Second World War RAF hero remembered with Lancaster bomber book launch

Writer Jonny Cracknell with ‘Stevie’ Stevens' son Adrian

Writer Jonny Cracknell with ‘Stevie’ Stevens' son Adrian who worked together on a book about his life. - 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. 

Lancaster bomber NX611 ‘Just Jane’

Lancaster bomber NX611 ‘Just Jane’ at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby. - Credit: Stuart Bertie

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. 

Writer Jonny Cracknell in the cockpit of Lancaster bomber

Writer Jonny Cracknell in the cockpit of Lancaster bomber NX611 ‘Just Jane’, an aircraft Mr Stevens knew well. - Credit: Stuart Bertie

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.

Writer Jonny Cracknell with ‘Stevie’ Stevens' son Adrian

Writer Jonny Cracknell with ‘Stevie’ Stevens' son Adrian who worked together on a book about his life. - Credit: Stuart Bertie

“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. 

Sydney 'Stevie' Stevens

Sydney 'Stevie' Stevens flew 29 Lancaster bomber missions and received the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

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. 

Adrian Stevens signs copies of the book about his father's life.

Adrian Stevens signs copies of the book about his father's life. - Credit: Stuart Bertie

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.

George Martin, a mid-upper gunner on bomber missions flown by Mr Stevens.

George Martin, a mid-upper gunner on bomber missions flown by Mr Stevens. - Credit: Stuart Bertie

'Dickie' Newcomb, a bomb-aimer on mission flown by Mr Stevens.

'Dickie' Newcomb, a bomb-aimer on mission flown by Mr Stevens. - Credit: Stuart Bertie

Mr Stevens' wartime friend Johnny Pickett

Mr Stevens' wartime friend Johnny Pickett, a 20-year-old fellow pilot from New Zealand. - Credit: Stuart Bertie


 

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