You don’t get many famous wrestler-cum-actors from Birmingham do you? Here I am at the grave of Pat Roach who appeared in twenty-two films including the Raiders Of The Lost Ark blockbusters and a James Bond film. However I’ll always know him as bricklayer “Bomber” from Auf Wiedersehen Pet. Staying in Worcestershire I thought I must look him up.
As light was fading I couldn’t find his grave in Bromsgrove Cemetery. I was booked into a Travel Lodge in Worcester but I didn’t want to return the following morning to tramp around the cemetery again. I was hungry and ready for a rest after a day tramping through various cemeteries. I spotted a man with dry plaster splattered on his face by a grave and asked if he knew where “Bomber” lay. This was a dash of good luck as he had worked in the cemetery for years and had dug the grave. He said the cemetery was blocked off on the day of Pat’s funeral to deter newspapers from taking photographs of the famous mourners (didn’t work.) He took me to the grave which is across a road in a secondary cemetery. I thanked him and shook his hand. He was meeting his sister at their parent’s grave but before he could get ten feet a cat appeared. He said they met most nights at their parent’s grave to feed five or six cats that lived among the dead.
Francis Patrick Roach was born and brought up in Birmingham and was a well-known wrestler on circuit for many years before becoming a well-loved actor. For years he faced abuse from the crowds who wrongly judged him to be a typical wrestler who went through the motions and played at getting hurt. He had his first official wrestling match aged just 23 though and was coached professionally.
He was in his early thirties when he appeared in his first film, Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange in 1971. In most of the films Pat is a big heap of moving muscle but he loved it and wasn’t bothered about people’s view of him. In the wrestling world the crowds stopped shouting abuse and started showering him with affection. He’d married aged 20 and had a son and a daughter. In his fifties he was still in demand on the wrestling circuit but had time to play American football for the Birmingham Bulls, run a scrapyard and a gym in Birmingham. He even co-wrote a couple of books: one about his boyhood (called “If”) and another on Birmingham’s canals and jewellery workshops (called “Pat Roach's Birmingham.)
No matter how spectacular the films were I’ll always know the quiet, self-effacing, gentle, worldly-wise 6 foot 5 inch muscle stack as “Bomber” from Auf Wiedersehen Pet. Sadly he contracted throat cancer but was determined to film the fourth series shot in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. He died at home aged 67. I did my usual salute by the graveside. Bombs away.
Here’s Pat scraping Giant Haystacks in 1991...