Airborne Engineers Association

Roll of Honour



Frederick (Alec) Woods - 11th May 1922 to 2nd October 2011


Descended from Irish Quaker ancestors, Alec Woods was born at Teddington, Middlesex on 11th May 1922. He was educated at Doone House, Westgate-on-Sea and Uppingham.

Alec was called up in 1940 at the age of eighteen. He joined 1st Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers in North Africa and took part in subsequent operations in Sicily and Italy before his squadron was withdrawn to England in preparation for D Day. 1st Parachute Squadron took part in the Allied airborne parachute assault at Arnhem in September 1944. After three days of intense hand-to-hand fighting against SS Panzer Division troops, Alec was captured at the renowned bridge over the River Rhine. He was taken to a Prisoner of War camp in Germany but, in the next eight months, he managed to escape three times. His third and final escape, the only successful one, came as the war was ending.

After the war, he went up to Magdalene College Cambridge to gain a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He took up rowing in 1946 and rowed twice in the Henley Royal Regatta for Magdalene. He rowed at stroke and was secretary of the Boat Club.

After Cambridge, he joined Anglo-Persian Oil for three years, working in Iran and Iraq. He then transferred to Shell where he became an oil field production manager. Because he was a bachelor, he volunteered to spend his working career abroad in places such as Brunei, Indonesia, Venezuela, Oman and, as head of operations, in Turkey. He was very much a 'coal-face' worker with responsibility for getting oil from the well head to the oil terminal. Although he never sought nor reached the highest ranks in Shell, he was a highly respected and influential character.

He retired from Shell in 1978 and came to live in Wales. He bought a cottage high above the Wye Valley in Llandogo. He resumed full-time rowing and coaching. In 1979, he was elected Captain of Monmouth Rowing Club. He became their President in 1984. In 1986, he was part of the Wales management team in the 13th Commonwealth Games at Edinburgh. From 1994 to 1999, he was President of the Welsh Amateur Rowing Association.

As well as rowing and coaching, Alec was unceasing in his support for Welsh rowing, thinking nothing of towing fully laden trailers half way across Europe and to Ireland and Scotland. Without his unstinting support in so many ways, Monmouth Rowing Club would not be in the healthy, thriving condition that it enjoys today.

In retirement, he maintained contact with the surviving members of 1st Parachute Squadron RE. In 1994 at the age of 72, he returned by parachute to Arnhem as part of the 50th Anniversary Commemorations. He continued to parachute every year until 2000 as a member of the Arnhem Veterans Parachute Team. He was the team's treasurer and main organiser and he oversaw the raising of over £250,000 for various charities.

Although at heart a private man of few words, he was immensely kind, generous and supportive to family and trusted friends. He had an exceptionally dry sense of humour and a healthy disregard for bureaucracy. Throughout his life, he had a passion for cars and owned many — sometimes three at a time. His cars included Bentleys, Rolls Royces, Jaguars, Morgans, Alfa Romeos and an extremely fast Citroen Maserati. Three of his more exotic cars were a Bugatti, an Italian Isotta Fraschini and a Fergus Mosquito.

He died peacefully on 2nd October 2011 in LLandogo. At the time of his death, he remained President of Monmouth Rowing Club. He was also a life member of the Leander Club.



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