Second World War RAF hero remembered with Lancaster bomber book launch
- Credit: Stuart Bertie
A grounded Lancaster bomber was the fitting location for the launch of a book chronicling the life of a Norfolk wartime hero.
RAF pilot officer Sydney ‘Stevie’ Stevens flew 29 bomber missions over Germany and Italy and in 1943 received the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery from King George VI.
His son Adrian worked with Battle of Britain enthusiast and writer Jonny Cracknell on the book that tells his remarkable life story.
It was officially launched at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby, the former base of 57 Squadron from where Mr Stevens flew operational missions.
The book includes tales of his wartime exploits, his marriage to Maureen, known as Maud, who he met when she was a Women’s Auxiliary Air Force volunteer radio operator, and his time later as a popular teacher in Norwich.
While a flyover of a Lancaster from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight had to be cancelled, the event did include Lancaster NX611 ‘Just Jane’, an aircraft Mr Stevens spent much time in.
Mr Cracknell, from Poringland, began researching his story after visiting Mr Stevens in his Norfolk nursing home before his death aged 98.
He said: “It was a fantastic day and hopefully one that Stevie would have been very proud of.
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“It was an emotional occasion, particularly for his son Adrian, with family, friends and many of Stevie’s ex-pupils attending.
“It was particularly poignant to be able to launch Stevie’s story from where he not only spent his wartime days, but much of his later life, reflecting on the past at annual Squadron reunions, and where he would also take school children to educate future generations.”
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Mr Cracknell and his Steven’s family also visited the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln, which commemorates more than 57,000 RAF aircrew who gave their lives during the Second World War.
They paid tribute to those the book dedicated to; Mr Stevens’ fellow Lancaster crew members, and his best friend, Johnny Pickett, a 20-year-old fellow pilot from New Zealand, who were lost on later operations.
His rear gunner Johnnie Smith was aged just 19, his bomb-aimer 'Dickie' Newcomb, from Chile, was 20, while his mid-upper gunner George Martin DFM, was a Frenchman.
It typifying both the youth and international diversity of those who came together to fight the Axis powers during the war.