Sir David Jason has described his Only Fools And Horses co-star John Challis as a “gentleman in the true sense of the word”.

Challis passed away following a “long battle with cancer”, his family said.

Sir David’s character Del Boy was often in conflict with Challis’s second-hand car dealer, Boycie, on the hit TV show.

“It is with much sadness to hear that John Challis, a dear friend, has passed away,” he said in a statement.

“He was a wonderful actor, a gentleman in the true sense of the word and I know he will be missed by so many.”

He said Boycie was “a character so well loved by the many fans of that show so I am pleased that he witnessed the outpouring of admiration recently shown for the 40th anniversary of the first episode in 1981.

“I send my love and condolences to his wife, Carol.”

American rapper Ice T, who says Challis had “somehow” become a Twitter friend, also paid tribute.

Sue Holderness, who played Challis’s on-screen wife, said: “Marlene without Boycie – it’s unthinkable. John Challis was my partner on screen and stage for 36 years and my beloved friend. R.I.P. darling John. I will miss you every day.”

Allo Allo actress Vicki Michelle said she was “shocked and saddened” to hear of his passing, adding that Challis was “such a fabulous man” and “loved by the nation”.

Sheila Ferguson, from The Three Degrees, tweeted a picture of her and Challis and said she had been “waiting for this for a few days now”.

The singer added: “I’ve been in touch with his wife, Carol, who is obviously heartbroken, as am I.”

Crissy Rock, who starred alongside Challis in Benidorm, tweeted: “John you were a true gentleman and always so loving and supportive towards me. I am thinking of your family and close friends at this hard time. Rest well. Crissy xx.”

Dr Who star Colin Baker said Challis was “funny, warm, and a great lover of his garden and nature”.

Somerset Country Cricket Club tweeted a video of Challis – a “long-term supporter” – recorded earlier this year in the character of Boycie in which he announced the extension of a player’s contract.

The club said it was “extremely saddened” by his death.

The RNLI said Challis had shown “incredible support” for the sea rescue organisation, “for which we will always be grateful”.

And boxer Frank Bruno tweeted: “He (Challis) used to say to me: ‘Franklyn, my dear boy, how the devil are you? Boxed anybody round the ears recently?’

“Loved all the TV he did.”