Veteran Tom takes to the skies

Flight Lieutenant Tom Wingham took to the skies today - 70 years after his Halifax bomber was shot down on a raid over Dusseldorf.

Tom, 91, who lives at Fornham House Care Home in Fornham St Martin, was offered the chance to fly in the Cessna airplane at Rougham Airfield after meeting private flyer Ian Whitaker-Bethel in a pub.

Ian had read Tom’s book Halifax Down! based on his experiences during the war and offered to take him on a flight, free of charge.

Tom was shot down by a ‘Schrage Musik’ night fighter, which had upward firing guns, while on a bombing raid over Dusseldorf in April 1944.

His plot was killed when the plane was hit but his navigator and Tom managed to bail out.

He landed unconcious after he was hit by a clip attached to his parachute.

From there Tom managed to make his way to Belgium, evading capture from the Gestapo for five months by hiding in the cellar of a family’s home.

He said: “It was over Dusseldorf that we were shot down, my pilot was blown up with the aircraft.

“In Beligium I had the Gestapo looking for me.

“On one evening the Gestapo came down to the cellar.

“I found a space under the stairs and hid behind some beer crates.

“They were looking for me - I could see them through a gap in the crates but they couldn’t see me.

“I was there for five months altogether.”

For Tom’s flight, Ian flew the aircraft over Fornham House Care home so residents could see him overhead.

Cat Anderson-Mills, Activity coordinator at the care home said: “They were all in the garden waiting and waving.

“We had started to do a gentleman’s club at the home where we would take the down the local pub men for a pint and a game of dominoes.

“On the second visit Ian was there and had read Tom’s book.

“I usually take him back to the home at about 4pm but he didn’t want to leave.

“Last week Ian did a fly-by over the care home and then offered to take Tom out in the plane.”

Tom said he was happy to be going up in the air again.

He said: “I still love the feeling of flying - I am always pleased to be in the air.”

Ian’s company Abbey Security Services Ltd paid for the flight and fuel.