Walter receiving the millionth B4RN share

Walter Willcox
27 March 1940 to 1 March 2022

It is with great sadness B4RN has learned of the death of Walter Willcox, a stalwart B4RN advocate, volunteer, and our very first shareholder (also the proud owner of our millionth share, too).

Walter was a significant supporter of B4RN in the early years and that support continued right through to his retirement in 2021. He had a passion and commitment to bring full fibre broadband to the most remote parts of the country, bringing his vision to light in his home area too, with B4SH (Broadband for Surrey Hills).

One of B4RN’s founders, Chris Conder, said: “You could say he almost died with his boots on, he never really retired, he was still dictating emails to his daughter the night before he passed away to the great dig in the sky.

“He was never a nine to fiver, he was a man of grit, a true JFDI warrior, who was determined to help as many people in as many places as he could.”

Broadband for Surrey Hills penned their own tribute:

“How do you sum up Walter? ‘Legend’ said one on hearing of his passing – a fitting epithet. Walter had conviction, drive and passion throughout his life. In his retirement he took up the challenge of helping those in rural Surrey Hills villages to find better, faster and more reliable broadband service. His frustrations with the existing telecoms companies and their lack of support for rural properties led to his involvement with Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN) in Lancashire.

“He started his volunteering with B4RN, leaving Surrey for weeks at a time to stay in Lancashire and become fully conversant with what they were doing and how they were doing it. He volunteered in all weathers, at all altitudes, drank many cups of tea and shared cake with many a Lancashire resident. He had absolute belief in all that B4RN were doing and that unwavering commitment led him to become their first shareholder. That experience with B4RN led to him championing a similar solution for the Surrey Hills and he was one of the founding members of Broadband for Surrey Hills (B4SH), aiming to start the rollout of a future proof fibre broadband network, here in the south. His irrepressible belief and faith remained undimmed throughout his involvement with B4SH and he is known to a great many residents. He was known to tirelessly outline the benefits of full fibre symmetric broadband in the William IV pub in Albury Heath!

“So today, he may no longer be with us, but his memory and the difference he has made to a good many people’s lives in the Surrey Hills lives on. Rest in peace Walter. We’ll carry on the good work you helped to start here in Surrey.

“With sincere condolences to his wife, two daughters and all their family from the whole B4SH and B4RN family.”


To remember Walter, here’s a little video we made when he retired last year:



Walter was shareholder no.1


Walter was also a keen volunteer. Here he is waiting to catch blown fibre.


Receiving a Next Gen Digital Challenge Award on behalf of B4RN and the Yorkshire Dales.


Walter never stopped. Here he is in 2019, helping with house kit installs in Sedbergh.