Sat. Apr 13th, 2024
alert-–-d-day-hero-believed-to-have-been-the-last-surviving-lancaster-bomber-pilot-from-the-second-world-war-dies-aged-100Alert – D-Day hero believed to have been the last surviving Lancaster bomber pilot from the Second World War dies aged 100

A D-Day hero believed to have been the last surviving Lancaster bomber pilot from the Second World War has died aged 100. 

Peter John Gould received France’s top military honour – the Legion d’Honneur – for his squadron’s actions during the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944.

He was part of the Pathfinder Force on D-Day, fighting in Bomber Command, and Peter’s family believe he could have been the last surviving Lancaster bomber pilot.

Peter’s daughter, retired businesswoman Pamela Gould, 70, said her father continued to have strong links to the RAF throughout his life.

Pamela, from Pamington, near Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, said: ‘He might be the last Lancaster bomber flight engineer and co-pilot – I’m not sure, but it’s the end of an era.

Peter John Gould (pictured) celebrating his 100th birthday with his neice. He was believed to be the last surviving Lancaster bomber pilot

Peter John Gould (pictured) celebrating his 100th birthday with his neice. He was believed to be the last surviving Lancaster bomber pilot 

Peter (pictured during his time in the armed forces) received France's top military honour - the Legion d'Honneur - for his squadron's actions during the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944

Peter (pictured during his time in the armed forces) received France’s top military honour – the Legion d’Honneur – for his squadron’s actions during the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944

A Lancaster bomber plane - believed to be the most successful heavy bomber used in the Second World War

A Lancaster bomber plane – believed to be the most successful heavy bomber used in the Second World War

‘I think people do remember their [the bombers] contributions – it’s all part of our history and we’re here today because of them.

‘He survived 45 sorties – he reckoned he survived because they’re trained to avoid combat. 

‘I spent a lot of time with him because I cared for him, you find war veterans are very reserved when it comes to the war.

‘He wasn’t a boastful man but very down to earth, he would say it as it is.’

Graphic shows how the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944 in Normandy unfolded

Graphic shows how the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944 in Normandy unfolded 

The Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 was the biggest of its kind in history

The Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 was the biggest of its kind in history

Peter, who was born in Bombay, India, in 1923, moved to England to join the RAF aged 16.

READ MORE: Flight of fancy! Full size replica of WWII Lancaster bomber cockpit that was painstakingly put together by 85-year-old history buff in his garage over six YEARS goes on sale for £150,000

He trained as a flight engineer and learned to fly at RAF Halton. He started flying Lancaster bomber planes in the 1940s. 

The Lancaster was a World War Two heavy bomber and is considered the most successful bomber plane used in the war. 

A total of 7,377 Lancaster Bombers carried out more than 150,000 missions and dropped more than 600,000 tons of bombs by the end of the war in 1945. 

But the men who flew them had the most perilous posting of the conflict with 3,249 aircraft and their crews lost in action. 

The model was finalised in 1942 and the Lancaster Bomber was first used in the raids on Augsburg that year. 

Peter, who lived in Oxford, completed a full tour of duty during the Second World War and spent 12 years in total in the RAF. He later wrote a book on his experiences called ‘The Best 12 Years’.

Pamela said after leaving active service in the RAF, her father continued to be involved in the organisation and enjoyed charitable pursuits.

Peter with his Lancaster bomber crew during one of his 45 missions that he went on

Peter with his Lancaster bomber crew during one of his 45 missions that he went on 

Peter with his daughter Pamela Rodley. She said her father continued to have strong links to the RAF throughout his life.

Peter with his daughter Pamela Rodley. She said her father continued to have strong links to the RAF throughout his life.

Peter John Gould as a child

Peter John Gould as a child

Peter (pictured as a child) was born in Bombay, India, in 1923, and moved to England to join the RAF aged 16

Peter, who lived in Oxford, completed a full tour of duty during the Second World War and spent 12 years in total in the RAF

Peter, who lived in Oxford, completed a full tour of duty during the Second World War and spent 12 years in total in the RAF

She said she would attend Aircrew Association meetings with Peter and that he would sometimes tell her stories of his time as a co-pilot.

READ MORE: Top secret D-Day invasion maps that were drawn up to confuse Hitler’s troops defending France are uncovered in suitcase belonging to a veteran who stormed Normandy

Peter, who had four children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, passed away from dementia which he developed in the last few years of his life.

Pamela said she expects RAF representatives to attend Peter’s funeral on April 9, and that he will be receiving the full military honours.

‘He stopped driving at 96 through choice and continued swimming into his 90s and he used to play water polo so stayed very fit,’ said Pamela.

‘We used to go together to the Aircrew Association, he was very much a part of the RAF still.

‘He was very supportive with his charity work and even in later life he was very knowledgeable and joined the u3a and a poetry club.

‘Before the dementia over the last couple of years he was really with it, you could have a conversation but what took his life was dementia.

‘I’m expecting some people representing the RAF to appear at his funeral and he’s having the full military honours.’

What was Bomber Command? RAF body oversaw Britain’s strategic bombing from pre-WWII in 1936 into the Cold War years until 1968

The RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF’s bomber forces from 1936 to 1968, including Squadron XV, and was responsible for the strategic bombing of Germany during the Second World War.

When the command was founded in 1936 it was only intended to be a deterrent, but the reality when war broke out three years later was very different.

Bomber command crews suffered incredibly high casualty rates. A total of 55,573 died out of 125,000 (44.4 per cent mortality rate), 8,403 were injured and 9,838 became prisoners of war.

Most who flew were very young and the vast majority were still in their late teens. Crews came from across the globe – from the UK, Canada, , New Zealand and all corners of the Commonwealth, as well as from occupied nations including Poland, France and Czechoslovakia.

It took astonishing courage to endure the conditions they faced: flying at night over occupied Europe; running the gauntlet of German night fighters; anti-aircraft fire and mid-air collisions.

The RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968 and was responsible for the strategic bombing of Germany during the Second World War

The RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF’s bomber forces from 1936 to 1968 and was responsible for the strategic bombing of Germany during the Second World War

But it was not until 1942 that the Bomber Command gained a real sense of direction, with the introduction of Air Marshal Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris.

Harris was appointed as commander in chief of Bomber Command in February 1942, with instructions to start attacking German industry, much of which was located in large cities.

His objective was to destroy Germany’s industrial might and create a collapse in the morale of the civilian workforce, breaking Germany’s will to fight on.

Times were hard. Victory seemed distant, and chivalric notions of war fighting had been burned away in the fire of the Blitz. U-Boats were roaming the Atlantic, sinking merchant shipping in an effort to starve Britain into submission. 

The prospects of success were uncertain. Morale among British workers had largely held firm in the face of prolonged attacks by the German Air Force.

Harris, however, firmly believed that through a combination of improved aircraft like the Lancaster and Halifax, better training and navigational aids, and a ruthless will to press the attack, Bomber Command could knock Germany out of the war.

Bomber command crews suffered incredibly high casualty rates. A total of 55,573 died out of 125,000 (44.4 per cent mortality rate), 8,403 were injured and 9,838 became prisoners of war. Pictured: Wellington Bomber air crew who took part in the raid on Heligoland 

Bomber command crews suffered incredibly high casualty rates. A total of 55,573 died out of 125,000 (44.4 per cent mortality rate), 8,403 were injured and 9,838 became prisoners of war. Pictured: Wellington Bomber air crew who took part in the raid on Heligoland 

In May 1942, Harris launched his first ‘thousand bomber raid’ against Cologne.

The scale of the attacks shocked Germany, but the country continued to fight. Further attacks did have a devastating effect on the Nazi war economy.

Albert Speer, the German armaments minister, believed that a series of raids like that on Hamburg in August 1943, repeated in quick succession, might well have compelled Germany to surrender. But that wasn’t the case.

Other more specialised operations also took place. The famous ‘Dam Busters’ raid of May 1943 shocked the world with its audacity, as Guy Gibson’s 617 Squadron launched a daring raid on the dams surrounding the Ruhr Valley.

Other attacks, like that on the battleship Tirpitz the following year, eliminated the German navy’s last major surface ship. 

Raids in 1944 and 1945 against German ‘V weapon’ launch sites were also a crucial defensive measure, helping to limit attacks from flying bombs and rockets on British cities.

Bomber Command switched its attentions to tactical objectives in early 1944, helping to pave the way for D-Day, the allied invasion of occupied Europe.

It played a vital and highly effective role attacking infrastructure around the invasion beaches. Attacking railways, roads and other transport links created chaos behind German lines, preventing the defending forces from massing to repel the landings.

The closing months of the war saw arguably the most controversial operations, such as the raid on Dresden in February 1945.

In four huge raids by the RAF and United States Army Air Force, a firestorm destroyed the city centre and killed thousands of civilians.

It took astonishing courage to endure the conditions they faced: flying at night over occupied Europe; running the gauntlet of German night fighters; anti-aircraft fire and mid-air collisions. Pictured: Bomber Command crews prepare for the raid on Heligoland

It took astonishing courage to endure the conditions they faced: flying at night over occupied Europe; running the gauntlet of German night fighters; anti-aircraft fire and mid-air collisions. Pictured: Bomber Command crews prepare for the raid on Heligoland

The planners of the raid argued the city was a vital communications hub and needed to be targeted. The critics said that Germany was well beaten and the bombing was needless.

The truth is that it was a time of total war, and ideas about the boundaries of conflict were very different than those we have today.

Bomber Command did not win the Second World War independently – but the war could not have been won without its efforts.

The RAF’s attacks forced Germany to divert invaluable men, guns, aircraft and equipment to defend its airspace, effectively opening a second front long before D-Day.

The young men of Bomber Command faced dangers that today we can barely imagine, all in defence of our freedom. Their sacrifice and extraordinary courage should never be forgotten. 

Source: Bomber Command Memorial 

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