IT was a near miss that almost claimed his life.
But Freddie Vine lived to tell the tale of his plane crash during the 1950s when his aircraft almost hit a gasometer in Portsmouth.
Mr Vine, a well-known character in Havant who was a long-standing Conservative councillor from 1966 to 1995, has died. He was 90.
Mr Vine, who lived at White Ladies Close, Havant, will be remembered by many as the town’s butcher as his family ran Vines Butchers in North Street for many decades.
He was born in the shop and worked there from being a teenager, through the war years until it eventually closed in the late 70s to make way for a new Waitrose.
During the Second World War, Mr Vine joined the Royal Air Force, but failed to pass his test to become a pilot.
He returned to the family butchers shop as it was a reserved occupation.
Years later he got his pilot’s licence and would often hire out a plane to fly – until one day it almost ended in disaster.
Jack Carruthers, 86, who lives in Denmead, was a fellow councillor alongside Mr Vine and said: ‘It was a miracle escape.
‘He was badly knocked about but he made a good recovery. I remember him saying he saw the gasometer coming, but he managed to do something about it.’
Gwen Blackett, a councillor for Purbrook, remembers him fondly as a councillor for St Faith’s ward.
She said: ‘He was a very good councillor and looked after his constituents – they always came first.
‘He was a colourful character and a lot of fun.’
During the war, he drove the fire engine for Havant – a crucial job during the bombings on Hayling Island.
Mr Carruthers added: ‘There was one thing he used to do. When he want out of the house he was always worried he might be burgled for some reason or another. He used to leave a £5 note in a conspicuous position so that if anyone broke into the shop, they just took the note and left him alone.’
In 1996, he was made an Honorary Alderman of the borough for his services to the community.
Friend Jim Phillips, 71, the first leader of Havant Borough Council, said: ‘We were mates for about 40 years and we used to go out drinking every Thursday night. It’s a great loss.’
Mr Vine died peacefully and leaves behind his partner Pamela Carter and his nephews and nieces. His funeral service will take place on Tuesday, November 15 in St Faith’s Church, Havant, at 10.30am.
· Freddie Vine - Born December 13, 1920 - Died October 27, 2011