April 14 2015
HEREFORDSHIRE AUTHOR FOLLOWS IN RAF FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS
A Herefordshire author, heritage consultant and counsellor, from Stansbatch, near Leominster, is to set out on the first leg of a personal commemorative tour of UK aerodromes this week, to honour her late father’s military career.
Elizabeth Halls is heading towards RAF Valley in North Wales on Thursday 16th April – the first of 60 British airfields where her night-fighter pilot father, ex-Flight Lieutenant Bryan Wild, landed during World War II.
The tour runs right through until September.
Affectionately dubbed ‘Chattie’, the vehicle is similar to the one Bryan owned in 1944, but reluctantly had to part with when he was de-mobbed.
Even her number plate CHU 944 recalls the year her father bought his own two-seater, and his favourite wartime song, The Chattanooga Choo Choo.
Flight Sergeant Wild, as he was then, was stationed at RAF Valley between July and October 1941, and on one occasion, as he was coming in to land at the base, his Defiant collided with a stray cook wagon on the runway, shearing off one of the plane’s wheels and forcing him to land in the sand dunes.
75 years on, and Elizabeth is hoping to make a slightly less dramatic entrance when she visits Anglesey and meets the current Station Commander there.
Following Bryan’s death, aged 90, in 2012, Elizabeth compiled and edited her father’s memoirs.
‘Flying Blind: The Story of a Second World War Night-Fighter Pilot’ (Fonthill Media) captures the highs and lows of life as an RAF pilot during the war. It details Bryan’s experiences and close shaves with death and his involvement in the close-knit airfield communities around the country.
Elizabeth says: “Writing my father’s memoirs after his death has been something of a journey for me. There was so much I didn’t know about his airborne adventures, or the camaraderie he enjoyed on terra firma. In editing his notes, I feel I have almost re-lived his experiences.
Dad flew fourteen different types of aircraft during his career and saw action over Britain, North Africa, the Mediterranean and Germany. He spoke of the thrills and frisson of night flying, the intensity of wartime action, the deep comradeships and the devastating loss of friends in combat along the way.
Through the tour I plan to tell stories relating to the airfields, and to the individual airmen associated with them, and demonstrate the unique sense of connection which existed then, and still exists now, between small communities and the airfields they ‘hosted’ during the war.”
The ‘Where They Served’ Tour, which has been sponsored by Brightwells Auctioneers and Thetford Motor Engineering, will also raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund, to whom Elizabeth’s family is grateful for the help they gave Bryan Wild, during the last years of his life when he contracted Parkinson’s disease.
Elizabeth hopes that both the book and the tour will help to bring alive the work of the RAF all those years ago and remember those who served, especially those who died and never saw the peace they battled for and won.
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‘Flying Blind – The Story of a Second World War Night Fighter Pilot’ was initiated and encouraged throughout by aviation historian Joe Bamford. It is available to buy directly from the publisher Fonthill Media or on Amazon and Kindle. www.flyingblindnightfighter.com
Fonthill Media is an independent publishing company with offices in Oxford UK, and Charleston SC USA. Its catalogue includes over 250 titles covering a variety of subjects including Archaeology and Ancient History, Aviation, Biography, Local History and Heritage, Military and General History, Sport, Transport and Industrial History. www.fonthillmedia.com
The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund is the RAF’s leading welfare charity, providing financial, practical and emotional support to all members of the RAF family. It serves former members of the RAF, as well as their partners and dependents, whenever they are in need. It helps members of the RAF deal with a wide range of issues; from childcare and relationship difficulties to injury and disability, and from financial hardship and debt to illness and bereavement. www.rafbf.org