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Obituary: Robert Browne, Lisburn-born RAF officer who excelled on hockey field


Robert Browne

Robert Browne

In uniform as an RAF Group Captain

In uniform as an RAF Group Captain

Robert Browne

Group Captain Robert Browne, a career officer in the RAF, has died in Oxford after a long illness. He was 79.

Rob Browne was born in Lisburn in 1940.

He was the elder of two sons of Ernest Browne JP, who worked in the linen industry, and his wife Isobel Sarah, a former theatre sister. They met recuperating in Davos, having both contracted TB, and later married in London before returning to Lisburn.

Rob Browne went to Wallace High School where he enjoyed cricket, hockey and other sports, and became head boy in his final year. At Wallace he met his future wife Rosemary and they married in Lisburn in 1967.

Referring to his sporting skills, his brother Colin said: "Hockey was in Rob's blood. Our father had been one of the early members of Lisnagarvey Hockey Club, and Rob played for the Garvey junior teams from an early age.

"He played for the Irish Schools for two years and he was very proud that his team defeated the English Schools team when he was captain. One of his former team members recalls him as a young man with tremendous talent, character, fantastic personality and a natural leader."

Rob also played and captained the Queen's University hockey team. He was a member of the side that won the Mauritius Cup by beating Trinity College 1-0 in Dublin during the 1961/2 season when Wally Mercer was captain.

He also played for the Irish Universities team, and also turned out for Garvey when he could. Later he played hockey for the RAF and for the Combined Services teams.

Rob studied electrical engineering at Queen's, where he was a member of the University Air Squadron.

After his university education he joined the RAF as a graduate engineer.

He had a distinguished career in the RAF at several stations across the UK, and he served in two postings to the British Embassy in Washington, and also at the Ministry of Defence in London. He was station commander at RAF North Luffenham. He retired at 55 with the rank of Group Captain.

Following his retirement he worked for several years as a consultant in the defence industry, and he lectured on quality assurance.

He and his wife lived in Oxford. They had two sons, Rowan and Russell, and a daughter Judi, who sadly died shortly after her birth. Rob had suffered from myeloma, a form of blood cancer, for nine years.

Colin said: "My brother showed great resilience and strength throughout this period. He remained very active and involved with his friends, his family and also with his local church.In 2017 and 2018 he was able to attend an annual lunch in Dublin of former hockey players from across Ireland."

Group Captain Browne died peacefully on Good Friday in Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital. He is survived by his wife, two sons, daughter-in-law Kath, two grandchildren Ellis and Annabelle, and the wider family circle.

Paying tribute, Colin said: "Rob led a full and fulfilled life, much of it spent in the service of his country. But it is as the warm-hearted and generous family man that we will remember him. The strength and good humour he showed in his last years were typical of the way he lived his life."

Belfast Telegraph