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.

Monday, 27th January 2020, 8:22 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 9:56 am
The funeral for Tommy Jopling was held on Tuesday.

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.

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DLI solider and champion bowler Tommy Jopling

“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.

Tommy's beret will be laid on the coffin

“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.

Guard of honour for the funeral of DLI soldier and national bowls champion Thomas Jopling

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.

Funeral of DLI soldier and national bowls champion Thomas Jopling
Tommy on his wedding day (left) and a more recent photograph of him taken by his family.