Lancaster bomber flypast to launch book about Second World War RAF hero
- Credit: Archant/Jonny Cracknell
A book telling the remarkable life story of a Second World War hero is to be launched with a flypast of a Lancaster bomber at his former airbase.
Battle of Britain enthusiast and writer Jonny Cracknell, from Poringland, began researching the wartime experiences of former RAF pilot officer Sydney ‘Stevie’ Stevens after he began visiting him in his Norfolk nursing home.
His book Tomorrow May Never Come - a title chosen by Mr Stevens himself before his death in April 2020 aged 98 - will be officially launched on August 30 at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby.
Coinciding with the week 57 Squadron moved from RAF Scampton to East Kirkby in 1943, from where he flew his remaining operational missions, it will be marked with a flyover of a Lancaster from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
“Hopefully it will be a very special day,” said Mr Cracknell who has worked closely with Mr Steven’s son Adrian over the past 20 months to turn his story into a full colour, hardback book.
Mr Stevens joined the RAF after his family’s home was bombed.
After learning to fly military aircraft in California, he flew 29 Lancaster bomber missions and in 1943 received the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery from King George VI.
After the war he settled in Norwich with his wife Maureen, known as Maud, a wartime Women’s Auxiliary Air Force volunteer radio operator, becoming a maths teacher at Norman, Avenue and Earlham schools.
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Mr Cracknell spent a few nights a week with Mr Cracknell from 2019 until his death, interviewing him and capturing his story, which was “too incredible to lose to history”.
“Stevie and Maureen kept so much information, letters and photographs they kind of made the job easy,” he said.
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“It was a case of putting it into chronological order and adding some historical background and context. Adrian obviously could add much more of a personal angle.
“When Stevie passed it was difficult for Adrian particularly given it was in the middle of lockdown.
"But it was the last promise made to Stevie that we would see the book through, so we’ve worked together for the last 20 months or so and we now have the end product that’s a tribute to both Stevie and Maureen and his Squadron comrades.”
• Copies of Tomorrow May Never Come can be ordered via wingleader.co.uk/shop/tomorrow-may-never-come