Jim Thundercliffe – A Tribute

The following Tribute to Jim Thundercliffe comes from his wife Jane and was posted on RAF Mountain Rescue Friends Facebook Page


To RAF Mountain Rescue Friends
I was deeply touched by your response to Jim’s death. The floral reef was so symbolic and the flowers long lasting. I love the plaque and I will always treasure it. Regards all your lovely comments, I was just blown away. To be more accurate I felt transported back to 1970 and was reminded of the lovely man I had the good fortune to share so much of my life with. He retained all the unique qualities you described, such as, a twinkle in his eye, a spirit of adventure and a generous spirit. The Lew Body Dementia was fairly mild until about three years ago.
Young Jim 1970
I met Jim at the dive club at Dhekelia March 1970. It was rather overwhelming to be the only female in the club and the only Q.A female sergeant in the Mess. I relaxed with Jim knowing that he was just waiting for his departure date to Australia. (Oops) At that time he was relieving his parents and training some SAS, Mountaineering and Diving. When he left the RAF he did underwater lighthouse construction in the Red Sea. The MR team continued to include him with all their activities whenever possible. Our first proper date only happened because a MRT exercise was cancelled. On another occasion he was unable to join them. The team however, decided to call at C.E.S.A.C. (Church of England Soldiers Sailors and Airmen’s Club) for refreshments, on route to the Pan handle I was on the roof wearing a bikini. About 5 Land Rovers pulled up. Next thing I knew 20 pair of boot were thundering up the stairs. Yes, my clothes were at the other side of the room. The next time I met the MR team, Jim was in Australia but his Mum and I were invited to a lovely Christmas dinner. Jim always yearned for the mountains. If he ever achieved any altitude he developed what he called ‘mountainitis’, and did not want to leave. “W.A. lacks a good mountain range” he would say for the hundredth time. As a consequence most holidays revolved round walking or diving. If there was a hill to be climbed or a view to behold that was even better. Worn out boots were always retired to the bush and sat on a rock …………with a view.
I joined Jim in Australia 1971. He initially worked as a fireman at Melbourne. He was then offered a job professional diving. He mainly worked on the North West shelf on the Ocean Digger. After three years he took a shore job as a Telecom Lines Serviceman. He secured a couple of great secondments, one to Papua New Guinea and the other to Christmas Island. Both offered superb diving and a great social life. On Bougainville the jungle was thick. Many villages did not have any roads leading to them. Jim frequently needed to hire a helicopter to get up or over the mountains so, he still had his mountain fix. The helicopter pilot kindly requested that I join him if he suddenly needed a nurse escort to or from one of the villages. The staff at the medical practice covered for me
Over the years Jim did lots of volunteering and participated in many activities: Army reserve, treasurer of dive club, soccer club, and badminton club, and radio announcer, member of the State Emergency Service, Vegetable collector and animal feeder plus Dingo walker at Kaarakin, kayaking, bushwalking. Our dogs were walked twice daily. Somehow he managed to be a good husband and doting father. I am pleased to say he lived long enough to see Heather get married and produce two beautiful daughters.
Jim’s rescues continued after he left Cyprus.
• He pulled an unconscious diver from the bottom of a swimming pool.
• When he ran out of air at 417 feet he was unable to get back into the diving bell because his tether had snagged under the open hatch and his tender was pulling it too tight. Mercifully he got some slack, swam back and unhooked the snag then returned to the bell where he grabbed a new full face mask which supplied him with mixed gases. He realized that his tender was unconscious (hence the slack rope) because he had dislodged his communication device from his mask. He was breathing atmospheric air. (At that time, it was normal practice to pressurize the diving bell with air instead of mixed gases, highly toxic at depth) Jim swapped masks again and resuscitated his tender.
• The next occasion was on a plane home. An asthmatic baby had stopped breathing so he gave it mouth to mouth. The baby survived the beer fumes.
• The next occasion was in the bush. He spotted a car with a hose attached to the exhaust pipe. He dreaded approaching it. He managed to intervene before the young man switched on the engine.
• His next rescue is perhaps the most remarkable. My 95 year old Dad was very ill with heart failure and entered a nursing home 5 weeks before Jim. They were like a couple of book ends with their health issues but still managed to enquire after each other. On the evening of Jim’s funeral my Dad died. I had asked one of my nephews to take some pictures to show Dad because he was too ill to attend the funeral. They spent ½ and hour with him before he died. I felt that Jim offered him an open hand. He then said or implied “I can give you the strength if you want to come”. Dad gave a nod, so Jim then gave him a rescue wrist grip. Jim did not pull. There was no need. I felt incredibly calmed, knowing that they are both at rest and together.

I mourn for two loved ones but I have been comforted by your friendship.
Thank you,

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