Veteran flies in for funeral of WW2 pilot friend
On June 15, Ian Kerr-Bonner, a 94-year-old Creswell Quay local, recently took to the skies in order to attend the funeral of fellow pilot and friend, Des Page.
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Faced with a long journey to the Vinters Park Crematorium in Kent, Ian was delighted when the option to fly over became available thanks to SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity – as the two men had promised to say a proper farewell when the time came. Ian was a fellow glider pilot who had been friends with Des for 74 years and thought he would be unable to attend the funeral after breaking both his hips. After a determined SSAFA caseworker, Annabelle Zoran, took on the challenge of getting the funds from the Army Air Corps Veteran’s Association for the Gazelle Squadron to take him door to door in a helicopter.
Mr Kerr-Bonner said of his adventure: “We were going to come by road but we thought it was going to be too long a journey, so they came up with the idea of a helicopter which was wonderful. It was my first time in one.
“It's sad but worth the journey, they don't come very often like Des. I never thought he would go first. He was a hero. Des never wavered,"
The late Des Page was a WW2 glider pilot, became qualified just two months before D-day at the age of 21 and was thrust into battle immediately when he came under fire during his first landing as part of Operation Market Garden.
SSAFA provides lifelong support to the Armed Forces, veterans and their families in times of need. Beginning this vital work in 1885, this makes SSAFA the oldest tri-service, military charity running in the UK. This year alone, staff and teams of volunteers have helped over 67,000 people – from World War Two veterans to those involved in more recent conflicts and their families.