Touching tributes paid to Bomber Command veteran
PUBLISHED: 15:03 01 October 2020 | UPDATED: 16:50 01 October 2020
Tributes have been paid to a war hero, who flew 30 Bomber Command operations over Germany.
The funeral service of former Flight Lieutenant with the 419 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Arthur George Vickers, was held this week.
Mr Vickers, known to most throughout his life as ‘Vic’, died on September 9 at St Mary’s House Care Home in Bungay, aged 97.
His medals were proudly displayed on his coffin during the service held at Waveney Memorial Park and Crematorium, Beccles, on Tuesday.
His niece, Wendy Fullam, said: “My uncle was in Bomber Command during the war and flew 30 operations over Germany, earning three medals in the process.”
Born at Poplar, in the London Borough of Poplar Tower Hamlets, he was the second of three surviving children born to Florence and Arthur Vickers.
His eldest sister Florence passed away in 2002, aged 83, but he is survived by his younger brother George, 94, who was at the funeral service.
During the early part of the war Arthur and George joined the Air Training Corps and were trained one evening a week by RAF personnel in the local Laindon High Road School. After the war the school’s roll of honour was proudly headed by Arthur George Vickers for his RAF achievements in Bomber Command.
After leaving school aged 14, he joined the RAF when he was 19 and was sent to Canada to train as a Flight Engineer.
Joining 419 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force, by the time he was 20 records show that he was stationed at Middleton St George in County Durham. His logbook indicates that from August 27 1943 to the March 18 1944 he flew 30 operations to Germany in Halifax Bombers.
Later he flew Lancasters, and as a Flight Engineer in these bombers he sat behind the Pilot during most of the operation, but during crucial manoeuvres – such as take-off and landing – he sat next to the Pilot on a folding seat, acting as Co-Pilot, ready to assist.
He was also the reserve bomb aimer and lookout for enemy fighters, as 419 Squadron became one of the most decorated Royal Canadian Air Force units of the war.
Once he had completed his tour he was sent to train other Airmen to fly and he would proudly wear his blazer with the crest of 419 Squadron showing on his chest.
The Squadron Crest includes a Moose in its centre with the motto ‘Moosa Aswayita’ written in Cree (native Canadian dialect) and translates to ‘Ferocious Fighter’. He wore the same blazer to Remembrance Day Parades, including last year at Bungay, and was so proud to have received an invitation by Bomber Command to attend the official opening ceremony of the International Bomber Command Centre at Lincoln in April 2018.
It was whilst he was stationed at Middleton St George that Mr Vickers met the love of his life, Harriet Goddard – a leading aircraft woman in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and both would marry on December 9, 1944 at The Parish Church of Brandon in County Durham.
By this time Mr Vickers had been promoted to Pilot Officer and by the end of his RAF life he was a Flight Lieutenant and was offered promotion to stay on, he had had enough excitement and went back to the Co-op in Laindon to work.
On May 14, 1946 the couple’s only child, Edwin was born. A quiet young man, he trained as a furrier in London, learning how to expertly blend furs. As fur coats started to become less fashionable in England, he moved to Italy, where furs were still very popular with glamorous Italian women.
It was here that he met and fell in love with Fernanda Monzoni and they were married on May 14 1970 in Cecina close to Florence.
On October 31 1972 Arthur and Harriet’s only grandchild, Valentina, was born in Florence.
Valentina was adored by her English grandparents and Mr Vickers displayed a framed photograph of her wherever he lived.
Unfortunately, Valentina’s parents split up when Valentina was three, which had a profound effect on Eddie and tragically in 1987 he died of an aneurysm. Valentina grew to be a beautiful young woman who throughout their lives was incredibly important to Arthur and Harriet and despite the distance between them, they ensured that Valentina and her own daughter, Mariasole (now aged six) were provided for.
Mr Vickers went onto work at the large Shell refinery at Stanford le Hope as a specialist gas/oil blending engineer until he retired.
The couple loved their holidays in England and abroad, moving to West Mersea on Mr Vickers’ retirement.
In 2011, after 67 years of marriage Harriet died. Mr Vickers moved to sheltered accommodation, then to a care home in Colchester, before his final move to St Mary’s House in Bungay 13 months ago.
His niece, Wendy Fullam - who often visited him - said: “In Bungay he was close to his brother George and his family and this connection to family, however remote and distanced, would always remain an important part of his life.”
She recalls that despite his deteriorating health he always asked after Valentina, Mariasole, Maureen, Tony, Vanessa, Mia, Andrew, Beverley, Lewis, Jess, Barclay, the twins Walter and Winston and all the other members of his extended family.
While in Bungay, Mr Vickers enjoyed car excursions out with George, Wendy, Ness and Mia to restaurants and wheelchair trips out for tea and scones.
He especially enjoyed a trip out to the Green Dragon as he sat with a half pint of beer and chatted with the customers, who thought he was amazing.
But the Covid-19 lockdown was to have a major impact on Mr Vickers’ general state of health.
He had always been a very social individual with a lively mind and an excellent memory for detail. He badly missed the company of family during lockdown and the stimulation of family conversation, as he was upset that he couldn’t be taken for trips outside.
He died at St Mary’s House on Wednesday, September 9.
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