The service commenced with a playing of Walton's 'Spitfire Prelude and
Fugue', which marked the fact that Reg served as an RAF-Warrant Officer in
WW2 and was followed by prayers and the hymn, The Lord is my Shepherd.
The' Reading' was unusual as it was a recording of astronaut Jim Lovell's
famous words from the Book of Genesis; broadcast from Apollo 8, the first
craft to circle the Moon, as it emerged from the far side of our satellite
at Christmas 1967.
Tributes were paid to Reg by four speakers, James Wilkinson and
Lewis Bronze from the BBC and Reg's sons Michael and Graham Turnill.
James Wilkinson recalled how he first met Reg at the BBC in the 1950s when
he became their aerospace correspondent just before the launch
of the Soviet's 'Sputnik'.
From then on Reg provided detailed reports of all
Russian and US space missions and covered the series of Apollo craft
which culminated in the Moon landings.
artist & Sandgate Society, portrait of Reg Turnill (Oct
2012) adapted for the funeral service.
He and wife Margaret were frequent
visitors at Houston and Cape Kennedy where they built up a formidable
reputation, including the fact they endeared themselves to everyone for
their devotion to taking tea! Reg also interviewed every Apollo astronaut;
and many others; and went on to be the only UK journalist to win NASA's
'Chronicle Award' for his coverage on the Space Programme.
He was famously
known for breaking the story of the Apollo 13's near disaster spending
several days largely without sleep to bring the story to the world. For this
and much else he was held in high regard by the US Press Corp.
After an enforced 'official' retirement from the BBC much to Reg's chagrin ,
he moved with his family to Sandgate and became a well known and involved
figure in the area. However, he was lured back to the BBC via the then new
John Craven's Newsround children's programme and later Blue Peter where he was instrumental in getting a live broadcast from the Soviet space
mission with cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, and later broadcasts from the Space
Shuttle missions which he covered from the Cape.
During his long lifetime and at work, he became the first journalist to fly
faster than sound; and at the age of 80, undertook a 'weightlessness'
flight aboard a Boeing 707. This though had to be undertaken in Holland as
UK doctors wouldn't allow it.
This shows that Reg would never take no for an answer and he was
renowned for his rather anti-authority stances including a love/hate
relationship with the BBC from engineers to the top echelons. Despite this,
the high regard he was held in, saw him through.
In later life Reg remained very active, contributing to various programmes,
writing and editing many books including 'The Moon Landing- an eve-witness
account', 'Celebrating Concorde',' Jane's Space Flight Directory' and the
'Observer Book of Space' amongst many others. He also wrote regularly in the
Daily Telegraph even up until just last December.
He was also a very kind man, who was also willing to give time and
encouragement to many people, including those with health problems. His son
Michael told of his father striking up friendship with a Falklands veterans.
Finally, the many thousands of tributes from fellow journalists and space
scientists from around the world; along with many from friends everywhere;
shows that his work had been an inspiration to many. He will be very much
The service ended to the Hymn: 'One More Step Along The World I Go' ; and
then 'The Lark Assending' by Vaughan Williams.
John Craven, BBC Broadcaster- NewsRound and Countryfile, Peter Sissions.
Former BBC News reporter, Sandra Howard. author and wife of Lord Howard,
Cllr Robert Bliss. Leader Shepway District Council, Cllr Roland Tolputt. KCC
and Mrs H Tolputt, Roger and Liz Joyce and many members of the Sandgate
Others included Mike & Janine Umbers, Michael Stainer, owner of The Grand
and Chair of HG Wells Festival, Eamonn Rooney, local historian and Chair
Leas Lift CiC, Nicholas Reed and Liz Scazafabo, Lilburne Press and
Folkestone Creative magazine, Paul Harris local author, Yvonne Hutchcraft
and Ray Duff, former members HG Wells Festival.
© Hawkinge Gazette and Channel Coast News 2013
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