I was extremely privileged to attend a small gathering at the week-end, a series of gatherings really. Many RAF Squadron Associations have disbanded in recent years as the numbers of attendant veterans of the Second World War have declined. 625 Squadron Association held their annual reunion dinner on Saturday evening followed by a memorial service, and a buffet lunch courtesy of 1228 (Louth) Squadron, ATC, the following morning. The upper and lower ages of those gathered around the Kelstern memorial had a range of about eighty years.
Passing traffic generally respected the assembly at the memorial which has been painstakingly restored by dedicated volunteers. Congratulations to 1228 Squadron for their guard of honour and to the priest for his selected reading and prayer which were totally appropriate to the reason for our being there, to the gathering and to the setting – the airfield with its remnants of wartime buildings runways, and peri-tracks with the expanses between having long since reverted to peaceful agriculture.
The minor collective disappointment was that a requested fly-past in honour of those who lost their lives in the war-time service of 625 Squadron – a main force RAF Bomber Command squadron – did not materialise. It was sad that the request had warranted neither an acknowledgement nor a reply. The BBMF Lancaster is, of course, an icon and to get the aircraft in the air involves a great deal of organisation and expense, so it is understandable that a small individual commemoration could not be accommodated this time. However, it was far better to have been honoured by the presence of three distinguished gentlemen who operated Lancasters from RAF Kelstern seventy years ago, than the aeroplane.
I had the pleasure to meet Iain Sutton, the son of Frank Sutton, rear gunner in the 625 Squadron crew of Canadian pilot Reg Price. Reg and Frank’s crew had arrived at RAF Kelstern within a day of cousin Jim Ives’ own posting there. It was a great honour to enjoy Reg’s company and his memories of a busy military and commercial pilot’s life, recounted with crystal clarity, modesty and great charm in a calm, no nonsense manner which, I have no doubt, reflected the attributes which carried his crew safely through their tour of operations.
Reg is now 93 years of age, he had flown in from Canada to take in the reunion events before travelling on to show his son, daughter and son-in law other places significant to him and his late wife Elsie whom he had met at a RAF Kelstern station dance within a week of arriving there.