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21st Sep, 2021

RAF flypast in Balsall Common to honour veterans 100th birthday

Sarah Mason 13th Sep, 2021 Updated: 14th Sep, 2021

A SECOND World War bomber pilot looked to the skies as he celebrated his 100th birthday.

Maurice Bennett had an RAF flypast and a party with friends and family at Harper Fields care home in Balsall Common to mark him becoming a centenarian on Saturday (September 11).

He was handed a number of gifts and cards as well as a personal letter from Air Marshal Andrew Turner, the current person responsible for delivering the Royal Air Force (RAF) Strategy, wishing him a happy birthday and thanking him for his service.

Maurice was born and grew up in Great Yarmouth and he started his working life at a trustee savings bank.

During the Second World War he decided to undergo the exams and physical tests to join the RAF and he was accepted into the 78 Squadron within days.

He was sent to America to complete his training at various airfields including Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

Speaking to The Observer Maurice said: “When I came back to the UK I was expecting to fly Spitfires but the Generals realised it could take up to two years before they would be ready.

“But instead I was given a Halifax plane to carry out my missions.

“We had been trained well and although the Germans were firing with air craft guns a bomber wasn’t an easy target for them.”

While he was on duty Vi – his now wife of 78 years – was waiting for him at home.

However, their plans to marry were slightly altered after the Great Yarmouth church they planned to marry in had been damaged in an aid raid.

The pair have two children, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Maurice likes to tell them – and staff at the care home – his war stories and he even lead a Zoom lesson for children at Balsall Common Primary School during lockdown.

After the war he became an air traffic controller at Manchester and Edinburgh.

He moved to Balsall Common with Vi to be closer to their daughter Caroline.

Maurice said his secret to his long life is the odd glass of wine or whiskey.

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