A FORMER Woodstock mayor has died after a short illness, aged 88.

Colonel Nigel Clifford MBE was twice mayor of the town, an honourary townsman and a former soldier who built airfields around the world in a distinguished 30-year military career.

He passed away on Friday, January 17.

Born in Bicester, Mr Clifford grew up in Woodstock, where his family ran a local tailoring business.

He attended the National School in Oxford Road, before then gaining a scholarship at Chipping Norton Grammar School, where he became head boy.

He then won a place at Bristol University where he read civil engineering.

In 1954, graduate entry National Service into the Royal Engineers led to a 30-year military career that took Mr Clifford around the world during some of the most important moments in post-war history.

Specialising in airfield construction, he was in Germany at the height of the Cold War when the Berlin Wall was built, at Christmas Island during the UK’s atomic bomb testing programme, and built airfields in Thailand for the US forces during the Vietnam War.

His most fulfilling job however was commanding a squadron of Royal Engineers in the Caribbean in the 1970s, when he not only built the British Virgin Islands airfield on Beef Island, but he also helped the local police deal with civil unrest throughout the region.

For this, he was appointed an MBE.

He subsequently commanded his Regiment, 39 Engineer Regiment (Airfields), and was Deputy Commandant of the Royal School of Military Engineering.

Mr Clifford married his wife Lorna, herself a Woodstock local, in 1955, and they returned to the town in 1984.

It was then he embarked on a full second career in local civic life.

He was vice-president of the Woodstock branch of the Royal British Legion for seven years, where he organised and ran the poppy appeal.

He was also the driving force behind the design and construction of the Woodstock Broderers’ embroidered panels in the Town Hall, depicting the history of Woodstock.

Mr Clifford was chairman of the Woodstock Society for five years from 1991, and in 1994 and 1995, he was the town’s mayor.

He was instrumental in driving through the highly successful street party to mark the fiftieth anniversary of VE Day, which received television coverage when it was linked to the BBC film ‘A Country Called Europe’.

Whilst serving as a town councillor between 1996 and 1998, he led success with the reconstruction of the Mill Stream in the Meadows.

As a student, Mr Clifford received support from the Woodstock Exhibition Foundation, which had fallen into disuse with its funds all but exhausted.

Mr Clifford re-established the fundraising programme, which continues to this day and enables trustees to distribute £8,000 annually to needy Woodstock students.

In recognition of his long and distinguished civic service to Woodstock, Mr Clifford was made honourary townsman in 2012.

A Woodstock man to his core, Mr Clifford is survived by his wife, their three sons, James, Johnathan and Robin, and seven grandchildren.

His son Robin Clifford said: “He lived a long and full life, and applied the same rigour and enthusiasm to everything he did, from his civic duties to his military career.

“He was known for being a meticulous planner and he was a keen cyclist, often seen on his bicycle, wearing his Barbour jacket.

“He had an insatiable curiosity and an inquisitive mind, this evident by the fact he read a lot on European religious history.”

A service of thanksgiving will be held for Mr Clifford today at St Mary Magdalen Church, Woodstock at 2.30pm.