Published: 19:56, 21 September 2021
| Updated: 20:07, 21 September 2021
A Battle of Britain charity in Kent has remembered the support it received from Only Fools and Horses star John Challis following his death.
The actor, best known for his portrayal of second-hand car dealer Boycie, died peacefully in his sleep, aged 79.
Challis supported last year’s Crowdfunder appeal for donations to help the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust survive the funding challenge posed by the Covid-19 lockdown.
He became a big supporter of the trust, based in Capel-le-Ferne, near Folkestone, after he rekindled an old friendship with Patrick Tootal, the charity’s long-standing honorary secretary.
Mr Tootal’s wife and trust events organiser, Janet, wrote to Challis asking for his support after her husband pointed out that the two men had both attended Ottershaw School near Chertsey in Surrey, where Challis had been one year ahead of Mr Tootal.
Mr Tootal said: “I was delighted to receive a note back from John saying: ‘OT371 here – is that Pat Tootal, OT383?’ – OT being code for Ottershall.
"We got back in touch and he became a great supporter, most recently backing the Crowdfunder appeal with a heartfelt plea on our behalf.
“What made things even more special was that John brought his screen wife, Sue Holderness, with him to see the site.
"Not only did she become an equally good friend to the trust, but she also discovered that her uncle, John Browning Holderness, was listed on the Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall as one of the Few, having flown with No 1 Squadron in the Battle of Britain.”
As well as attending the memorial day in 2013 and 2015, Challis was at the site in March 2011 for the visit of the replica of K5054 – the first flying Spitfire prototype – and was photographed sitting in the cockpit.
Mr Tootal added: “John will be greatly missed by all of us at the trust.
"Not only was he an old school friend of mine but the support he provided to the charity over the years was remarkable. He truly was a real gentleman.”
For more about the charity, click here.