Sidmouth prepares to honour RAF anniversary

PUBLISHED: 16:00 31 March 2018 | UPDATED: 10:07 03 April 2018

A photo of 96 year old WWII Lancaster pilot Les Harlow when he was aged 22.  Les was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions on 12 December 1944 over Witten in Germany.  Here he is pictured with his Lancaster crew. Of his crew of seven, Les was the oldest, aged 22, while the youngest was 17 years old (in the photo, Les is front row centre)

A photo of 96 year old WWII Lancaster pilot Les Harlow when he was aged 22. Les was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions on 12 December 1944 over Witten in Germany. Here he is pictured with his Lancaster crew. Of his crew of seven, Les was the oldest, aged 22, while the youngest was 17 years old (in the photo, Les is front row centre)

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The exploits of residents serving in the RAF have gone on display as part of celebrations to mark 100 years of the Royal Air Force.

Flight Lieutenant Laurie Leask also features in the exhibit. During WWII he undertook his flying training in the USA before eventually joining No 525 Squadron at RAF Membury flying transport aircraft.  When he left the RAF he joined the ‘reserves’ and continued to fly regularly at RAF Exeter as an instructor.Flight Lieutenant Laurie Leask also features in the exhibit. During WWII he undertook his flying training in the USA before eventually joining No 525 Squadron at RAF Membury flying transport aircraft. When he left the RAF he joined the ‘reserves’ and continued to fly regularly at RAF Exeter as an instructor.

Ex-serviceman Alastair Watson has organised a special service at the parish church on Wednesday to mark the centenary milestone and the role RAF Sidmouth played during World War Two.

On Wednesday, the town’s cadets will parade their squadron standard before the service begins at 11am.

RAF Sidmouth was formed in 1942 and made a valuable contribution towards the war efforts.

The units that made up RAF Sidmouth were an air ministry experimental station at Oakdown Caravan Park, a medical training depot and an aircrew officers school.

Jack Hedger, a young RAF pilot met his wife Sheila on a walk on Salcombe Hill, they married at Sidmouth Parish Church on June 1946.Jack Hedger, a young RAF pilot met his wife Sheila on a walk on Salcombe Hill, they married at Sidmouth Parish Church on June 1946.

Mr Watson, who served in the RAF for four decades, said: “100 years a huge milestone in anybody’s minds. It has been a great privilege to explore the important part played by the town during World War Two.”

The celebrations also include an exhibit in Sidmouth Museum that features photographs and items belonging to servicemen and women who were born or served in the town.

Among the attendees on the attraction’s opening night was 96-year-old Lancaster pilot Les Harlow and his wife Mary.

Les was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions on December 12, 1944 over Witten in Germany.

The pilot also met the widow of fellow Lancaster pilot Jack Goodrum and discovered both of them had flown missions to Kiel, with the aim of damaging the German battle cruiser Admiral Scheer.

Also in the collection is a photograph of RAF pilot Jack Hedger, who met his wife Sheila while out for a walk; they married at the parish church in 1946.

Alastair said: “The most exciting part has been discovering the personal stories, not only Sidmothians but also of those former RAF people who have moved to the area.

“Importantly, we want the museum to have a contemporary feel, so we want to hear from anyone who have served in the RAF in more recent times.”

Visitors will also be able to read about Flight Lieutenant Laurie Leask, a member of 525 Squadron at RAF Membury flying transport aircraft, Women’s Auxiliary Air Force plotter Margaret Carr and Leading Aircraftsman Pearcey.

All are welcome to attend the service on April 4.

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