Martin Anscombe

As reported last month, Martin died in early July and there was insufficient time to prepare a piece about his life for the last issue so is included now.

Martin was born in Ipswich and educated at the nearby St Joseph’s Catholic School. He went on to study Maths, Sciences and Electronics at Bristol University. However he wasn’t totally happy with the course and decided instead to enrol in the Royal Air Force as a direct entrant to the Officer Training School at RAF South Cerney, Gloucestershire in 1959.

There he joined Number 133 Course for RAF Initial Officer Training. It was here that he had his first air experience flight in an Avro Anson, but the serious flying started in July 1959, when he moved on to No. 16 Course at the Air Electronics School, at RAF Hullavington in Wiltshire. There Martin was trained as an Air Electronics Officer, a highly specialised and critical role dealing with some of the most modern equipment of the day.

He first served with the V-Force, that part of the RAF that was charged with ensuring the country’s security during the Cold War. In that role his work was as an Air Electronics Officer on Vulcan bombers. How important that job was is obvious from a comment by Rusty Russell, a Vulcan Captain who had served with Martin. He said that the minimum crew on a Vulcan necessary for flight was a pilot and an Air Electronics Officer.

In 1966 Martin moved from Waddington to RAF Watton to join what he described as the “weird and wonderful world of No. 360 Royal Navy / Royal Air Force Electronic Warfare Training Squadron”.

This was indeed a weird and wonderful squadron, engaged on some incredibly secret electronic warfare research, operating the Canberra T17, an aircraft easily identifiable by its long black nose and which were a common site over Watton in the latter half of the 1960s.

A year after flying ceased from Watton in 1969, Martin found himself at RAF Honington, on Buccaneers as the RAF’s very first ‘Wing Electronics Warfare Officer’, recognition of his skills indeed.

Three years later, he joined the Operational Research Branch at HQ Strike Command, where he was promoted to Squadron Leader on 1st January 1974.

Martin was always proud that during his time there he flew one operational flight in Vulcan XH558, which was restored and returned to flight in 2008 until its final retirement in 2015. He was a very keen supporter of the campaign to bring it back to life and keep it flying.

Martin’s final tour was as Electronics Warfare Officer Leader back on 360 Squadron at RAF Wyton and he retired from the RAF in 1979 after 20 years Service during what was, perhaps, one of the most difficult and dangerous periods in global history.

Having lived in the area since 1966, it was natural the he would make his home and his mark here. He opened the Pop Inn record store at his home in Harvey Street and later moved it to above Adcocks in the High Street.

Established as a businessman in Watton Martin became involved with the Watton & District Chamber of Trade, and the current chairman, David Dent asked this tribute be included on behalf of the Wayland Chamber of Commerce:

The news of the passing of Martin Anscombe was received with great sadness within the Wayland Chamber of Commerce. Martin’s name has long been held in high regard in the Wayland business community and it is one of the reasons that he was one of the Chamber’s few life-time Honorary Members, honoured for his exemplary commitment and enthusiasm for the Chamber of Commerce and its mission.

As a membership organisation the success of the Chamber is very much dependent on the commitment of its members to drive activities and initiatives. Martin was the Chamber Secretary for many years and during his tenure he spent time visiting and meeting local business owners, getting to know everyone and even collecting membership fees in person. He was a well respected member of the Chamber and the business community and was elected Chairman of the Chamber Committee between 1981-83, during the period it was then known as the Watton and District Chamber of Trade.

Importantly, it was under Martin’s chairmanship in 1982 that the first edition of the Information, Trade and Services Directory; 67 pages of adverts, and business and community organisation listings was first published. The Directory still thrives nearly 40 years later, a testament to the innovation and foresight of the team led by Martin on the needs of local business to promote their services to the community. It was with pleasure that we were able to acknowledge Martin’s contribution in the opening message of the 2020/21 edition of the Directory, in which it was stated “I believe the lesson from Martin’s innovation is that the Directory met then, and still meets today, a genuine need and this is the key to success; delivering something that the Wayland Community really needs and values”.

Martin cared about our Wayland business community and has left for us all in the Chamber an important legacy in the Directory and an ingrained culture of duty and service in support of a worthwhile community organisation.

Martin was truly committed to the community. In his time here he started and administered the Tourist Information and Visitor Centre, he was an Independent Member of the Police Authority for a number of years, he served 19 years as a Town Councillor and was twice Chairman and Mayor of the town.

Many business owners of old will remember the times when the Chamber, driven by Martin, managed the Christmas lights – a huge amount of work storing and maintaining right through the year, and then in December, shepherding a team of usually cold, wet and miserable volunteers hanging the festoons so Martin could spend the next week at the top of a ladder, also wet but always smiling, getting it all to work.

Martin supported the launch of the Wayland Partnership and served many years as a Trustee with them. He was instrumental in getting The Wayland News off the ground. And in his spare(!?!) time he even designed and ran a website for 360 Squadron veterans.

Then, as well as all the above, Martin was a passionate member of the Rotary organisation who pay their own tribute in a separate article.

Martin had met and married Jane, and they had 3 children – Karen, Gail and David who produced 4 grandchildren – Jake, Bethany, Haidee and Millie.

40 Years ago, Martin and Helen found each other and as some of you will know, they have lived together as partners for 40 years in Harvey Street, and moved to Charles Avenue in April 2019. In March last year, in timely fashion, they became Civil Partners at a ceremony conducted just 4 days before the first lockdown.

We send them all our deepest sympathy.