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Ian Kerr-Bonner attends Maidstone funeral of World War Two pilot Des Page by helicopter

By KentOnline reporter

A Maidstone war veteran was given a final send off from family and friends including a comrade who flew cross-country by helicopter to attend his funeral.

Des Page, from East Farleigh, was commemorated with a service at Vinters Park Crematorium earlier today.

The WW2 glider pilot became qualified just two months before D-day at the age of 21 and was thrust into battle immediately when he came under fire during his first landing as part of Operation Market Garden.

Arnhem veteran Des Page
Arnhem veteran Des Page

Escaping from the Germans, the war hero swam across the Rhine in a fur coat which he later had dry cleaned and returned to its original owner.

Ian Kerr-Bonner, a fellow glider pilot who had been friends with Des for 74 years, thought he would be unable to attend the funeral after breaking both his hips.

But thanks to Gazelle Squadron, a charity which raises money by taking historic aircraft to airshows, the 94-year-old was flown to the funeral from his home in Pembrokeshire so he could keep a promise the two made to one another to say their final farewells.

Des' comrade Ian Kerr-Bonner fly in by helicopter (2573522)
Des' comrade Ian Kerr-Bonner fly in by helicopter (2573522)

"We were going to come by road but we thought it was going to be too long a journey so they came up with the idea of a helicopter which was wonderful. It's my first time in one", he said.

"It's sad but worth the journey, they don't come very often like Des. I never thought he would go first."

"He was a hero. Des never wavered," added Mr Kerr-Bonner.

Second World War pilot Des Page (front) learning to fly in a Tiger Moth.
Second World War pilot Des Page (front) learning to fly in a Tiger Moth.

Those who attended the service heard how Des was not only a hero in wartime but a kind and highly respected man in civilian life as well as, some said, an outrageous flirt.

Speaking about the deceased pilot after the funeral, Army Air Corps Warrant Officer Class 1 Ben Rieper told how Des was an inspiration to young soldiers like himself.

Warrant Officer Class two James Steele (left) and Warrant Officer Class 1 Ben Rieper (right)
Warrant Officer Class two James Steele (left) and Warrant Officer Class 1 Ben Rieper (right)

"Des was around for our upbringing with soldiers and officers of his generation. It was a pleasure to have known him and the others in that they have moulded us into who we are", he said.

"Although we are sad we look back at some great times with him and we will always keep him to hand."

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