Tributes paid to former News journalist who passes away

TRIBUTES Reg Betts
TRIBUTES Reg Betts
Paige Howitt

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REG Betts, who has died at the age of 86, was a respected journalist who spent more than 40 years on the staff of The News.

He joined the paper in 1949 and held a number of posts until his retirement in 1989.

His funeral was held at a packed St Peter’s Church in Soberton on Monday where he had been a member of the church council and a church warden.

Reg had joined the RAF at the end of the Second World War, but the war ended before he finished his training.

From there he decide to become a journalist and met Pauline, who would become his wife of 61 years, when they were both working on a newspaper in Kent in the late 1940s.

He joined the then Portsmouth Evening News at the end of the decade and became chief reporter of the Fareham office. The couple lived in a flat above the town’s district office, which is still home to The News, in West Street.

His widow said: ‘We lived in that flat for about five years and it was a lot of fun.

‘I remember we had a lot of parties up there.’

Reg transferred to The News Centre at Portsmouth to join the sports desk and until the early 1970s his name was familiar to Pompey fans as he covered the team’s fortunes in the old Second Division.

For the final 15 years of his career he was the paper’s highly-regarded defence correspondent.

On his retirement in July 1989 the navy paid tribute to Reg with an honour usually reserved for visiting dignitaries.

Under the pretext of covering a top security occasion on the navy’s flagship, he was invited to a surprise lunch on HMS Victory where he was the guest of honour.

And his colleagues at The News paid their own tribute with the long-standing newspaper tradition of creating a humorous mock front page for him.

In it he was dubbed the ‘Admiral’, and called ‘a legend in his own lifetime and the uncrowned master of the expense-sheet art’.

In a nod to his prolific output he was quoted as supposedly saying about his newsdesk: ‘God, what a day I’ve had... four front page leads before 10am and still they’re not satisfied!’

Paying tribute to her husband, Pauline Betts said: ‘He looked after me all my life. He was my rock and he was never unkind.

‘We quite enjoyed being just the two of us.’

After his retirement he was a member of, and also for a period, the chairman of Soberton Parish Council.

The couple spent more than 40 years in Soberton, before moving to Manor Close in Wickham where they lived for the past five years.

He died at the Countess Mountbatten Hospice in Southampton.

He also leaves a son Michael and daughter Susie.

· Reg Betts, born May 25, 1925; died December 4, 2011