Wartime RAF hero, whose appeal for visitors touched hearts, dies aged 98
PUBLISHED: 12:27 13 April 2020 | UPDATED: 09:21 14 April 2020
A Second World War bomber hero whose appeal for visitors to help ease his loneliness touched hearts of people across the country and led to a book on his wartime experiences has died aged 98.
Former RAF pilot officer Sydney ‘Stevie’ Stevens, who flew 29 Lancaster bomber missions and received the Distinguished Flying Cross in November 1943 for bravery, died at Saxlingham Hall Nursing Home on April 11.
Mr Stevens was inundated with new visitors and correspondence from as far afield as America and the Netherlands following an appeal last year organised by his former next door neighbour and friend, Clair Ling.
She said: “He’d had a chest infection for some time and it just never really went away. It would clear up then a month later another would appear. I think it was just taking its toll.
“Not being able to have visitors this past few weeks has been tough for him because he loved company and to meet people.
“His son, Adrian, has not been able to come up from London because he cannot at the moment but he had been calling his dad and got to say his goodbyes that way.
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“It has been awful to think he was there on his own. We did a lot of Facetiming and phone calls through the nurses, because he couldn’t really speak towards the end either.
“All the nurses and the staff were there with him at the end so that made it a bit more nice to know he wasn’t totally alone.”
Mr Stevens previously lived at Coleburn Road in Norwich with his wife Maureen, known as Maud, a former wartime Women’s Auxiliary Air Force volunteer radio operator at RAF Scampton. The couple met in 1943 after she guided his aircraft safely to land following a raid in Germany.
Mrs Stevens died aged 97 in 2017, the day before their 74th wedding anniversary.
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Mr Stevens carried on flying for the RAF after the war but also trained as a teacher and taught maths at schools in Norwich including Norman, Avenue and Earlham High School.
News of his death has seen an outpouring of messages of goodwill on social media.
“It has been overwhelming with so many kind messages and comments. He had such an amazing life,” said Clair.
Battle of Britain enthusiast and writer Jonny Cracknell, who had been visiting Mr Stevens and is currently writing his biography, said: “Thoughts immediately with his family and great friend Clair Ling who has done so much for him.
“It has been such a privilege and I will make sure it does him justice as his legacy. I am truly gutted he won’t now be here to witness its production.”
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