Joan an absolute legend, only met her once at Neatishead but she made a lasting impression upon this young pilot officer of the late 80s. RIP ma'am.
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Old 28th May 2010, 08:22
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Very sad. A great lady and a true leader. RIP.
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Old 28th May 2010, 08:51
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Wow this is a shock. I only ever met her in passing in the 80's, she was Neatisheads' Staish when I was at Buchan, so opposite end of the country.

But, as has been rightly said, highly thought of and well respected. Everyone I ever knew who worked for her and with her always held her in high regard.

RIP Ma'am. Gone but not forgotten.
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Old 28th May 2010, 11:12
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I only met 'Aunty Joan' a couple of times, but was very impressed. In a slightly over-used modern phrase, which she probably wouldn't recognise, she was a 'legend'.

RIP Ma'am.
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Old 28th May 2010, 12:16
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"Auntie Joan" was Wg Cdr Ops and PMC at Boulmer during my time as an FC before she too encouraged my departure to Aircrew. She was a real star! "Boggy" Brakes and I painted a message to 202 on the roof of the Mess the week before AOC's, the Stn Cdr told her to interview everyone and ask who was responsible. She ommitted to ask Brakesy and me so was able to tell the Staish that everyone she spoke to had no knowledge! She also declared the destruction of the glass doors into the ante-room on G/C Peter Botterill's dining-out night during an over-exuberant game of Mess-Rugby as...... "storm damage". Then there was the 5 extra SDO's for "Black-birding" Gerry Melhuish in the bar.............I could go on, another phase of RAF History now gone. RIP Joan.
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Old 28th May 2010, 14:24
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Just been at the top of a ladder removing an old satellite dish, and suddenly thought what a hell of a Newcomers' Party Happy Hour it will be in RAF St Peter's OM bar tonight!

RIP all of you posted "Upstairs" this week.
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Old 28th May 2010, 15:03
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Very Sad News Indeed. A towering personaility and outstanding Station Commander who had an uncanny knack of always looking after everyone no matter how high or lowly a post they held. She made a huge impression to this newly qualifed FC and wet behind the ears Plt Off when she was CO at Neatishead. Went through TACEVAL soon after and I am not sure whether a TACEVAL Team ever saw such a tough opposition to crack. Saw her again after she was promoted to 1* on a vist to Saxa Vord and spoke to her in 2005 when Neatishead was in draw-down mode to try and persuade her to revisit - would have been a great occasion but she had put her roots down back in Wales and wasn't budging over the Severn Bridge she quipped.
She lent me her COs car one Friday night after I arrived back at Norwich Airport and was trying to get back to the Mess at Coltishall as she arrived at Horsham MQs - 'just get it back in time for Monday Morning she said as she handed the keys over - Magic!'
A Great Lady.
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Old 28th May 2010, 16:21
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My wife just reminded me of this event - my OC SSF, a young Welshman, was buzzed by Aunty Joan one morning. N...M... took his pad in and stood to attention in the "presence". Expecting some instruction regarding a "works and bricks" matter he was somewhat surprised by the Staish's opening comment... "You have not written to your Mother for 3 weeks. Go and write to her now". "Y..yes Ma'am", says my boy, and almost staggers out of the office - Station Commander's really do know everything. As he was going through the door, Joan called him back - "Don't you want to know how I know?", she said. "Well, yes please Ma'am". "My aunty lives next door to your Mother", she said with a grin - "Now go and write that letter"
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Old 29th May 2010, 17:59
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Wander00

Thank your wife for us . . . a lovely human story about a hell of a woman.
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Old 30th May 2010, 09:34
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RIP Auntie Joan

As Stn Cdr Neatishead, Auntie Joan visited Port Stanley in early 84. She brought with her a video of the wives and families of "her boys" on the radar sites. I was tasked to find her a helo to take her to the sites to show the video.

What a trooper, it was her idea to provide the video and there was hardly a dry eye. Sadly, her staff at Neat had cocked up and one poor soul didn't see pics of his family. Soon after Joan's return to Neat a package arrived at Stanley with a video of the missing family.

Not only was Joan a brick with absolutely no side, she had a love of engineers (rare in the FC world!!). I never served with her, but met her many times socially and professionally. She was a great lady and memories of her will always be warmly remembered. (She'll be the angel with fag ash on her wings then!).

Pip pip

ON
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Old 30th May 2010, 10:09
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Having arrived at Neatishead as OC Admin Sqn I discovered the SIF was virtually bankrupt. As Chairman of SIF, and with Aunty Joan's agreement, I instituted severe restrictions on expenditure, including "no SIF money for fireworks on Nov 5th. If you want fireworks, collect money round the married patches and in the messes". A few months later OCPMF, one G..M.. (her of mud in the hub caps as she bounced off the verges), came to me with a large invoice from a firework company for fireworks for Nov 5th. Apparently OCSSF had been told by Joan to order "the usual fireworks. I'll pay". Adopting my defensive posture (steel helmet) and collecting OC Admin Wg (B... H...) with his helmet, we went to Joan's office. I launched in a "Ma'am, I thought we had agreed...." and got no further. "Squadron Leader, this place is the best toy I have ever had, and I intend to enjoy it. Now get out and let me get on" and a beaming smile. No wonder everyone would have walked on burning coals for her.
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Old 30th May 2010, 14:44
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Could we.....?

.....parcel up all of the tributes above and send them to any surviving members of her family. I'm sure they would draw great comfort and pleasure from them. I can't think of any station commander I served under who would draw as many affectionate tributes. Clearly a great lady.

The Ancient Mariner
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Old 30th May 2010, 16:36
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Good Idea

Mariner

An excellent suggestion. Or we could alert her nok (I know Joan had a sister with whom she started a sw company upon her retirement) to the tributes on this site.

Pip pip

ON
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