I had the enormous privilege of accompanying Tom Neil to the Bomber Command Veterans Day at the Comrades Club in Godmanchester on the 25th June.
Whilst Tom is obviously associated with Fighter Command, he had self-volunteered to help support the local event. Tom joined the 9 other veterans in attendance – including the likes of ‘Johnny’ Johnson DFM, the last UK Dambuster aircrew alive & Mary Stopes-Roe, daughter of Barnes Wallace – the inventor of the famous bouncing bomb used in the Dambuster raids!
The event was superbly organised by Roger Leivers & raised a brilliant total of £1,200 which was split between ‘The Godmanchester Stirling’ project & a donation to International Bomber Command Centre.
Fighting High Publishing were also on hand to sell some incredible books & the crowds flocked to have their items signed by all the veterans. It was an honour to be in the presence of so many heroes all under the same roof.
Tom was sat with Ian Blair DFC for the day, who also went on to fly Spitfires later in the war & had plenty of incredible stories to tell. It was also a huge personal highlight for me to instigate Tom & ‘Johnny’ Johnson meeting for the very first time & to capture it. Quite a moment to see a Battle of Britain ‘Ace’ alongside Britain’s last surviving Dambuster!
A fantastic day, meeting and chatting with the veterans over lunch & I met some lovely people who helped facilitate such a memorable day. Looking forward to next year!
The full list of veterans in attendance were:
‘Johnny’ Johnson DFM – Lancaster Bomb Aimer with 617 Sqn. The last surviving British aircrew who took part in the Dambusters raid on the Sorpe Dam.
Donald Jeffs – Wireless operator on ‘MacRoberts Reply’. Don crashed in both aircraft to carry this name and became a POW after being shot down in Denmark.
Ian Blair DFM – After his pilot was killed during a raid Ian took control of his Mk.1 Blenheim and flew it home safely earning him a DFM. Subsequently qualified as a pilot and flew Spitfires.
Tom Neil DFC & Bar, AFC, AE – Battle of Britain Hurricane ‘Ace’ with 249 Sqn before being posted to defend Malta in 1941.
‘Rusty’ Waughman DFC, AFC – Lancaster pilot with 101 Sqn and took part in the Nuremberg raid in March 1944 which saw Bomber Command suffer its greatest losses in a single night.
‘Taff’ Owen – W/O & Air Gunner on Lancaster bombers with 153 & 12 Sqn’s and was also involved in Operation ‘Manna’ dropping food supplies in the Netherlands.
Harry Irons DFC – Air Gunner on Lancaster and Halifax bombers with 9 & 158 Sqn’s and completed 60 Operations.
Gerry Norwood – A Lancaster Air Gunner with 460 Sqn (RAAF) and completed a full tour of duty
Henry Wagner – Served as a navigator on Halifax bombers with 51 Sqn. Shot down in December 1944 Henry became a POW after 6 days on the run
Mary Stopes-Roe – The daughter of Sir Barnes Wallace and author/representative of the Barnes Wallace Trust.