WAR veteran, a Royal Marine for 25 years serving all over the globe, a quarter century working with British Gas, holder of the British Empire Medal, town council macebearer, Royal British Legion stalwart, local footballer and referee, keen snooker player, allotment holder, founding member of the cribbage league.
Tony Rice enjoyed a long and interesting life, serving his country with distinction and his home town with pride. His passing, at the age of 94, at the Lyme Regis Nursing Home where he lived for the last six years, will be greatly mourned in Lyme Regis where he was a hugely respected by his fellow townsfolk.
He is survived by three children, Sue, Jenny and Martin, nine grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.
Born and educated in Lyme, Mr Rice joined the Royal Marines at 18, became a Commando and served all over the globe, seeing action in Germany when British troops crossed the Rhine and landing in Japan shortly after the Hiroshima bomb.
He retired from the Marines at the age of 40 in 1966, having served for 25 years in all the world’s trouble spots, and took a job with British Gas for whom he worked briefly before the war. He worked as a service engineer until his retirement in 1991, having been awarded the British Empire Medal for services to the Gas Board and the community.
Mr Rice was a popular local footballer and referee and enjoyed a game of snooker at the Conservative Club. He was also a founding member of Lyme Regis Cribbage League and was secretary-treasurer to the Lyme Regis Allotment Association. He was was a keen member of the Lyme Regis branch of the Royal British Legion, acting as the caller at their weekly bingo sessions, and served the town council as a macebearer for many years.
In his latter years Mr Rice became a familiar figure around town and on the seafront in his power wheelchair, escorted by one of his children, and enjoyed meeting and chatting with his many friends whilst he puffed away on his trademark pipe.
In a tribute to Mr Rice, Philip Evans MBE of LymeOnline writes: “I lived opposite the Rice family for 50 years and all the young men in our road looked upon Mr Rice as a bit of a hero – mainly because he was a great footballer and also because we knew he was a Royal Marine Commando. Nothing earned our respect more than that.
“He always had the time of day for us and I remember interviewing him in 1989 when he was awarded the BEM about which he was extremely humble.
“He took a great interest in the football club and we often saw him on his allotment on a Saturday afternoon when we were playing at the Davey Fort. He always wanted to know what the score was.
“Mr Rice succeeded my father Jack, after his death, as a macebearer for the town mayor, a role he took very seriously. As a former Marine, you can image he brought great gravitas to his duties. The role of the macebearer, now purely ceremonial, was to protect the mayor. I can’t imagine anyone being a threat to the mayor with Tony stood beside him!
“Living just a few doors from another former war veteran Bill Reed, we had no real understanding what like men like Mr Rice and Mr Reed had gone through during the war years. They rarely – if ever – spoke about their exploits but we knew there was something special about them. We considered it a privilege living in such close proximity in a road where community spirit was always way of life.”