Wing Cmdr W A J (Jimmy) Iles

WING CMDR W A J (Jimmy) Iles, former chairman of Crufts and a member of the Kennel club General Committee from 1975 to 1988, has died aged 88, writes Bernard Hall. He will be missed by a wide variety of friends both in the gundog world and outside it.

His life in dogs really began when he was asked to steward at an open show at Stroud in Gloucestershire in 1956. From that day he became more and more actively involved, particularly in the administration of shows and especially the United Retriever Club of which he was chairman for 21 years and president for a further 20 years.

He judged well over 150 shows in Britain and fulfiled over 50 BIS appointments world-wide, 41 of which were in Britain. One such which he especially remembered was judging best in show jointly with the late Ed Dixon, then chairman of the Canadian Kennel Club, at the show in Bermuda associated with the seventh World Congress of Kennel Clubs.

Jimmy Iles was born on September 27, 1913, and at one time was tutored for Holy Orders with a view to entering the Church, but it was the war which changed that and the Royal Air Force became his career, serving with them for 26 years.

During the Second World War he served in Bomber command and Maintenance Command in the UK and after the war was posted to the Middle East where besides his normal duties he was appointed director of Forces Broadcasting (Egypt and Aden). During a tour to Aden in the 1960s he interviewed a number of sporting personalities, including two MCC touring cricket teams. Sport was a great interest but it was at tennis that he the RAF at the inter-services tournement at Wimbledon.

On his return to England from the Middle East he was posted to the Ministry of Defence.

When first he was commissioned in the Royal Air Force he specialised in explosives and chemicals. At the end of the Second World War he retired but rejoined the RAF after a short period of civilian life.

When he finally retired from the RAF he took on the office of county appeals officer (Hampshire) for the Red Cross.

He and wife, Muriel, had their first introduction to dogs in 1952 after returning to England from his posting in Egypt. Both had been with dogs before but it was now that their real interest began and their breed was Golden Retrievers. Following those early days there were many Glennessa Goldens, outstanding among which was their first stud dog, Glennessa Crofter of Empshott, after which their home, Crofters Heron, at Fox near Amport in Hampshire was named.

Involvement with gundogs inevitably meant involvement with gundog clubs, especially the United Retriever Club, of which he was chairman for 21 years from 1961 and then president until his death.

He was also important in his breed club, the Golden Retriever Club, whose chairman he was also to become. He was president of Bath Canine Society, of Berkshire Downs and Chilterns GRC, the City of Bristol CS and the SE Welsh Springer Spaniel Society. He was a member of the Connaught Lodge of Freemasons.

He and his wife bred Golden Retrievers for over 40 years before taking on Irish Red and White Setters as a second gundog breed.


The United Retriever Club was founded in 1946 and Jimmy and Muriel started the Hampshire Area (now Hampshire and South West) in 1960 and they were helped in the early days by their two daughters, Nicola and Julia.

He was elected to the Kennel Club in 1965 and his commitment to its work grew over the years, culminating in his appointment as chairman of the 1988 Crufts show in succession to Sir Dudley Forwood. He was only to serve for single year in this office as it coincided with the year of his 75th birthday and compulsory retirement on age grounds from KC committees. He was then made a life member of the Kennel Club.

During his time on the KC General Committee he served at various times on all of its sub-committees with the exception of the Finance and General Purposes and was chairman or vice-chairman of them all at one time or another.

His introduction to committee work came from his appointment to the field trials sub-committee and he was always proud of the fact that it was during his term as chairman of Crufts that the green carpeting, now so much a feature of the shore, was introduced.

But Jimmy’s interests were much wider than his involvement in the world of dogs. While in the RAF much of his spare time was taken up with amateur theatricals and his ‘Am Dram’ experience was to help with the biggest production he had ever put on... Crufts.

He was also a talented artist, working mainly in water colours and black and white. A keen horticulturist he was always proud to show friends around his garden, where he loved to relax.

He supported the work of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and more recently had become keenly interested in Canine Partners for Independence. He was a talented man with a sharp brain and a phenomenal memory. He had a love of music, including the big band sound of Glenn Miller. He also had a great interest in architecture and old buildings, an interest he shared with his friend, the late Sir John Betjeman, who was godfather to his daughter Julia.

Yet another interest was bell ringing and on the occasion of his 60th wedding anniversary he received a certificate from the Central Council of Church Bellringers. The bells of his local church also rang out a 1260 change of Grandsire Doubles which lasted for 45 minutes.

Initially there is to be a private family service but at a date to be finalised there will be a service of thanksgiving for his life, to be held at Amport Church, Hampshire


To receive Breaking News dog stories direct to your Inbox,

sign up for the weekly Our Dogs email newsletter here