Father Bill Boyd obituary

Other lives: Roman Catholic priest who supported British forces and their families in Germany

Father Bill Boyd, who has died aged 98, was a friend to me and thousands of others who served and supported the British forces in Germany. Bill, a self-effacing, humble, wise and spiritual priest, was the longest-serving military chaplain in the British forces when he retired in 2008, following 38 years of continuous service to the Nato community at joint headquarters, Rheindahlen.

The son of Mary (nee Murray) and Thomas Boyd, Bill was born in Belfast. He attended St Congall’s boys’ school, before entering the Salesian Missionary College, Shrigley, near Macclesfield, in 1932. He was admitted into the Salesian order in 1938 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1946.

He then spent many years serving the Catholic community of Blaisdon, Gloucestershire, and Our Lady of Lourdes, Newent, the town’s first permanent church, which he established. It was there that he became involved with the Gloucestershire Army Cadet Force as a padre, holding the rank of captain.

His move to Germany in 1970 was originally supposed to be a short-term locum appointment. During his time there, he served as priest at St Thomas More RC church on the military base, and at two schools for the children of forces personnel, the Queen’s school and the Windsor school. He must have seen at least three generations of schoolchildren in his time, many of whom became parents and grandparents of subsequent students. He was an elder statesman for his uniformed colleagues, a father figure for the teaching staff and a grandfather figure to the children. I met him when I was serving as a civil servant supporting the army.

In 1997 Bill was appointed MBE. He also received decorations from two popes plus the Bishopric medal and the Cadet Forces medal. In 2008 he retired to the Salesian community in Farnborough, Hampshire, where he spent eight happy years.

He is survived by his sister, Moira.

John McGowan

The GuardianTramp

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