Tony Snell obituary

Publié le par The Guardian by Anthony Smith

As a wartime Spitfire pilot, Tony Snell, who has died aged 91, was despatched to fly over Sicily on 10 July 1943, the day it was to be invaded by the Allies. He was attacked by a Messerschmitt 109 and was forced to make a crash landing. The plane was totally burned, but Tony was OK.


Tony Snell settled on a remote British Virgin island to run a restaurant, after his earlier adventures as an RAF pilot and, later, as an actor

Tony Snell settled on a remote British Virgin island to run a restaurant, after his earlier adventures as an RAF pilot and, later, as an actor

On the ground, all was in confusion, with German and Italian troops intermingled with Allied forces. Tony walked about 12 miles from his crash-site before being captured by the Germans. They thought he was a spy, and a firing squad was being arranged when Tony ran away. Some of his bones were broken as bits of hand grenade and bullets thumped home; 13 such fragments stayed within him for the remainder of his days. But at least he still lived, and soon he encountered more German troops, who took him prisoner and sent him to Lucca, where he was put on a train for Germany.

As they passed through the Po valley, Tony and a British army officer managed to make their escape from the train. Helped by Italian partisans, Tony was escorted on foot via Sestola and Tirano to an unmanned frontier crossing point into Switzerland. Very soon he reached the embassy in Berne, asking for repatriation. This proved impossible until Allied troops moving up from southern France reached Switzerland. At last, late in 1944, a Dakota took Tony back to the UK, where he was retrained on the new, jet-powered Gloster Meteors.

Born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and educated at Cheltenham college, Tony joined the RAF at the end of 1940 and trained to fly in the US. In 1942, he was sent with No 242 Squadron to north Africa and the following year to Malta to prepare for the invasion of Sicily.

When peacetime came, he wondered what to do. He became an actor (and appeared, among other things, in the film The Cruel Sea in 1953); was employed as a comedian with the Windmill theatre in London; and toured as a musician, playing several instruments, transforming old songs into new, and usually as a one-man show.

He travelled around the world, eventually settling with his wife Jackie on Bellamy Cay, a near-uninhabited island within the British Virgin group, where they ran a restaurant, the Last Resort. Tony sang, played and entertained their (usually yachting) guests, while Jackie made the food. Jackie died in 2001 and the Last Resort is now largely run by their son, Jeremy, and daughter, Jessica.

Tony's book, Spitfire Troubadour, was published in 2009; he had difficulty fitting his long, courageous and admirable life into its packed 250 pages.

The Guardian

Publié dans Avis de décès

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