Tributes paid to former DLI soldier and Sunderland bowls legend Tommy Jopling
A Sunderland solider who guarded Nazi Rudolf Hess and went on to become a shining star of the city’s bowls scene will be laid to rest today.
Former Durham Light Infantry man Tommy Jopling passed away earlier this month. He was 82.
Born in Hendon, Tommy lived in Nile Street. He was one of 11 children, with nine sisters and one brother, and attended James William Street School.
Tommy spent seven years in the army, as daughter Tracy recalled: “In 1959, he was very proud of the fact he had to stand guard over Rudolf Hess when he was taken to Spandau Prison,” she said.
“Dad used to tell me that story – he was a bit like Uncle Albert."
Tommy remained immensely proud of his military service and it is a part of his life that will be celebrated at today’s service, with some of his former comrades forming a guard of honour.
”He loved the army,” said Tracy.
“He has been dressed in his Durham Light Infantry uniform in the chapel of rest and has got his medals on.
“His DLI beret will be on top of the coffin.”
After leaving the army, Tommy worked at Joplings Foundry and Pyrex before spending 30 years working as a forklift driver at Rolls-Royce in Pallion.
However Bowling was his true passion.
“He started off with 10-pin bowling but then he went on play crown green bowls,” said Tracy.
The more sedate form of the sport turned out to be the perfect match and he played for Pemberton, Barnes Park, Silksworth and City of Sunderland, enjoying great success indoors at Crowtree.
Over a thirteen year period he racked up a remarkable 54 club titles – including 33 in senior’s competitions, making him the most successful senior in Sunderland club history.
A national champion, Tommy was also a dominant force at county level, with three seniors Champion of Champions titles and a couple of pairs titles alongside his late partner Joe Flett.
He is survived by Tracy, son Alan, grandchildren Callum, Brogan and Alex and great-granddaughter Ellie.