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Maidstone man's extraordinary life revealed after his death

By William Janes

A man who sneaked into the RAF to train as a World War Two bomber gunner at 15, served as an air force police officer, raised Hadlow College's first cattle herd, and ran County Hall has tragically died of a devastating brain injury after a fall at his allotment.

Chriss Bridger, 89, was found unconscious by a passer-by at his vegetable patch in Sandling Road, Maidstone, on February 12.

After regaining conciousness and talking to paramedics he fell into a seizure and was airlifted to Kings College Hospital in London.

Chriss Bridger tragically died after a fall at his allotment
Chriss Bridger tragically died after a fall at his allotment

Scans revealed catastrophic bleeding in his brain and doctors decided he could not be saved. With his family around him, he died later that day.

Following an inquest into his death, the family of the Boxley Road resident have opened up about his extra-ordinary life.

Chriss was born and grew up on Great Chilmington Farm, near Great Chart.

As a teenager, regardless of his age and using false documents, he joined the RAF to train as a rear gunner in a Lancaster Bomber.

Chriss Bridger, far left, with his Lancaster bomber air crew
Chriss Bridger, far left, with his Lancaster bomber air crew

However, just before before his first mission his true age was discovered and, although he never found out how he suspected his mother had reported him, he was discharged.

The bomber he was assigned to was shot down shortly afterwards during a raid over Bochum, Germany.

At 21 he decided to rejoin the air force but, with so little demand for air crew, became an RAF police officer, eventually finding himself on VIP duty escorting dignitaries including Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery and Prince Philip.

Chriss dressed in his RAF police uniform
Chriss dressed in his RAF police uniform
Chriss was County Steward
Chriss was County Steward

After 10 years of service he returned to the farming life and just under two years later, was tasked with raising Hadlow College's first beef herd.

He continued working on the land until 1974 when, hoping to save up for retirement, he got a job with the law courts at County Hall.

Later ,when the position because available, he was hired as the County Steward - tasked with overseeing security, cleaners, catering, and looking after the county silver.

Chriss and Cherry enjoying their retirement
Chriss and Cherry enjoying their retirement

After retiring in 1991 he spent his time with his four children, holidaying with his wife Cherry, and working on his allotment.

When Cherry died of cancer in 2009 he continued growing vegetables, despite not liking them, and gave them to St Paul's Church on the same road as his home.

Remembering her father, daughter Katie said: "He was a generous man. He was the sort of person who do anything if he was asked to. He was a very loving man."

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

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